I am a news-watching person, and the news tells us that Persons of Hue have a way of attracting ammunition, much like Dwight Hendrickson does. Drawing fire is apparently our Trouble, so I just open my eyes when I am walking well-well. This was not something I worried about on my previous visits when I was (a) Single/a newlywed and (b) Here for a short while. However now that I am raising a black man-child, staying here for a certain duration, I gats to sharpen my eyes.
So, you can imagine my alarm as I was walking along minding my business, when one woman like so greeted me. She looked me in the eye as if she knew my father’s name and our compound in the village. Me sef, I faltered and nearly stopped, so familiar was the gaze. She moved on.
A man the next time. I told myself ‘Nwunye, they have come. It is that thing which they have been discussing o,’ did my mouth hyo and continued walking. Can you blame me? I’ve lived in South London for ten years, Newcastle/Bensham for two years prior to that. If someone says hello to you and you don’t know them, better jam your hands into your pockets or clutch your bag against your chest because verily, verily I say to you brother, sister, thou art to be divested of thine worldly possessions. Avert your eyes fast and…well, not run exactly, but do the hop-step-hop thing we all do while checking an imaginary watch and pretending our bus is late.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it. It’s a British thing.
This uncanny event occurred again. This time, the woman was walking her dog across the road, stopped and shouted ‘Hi!’ then proceeded to have a conversation. I brought out my wallet and tossed it across to her. Her dog picked it up in its mouth and brought it back to me. I raised both hands in the air.
“That’s all I have. I know the value of the pound has fallen…”
The woman threw her head back and laughed, ‘Ha! ha! ha!’ like that, her gullet moving as if she was swallowing mirth. “You’re funny!” she said, continuing on her way.
Hmm. I was beginning to pick up on the vibe of the place.
In the chldren’s section of the library, I smiled at a pregnant woman with two children in tow. “Hi!” I said, showing her my thirty-two. She took her children by the hand and dragged them out of the library.
I don’t understand this country.