Stories from the Road

“Are you African?” The security guard asked as I waited for my cousin and her husband at the hardware

African dress
My African dress


I hesitated for a moment not quite sure what to say. My eyes searched her face for a clue to what prompted the question that hung heavily in the air, separating us. We are both black, and therefore African, but I couldn’t tell what that meant to her. Nothing about her round, pleasant face gave her away.

The moment and the tension lingered.

I smiled. Yes, I’m African.

She twisted her mouth describing a semi-circle, an expression I couldn’t read. It was as if she were struggling to make sense of me, of what I had just said. I waited as she digested that nugget of information.

You live here now? she asked eventually.

I nodded.

I leaned closer to see if her eyes would reveal something, anything. They were soft, almost smiling. Sensing she wouldn’t give me more, I asked why she thought I was African.

Your wrap, she said as if I should have known.

I laughed. I’d forgotten what I was wearing, a gift from my African family.

We’re all African, I said, whether we’re born here or there.


The Wrong Side of the Road

My cousin had left already when I decided to go into town. As I arrived at the end of the street to wait for a taxi, I noticed a young girl, maybe 18 or 19, standing a few yards away.

She looked around and I stopped instinctively, as if I had disturbed her territory. We locked eyes but she turned away before I could nod my acknowledgement.

Unknown flower
Unknown flower

I surveyed her furtively from the corner of my eye: shorts, strappy sandals, blouse, and dead straight hair that she stroked frequently, as if it were the smoothest silk.

Suddenly, my auntie jeans, sensible shoes and hair caught up in a ponytail make me feel frumpy and unfashionable. I tried to recall the girl I was at that age but my mind couldn’t seem to find her.

A car approaches. The driver slows down long enough for the driver to survey the young miss then speed up as he reaches me and refocuses his eyes on the road.

One day she’ll understand, I say to myself. All that fades in time.

Another car rolls by and snaps me back. I’m standing on the wrong side of the road. I cross sheepishly to the other side to wait for the taxi. It’s cooler here, I say to myself, as if in response to the question I imagined she’d ask, that is, if she’d even noticed.

10 comments on “Stories from the Road

  1. Ah, but maybe this woman didn’t see you as African? Some Africans see not much difference but then, many do. I remember Somemore on stage and she spoke of her interaction with an African thinking themselves better and her response was there was no difference between Africans and Africans; that their grandparents just had a better hiding place than hers.

  2. Wooooahhh Marcia, but of course, tu ne sais pas que tu ressembles à une “africaine”?
    Mon Dieu, tu ferais mieux d’écrire des bouquins (livres). Hum! ça me donne super envie de me mettre à l’écriture. I really like the way you write agrican sista. So Jamaica gives you inspiration hey? You can bet now that you are there, I will come and visit Kingston, JA. Bisous. jani

  3. Mais, bien sur, je ressemble a une Africaine. Absolument!
    Une de ces jours, Jani. Commence, even if it’s only a few lines every day. Don’t wait. Yes, I’m very inspired.
    J’espere te revoir tres bientot. Bisous, bisous!!

  4. Hahaha, trust Somemore to come up with something so witty.
    I’m not sure what she thought. The only thing I know is she’s Jamaican and therefore African. Maybe she didn’t think she was.

  5. Hi Martia,

    I’m glad to hear from you and am enjoying your writing. Have you gone back to the OpEd Project? Tightening my belt these days, but maybe in the Spring I’ll try one again. Haven’t had anything published. Happy to see your young, creative energy and glad you persevere.

    The flower in this article is verbena.

    Barbara C.

  6. Oh boy! Such memories… I had to chuckle at the roadside show… As for the exchange with the security guard, I suspect she took her cue from your outfit when she asked if you were African. That flowering verbena is gorgeous.

  7. Good to hear and I’m glad I caught up on your posts… I was beginning to lose sleep over the posts from all my favorite blogs piling up in my mailbox. Hope you have a wonderful week ahead… Me? You won’t believe I got another bronchial cold that laid me low during the weekend. Honestly, I pray for much, much better health in 2012 and less exposure to those flu bugs that hang out in gyms… Yes, I am careful but the stuff in the air.. Oh, this is not a private conversation. Be blessed Marcia and a Happy New Year is on its way! 🙂

  8. Oh, never lose any sleep over this stuff, Elizabeth. Comments and posts don’t have an expiry date, there’s always time to catch up. The most important thing is your health. There’s much going around and since it hasn’t remained cold long enough, we have to be particularly careful. So please, please stay healthy and take care of yourself.
    Be very blessed, Elizabeth. I wish you all good things in the New Year.

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