Oumou Farafin is a twelve year old girl who is
about to be excised when she runs away and stops running
when she is near Torrequemada, a little town in Cáceres,
Spain. Since that moment she adopts the local culture as
her own, trying to forget about her original one. However,
it is not so easy, and it will chase her till she must
seek special help, which makes her decide to go back home,
her original home, to find out what her ghosts had been
doing. In her coming back to Africa her two best friends,
Rose and Irene, support and stand by her, even if that
trip change their lives for good, too.
This is not the book of the making of a prostitute,
but it reveals the causes and consequences of unjustice
and stupid trends in cultures which should be improved. It
is also a new way to rethink our own morals and
prejudices, and it is also an adventure book, at times,
where death and love come together, and explain why
suddenly you must choose one of them..., or even both of
them at the same time.
I hope you like the book, and get interested in the other two books in the trilogy, The Johnny (to be translated from Spanish soon) and The Happy Pimp (to be published soon).
You can read the following chapter to see if your
taste can stand that much:
The next Tuesday Oumou was at Dr. Méndez’s, the best psychotherapist in South East Spain. He asked her why she was there, and she explained what had happened. She told him straight away she was an escort, a hetaera, and she had never had a problem with anybody till this man started talking Bambara, her native language. Then she explained what had happened exactly.
«I never thought someone called Paco, a Spaniard, talked Bambara even better than I. That’s why I went mad and someone had to come and help me».
«So what happened?»
«Nothing, really. He left and my fellows demanded me to come to see you, Dr. Méndez, to see if you could help me heal my soul».
«Hum, Miss Farafin, there must be a reason for you to be so much afraid to relate to your own country, even just to your language. What happened to you in Africa?»
Oumou felt pain when hearing that name, Africa, which however was so close to her real family name. That’s why she wanted to change it when she became Spanish, as Farafina means Africa in her native language, and Farafin, her family name, is black woman, among other things, what she was, indeed. But she did not see herself usually, or called herself by her family name. She liked being in Spain because it made her feel she belonged in another culture, a culture where nobody had ever tried to harm her, where everybody had been nice to her and had treated her as a human being, and she had found a family, a real family, in her two friends, even if they belonged to the East of Europe. She had met a wonderful woman from Spain, too, Rose, whom she felt to be a good person as soon as she first saw her. Now she was her employee, but above all she was her friend.
«Ok», said Dr. Méndez, «let’s do a full analysis, Oumu. Please, lie down on that coach and answer freely to all my questions as long as you can».
«Ok, doctor», she said moving to the coach.
«Tell me our earliest memory», he asked when she was lying on the coach and he was near her, with his note pad and pen at hand but also his phone recording the whole conversation.
«I can see the sun shining above. It is very hot. The people there are making a lot of fun. I am very small, and my brother is holding my hand. Come, Oumou, he says, let’s play. And we play hide and seek. I could not find him because he had climbed a tree. The next thing I remember is a leopard. It was sleeping and my brother told me not to make a noise. Then we moved away and he told me it was a bad animal which could eat us. I was fond of my brother Baba, but one day he disappeared. A neighbour told my dad he’d seen him fall to the river and never come out. Probably he drowned or a crocodile ate him, they concluded. Or he may have run away, if he got out of the river when nobody was looking. I haven’t thought of Baba for many years. I’ve just remembered I loved him so much. I was six, he was ten. Then I remember my brother Bemba, who was a good boy, but he teased me all the time. When I was eleven I was promised to a rich man, and I told him in trust that I’ll run away not to marry him. Bemba told my dad and I got the worst beating in my life. Later he told me it was to protect me from my own stupidity, and I’d thank him for the rest of my life, he thought».
«And you didn’t».
«Well, in a way I did. I learnt the hard way not to trust anyone, even my dear brother, and that gave me, also, the courage I needed to run away later».
«I see. Ok, go on, please».
«Then there is dad. I can’t even remember his name. I called him dad always. When I flew from home I never thought of my parents again. Do I love them? I think I never did. They just happened to me, or I happened to them, if you wish. I was with them for the first twelve years in my life, and I have never missed them, really. I missed Bemba and, much more, Baba. Yes, I think Baba is the closest I’ve ever had to a father, for he really cared for me…, and he is dead...» Oumou stopped to blow her nose, for she had been crying for the last ten minutes.
The doctor went on taking his notes on what he was seeing in her, even if they were silent for several minutes. He was still taking notes, and she was silent, but breathing fast and noisily.
«Where are you now, Oumou?»
«I am talking to Sira. Last year she was taken to the desert. She was excised. She was ill for months. She nearly died. But now she is ok. I am terrified. I don’t want to go to the desert. I don’t want my mum to be near me. I do not want to be a woman. Never».
She paused. Then she went on.
«There's that friend of my father’s, Ibrahim. He came from a long journey. He was in Egypt. He told us about the Promised Land, Cockaigne, the country where everybody is happy and can live without working. The North, friend, I overheard him say, the future is the North.
Bemba told me at midday the sun is in the north. If you follow the Sun, you’ll reach the North eventually. It was part of a game, but I kept thinking of the North and the desert; Cockaigne and excision. So when mom told me I was going to be a woman the next day, I woke up before everybody else and left my home. I haven’t gone back».
«When was that?»
«Twenty five years ago, doctor», she said as if coming out of a dream.
«You must have suffered a lot since then… So you were a twelve year old child when you left them».
«Yes. It took me a lot of time to get to the Mauritanian coast. It was a difficult time for me, but I forgot much of it».
«In Mauritania you learnt French, didn’t you?»
«Yes. I spoke only Bambara at home».
«Do you have any special bad memory about Mauritania?»
«No. There I lost my virginity and became a whore. But that gave me independence from my tradition, my country, my culture. I was somebody else, and also something else, something new I liked better than what I was before. Whoredom made me a free woman».
«Did you still feel it in Spain?»
«Yes. When that dog, Brusco, licked my face, I felt everything was changing for the better».
«How old were you then?»
«Seventeen or eighteen, I do not really know».
«So when you left home, did you think of what you left behind?»
«No. It was fear what made me move».
«Why Spain? Did anyone tell you about this country?»
«Oh, no! I heard one of my dad friends say happiness was in Cockaigne, the Land of Freedom and Happiness, so I headed for North, I followed the Sun wherever it brought me to. And then in Mauritania I joined a ship for Europe, and I did not ask for the exact destination. I only wanted to be as far away as I could from Africa, my country, my village, my dad, my mom…»
«Have you ever thought of going back there?»
«Oh, no, Sir! I’ve been most of my life out of Africa, and I’ll stay away from it».
«Well, Oumou, this is the end of your visit. Next time I’ll give you some tasks to do. For the moment it will be enough that you take it easy. Now you are with us, dear. You are no longer alone, and I’ll give you a solution. You need to feel reassured, nobody is going to harm you either in your country or here».
«Well, how did you do at the psychologist?», Merilou asked her when she came back. Being the oldest one at home made her care for both of her girls a bit more. Also they were there because she convinced them, and even if at first she had accepted Oumou as part of Alona’s luggage, soon she had got very fond of her and considered, somehow, that the black girl was her responsibility.
«Well, he only asked me a few questions about my early life».
«Did you answer them?»
«Oh, yes. I even told him things I did not remember I knew, like my eldest’s name, Baba. He died when I was ten».
«Oh, I’m very sorry. Were you very fond of him?»
«I loved him. He’s still the only man I loved, Merilou».
«Oh, I am sorry», she said, being aware of what she meant: at the black girl’s heart there was no place for love for her dad or any lover. She'd just have sex and fun, maybe, but no feelings at all.
«Oumou, do you make your customers believe you love them?»
«I don’t know. But they are very happy with me, you know. They always want to come back for more. Nearly all my newcomers have become my regulars».
«Oh, yes, you are right. I see them very satisfied with you. You have more regulars than us. Sorry I asked a silly question».
Oumou smiled and touched Merilou’s head and said: «Silly, you can always ask me anything you want, promise me». And then added: «Because you are my friend and I love you».
Merilou hugged her and she knew there was love and affection in Oumou’s heart, even if not for any man. She was sweet and desired to have had a nicer childhood. But she had built a much better life than anybody else in her village.
On the next visit, Oumou told Dr. Méndez about her life in Spain. She spoke very highly about Merilou and, above all, Alona.
«She’s a beautiful blonde, and the first friend I made in Spain».
«No wonder you love Spain».
Oumou was silent for a while.
«I had never thought of that», she said slowly. «All the countries in Africa were my stages, places to go by. But when I was about to leave Spain, near Portugal, my strength went out, I got exhausted, as if my body knew Spain was my goal».
«Were you not afraid because the people and the background were so different from yours?»
«Oh, no! That was the good thing about Spain! Nothing reminded me of my country, my family, my language. It was like being born again. I wanted to be born again here».
«Interesting. So you were not afraid because you could not understand the people».
«I half saw a dog which was licking my face. Then a man took me home and looked after me. It was very nice being taken care of, for a change. That man even gave me a job. I would have never left there, if Alona had not convinced me».
«What made you change your mind about that?»
«She was my only friend there. You see, we were all foreigners, and they talked in their different languages. Only Eufemio, the farm owner, and his wife talked to me in Spanish. But Alona approached me from the beginning, even if there were other Ukrainians there. We fell for each other, if you know what I mean».
«And then my only friend was leaving. She offered me to come with her, so I grabbed the opportunity to stay with her».
«And there was that other girl, Merilou».
«Oh, yes. I did not know her, but Alona trusted her, so I trusted her, too».
«It seems you shifted your affection from your family to your friends…»
«Yes, I think so».
«Do you ever think of your family?»
«When I did, I felt afraid. So I tried to avoid it».
«Well, you should overcome that feeling of helplessness. You say you’d not even step in Africa».
«Yes, Sir, that’s correct».
«That’s too exaggerated, Oumou. You should go to Morocco, at least, with a friend. Maybe for the weekend. Then come back to me in a month’s time and tell me what it was like. This is your first task. I’d like you to keep a diary where you’ll write all your feelings while you are there».
As soon as she told her friends they were happy to know Oumou was making progress. She decided not going to Africa exactly, but to Tarifa, the closest point in Europe to Africa. Rose and Oumou spent a weekend in a hotel, the Two Seas Hotel. They walked around the town and from the closest they could be to Africa Oumou watched it from the distance, and even went to the embarking points for the other continent in the harbour. But Oumou could not get on board. Rose did not push her.
«Would you like me to go and bring you something from there? A handful of sand, or a pebble, for example?»
Oumou smiled, afraid.
«Oh, no! There’s not use…»
So they came back by plane from Jerez to Alicante. But the next weekend they were there again. Oumou had thought it over, and this time she decided she’d force herself to obey the doctor’s orders. So they went into the ferry as soon as they arrived at the city. An hour and a half later they were in land. During the trip they had been talking about different things, like Oumou’s experiences in the Torrequemada Farm, Spanish politics…, and then they came to Melilla… It was Africa! But it was still Spain, and that made a great difference to Oumou. She still felt at home, at her new home, the home she had freely chosen.
«Maybe next time we should go to the Canary Islands», Rose said. «They are much farther south. They say they are very beautiful».
«Yes, we could go. But let’s see what’s here, first».
They had just passed the police control and were then heading for the hotel. They had decided to stay at the Parador, as it had a touch of the traditional atmosphere, and it was very nice. Then they had a shower and went to see the city center.
«Do you know you are in Africa after so many years?», Rose said.
«Are we? It is very similar to Spain. People even talk Spanish here. No, this is not Africa. This is Spain».
«Well, it's Africa and Spain at the same time...»
Africa and Spain at the same time... Yes, indeed, Melilla was just as any small city in Spain, people talked Spanish here, though there were two differences: there were a lot of people who came to and from Morocco every day, and also there was a high metal fence which surrounded the city. Oumou and Rose walked around the city, and when they were in the harbour, the African told the European: «Look, Rose, to the north there is Adra, Granada and Almería. It's another world, but we are now in a drop of that world inside my old one».
Rose had never thought how fortunate she had been to have been born in Europe. She had never thought of it because she had always been centered on herself. But now, there, in Africa, with this little African whose life had been so difficult, and yet she had overcome her problems and she had even hired her, she thought Oumou was a real example of how you could solve the difficult troubles in your life.
They saw the sights, and on the next day they got the ferry back to Almería.
«Next time we must go to Ceuta», Oumou said. «It will be more like Africa, I think».
Rose shrugged her shoulders.
«I think it will be the same. Why don’t you go to Casablanca?»
«Well, I don’t know. I prefer Ceuta first».
«Ok, if you need it…»
The next weekend they went to Ceuta, but as Rose had foretold, it was the same as being in Melilla: that was Spain, so the problem was not geography, but culture.
That’s why the next time they did not go to Casablanca, but Marrakech, deep down South of Morocco. They spent a week there. At Hafna Square they walked around a lot, and stopped and talked about the criminals who had been hanged there in former times. They found it very strange that the square owed its name to robbers and murderers who were executed there. They also saw the Palace of the King, a magnificent building, a very beautiful residence. They got lost in the Medina, and enjoyed that. They also met a lot of Moroccans who were very nice to them. What surprised them most was the high concentration of people in streets, and even in open spaces, like the Hafna Square itself, where people behaved as if they were water in high tide divided into streams, and yet nobody stole anything from you, even if you could not notice, or had the chance to know who had done so. Yes, Morocco was very different from Spain, and yet it had nothing to do with Mali.
«Well, Oumou», said Dr. Méndez next time she visited him with her conclusions on her three trips, «You have conquered Africa. To overcome your deepest fears you should go to Mali, even if before that you have to visit Angola or Senegal first. But I think you really needn’t do so. We all have our little fears, so I’d not worry if I were you».
She looked at her doctor for a long time. Then she said:
«Well, doctor, I don’t know».
«Have you visited your consulate?»
«No. Not again».
«Ok. Do go there, talk your language with them. Make an enquiry about your family. But if you are not comfortable, do not tell them anything».
Oumou was thinking of it for the whole week and then asked her friend:
«Rose, would you come to Mali with me?»
«Of course, Oumou».
«I’m thinking… I don’t know if I’ll dare go. Do you remember I was away for two days recently?»
«I was in Madrid. I was at my consulate and made an enquiry on my family. My dad is dead. My brother Bemba is on charge of the family. Everything is different now. I should go before it is more different, so different that I know nothing familiar over there…»
«I see. So you need to go back there soon…»
«No. I don’t think so. I no longer need it. But I think I can go now. I was talking to that man at the consulate in Bambara, and he told me things are the same as they used to be. But my village was very little. When I finally go there I might know nobody there. And they must have forgotten about me, too».
«Well, that sounds as if you are cured, Oumou: you can talk Bambara, you can see people from your country. What’s the difference if they do not know you or nobody in your village knows you? The point is you will not get mad at hearing Bambara again. And you could still go and enjoy your time in Mali».
«Yes. I think I can go there. But I do not feel I have to prove anything to anyone. Even to myself», Oumou told the psychologist the next time he visited him.
After he’d taken down everything she had said, he smiled and said:
«Ok, Oumou. I think it can be useful to you going there, but you no longer need it. You can now lead a normal life, as I think you are now cured, if you can go on with your life. But it could be interesting if you go back to your country for a quick visit and analyse your feelings when you are in Bamako, or even in your home village, talk to your family and your neighbours, even if you no longer know them. They say the places we knew when we were small are specially dear to us. You might like that or not».