Sunset Partner

While I surfed sunset sessions off Assouinde, Ivory Coast, Martial wore his trademark indigo scarf around his neck, shirtless, a beret on his head, his worn face with gap-toothed expression open and sat on sand bags, looking out onto the ocean, strumming a guitar a Lebanese man had given him.

He was my audience, playing my soundtrack along with the rush of the waves, and I was his, after I came out of the water.

Martial composes his own songs. One of them is about how he hopes people don't hate him. His lyrics say he is sentimental and shy but that he speaks his mind so others think he is crazy.

He says he is a rebel who doesn't want to disappoint anyone. He says some people say he is scary because of his spread out teeth, crazed eyes, and unruly goatee but he says he is gentle. He seems more honest than most.

He says he once fell in love but that now with women it's not love he feels anymore.

Every night, after spending days at his cousin's tourist restaurant sharing food with others and playing his guitar and waiting for customers, he usually walks back to his favorite village kiosk for coffee and spicy green peas right by the orange lady.

He playfully tries to touch her, says her body has the shape of his guitar, tries to touch her, puts up her collar, walks around her in circles, brushing his hands up against her. She playfully swats back, wields her knife, pretends to chase him down and screams, laughing with her eyes.

When the sun started going down, Martial would stop singing and he would start talking, while we watched the sun go down, across the open ocean and flittering palm trees.

A few times he said how amazed he was at how fast and free sunsets are.

On my last night, a pirogue passed by and Martial said he would like to be a trafficker but not of hard drugs. He said Ghanaians also traffic gasoline; and that they also transport passengers from the old colonial capital Bassam by the ocean to points east into Ghana.

He says there is no Ivorian coast guard so passengers avoid all checkpoints. Once during the height of the citizenship war in Ivory Coast, Martial, who is from Burkina Faso, had to walk all the way to Abidjan by the beach, it took him from sunup to sundown without a break, to avoid security hassles along the roadway and paying bribes, which sometimes totaled 50 times the price of public transport.

But Martial says he is afraid of the pirogues, because he says Ghanaians would maybe gang up on him and steal his money and throw him overboard. He says he doesn't know how to swim.

He says he grew up in a village where the only bodies of water were full of snakes and crocodiles.

On my last day, he also said he thought God was hiding behind the sun, and that luckily none of man's machines will ever make it to the sun, or destroy, weaken or obstruct it in any way.

I noticed a few other people standing at attention as the sun set. The church of the sun is my favorite so far, even if I am usually too lazy to see morning rises.

And, with new certainties in my soul, I bid farewell to my favorite place on earth.

Popular Posts