I'm looking for fuel. Not just any fuel, that I could find anywhere. All along Moundou's one paved road are small rickety wooden tables stacked with old whisky, gin and wine bottles filled with various colors of gasoline and diesel. No, I'm looking for Moundou's one working gas station: such as it is. It hardly stands out. Two bright new fuel pumps stand just outside one of the hundreds of other brick stores with rusting sheet iron doors opening onto dark painted wooden counters in front of an endless supply of haphazard new and used parts and products. There are also two old pumps with glass tubes and a hand pump that fills up the tubes which are then emptied of their specific quantity of fuel out a second hose. It's hard to recognize until you're almost past it and there is barely room for a care to get off the pavement and onto the dirt as motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians weave in and out in a weird rhythm interrupted by the occasional black exhaust spewing battered diesel truck.
Today, I can't seem to find it. I'm driving slow, peering out the window of the Hiace mini-bus when I spot the two old pumps but no new ones! Just past the pumps on a stool is my friend, Mahamat, wearing a Chadian National Football team jersey. He waves to me and I screech to a halt and back up.
"As salaam aleikum!" I greet Mahamat.
"Wa aleikum as-salaam," he replies and then adds. "You're looking a little lost, what's up?"
"Yeah, I was looking for your gas pumps, but they're gone!"
"We just moved across town last week. I'm here just to orient my clients. Do you need gas?"
"Yes, I was looking for you, but you found me instead!"
"Come, I'll take you to my new place." With that, Mahamat hops into the passenger side and we do a u-turn and head back towards the surgery center.
Mahamat is plump with a ready grin and is a huge football fan. Apparently, in the day, he was quite the player as well and still gets out occasionally.
"How long have you been in the new place?"
"Just a week, God has blessed us. I came from N'Djamena a few years ago, and didn't know what I would do, but here I am."
"Yes, with God's help you have succeeded. He meant for you to come here."
"It's true. Our business will continue to grow, inshallah."
I turn and smile. "Yes, we must always say that, if God wills. We don't know what will happen even tomorrow."
Mahamat grins as he chews on his tooth cleaning stick trying to keep his mind off food until Ramadan ends at sundown. "So many people want to plan out their whole lives, but it's only the right now that God has given us."
"Yes, you're right."
"I thought I saw you yesterday evening." Mahamat changes the subject slightly.
"Yes," I reply. "I came into town with my wife looking for something to eat. We found some great beans and rice after sundown. I prefer simple things, the things that God has made rather than things from a can or box."
Mahamat looks at me in surprise. "You are a true believer, that's for sure." He laughs and keeps chewing on his stick as we pull up to his new gas station.