The journey was getting boring with her mother’s continuous screams at any single site they passed by. This urge to shout at her like she used to order Tamika came over Maureen. It took the last self-control she had to stop her from actually doing that. She was calm but not cool.
“Mo, what’s that one?” she pointed at an estate building.
“An office,” Maureen replied with no interest. She looked away, facing the other side of her window. She was suddenly angry and she did not know the reason.
“Just that? It’s big oo!” she exclaimed annoyingly, causing the taxi man to giggled softly. The remarkable ‘oo’ affirmation annoyed Maureen the more.
The memories of those earlier days at college came to her mind. The new black girl that spoke in a funny way, white students had tagged her that. The mockery was getting the better part of her, including the annoying giggling chit-chat. The early days at the college was miserable. Maureen found herself all alone in a new part of the world. She couldn’t help but wonder why on earth God sent her there. The sudden urge to go back home enveloped her. She missed her friends, her family, her neighbourhood. She missed them so badly and for once in her life, she appreciated them for being there for her. On most occasions, she cried myself to sleep.
The turning point in her happiness started on cool breezy Tuesday. Classes for that day had just ended and as usual she was walking down the hallway all alone, clutching onto five heavy textbooks. She walked past a group of giggling girls. One of them was wearing a heavy makeup, Maureen side-eyed
“Why are you staring at me?” Maureen heard a soft voice so close to her ear as if to bite it off. She screamed out of fear, and the stranger held her so tightly. “Why were you staring?”
“I wa… s… wasn’t star…ring,” Maureen stammered, struggling to free herself from the stranger’s powerful grip.
“Do I look like one of those wild animals in Africa?” the main girl, asked now in front of me. Her supporters and friends laughed out loud. “Or maybe one of your descendants from the ape family?” she said again, gaining more supporters and boisterous laughter. Maureen was still pinned down by the muscular girl.
“Please, let me go,” she whimpered in pain, holding the forearm of her tormentor.
“Answer the damn question, ape!” she yelled loosening the firm grip on Maureen’s throat. Maureen coughed continuously. They waited
“I’m not … an ape,” Maureen said, not looking at any of the many faces. “The name’s Maureen.” She spat out excess saliva, it was as though her adrenaline was already sending signals for the production of excess saliva. She coughed loud again, trying to physically get the shock off her. Amidst their non-stop laughter, she made for her books each in a different direction. The muscular girl followed her.
“We are not done, Africana. Tell us about where you come from.”
Maureen was now enraged, she wondered how they found their mockery funny. Courage and anger overwhelmed her and she threw the books she just picked up back to the ground. She then faced the muscular girl.
“Africa is a continent and Nigeria is my country. Your silly mocking face wouldn’t last one second there. Same with you’all.” Maureen pointed her index finger at their slimy white-puffed faces, waiting for multiple kisses at one slightest excuse. She was shocked to hear herself say the last word with their accent. It was something she would be cool with but not that day. She packed her books hastily, she could hear them booing. She wasn’t perturbed though as she left, in her mind daring anyone to come and hold her back.
She walked past the mini door of the college, obviously sulking yet maintaining her pace and sanity.
“Hey,” a black skinned guy tall with hands akimbo, using the giant statue of God-knows-who as a support said. He was of average height, the black kinky curls on his head were pretty. Maureen walked on.
“Hey!” He grabbed his bag, making a small run to catch up with her pace.
“Let me be, please, stay the… stay away, I mean avoid—”
“I saw what happened over there, I’m sorry.” There was truth in his voice. His eyes were watery, then he bent over.
“What’s wrong?” Maureen heard herself asking.
“I’m alright.” He looked up at her. “I just don’t like the way they treat us sometimes. I mean we are all human on Earth, right?” his eyes roamed her face. She nodded. He smiled and said, “I’m Gabriel, call me Gab.”
“Nice meeting you Gab, the name is Maureen.” She took his well-manicured, outstretched masculine palm in hers.
Gabriel was from Zimbabwe, as he told her. They became besties from that day onwards. With Gab, the college seemed a little homey and fun. He introduced her to tons of other black kids in the college. She was excited getting to know them all. There were about eight of them, five were from South Africa, two from Nigeria and one from Zimbabwe. Kene was her second brother.
The first day they met Kene, she didn’t believe he was from Africa, talk more of being a Nigerian. His skin colour wasn’t black like hers, his was a cool tanned complexion. His eyes were like that of a cat, brown and bold. His hair texture wasn’t kinky puff, it was straight and curled at the tip. Gab had laughed at he when she complained.
“Kene’s paternal grandparents were Nigerians,” Gab told her.
“Unhook,” she hooted in awe.
Maureen didn’t take Kene serious, of course. It was clear that though he might be from an African descent, he was clearly non-African. The way he talked, dressed, his ideas were all in the American fashion. Plus, the xenophobic attitude wasn’t meted out to him. In fact, girls confessed there love to him every day (mostly).
It was a Friday afternoon, between the period of late September which marked summer, she was sitting directly opposite Kene in the college canteen. They were eating lunch, while waiting for Gab who had promised to meet them there. All over the college there were jingles of the Halloween. During their last class, the professor had boldly told them that he was going to wear a shark’s costume. Maureen had laughed at the silly thought aloud, alone. Throughout the rest of the class she couldn’t help imagining a professor in a shark’s costume. It didn’t make sense to her. She smiled when she remembered Kene, he would put her through with all pleasure. She couldn’t wait to see him. She sighted him coming out from the ancient library.
“Hey,” he greeted
“Hey,” she called back. She still remembered how ‘hey’ pissed her off. America was a new world. She found out they seldom used formal greetings. Good morning, good evening were words she hadn’t heard people use as a form of greeting. They preferred a causal ‘hi’ or ‘hey’, or sometimes they would rather call ones name or nickname to get their attention.
“Gab would be joining us later. He’s still working,” Maureen told him immediately.
“Cool,” he muttered peering into the screen of his phone “How were your classes?” he asked, raising his face but not his attention from his mobile.
“Uhmm… went well. The professor talked about him getting a Halloween shark costume.”
“Cool. I haven’t thought of what I would put on. What about you Mo?” he suddenly stopped walking to ask her.
“Huh?” she raised both eyebrows.
“What you gonna wear on Halloween?”
“I’m an African. We don’t celebrate Halloween and besides I do not know what’s Halloween.” She shrugged.
“I get it.” A little smile appeared at the corner of his lip. “That’s the problem?” he asked but didn’t give her time to reply and continued, “you wanna know about Halloween?” She nodded in affirmation. “I’m hungry. Come on.”
Few minutes later, they we were comfortably sitting facing each other in the college canteen. He ordered the cold lunch for two while Maureen busied herself and with the fascinating comic Halloween customs hanging all around the canteen.
To be continued…