New to me. The couple sat on the patio of Keur Saloum, one table away. We Belgians, Senegalese and Canadian crammed together nearby, laughing in three languages. I said several silly things, such as one comment aimed at Marie-paule, Lydia’s mom. We were both taking up residence for a few days at Eddy’s bed-and-breakfast. “Marie-paule est dans la chambre cinq. Je suis dans la chambre … cinq.” (Marie-paule will be in room 5. I’ll be in room … 5.”) Much laughter erupted, and as I glanced over to the next table, the woman was smiling.
As our conversation continued, the couple talked together – in French I believe. Once in awhile, she’d look over to us as our words spilled out. Smiling again.
Lydia brings people together. As our group got up to leave, she bubbled over to our neighbours en français. The conversation among us all sped up and I was left in the dust. Fast French means no French for me. After awhile I walked over to the flowering bushes to watch the sunset on the river. As the disc fell behind the trees, leaving its pink glow, I returned to our tables. All the Lydiaists were standing and inching towards the exit ramp.
It felt like the woman next door was looking straight at me but she may have been taking us all in: “Would you like to stay for a drink?” I looked at the barely receding feet around me and responded “No, I want to get to dinner.” The woman across seemed to lower her head. Then somehow words kept falling out of people’s mouths. I stood there, passive on the outside and churning on the inside.
The movie Dead Poets Society came through – the one where Robin Williams teaches a bunch of high school students about life. “Carpe diem” he would say … seize the day. “And Bruce, isn’t this a perfectly good day to seize?”
As feet really did move one after the other in farewell, I reached down to the nearest chair and pulled it over to the couple. Yes, let’s talk.
We did so for three hours. In another seizing moment, I said yes to having dinner with Julie and Luc. Happily we talked about our lives – rehabilitating elephants, working in the Belgian embassy in Dakar, seeing big white birds land on an island at sunset so they could be together overnight, living with cancer loss, volunteering with 11-year-olds, eating a delcious meal in Keur Saloum … just everything.
There was communion at our evening table … three discovering friends savouring the flavours of relationship. It was all so cozy.
We hugged and shook hands goodbye. Will this be the end of it or will there be a friendship which endures? Using Lydia and Jo as an example, there may be many more dinners to come.