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
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.
back home from London to work.
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.
domestic. Children wander around.
homework reminders, talk of the grocery. He closes his eyes. Not a cool
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.
stories leave me with a string of images that make it difficult to place him
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.
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
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.
biggest crooks are the politicians. One minister spent four million US to
renovate her home.”
I think he
could be talking about T&T.
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.”
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.”
innocence. We had that once.
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.
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.
you get a girl after a party like you go for a kebab.”
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.”
sound like the hypocritical men everywhere. The ones with the Madonna/ whore
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.