Mamadou woke with a fright on Monday morning. His bed was so soft that he’d been dreaming that he was floating down a river. He looked at the ceiling, unable to remember where he was until he noticed the familiar smell of vanilla and roses. Then he remembered he was in Binta’s spare room. Mamadou sat up and accidentally knocked a book off the bedside table. It made a loud slapping sound as it hit the wooden floor. Ousman must have heard it because he was soon peeping in the door.
“Can I come in?” asked Ousman.
“Come in” answered Mamadou.
“What would you like to do today?” asked Ousman
“What?” said Mamadou. He wasn’t used to the luxury of being able to choose something nice to do.
“What about the big art gallery?” suggested Ousman
The art gallery was familiar to Mamadou. He’d enjoyed going there when he was younger and still hopeful of finding success as an artist. Now it just made him feel depressed. As he and Ousman wandered around looking at the exhibits Mamadou realized this world was not for him. He didn’t understand the works, nor did he want to create anything that was like them, but at the same time he longed to hang his paintings in this gallery and it was the knowing that he’d never be admitted to the club of successful artists that made him depressed. He saw an older man in a white cap that seemed to be feeling the same way. He was looking despairingly at finalists in the portrait prize. Mamadou cautiously approached. His English was returning to him but he still needed to form his sentences in advance in order for them to come out right.
“You not enjoying the exhibition?” asked Mamadou
“It is shit! Total shit!” said the man in the white cap.
Mamadou smiled and so did Ousman, although for different reasons.
“I know!” said Mamadou. “You paint?”
“Not like this” replied the man.
The nearby security guard took a couple of steps closer. The man in the white cap noticed and was offended. He shook his head and walked out of the exhibition.
“Good” said Mamadou, feeling better. “It is not just me”
“What do you mean?” asked Ousman.
“I’ll explain while we walk home” answered Mamadou, looking at the security guard.