[Goarr-Jigain, n., (Wolof): Male homosexual, queer. Literally: Man-Woman]
Batty boy, they call him. Less than a woman. Gorr-Jigain bileh! Chim! And he does not see the reason for it, does not see how any of them is more man than him. Because they sit all day smoking, their lives filled with violence and a neverending contest of physicality, speaking vulgarly about women? Their idea of love being the breaking of beds, the impregnating of their girlfriends and their wives, their authority over them?
He is different from them, he thinks. When the taunting has grown too loud and threatened to drown out the soft melody of himself he has going in his head, he thinks I am different from them: I love myself. He thinks, I dress good, and I smell nice, while they wear nyamba and walk around with mud on their feet, and do not change their underwear. These thoughts help him through the toughest times.
It is not that he likes men, as such. He has thought about this, when he has thought about the injustice of their attack, late at night when he lies in bed alone. He loves women, is their constant companion. They trust him, they are free around him, will apply lotion to their bodies after showering in his presence, un-self-consciously. Because they know him, they understand more than anyone the sensations they arouse in the men all around them, and they know the ones they raise in him are of a different order. Sensations not of a nature leading to a wish to possess or be possessed by them, to own them, not even to the smallest degree. So women seek him out, and is this his fault? They wish respite from the constant barrage of horny neediness from all their male companions, and he gives it to them, and they can be themselves around him. How could any sensible person not see this?
He walks past a group of the boys on the street, where they sit on a bench. They have been shouting and howling - he heard them from a distance. But as soon as they see him they fall silent. Watching him with stone-dead eyes, the hostility in their gazes casting a heat on his face. Each step he attempts leaden and taking too long - the borpi konye looks so far away. And then he has reached it, and is almost around it, when someone shouts "Assan am na farri toubab - demal uti benehn farr'. It is Laam - he did not even bother disguising his voice. And there is raucous laughter, but he is on the next street and he takes a few steps and he can no longer hear it. There is Ya Fatou, approaching. He remakes his smile, breathes out deeply, and goes to meet her.
He has lain in bed and wondered, what is wrong with me? He has thought, enough of this nonsense, tomorrow I'll wake up and go out and get a girlfriend, to hell with this! And he has felt emboldened, and began to make plans. Random scenes of imagining, the boys in the background of each scene, looking on with envy and admiration in their eyes. He and the girlfriend, walking down the street - she stumbles and catches on to his arm - he saves her, she gives him a quick kiss on the cheek. Thanks baby. Goarr nga nak, with a sly wink. Another one: on the beach (all the boys there) and she comes to sit next to him and places her head on his shoulder, and sighs as if at the memory of great pleasure, provided by the owner of the shoulders, one previous night recently. The boys all girlfriend-less, all filled to bursting with jealousy. And then after these public scenes he tries to imagine private ones, in half-lit rooms in which she undresses. And the memories are detailed to the last degree, of shade of skin, of hair color. But they have no effect - he lies there and watches the girl in his mental image, and she is beautiful beyond words, but he feels no physical attraction to her, does not want to kiss or lay with her, is as indifferent to her breasts and her thighs as to cardboard. And he will lie there and feel defeated until sleep at last takes him, into a land filled with respect, from man and woman alike.
In the evenings sometimes he sits alone in his room, flipping between GRTS and RTS. And bored, his mind will wander, and wandering it will come again to Abu Sarr. He holds his breath then, for as long as possible, as if this physical act could somehow close his heart, and imprison his feelings. But the memories will not leave him, no matter how he numbs himself to them. The way they met, the first day on the beach as he took a walk alone, something he did at dusk to clear his mind. The nice feeling of having someone at last who looked at him with respect, and spoke to him as an equal. It was the fact that Abu Sarr lived in Kotu, and he in Lamin, it was the fact that they had no mutual friends, knew nothing about each other except what they chose to present. He knows this now, is in no doubt about it, yet it has not reduced the weight of his feelings, the frantic fluttering of the butterflies in his stomach. The memories acquire an urgency, after this point. Going to Abu's house to banye lal, meeting his boys. Attaya, reggae music, his first - and last - experience with yaamba. Many weekends, and he is filled with genuine happiness, looks forward to Friday every week. And then the final night, when all the boys had gone to watch a show at the stadium, and he and Abu Sarr alone in the room, the tickets sold out. The darkness, the music - he still does not know what came over him, wants to kick himself or cause himself some harm, for being so stupid. An attempt at a caress, a submitting of himself... And Abu Sarr shouting and jumping to his feet. Hai! boy yow ndehkeh goarr jigain nga! Yow yaa dohaandeyam! Boy yow yaa ma behtah! And many more insults besides, and a few slaps, and knocks to the head, and furniture thrown at him. And he had come home and lain in bed in the NAWEC-caused darkness and wished he would die, wished a darkness even more absolute than this one would swallow him whole and wipe him out of existence.
Yet he goes on. Somehow, though he thinks his reserves of strength are all long gone, he manages to talk to the women - who alone will be his friends - and he laughs and is even, at times, happy.
On the news he hears about a Senegalese man, who gained asylum into America. A picture of him, somewhere in New York, a grin on his face. The escaped. But what kind of escape, he thinks. Into a world not of his belonging, his home gone, all his established rituals and things he is used to gone, to be recreated from start. In a cold, cold country - but was peace of mind not worth it, was not the ability to walk down the street without a face sticky from shame, flung from the eyes of even passing strangers, the Sun singling him out? And he has heard, too, of a man turned back, an asylum seeker attempting to use homosexuality as an excuse, the authorities back home informed. And the teller of the tale chuckled, and said poor bastard, he must be desperate, to use homosexuality as an excuse. He thought, why must it be an excuse, but he held his tongue - he has learnt to hold his tongue - and hid the insincerity of his smile with a bowed head.
He sits in the living room, the TV off. A strange mood has come over him. He is alone, he thinks, he will always be alone. He is settled to this realization, it no longer shakes him as much as it used to. He sees silent and empty rooms of his occupancy, long evenings spent only with the television, while all around him people marry and have children, and are born and die in the homes they have created. He is ready for this. He will take it, he will shuffle through a corridor of his own making, a path across the plain of his life. He will do it alone, and their mockery will not stop him, and their humiliation will not, and their lack of respect will not. He is filled with determination, and even though it is hollow and has no center it will do, it will have to do, for now, and he lays down on the couch and he stretches his legs out and he lays his hands on his stomach, crosswise, and he closes his eyes and the lines of worry on his face unform and it is a sigh that carries a smile to his mouth and leaves it there. And if you didn't look closely you wouldn't even see, the single drop of water that pushes its way past his closed eyelid and makes a small sliding motion to the cushion, where it is absorbed.