Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, November 17

It Happened One Day...

My friends and I were scheduled to go on yet another long road trip to explore the Senegalese country side. And so we gathered in the garage in Thies, a mutual meeting point, to find a driver worthy of our adventure. As it turns out we had more than one car’s worth of people… and me and a good friend, lets call him Sebastian (for the sake that using his real name would be awkward), found ourselves as the two guinea pigs biting the bullet and agreeing to jump in a car with a few of the locals.

And so the trip began, the two of us crammed in the very back seat with a thin Pulaar man, made more uncomfortable by the mountains of luggage stuffed into the trunk space and overflowing onto the roof. The wind barely made it through the cracks in the windows to our stuffy corner of the car but at least the sun was blocked by the silky black curtains. The radio played the sounds of Islamic priers chanted to sound like music.

Hours into the trip I found myself lulled into my usual haze of sleepiness developed by years of combating car sickness. My bobbing head would float into the invading rays of sun or rest on Sebastian's or the Pulaar man's shoulder. The road was winding and became hilly, but I’ve grown accustomed to the driver’s ways. He’ll speed down one hill then slam on the breaks half way down to miss the truck in front. He’ll skip passing the truck outright in favor of chugging behind him up the next hill, so slowly the car almost stalls out. And then suddenly I’m jolted awake by the more sudden than normal slamming of the brakes, the screeching of tires, and annoyed cries from other passengers.

We skid, without a glimpse as to why we’d veered into this pickle, sideways down the road into a slightly elevated speed bump. This slightness was just enough to tip the car, in a panic-inducing type of slow motion, into a roll resembling that of a tumble weed. Down the hill the car tumbled until engaging in a final roof to the pavement kiss at the bottom. The most awful screams were melded with the crunching of metal into one terrifying explosion of noise. I’d vice gripped my eyes shut, to avert them from the horrors, only to peel them open again to the upside down puddle of glass and blood I lay contorted in.

The desperation to break free from the wreckage struck me. The air felt dead, dense, unbreathable… and I was gasping towards the space, air, and rays of sunshine outside the car. I crawled under the overturned seat to follow the others through the window. I ran dizzily away from the car as fast as possible, going confusedly in at least three different directions; I didn’t actually know what I was looking for. Air. A place to collapse. Sebastian.

It hit me like another crashing panic attack: I’m looking for Sebastian. My throat hurt but I was screaming anyway. I spin in circles so fast that it takes multiple turns to realize he isn’t there. Where? Where is Sebastian? And then my stomach drops. And in dread I turn back to the car. I drop to my knees and cry out. He’s still in the car. He must be. And I rush back to it, to the shattered back window, and fumble for what feels like hours to pull the bags out of my way. He’s there, upside down in his seat next to my vacant one. His eyes are closed. He isn’t moving.

He’s dusted with blood, but they’re just superficial cuts caused by the glass. I reach out but can’t touch him. Sebastian. He stirs and moans. I move another bag out of the way and crawl deeper back into the wreckage. Sebastian. He moans again. In the tiniest heart breaking voice he squeaks out “can’t.” An eternity later he manages a second word: “breath.” I start to flail in zero free space to rid the back end of the vehicle of all remaining bags. It seems like there’s an endless supply. I wriggle further into the car and I finally reach him. He’s wedged between the seat and god only knows what else. I can see that his chest is unable to rise with his weak breaths. He’s barely awake.

Do something, anything, my mind is screaming. First aid! I grab for his pulse, which is weak but there. I roll onto my side and tilt my head. I breathe air into him. Again. I’m wedged in so close I can see that his chest is still barely moving. Again. Again, I breathe in. Again. I don’t know if it’s helping, but I won’t stop. Between breaths I start screaming for help. Where is everyone else? Why aren’t they helping? Breathe. “Help!” Breathe.

And then I feel something hot close around my ankle. Someone is there. They’ve come to help me get my friend out. They pull. They are pulling on my leg. No. No. I can’t leave. I grab the seat and kick the hand off my leg. I’m yelling so many incomprehensible things. The hand grabs hold again, and another on the opposite leg. They pull harder this time. I lose my grip on the seat. I flail desperately at something to hold on to, but I fail to grasp anything. They are dragging me back out through the trunk. Though my hands are still reaching toward Sebastian, I’m pulled in agonizingly slow motion away from him. I catch his eyes and they’re filled with tears and panic. He can’t say it, but he’s begging me not to leave him. And then he’s gone.

I’m out of the car, lying on the pavement. I jump up and back towards the car but my fellow passengers grab me around my waist. I kick and scream. Two men are dragging me ever further way from the car. I’m yelling things in every language I’ve ever learned… but none of it is the Pulaar that they speak. No one seems to understand me. Sebastian. I need to help Sebastian. Let me go. I fight as hard as it seems I’m possible to break free, but it’s a losing battle. All the adrenaline in my body has been exhausted. I can’t fight them off. My whole body is trembling and I can no longer see. I realize that I’m crying. Hot tears are pouring down my face. Sebastian. Sebastian. Sebastian.

And then I wake up. I’m in my bed in Mboro, under the mosquito net. The tears spilled out of my dreams, in to reality, and across my face. I shake uncontrollably and am covered in an icy cold sweat. My throat is raw and dry like I might have been screaming out loud. It’s just after dawn and there’s barely any light in my room, but I can’t help myself and I contact the real Sebastian. I need to know he’s ok.

This dream happened 6 months ago before the infamous trip to Kedougou… but I can still remember every detail like it just happened yesterday. The next time I speak of Mefloquine please remember this story; wildly vivid and horrible dreams top the list of side effects.

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