In this chapter, Dublin bribes border guards and takes his post at a bar.
Bribing the Border (Part 1)
Dublin woke up at five in the morning and dressed without showering. He made coffee and smoked until the sun came up, still not daring to wander around Bordertown in the dark. The stories of thieves and terrorists were mostly left out of the Togo Presse, but not the mouths of his neighbors.
After dawn, Dublin stood up to go. Imagining a procession of beer and bribes throughout the day, he filled his pockets with cash and left to intercept Curran at the border. It was as bustling as the big market once he arrived. He’d never been this close before to the actual crossing. The giant blue archway on the Ghana side of the border was much larger than it looked from four blocks away. Gas tankers lined up in front of the vehicle checkpoint. The border guards were especially bureaucratic that day, smirking their way through supplemental fees and imaginary papers. The predetermination of the game doesn’t take away from the need to play it out.
Dublin could only guess at his role in the game. He knew it involved cash and adeptness at the skill of corruption. Like everything else he’d done in Africa, it was something he was willing to try without really knowing how to do it. For once, he thought, it would be nice to come across a familiar moment. He took a deep breath and approached a female soldier at the checkpoint.
She smiled at him like she might at a child. Her partner put a hand on his rifle and stared at him with the empty eyes of dark sunglasses.
“English?” She nodded. “I have a friend coming over today from Ghana. I want to give him a message.”
“Is he white?”
“Yes. He has curly brown hair and glasses. He’s coming from Accra.”
“Is he tall like you?”
“Yes. I was hoping you could give him a note from me.”
“Does he have arms like you?”
“What? I don’t know. I guess.”
“What do you want me to tell him?”
Dublin fumbled the map and letter he’d written from his jeans pocket. “I want you to give him this. I live here in Kodjoviakopé, and I don’t want him to go into town. His name is here at the top.” He felt a little worried about giving them a map to his house, but he didn’t know what else to do. He’d have to trust them.
“I will need help if you want me to give him this. I can’t be bothered by everybody who crosses the border. You see all these people,” she waved her arm over the crowd, “they need my attention. Can you help me somehow so I can give him this?” Dublin put his hand back in his pocket and pulled out two thousand CFA. She smiled at the other guard. “He will need help, too.” Dublin gave her three thousand more.
“Will you give him the note?” Dublin asked.
“Yes, I think I can help you.” The smile had never left her face. Dublin thanked her and walked away while the wind blew their laughter around him. His plan had two parts: bribe the guards and keep an eye out for Curran from one of the bars. There was only one within eyesight of the checkpoint, and a dark blue sign above the door was painted with the name Plage des Esclaves: Slave Beach. It was dark inside, and three or four men sat at the counter without talking. Dublin felt like he had just walked into a saloon in Tombstone, the silhouette of a man who wasn’t welcome in these parts. The bartender handed him a large bottle of Pils without a word, and Dublin didn’t wait for his change. He walked back outside and settled at one of the two tables in front of the bar. It was seven-thirty in the morning.