Circumventing a Gatekeeper/ All Hail Billy Boy.

You want Cafe?

I nod. Weakly. Very weakly.

He dips a container into the pot of Senegalese Cafe Touba brewing over the fire and fills my cup.

I begin to sip on the invigorating coffee. Swirling around me are guttural Senegalese greetings and the sounds of happy handshakes and excited salutes.

I am hungry.

I have had one piece of bread, but it only seems to have exacerbated the aggressiveness of my hunger. I stare longingly at the pile of loaves at the corner, being guarded by the Senegalese man who just refilled my cup.

He is very generous with the coffee. He is always asking me if I want some more.

Mon ami!! You want Cafe? Cafe? More Cafe?

He is not as generous with the bread. I can literally feel his face being drawn closer and closer to a complete frown whenever the supply of bread is diminished by a considerable amount.

Jesus Christ I am hungry.

A few feet to my left, some members of this Senegalese Islamic sect are dancing around in a circle, beating their drums and singing very loudly.

I felt frightened the first time I head them sing. Their voices were so loud. Screaming on top of their voices and wildly waving their long fat dreadlocks in the air. Shouting ardently into the night.

One of their members freshly arrives, and joins the meeting. He is talking with a lot of self-assurance, shaking hands and smiling and laughing.

In my understanding, genuine self-assurance and confidence comes a lot more naturally when your life is going well. This guy’s life is definitely going well. 

I am here with my head bowed, wincing under the crushing pain of the frustrations I am encountering in my training of some Artificial Intelligence models on Wildlife Conservation historical data to identify insights which could prove valuable to the managers of the Spanish Biodiversity NGO on the island.

For some reason they were persuaded to entrust me with their money and historical data on endangered sea turtles.

I am in trouble. I am in fucking trouble. I have collected money but the AI models are misbehaving. They are not working the way they should work.

Ah. I am in soup. I am finished. I am completely finished.

Mister Confident walks over to the gatekeeper of the coffee and bread.

A cup is filled with steaming Cafe Touba.

Mister self-assured reaches out his hand and grabs a hold of two pieces of bread from the pile.







I am screaming in my head.


I look at the gatekeeper’s face. He is smiling and exchanging words with Mister Confident.

My hunger begins to boil even more belligerently.

I need another loaf of bread.

Jesus Christ I need another loaf.

Mister Confident finishes exchanging greetings and goes to join the celebration.

As he walks away, I can feel my energy diminish. My propensity to act on the unbearable extent of my hunger is apparently, directly proportional to proximity with Mister Confident.

As he walks away, my welling assertiveness ebbs. Now I am left with no externally perceptible dissatisfaction. Just the gnashing agony of internal hunger.


The gatekeeper is frowning again. The loaves look so far away now. So distant. So out of reach. Oh my God.

I keep sipping on the coffee, inhaling the aroma as fully as I can, hoping that at least is doing something to assuage my tempestuous hunger.

I keep looking around glumly. The Senegalese chants sound like something from a dream. The smiles and Wolof chatter bouncing about in the air around me all feel like hallucinations.

The one real voice in my head right now, is that of impatient, menacing, inconsiderately vociferous hunger.

Ah. I am dead. I am dead. I am completely dead. I am finished.

In the midst of this delirious surreality, I hear a familiar voice.

Who is that?

I turn around.

Is that Billy Boy?

Is that Billy Boy?

Ah it is Billy Boy!

His gaze connects with mine. A smile spreads out on his face.

Jesus Christ I am so happy to see you Billy Boy. I am so happy to see you.


Memories of our interactions come to the forefront of my mind and infuse me with a feeling of warmth very different from what the fire was providing.

Having coffee in the middle of the island at Espargos, with me marvelling and the astoundingly chasmic language barrier that existed between us.

Hanging out at “Chillout”- an interesting restaurant at Santa Maria- a multi-cultural hub at the southern end of the island.

We shake hands and hug and smile and laugh.

He walks over to the gatekeeper, smiling and laughing and exchanging greetings with him in Wolof.

I like this guy so much. He wears these very interesting trousers that involve a combination of Denim and brightly coloured traditional Senegalese attire. His neck is usually full of very heavy looking Senegalese bead necklaces. He walks with an extremely appealing bounce, stylishly favouring one leg as he cooly drifts through space. I like this guy so much.

A cup is filled with steaming Cafe Touba.

Billy Boy reaches out his hand and grabs a hold of two pieces of bread from the pile.



Two pieces. Of bread.

Billy Boy. Is taking two.

The gatekeeper is immersed in exciting conversation with him.

The loaves feel within reach once again. The capable assertiveness is back to express the clamorous disgruntlement of my rumbling hunger.

Psychological electricity is flowing from Billy Boy right now. This guy’s magnetic field of relievingly reliable self-assuredness is inducing some serious electrical charge in me right now.

I order my right hand to move in the direction of the loaves.

It obeys.

Good. Very good. Very very good.

I can feel the loves in my hand. Jesus they feel so soft. And there is margarine, Jesus Christ. I can almost taste it already.

My hand grabs a hold of one.

Extends that hold to two.

Three? Three loaves Mayowa?

My hand is corresponding with my head.

Three? Three loaves?

Look at you. Look at your big head. Three loaves. Three loaves. In addition to the one you’ve already had.

At someone else’s expense.

You better get back to your apartment and continue grappling with your bellicose AI models. You better go figure out how to finish training your models so you can obtain the second instalment of your consultancy fee from the Spanish Biodiversity NGO, and then you can buy as many loaves as you want.

Okay. Okay. Two loaves it is. Two loaves it is.

The hand is back. Two loaves richer. Alright. This is good. This is very good.

I think the gatekeeper saw me from the corner of his eye. I think I see a slight frown. I think I see it. I’m not quite sure. He is still smiling excitedly with Billy Boy. I’m not sure. I am not really sure.

One loaf is in my mouth already.

Ah! Such relish, Jesus. Ah!

All hail Billy Boy.

All hail Billy Boy the dependable inducer of electrical charge.

All hail Billy Boy the undepletable watershed of self-assurance.

I keep munching voraciously.

All hail Billy Boy.

All hail Billy freaking Boy.

Ah! My body feels relieved of tenseness. The unnerving stress of hunger-induced focus loosens its grip on my consciousness.

Ah! My body feels so calm all of a sudden.

Now I am able to feel the cool breeze of the night.

Hm, I think there are stars in the sky.

Ah, this Senegalese coffee tastes so good.

Hm, now the smiles on the faces of the Senegalese guys at the meeting suddenly feels like a language that makes meaning to me. Now their smiles seem to make sense.

All hail Billy boy.

All hail Billy freaking Boy.

4pm at Ramadan.

It is 4pm.

I have been waiting for 4pm for the entire day. There generally exists a number of different markers people calibrate their day with— Sunrise and sunset, breakfast lunch and dinner, time to go to work and time to get back from work, and so on.

All of my days for the past week have been bisected into two principal divisions: Before and after 4pm.

As the digital clock on my computer makes me aware of this significant temporal transition, my physical body switches into autopilot and my limbs begin to execute instructions that have been painstakingly rehearsed throughout the entire day.

I find myself getting dressed- putting on my blue buba1 and my purple shorts – shorts which used to be the top-half of the trousers of a two-piece suit. I have found the shorts to be much more useful, versatile and pragmatic than the trousers they used to be. I frequently do a lot of climbing and walking and general jumping about. I find shorts are much better suited to the task.


I watch Mayowa engage in all of these actions, from his destination. I- his consciousness, am already there.

I am already seated on one of the logs of wood that surround the fire. I can already smell the invigorating Cafe Touba2 brewing atop the flickering flames. I can already taste the bread and very interesting Senegalese bean sauce waiting patiently for consumption. I can hear my companions with their flowing gowns and baggy trousers and thick beaded necklaces and unbelievable fat dreadlocks conversing enthusiastically in Wolof3.

I am already here. Floating amidst the bodies and the gowns and the conversation and the calming smell of Cafe Touba. All that is left is for my physical body to catch up.

I see him- Mayowa, mechanically getting dressed. Putting on his white rubber slippers that have been through multiple rounds of cobbling. He was reading about quantum physics earlier today, that guy. Something about matrices as a tool to represent quantum states. Something like that.

Me? I’ve been here all day. Watching the blackened pot of bubbling coffee sit above the fire, entirely immune to any further blackening effects of its position. A phantasm revelling in a hypothetical gathering.

The strike of 4pm transforms this figmental assembly into a physical one, and now a number of corporeal entities are on their way here.

I watch Mayowa leave his studio apartment. He briefly glances at the remarkable beach a few metres from his door, but has little attention to spare. The entrancing blue waves crashing against the shimmering sand fail to significantly grip his interest. He is hungry for something else right now.

He is hungry. Literally hungry.

Feet drift through the desert sand, trusting memory, experience and a sense of navigation to successfully arrive at the intended destination.

Oh so much procedure. His dusty feet have to venture forward, one after the other– one after the other, and slowly his entire body edges closer and closer to the party where I wait.

So much procedure. So many rules. So much anatomical bureaucracy. Ugh.

Now it makes sense, all of the interest in matrices and quantum states- it could simply all be a being attempting to understand the invisible principles that impose constraining loci on his physical existence.

I can sense his anticipation. For the coffee. For the bread. For the effervescent sound of voices in Wolof3 vibrating in the evening air. For the emotive pulsing of native Senegalese drums and Baye Fall4 chants that he relates to, not as communication with the supernatural, but simply (although not any less significantly) as enchanting mesmerising music.

Me? Anticipation does not apply to me. I am already feasting. I have been feasting since the the time before this meeting even came together. I have been feasting since this gathering was just a plan. I have been eating this bread since it was still just flour and ingredients. I have been eating the beans since it was still on the farm. I have been…

He is almost here. Mayowa is almost here.

I see him in the distance. With his white slippers and blue buba and red hair.

He is almost here.

4pm at Ramadan5.




  1. Buba – Top half of a traditional Yoruba attire.
  2. Cafe Touba – Popular Senegalese coffee drink.
  3. Wolof – The lingua franca of the Senegalese people.
  4. Baye Fall – Senegalese Islamic sect.
  5. Ramadan – Annual Islamic religious observance.


Image Credits:



I was listening to  “Poye” by Issa Bagayogo while writing this.