I wanted to stay and watch the fireworks but Aunty Phoebe said, no. I didn’t like it, but I’m glad we didn’t because if we had. I wouldn’t be seated across from you now, taking in your handsome face and your jet black hair.
We were the only black family; surely you must have noticed us, just like I noticed that you were the only black person not selling cheap umbrellas to tourists. Drawn by the tone of your voice—friendly and charming, I found myself walking up to you before I realized that my people were on the other queue.
I like the ring of your laughter. It has that gurgling sound pipe-water makes. And when you throw your head back, the lump in your throat bobs up and down in slow motion. Has anyone ever told you? I wonder if it vibrates too, makes a burr. What wouldn’t I give to find out, to be the one at your side whose jokes make the corners of your eyes crinkle.
It’s 17 degrees, but their shoulders are bare, skirts just skimming their knees. Two brunettes and a redhead wearing summer dresses, billowy and soft, in pastel and bright colors. Their nails are a healthy pink, unlike mine, white and cracking inside my socks; or is it Nivea? Like the one I bought at Monoprix that made Aunty Phoebe mad because she thinks I’m too young to start painting.
I want to ask you if you are a model or one of those stone statues in the parcs and jardins; an artefact, a preserved ruin brought to life because you are perfect in every way. A black shirt-grey jeans-proper shoes combination has never looked so good.
What do your hands feel like? Even if they are cold like the coins you would have pressed into my palms, I would still have felt warm inside. You may not even have touched me, people don’t do that here. Just smile at me as you hand me the brochure. Slide the change across the table top. Politely.
I want to follow you. To the cinema or the café or wherever you and your friends might be going off to. You’ll put your arm around me, and I’ll make a face because the people at the next table are smoking. I wouldn’t even notice, but if I had garlic breath, or tomato in my teeth, would you still kiss me?
The doors open and close. Someone else takes your seat. I sigh and turn back to the window but all I see is a rolling darkness and bursts of graffiti.
Post image by Gareth McConnell via theyeofabengal
About the Author:
Akumbu Uche was born in Kaduna, raised in Port Harcourt and educated at the University of Jos. Her writing has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Saraba Magazine, Qarrtsiluni and elsewhere. She lives in Lagos.