Notes from an island

 

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Category: Reflections 30 Sep 07

 

Two young Nigerian brothers, David and Abassi, from Lagos, visited last week. I met David, the older brother, at a wedding of a mutual friend in Trinidad and Tobago last year.

 

We kept in touch via e-mail. When David called to say they were in T&T, I invited them over.

 

David is the type girls love to take home—30, boyish, polite, neatly-built and dressed, classic features, cute tweed cap, speaks cultured low tones.

 

He’s moving back home from London to work.

 

Abassi, the younger brother, is eye candy, a 25-year-old with wild curls and flared jeans. He looks like he’s walked straight out of Fame, attitude and all.

 

He coils his “beached out” young body into a chair, narrows his eyes suspiciously over a cup of tea and checks out the scene.

 

It’s domestic. Children wander around.

 

I shout homework reminders, talk of the grocery. He closes his eyes. Not a cool scene.

 

When he opens them again Abassi does what good looking guys in their early 20s do. Eat and talk about girls, clubbing, money and guns.

 

Abassi’s stories leave me with a string of images that make it difficult to place him or Nigeria.

 

He says: “I’m moving to our family’s London home, man. I can’t take the scene in Lagos.” I ask why. He’s shaking his head and laughing.

 

“I was at a party when these robbers walk in. My friend, he’s crazy, he jokes with men with guns saying there was no more room at the party.

 

“They slap him up, bloody his nose, that kind of thing. They clean out the place. Leave with bags of money and valuables. They get into a boat. Rev it up (here he makes the sound rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) and take off. “One minute later, the engine dies. These guys look at one another and then start paddling, with their hands.

 

“Two hours later, they’re still paddling with their hands. No one calls the police. Their firepower makes the police’s old guns look like a joke.

 

“But the biggest crooks are the politicians. One minister spent four million US to renovate her home.”

 

I think he could be talking about T&T.

 

Abassi recalls his first day in a posh English boarding school.

 

“I walk in late for breakfast. A hall full of boys clattering knives and forks stopped. They stared. I thought they were staring because I was late. They were staring because I was the only black boy in the school.”

 

We laugh.

 

I remember how my daughter asked her father whether he was African or Trinidadian. (He’s East Indian.) When he said he was Trini-Indian she rolled her eyes. “You’re West Indian, Daddy.”

 

Racial innocence. We had that once.

 

I still haven’t figured out why they came here. I say so. I understand when the club talk comes up. Here for a good time with the girls.

 

David raves about the mixture of beauty here. Abassi adds: “But they are weird, man. They want to talk, to be your friend.”

 

I ask him what’s wrong with that. “They dance like they want to have sex with you—I have never seen a girl dance like that in New York, Lagos or London.

 

“But when you ask them to go home with you they say they want to ‘lime’ next week. A week is long, man. I have tonight and tomorrow and then I leave.

 

“In England, you get a girl after a party like you go for a kebab.”

 

Their mother is nagging them to get married. I say “find a wife in Zen.” They are horrified, “You never find the girls you want to marry at a club.”

 

Now they sound like the hypocritical men everywhere. The ones with the Madonna/ whore complex.

 

As they leave, I am filled with conflicting emotions. Proud we are so free in the new world. Ashamed we haven’t learned lessons from the old.

  

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur