Last Friday, Becky patted her dog, shouldered her pack for Mali, hugged me a nervous goodbye, and asked, "Are you sure you'll be alright here?" But that's not what she really wanted to know. What she really wanted to know was, "Will here be alright with you here?" I tried to convince her that everything would be dandy. She took a long gaze around her house and at her dog, Einstein, so as to remember them The Way They Were. And then she left me. In Her space. In charge.
So, Becky went to Mali and had a wonderful time (see TNL #80), and I got some great things done. I visited the Butcher Shop to report back to the Butchers' Union on how to build a state-of-the-art Togolese slaughterhouse (minus electricity, running water, and sanitation equipment, of course); I solicited the ideas of some English Teachers of the private high school as to what I should do in an English Club I am thinking of starting; I returned to village to schmooze with the civil servants at a party; and I continued translating a 30-page manual on mushroom cultivation for one of my villagers. I was anxious for Becky to get back and discover what a good, productive, organized PCV neighbor I had been.
The reality of Becky's return wasn't quite as I had expected, though. She got back early in the morning, and I bleary-eyedly pointed her to a note on her still-standing kitchen table that I had written the night before. She asked what it was, and I explained to her that it was an account of how Togo had Won.
You see, two days before, I woke up in a tough mood, and soon encountered Becky's next-door neighbor. He is a sweet Kotokoli grandfather who weaves beautiful straw rugs and calls Becky "My Mother" because his mom's name is Mariama, Becky's village name. He came in with a gorgeous woven rug, but let the dog escape by opening the gate too widely. That majorly stressed me out because, in my reign over Becky's Space, I had only two responsibilities: man the emergency contact phone and take care of the dog. I had obviously just failed at half my tasks.
I tried to devote all my attention on Becky's neighbor, who seemed very confused when I told him that I was not Becky. Now, you have to realize that there are several million black men in Togo, and I have learned to tell at least 25 of them apart. I was annoyed that Becky's Next Door Neighbor of 18 months cannot tell two white women--the ONLY TWO white women in his whole prefecture--apart.
Still confused, Becky's 65-year-old Son rolled out his latest creation, a truly amazing hand-woven mat, beaming with pride. He said Becky had wanted to buy it. Actually, it wasn't Becky who had wanted the mat; I had. The problem was that I had specifically ordered a mat with No Colors--just a straw-colored mat with a black border. I hate to reveal myself as a true bore, but I don't really like colors so much. I like blue and green, can tolerate red and yellow, but ablsolutely loathe pink. And this rug had hot pink straw woven into it.
Becky's Son was very sad when I didn't buy his rug (luckily, I'm sure he still thought I was Becky), which made me feel guilty for robbing a hard-working man of $7 on no other grounds than my hatred of pink. Plus, I still felt like an idiot for losing Becky's dog.
Einstein came back after peeing on every tree in the neighborhood of Kparatao. I decided to punish him by leashing him to the gate for 5 minutes. His sorrowful howls made me regret it after 3 minutes, so I detached the leash, but not after getting another one of my brilliant ideas that usually leads to danger.
Einstein has a, well, ball rot problem (see TNL #73). I apologize if that phraseology offends anyone, but there is really no other way to describe it. The vet gave Becky some blue medication that she has to paint gingerly onto the dog's scrotum each time it gets scabby and raw, and I decided I should paint Einstein right then because I still had the leash on him and, so long as I was careful, wouldn't get bitten attempting this stunt like I had two days earlier.
I thought it most humane not to even touch the painful wound in the process of painting. Jackson Pollock in mind, I decided to splatter the dog. Anybody familiar with the anatomy of dog realizes I had to roll the dog over to splatter him there.
I did that. There was some struggling, some gnashing of teeth, and a little splattering, then the whole ordeal was over. Einstein's wound was successfully painted blue. As were his feet, my hands, Becky's porch, and (after he licked his wound a few times) all the rest of Einstein. I soon dragged Becky's broom into the company of blueness by trying to wet the porch and sweep off the paint. As it turns out, though, it wasn't water-soluable, and spread into a mad-cow sized spot, just as the electricity-meter reader guy showed up.
He looked at the blue dog, blue me, and the blue spot I was spreading over a wider and wider circle of concrete, and asked, "Um... where is your sister?" I figured that was the polite way of asking whether Becky actually left me in charge of her house (no--that would be ridiculous!) or whether I had broken in and indulged my urge to bluify her every possession.
After he left, I needed a break. I went inside and drank a bowl of milk for lunch. I breathed deeply. I brainstormed as to how I would explain this mess to Becky. Maybe I could pass it off as Artistic License. Or Budding talent. I mean, she was an Art Education major. Surely she had seen worse in some elementary school art room somewhere.
I tallied my results for the day thus far in a note to Becky:
In favor of Me:
1. Successfully medicated dog
2. Got exercise by scrubbing porch on hands and knees
In favor of Togo:
1. Lost dog, then totally lost trust of dog
2. Crushed Becky's Son by refusing to buy his chef-d'oeuvre
3. Painted dog entirely blue by mistake
4. Wasted (probably expensive) medication
5. Painted self blue by mistake
6. Created road-kill-stain shaped blue spot on porch
7. Wasted bottle of bleach in attempt to efface said blue spot
8. Destroyed a broom
9. Convinced Bafilo Electric Personnel I was a thieving Smurf
10. Could think of no lunch more nutritional than a bowl of milk.
I could already tell Togo was winning, and I had no way of knowing the soon to brew up thunderstorm would knock down the mud wall that created my shower. It would also inspire me to let Einstein sleep inside, where he would leave a gigantic pee puddle on the floor for Becky to step over to get to the note I placed on her still-standing kitchen table. I signed off that note as Phyn, then scratched out my name and signed "Rahamatou. Some days, it's just better to be Rahamatou!"