Mama Joyce reappeared briefly, just long enough to ask for one of us to come with her into the other room. A bit apprehensive as to the purpose of this next door foray, or the state of affairs over there, no one was very willing to step forward. I’m not sure how, but Diego was the chosen one (in more ways than one). He got up and left the table, with the rest of us remaining to ponder why getting Mama Joyce to tell Black Shark to stop following us was just as complicated as us getting Black Shark to stop following us. Diego was gone a good amount of time, leading to a gradual increase in awkward tension. He returned simply to say “well you guys aren’t going to believe this . . . “
Oh jesus! He means Mama Joyce killed Black Shark I thought! (sounds like a possible pay-per-view match up, though I’m not really sure what the parameters would be – i.e. is it an aquatic fight, or does Black Shark make it out to land?). Mama Joyce was a large lady and she must’ve beaten this 14 year old adolescent with such rage that she wilted under the pressure. If only she had been a couple years older, or a couple notches less obsessive, she’d still be around today. Or more pertinently, if we had just taken care of our own problems ourselves. This one would prolly haunt us for a while, the time we not so inadvertently got one of our own fleeting shark members killed. What ever happened to the code, ‘strength in unity, chaos in disorder.’ Did that mean anything anymore? Did it ever? Was everyone wondering just as much as I was why I couldn’t stop chanting it repeatedly? Were the malaria pills really affecting me that much?? The situation was tragicomic, or more likely just tragic. Diego spoke more.
“She [Black Shark] says she saw us in Tokeh yesterday [our beach location about a 2 hour drive from Freetown] and followed us here.” An astonished silence followed. “What??” Diego went on, “She saw us in Tokeh yesterday, and wanted to hang out, so she came to Freetown to look for us and happened to be successful.” What on earth was Diego talking about, was this one of his practical jokes he was so (in)famous for? But he persisted, merely clarifying that he was simply reporting to us her story.
Apparently, according to what was translated by Mama Joyce after her conversation with the girl (some Leonean local language to English), then relayed to us by Diego (Queen’s English to a dirty form of Spanglish), and then translated in my mind (Pidgin Esperanto to Modern Classical Esperanto), and keeping in mind that Mama Joyce wasn’t a native speaker of Leonean tongues just to mess with the translation process even further, the girl claimed to be from the village of Tokeh. Furthermore, she claimed to have seen us at the village of Tokeh. Despite her obsessive nature, she apparently never made so much as a gesture towards us whilst in her hometown, though that could be fitting with her taciturn personality. Her possible presence in Tokeh during our stay, unlike her presence in Freetown, was utterly inconspicuous (i.e. I didn’t see no bare backs there), and thus could not be plausibly confirmed or denied. She went on to say that she saw us leaving and got sad because she wanted to be friends (typical reaction whenever we leave places). She figured when we hopped in a bush taxi that we were heading back to Freetown. Having no money herself, she couldn’t also join our public transport, but was still determined to meet her oblivious new friends again (us). Thus she started walking, making the 50km or so trek to Freetown on foot, unaware if we were actually going there, or how she would be able to find us once she got there.
Destiny was on her side though, twice. She walked through the night and made it to Freetown the next morning. She wasn’t sure where to go, but found herself in the East End Market (seemingly everyone who gets lost in Freetown winds up there, all roads lead to the open stretch of filth that is the East End Market. In fact my cracked-out applesauce-drenched GPS took me there just the other day, on my way home from my night shift as a self-appointed messiah/Burger King station manager). It was there that she, despite all odds, ran into her newfound friends again. Rather than make her presence known after an arduous overnight hike just to see us, that wouldn’t be fitting of her style, she rather immersed herself into our little group subtly, avoiding awkward re-introduction procedures, and followed us for the next few hours. She never said anything because she was scared our reaction to this newfound and permanent friendship wouldn’t be as mutually electrifying as she hoped, but in general she stressed that she really only wanted us to be her friends. Oh yea, and she would like to go to school but can’t afford it, so was hoping her freshly acquired friendship would pay immediate dividends towards such means.
That sounded like a tall tale if I ever heard one (quite possibly I never have though, I don’t really ever listen when other people speak). Diego had told Mama Joyce that we couldn’t help her, and she should return home. Somehow after that Mama Joyce did the impossible and actually got rid of her (I fully expected Black Shark to be waiting for us outside somewhere the whole time, but surprisingly she wasn’t. Perhaps she decided to start the long walk of shame back to Tokeh while there was still some sunlight out). The story seemed too outrageous to believe, there was just simply no way. But as we all shared our thoughts on the ridiculous events that had just transpired, we jointly wondered aloud that, if she was making all this up, how did she know we had been in Tokeh yesterday? Maybe she overheard one of us mention it, someone proffered. A slight chance, but as a group rule, we never talk about what happened in Tokeh (as the saying goes, ‘what happens in Tokeh, stays in your inner intensinal track for the next 14 months’). If she was indeed from Tokeh could she really have walked here on a whim and actually found us again? She was young enough to believe that such ideas could make sense to her. Someone else mentioned they thought someone was a bit off with her, mentally (that person however, was prolly a racist). She was also so young that keeping up a consistent lie like that without cracking, revealing nothing but the stone-faced expression we had grown so accustomed to hanging around, would be an impressive task indeed.
Mama Joyce, with all her veteran Sierra Leonean experience, thought the whole thing was odd, but only a bit. “It’s all quite possible,” she asserted, disclosing that she herself was a believer. She left us alone to prepare our meal, as we were still contemplating in bewilderment. It seemed too insane to be true, but also impossible to make up. If she was making it up, why had she been following us this whole time, without uttering a single word? Did she still want us to pay her school fees, and if so how long was she planning on waiting for the right moment to bring it up? What on earth had she really been thinking, or expecting, regardless of her story? Nothing seemed to make sense about the whole situation, and in fact nothing truly did, not then, not now. But I have to admit I was leaning towards the believer side, as I reasoned her story was just slightly more possible than her deciding to follow us today with the insider knowledge that we had been in a random small village 50km away yesterday. She was a stalker in the making of the highest caliber, it was oddly impressive really. We just assumed we would see her again around Freetown, hanging outside the market or whatnot. Perhaps even on our next stop, in our next country, or at the next aquatic wedding we officiate, who knew? The tale of Black Shark, and her persistence in gaining membership to our exclusive club, surely couldn’t fade away that easily after all she had already done. In fact, I fully expect her to have stalked some other white guys so hard that they paid her school fees allowing her to do nothing more than google the term “Black+Shark” all day to come across this riveting travelogue, and wonder what might have been. Black Shark, if you’re reading this, I assume you already know where I am and that’s you peering into the window behind me.