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My Mid-Summer Picnic
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:47 pm Reply with quote
malasay
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004
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Location: Texas




My Mid-Summer Picnic
By Amir Baharun

“Old age equalizes – we are aware that what is happening to us has happened to untold numbers from the beginning of time. When we are young we act as if we were the first young people in the world.”
Eric Hoffer, Philosopher

The following short story is pure fiction!

I heard about it, but had never bothered to participate in it. In late May, while I was browsing around for Harari news in the Internet, I read about the upcoming annual sport and cultural festival. At that moment, I decided to attend. In early July, I packed my bags and flew to Toronto. I arrived around noon. “The weather is fair,” announced the hostess, “27 degree Celsius.” I took a shuttle bus service from the airport to downtown hotel, where I had a room booked. I spent the whole afternoon enjoying a pleasant view of downtown from my hotel room window. I watched all types of human races walking, driving, and shopping.

In the evening, I called my old friend, who in the past invited me several times to visit him. When he heard my voice, he was very excited.

“I’m in your town,” I told him.

“What a lovely surprise! Are you at the airport?”

“No, I’m in my hotel room.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.”

“I wish you’d called me to pick you up.”

“I promise next time, if there is one, I’ll call you before I book my flight.”

Since I left home, I became an individualist. But when I settled in Anchorage, I became more than individualist. I adored to be alone – without wife and children. Maybe it was a sign of self-centredness, narcissism, not to share what I have with others. After more than twenty minutes of phone conversation, he gave me the phone numbers of my old friends – those who live in Toronto, as well as those on a visit like me.

The first person I contacted was Shulum, who was also on a visit. He was staying with his brother. I dialled the number. The answering machine was set to pick up on the fifth ring.

“This is a machine, you know what to do,” said the voice.

“This is Hashim,” I started.

“Hash,” said the friendly voice interrupting my message.

“Hi bud,” I said.

That was Shulum, my childhood buddy – a talkative kind of guy. He started to talk. The story was not about that day or that week or that month. It was about decades ago. He was, like my all Harari friends, filled with nostalgia. I used to call him ‘self’, because he was a hard working self-made man. We had a good time together as young men, until we were separated for good, decades ago. Although we were close friends, when he left home I stayed. Later on, I got a scholarship to come to the States and decided to stay for good.

Shulum and I had many things in common, like having carpenter dads and gufta, hair cover for married Harari women, vendor moms. We also shared the same old rag of brown blanket in our mabsal gar, study room, where we spent for years with four others. Even after he dropped out of school because of his failure in the grade eight national exam, he remained with us. We did not kick him out, although he was the only one who failed in our group. His father got angry when he had learned his failure and told him in our presence, “as I said several times, you’re good for nothing. Now you’ve two choices, either to become my apprentice or work with my friend, Abdullahi.”

He began to work for his father’s good friend, the shoe-shop owner. He learned about bargain offer, price and sale. He bargained hard with customers over the price of shoes, as he was hired on a commission basis. Then the jingling coins in his pockets were the envy of all of us, because ours were empty, nearly empty. He became a good customer to a young chat vendor. She used to serve him well, and he even went out on a date with her.

Since he began working, he covered our study room’s rental expenses in exchange for sharing our course materials with him. He began to behave like a professional. His pants were always crisply ironed, while the collars of our shirts left something to be desired, his collars were clean and neat. He had been working hard not to be left out. His priority was to learn English. He tried to speak English with English speaking tourists and American Peace Corps Volunteers in every available occasion by asking questions, such as but not limited to: ‘What is the time?’ or ‘What is your name?’

He also bought a transistor radio to learn English faster. We started to listen Voice of America (VOA) radio station with him. Particularly, the 9:00 o’clock news broadcast – ‘Special English for Africa.’ Every night when the VOA announcer began the news with: “Peoples, places and ideas making news…,” we used to repeat after him, as if we were praying in a congregation. Shulum also paid for our only used illustrated English dictionary. The dictionary was busy during the news. Later on, he made a valuable contribution that helped us all. He bought for our group a brand new Oxford Advanced English Learner’s Dictionary and a book called Common Mistakes In English. The former helped us to have a wide vocabulary, while the latter corrected our grammatically incorrect sentences. At that time, it was very popular among young people to inject English words into Harari sentences which was considered a sign of educational progress – blended Harari with English to have Hararinglish.

With Shulum, we discovered many other things – good as well as bad. Among the bad: smoking habits, chewing the fresh green leaves like goats, drinking a home brewed alcohol in Mamité’s house during Gey Balachu, Harari marriage seasons, and worse the consumption of ‘bitatis,’ ‘sweet potatoes’ followed by many ‘colds’ – ‘sneezes and coughs.’

“What are you doing right now?” Shulum asked.

“I’m in my room, reading from one of Twain’s books.”

“I like her. She is a beautiful woman, is that her biography?”

“No, I’m talking about Mark not Shania, the country singer.”

“I’ve never heard of this name before.”

“Mark Twain was an American writer, his real name was Samuel Longhorne Clemens.”

“It must be an interesting book.”

“It is interesting, reading is always interesting,” I said.

My old friend followed closely current affairs, not only international politics, also about entertainers and entertainment. In our last phone conversation, when I mentioned to him about Toni Morrison, the African American writer’s book, he told me that he saw her in Oprah Whinfrey’s talk show. He also told me about the Dixie Chicks and their political engagement. Unlike yesteryears he became disinterested in learning more or improving his English. His English became rusty. Once he told me, after his arrival in the States, he began attending English as a Second Language (ESL) class but never completed it.

“Anyway you’re here in Torono,” he said, with his false southern accent, after we exchanged greetings and jokes.

He lived in one of the Southern States. His dream was to live there, since we had read together a book called ‘Gone with the Wind’, back decades ago.

“Tell me about your ‘Torono’ story,” I asked, since he had already been there for more than two weeks.

He started to talk endlessly about bikras of the good old days and news of Harari Diaspora. Bikra was one of our slang – not a derogatory one – used in our adolescent years for ‘a young girl.’ Unfortunately, gone was the time when we used that argot. Even, those bikras became mothers and in some cases grandmothers.

“Some of them still think that they are young girls,” said my friend with a burst of laughter, “as they dress in mini-skirts like Brigitte Bardot of sixties from the last millennium’s last century.”

“Tell me about your former girl friend the one you used to call ‘my sweetheart,’ not the second but the fifth one. I mean the one with long hair,” I asked. He had fair complexion and an eye for beautiful girls, he had all the luck too.

“Are you talking about the one with beautiful brown eyes, lined with thick black lashes?”

“That is the one.”

“She is a single mother of four. Now, she dresses decently like a good religious person. When I met her, she was very cold. The good thing is, most of the women are back to their sources. They pray, talk about Allah and of course about money and education. They admire the ‘rich’ and the ‘well educated.’ And I forgot, they gossip too as it is our national pastime.”

“That is one good news from our people, I mean about to go back to their sources.”

Then he paused for a few seconds. I was afraid I lost him and started to call him and repeat, “hello, hello, are you there?”

“Yes, I was looking for my lighter,” answered pensively, “and my six pack.”

I began to imagine him smoking the cigarette and puffing a cloud of smoke in front of him.

“Do you still consume gohoy?” I asked.

“Occasionally, how about you?”

“I had quit, both smoking and drinking habits, years ago.”

“It is really good. I’ve a plan to quit them too, but you know...” Then he paused to sip, puff and cough for a while. At that moment his phone battery was dead.

I missed my childhood friend so much. Even as a child, Shulum was an honest young man inside the dishonest world. Ever since he settled in the States, he lived in the land of Rhett Butler, his favourite character in a book that we had read together years, I mean decades ago. Perhaps he repeats everyday, “it can’t be true, I must be dreaming.” Anyway tomorrow would be another picnic day.

***

I met Shulum in downtown, where I rented a car for a day. “Today is the picnic day,” he said, checking messages from his cell phone, “it is a wonderful occasion to see and meet many people. Who knows, you might find your soul-mate in the crowd.”

I smiled.

“Don’t smile,” he said, “you’re of an age when you should consider settling down. By now you would have provided grandchildren to your parents.”

“Anyway don’t get lost in the crowd,” I said.

I expected unchanged, young and full of life Shulum, the way he had been talking to me by phone. But when I saw him physically, he became much older than me with a bald patch on the middle of his head surrounded by grey hair. Suddenly I felt old and spent.

“The people are judging you based on your image or your look or the way you dress,” Shulum said, looking at my face that was neatly shaved including my moustache, “it is good, you’re properly dressed for the occasion.”

For the occasion, I put on my khaki shorts with open collar shirt and slid my feet into my Egyptian leather sandal without socks – ‘to walk like Egyptian.’ I covered my two eyes with dark sunglasses, not to protect my eyes from ultraviolet rays, but to observe the human behaviour. As I understood, the picnic was a place to show-off or to draw the crowd’s attention – in my case to draw the curtains open.

After a short drive, he parked on the road. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“You know, let’s try this.”

“Try what?”

“I’m visiting my cousin. He is a medical doctor. His daughter studied medicine too, and two of his sons are engineers.”

The doctor’s house was spacious and well decorated. He was an amiable guy in his sixties and with a big laugh. He immigrated to Canada in 1979. The girl came towards me with drinks. She was petite, but attractive, with curly dark hair, brown eyes and the look of a typical young Harari girl. I behaved awkwardly like every old chap. She handed me the colourful glass. Then she sat down near her father holding her own glass.

“Dat gal is a ductah,” said Shulum, winking at me .

The girl laughed. As I did not expect to pay a visit to someone, it became a burden, a huge burden on me. I would have preferred a glass of water, but nobody asked me.

“He has a PhD, Doctor of Philosophy,” said Shulum, to the man and his daughter. It was a proud moment for me, I tried to keep it to myself – no show-of, please. We left with a lunch invitation.

“No more visiting of your cousins, please. Now let’s buy the city map and go to the picnic,” I said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll drive. I know the address, but we’ll visit my friend’s nieces and their friends on our way.”

After many visits, we were off. He drove into freeways, highways and byways. We passed a shopping mall, a gas station, and a convenience store. The parking lot was located at the end of the road. We were lucky enough to find a spot. As Shulum had said, at the park, there were many people who came for the picnic.

“Where’ve you parked?” a fat man with a woman wearing the full veil asked, as he wiped his sweat.

“A block away, at the parking lot,” I answered, wondering how the woman would be able to endure the veil for long in that weather.

At the park, first I gave a hug to my high school classmate, then to my childhood neighbour, then and then until they exhausted my energy. I had not only enjoyed their hug but their smell too – that smelt good and sweet. As well as body, fenugreek spice and cigarette odour. The park was like the lost and found department for humans. I found a person who was once declared dead and another person, once the whole town mourned his ‘tragic death.’

I heard and saw many screams, kisses and hugs among the participants. They spoke sentimentally about their past. I found many of my lost friends and childhood neighbours.

I saw a guy, who once emptied my pockets near the movie theatre during Eid celebration. He was a collector of bubble gum cards with pictures of cowboy actors. His favourite cowboy actor was Roy Rogers. He even changed his natural walking style and adapted the Rogers’ style. But he became mature and friendly.

“This is Hashim,” he said, introducing me to his wife. When she looked at him, “oh, her name is Ute,” he said, “from Austria.”

“Nice to meet you,” said the woman, with her German accent, holding the hand of a young Afro-European boy. He was walking around inside the park with her, as if he only came to show-off his ferenji wife.

I met a guy who once was a preacher as a Marxist monk. He preached about class and class struggle, social injustice and inequality. He had forgotten all what he once preached, since he became a liquor store sales clerk, to actively participate in the exploitation of the working class. He had never been in the mainstream, he had always been a bit of a dropout.

Finally, I met once a feared man from Harar, an officer of some sort. When I was a child, he used to stick out his chest, as if to say, I am here to kick your ‘b----t.’

***

A man who laid on the grass was smoking and looking at the smoggy Toronto sky. He looked at me as if he recognized my face.

“Hey,” uttered with yawn, “am I hallucinating?”

“I really don’t know,” I answered.

“Aren’t you Oki’s brother?”

“Sorry, I’m not.”

“You need to have a mouthful of chat,” said his friend. “Anyway, he’s a bit odd in the head,” added gesturing with his hands.

A group of men spread a carpet on the grass and sat side by side under a large tree. Some of them stared at me. A short man, a little bit taller than a dwarf, was busy preparing gaya, hookah. Back home, hookah was the old women’s sphere of recreational activity. But it became a pastime of younger men and women, who once spent in Arabia as illegal aliens or legal migrant workers. They brought the habit with them to North America, smoking it with different flavours.

Shulum invited me to join his friends. I sat next to him holding a bottle of water I bought from the convenience store. A man was distributing a pile of pillows. “Look behind,” said Shulum holding his empty disposable cup of ice cappuccino. When I turned my head, it was a man with thick eyeglasses sitting with the children to eat waqalim, spicy Harari sausage. I smiled, as it reminded me of a wedding party back home.

A little further, a young man was flipping over the burgers and pushing down on the hotdogs and steaks. It was a festive mood.

Behind us, teenage girls were playing a handball – some of them covered their hair and others not, but braided in Harari style. One of them, with ‘cutie’ written on her pants’ backside, was playing with hula hoop.

“She is not that cute,” said a man in our group, “what she needs is a kick in her pants.”

Then I saw a woman of my age coming, a little bit older than me. Shulum said, “try this.” As he ordered, I looked at her with a friendly little smile. She dressed a sleeveless light dress. It was above her knees. One could see through it the colour of her underwear. Her hair was wet, as if she came out of a swimming pool. I felt rather a sense of guilt for smiling at her, when she completely ignored me. She sat up in front of us on top of the park table and had her feet on the bench. I kept looking at her, while I was only half-listening. The talking itself was not interesting. A guy with grey hair was talking about his refugee life back in Africa decades ago. He was talking about an old polygamist, mimicking and making a mock of the way he talked. The men were laughing about his uninteresting jokes, as to reminisce about the past was fun. He was an utter fool. As a matter-of-fact, such kind of story no longer meant what once it had meant in Africa. It no longer meant anything at all.

Then, they changed the topic. It was about their age. A man said to the hookah specialist, “I saw a grey spot on your hair last time, but today it is all black.”

“You’re older than me,” answered the hookah guy bluntly. Then he held the pipe to the left corner of his mouth and inhaled several puffs, as if he were retaliating against the man.

“Here we go again!” said Shulum, “they’re always arguing about age.”

Grotesque it may seem, they forgot that they all became grown men with grey hair. Most of them were forty-something years old, maybe fifty-something, married and successful enough to be in Canada or in the States. But still arguing about their age, gossiping and joking the old way. What a bad taste! Because of its pointlessness, I was bored and felt uncomfortable with my group. Unlike most of them, I was less talkative. Then another man joined our group.

“I was involved in an accident,” said the man, changing the boring story of the talking grey head and the argument about age.

“Where?” asked a bearded man with reading glasses, in front of him The Toronto Sun newspaper. He was stealing a glance at the picture of a charming bikini dressed blonde girl in the interior pages of the paper.

“On my way home from the airport.”

“Were you hurt?” I asked.

“Amazingly enough, no one was hurt. But the car is a write-off,” said the man looking shaken.

“That is why, I hate to be a cabby,” said the star of the day, the man who prepared hookah.

“What do you do for a living?” I inquired.

“I’m a parking lot attendant,” he answered, looking at a small plastic bag full of dry leaves.

“I’ve a fresh green leaves,” Shulum said it in fun.

“Is that true?” asked the hookah guy, grinning from ear to ear.

There was a quiet man sitting near Shulum and I. He did not utter a sound. “Are you from Toronto?” I asked to avoid listening the boring stories. He began to speak almost immediately, as if he had been waiting my question. He came from Australia in search of what he called a soul-mate. He also told me, he was from Addis originally, as if it mattered. He was one of those boring types. Probably I was with the wrong group, as there were many other groups composed of talented, well articulated and intelligent people. Finally a dark man with colourful Gey Calloita, Harari skullcap joined our group. His belly protruded above his pants, as if he were a false pregnant. He was a real know-all.

However, I kept looking at the woman. For unknown reason, I felt something different towards her. Even my heart pounded. A moment later everything changed. A young boy came towards me and whispered, “ that lady wants to talk to you.” My gut feeling was right. She was Kimo, my high school girlfriend.

“Hash,” she said, with excitement and threw her arms round my neck and gave me a kiss and a hug, again and again. I liked her smell. It was awesome. Abruptly, I recalled an incident in my youth. It was our first and only date we had in my study room. One fine evening, Kimo timidly knocked on the door to have a chat with me. Her parents did not let her go out on dates, like every Harari parent, of course. My roommates were in a voluntary absence that day. Suddenly my father burst through the door with a stick in his hand. When I saw him, I did not know what to do. As the room did not have an emergency exit, I faced the old man and ordered Kimo to run. I wrestled violently when he tried to beat me with his stick. The scene of that struggle was, as if we were playing an unfriendly American football. I held his stick with my right hand, bowing my head in shame, despite the barrage of punches. My dad was too hard on me anyway. Because of that incident, I took refuge in my maternal grandmother’s house.

“Where’ve you been?” she asked, as if I disappeared for a while and reappeared to say peekaboo.

“It is a long story,” I answered.

“I know, but it seems like only yesterday. Do you live here or in the States?”

“In the States,” I answered. She was very interested to know about me, but I kept my answers short.

“Where in the States?”

“In Anchorage, Alaska.”

“Wow, it is a very far away place, right? The frontier of the planet earth!”

“Yes,” I answered.

That reminded me of my mother. Once I invited her to stay with me for three months. A month later while I was showing her the map, I told her that “the region we are living in is the frontier of our planet”. She became uncomfortable to stay with me, since she heard the word ‘frontier.’ She asked me to send her back home instead of living with me at the ‘frontier.’ When I refused, she started a peaceful protest. First, she stopped talking to me, it was only during the day time – evening was not included. Then she declared from dawn to dusk hunger strike. It became serious. Finally, after she skipped her breakfast, I accepted her demand. Later on at dinner table, she told me that she atoned for it with special prayers and the observance of fasts as prescribed in time of desperation – praying constantly brought her one-way ticket to home.

“I lived in the States too, but now I’m here in Canada.”

Kimo had changed physically very much – her face, her short hair, her look, every bit of herself – except her sensuous lips that looked over-used, but still the same. She wore eyeglasses and her eyes were never still. She talked incessantly about herself. She got divorced twice.

“With my first husband, I’m the one who asked for a divorce. He was a well educated and rich, but eccentric and possessive. The second one, I really don’t know.”

She started to smile at me, as if she were paying me back my first smile at her. Then a man came towards us and stopped a few meters away. He could not hear what we were saying, but I became uncomfortable as we were conversing in English. He was staring at me. The way he looked too was bizarre, to say the least. I thought he was Mr. T’s twin brother if he was not Mr. T himself – with all sorts of necklaces and rings in his ten fingers.

“It is rude to listen in on other people’s conversation,” I said, looking at the man with questioning eyes.

“He is my guy,” she said, “from the Caribbean.”

“What!?”

“Yes, come on James.” He came like her puppy, however, it was without a wag of tail.

“I thought you’re ‘Mr. T’ from The A-Team’s TV series,” I said.

“I wish,” he said with the voice of Michael Jackson. There was a real difference between his voice and his physical appearance.

“And you’ve Michael Jackson’s voice too. Are you a singer”

“I wish, you know what I mean,” he said, gesturing with hands.

“Is he your co-worker,” I inquired, “and part-time ‘Mr. T?’”

“No,” she answered, “I’m self-employed, I mean a consultant. I’ve a graduate degree in economics.”

“Aha! But what about ‘Mr. T.’”

“I met him at the Wal-Mart. When was that, James?”

“Two weeks ago,” answered with Jacko’s voice.

“You are a Manager, I guess,” I said looking at him.

“I wish,” he said with Jacko’s shyness. “I’m a clerk in the furniture department.”

“I should have guessed.”

She was not embarrassed at all, as if it was a sort of normal stuff or maybe a fate. I liked to ask her, “ what can you possibly see in him?” It was a saddening circumstance to see a well educated woman living with bizarrely behaving person. At the beginning, I had liked being with her and talking to her. After ‘Mr. T’s’ appearance in the scene, I no longer desired her.

Suddenly we were interrupted by a woman, dressed in a traditional colourful Harari dress with silver pendant hanging on her forehead. She came with the delightful smell of basil wafting into my nose. It reminded me of my mother during wedding seasons in Harar. The woman was Zabu, my late friend’s sister, living in California. Her engineer brother died of HIV/AIDS, leaving two children behind him. Shulum and I became their sponsors. She introduced me to her teenage son. The skinny boy dressed untraditional – baggy jeans and over-sized shirt with baseball cape turned-back-to-front position.

“He is my son, Hamdogne.”

“Hi Hamdogne,” I said to the young lad. He smiled showing me his brace and shook my hand in a strange way. He did not speak Harari language at all. His friend came and whispered the word I did not understand. As what I got from school was a good command of English, and later on specialized vocabulary that I could communicate properly about environmental issues.

“Don’t mess with me,” the lad said to his friend.

“She is my daughter,” Zabu said, to a girl with right eyebrow piercing.

Unlike the parents who enjoyed multiculturalism and kept their identity, some of the younger generation did assimilate smoothly. They became modern day Kunta Kinte, a central character of the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, by Alex Haley. The last book I read with Shulum in the late seventies. But Kunta Kinte resisted assimilation and refused even to be renamed ‘Toby.’ He wanted to keep his African identity. But the kids like Hamdogne joined the ‘subculture’ of inner cities of America – hip hop culture. It is baggy jeans, oversized shirts, trendy sneakers, obscene gestures and vulgar language. They rejected to join the mainstream ‘White’ culture – standardized culture and language. They identified themselves with their fellow ‘Blacks’.

Then a fully veiled woman sat on a bench next to ours. “I forget to tie a scarf over my head,” whispered Kimo jokingly. But I had never seen before a fully veiled woman among Harari’s, when I was a child or an adult in Harar. The only time I saw was, a picture featured on the front page of an Arab magazine my father had, when I was a child. The picture was a man with turban holding a hawk as a fully veiled woman, like the one in the picnic, stood behind him.

A boy came, with a man who was jingling his car keys, holding ice-cream cone. A younger girl who was playing with the veiled woman started to cry for ice-cream. The boy with ice-cream cone run away refusing to share with her.

“You’ve to stop crying and come and sit on my lap,” ordered the veiled woman in an angry voice. The girl came reluctantly and climbed into her lap.

“Come and share with your sister,” ordered the veiled woman to the boy. The boy came and stretched his arm, as if he were scared of the veiled woman. The girl licked of ice-cream with a sob. “You’re spoiling the boy,” said the woman to the man. I started to visualise the female silhouette that was behind the veil.

Then a man wearing a full beard began to go back and forth in front of us. It was like a sort of shuttle diplomacy of an American emissary. The way he looked at us was not very friendly.

“He is my ex’s friend,” Kimo said, “I’m not joining the crowd. I came to this park not for their picnic, it just happened to be my neighbourhood park.”

“Why he is going back and forth?”

“It is a prayer time,” she said. “There had been a lot of discussion about it and in some cases the men shook their fist at each other.”

“Why was that?” I asked with curiosity.

“It was about which direction to face for prayer.”

Then the men divided into two groups to perform the third prayer of the day in congregation. Each faced different direction.

“Why are they facing two different directions?” I asked.

“They’re from a basement group and a mosque group,” she answered humorously. “The men who faced towards the north-east are followers of the main mosques – as every mosque faces towards the north-east in North America. While those who face the south-east are the minority. One considers the other as wrong or even heretic. I guess, both of them have a point to justify. The unjustifiable point is, they both are rigid and uncompromising.”

I had never heard of a debate about the directions before. But I did not insist to learn more about it. The only thing I had known in Harar was one direction and one belief. In less than twenty-four hours, I learned many lessons about my people. The lessons I missed for many years. I had more than I wanted. Then I kept an eye on my watch, as if I were in an undesirable place.

“What are you doing this evening?” asked Kimo.

“Packing my bags,” I answered, imagining myself at the supermarket, shopping for the weekend.

“What?”

“I decided to go back to my cozy little place in Anchorage.”

“No way!”

Then Shulum joined us. “How was the picnic?”

“This mid-summer’s picnic in Toronto will long remain in my memory. I had so many exciting experiences in my life, but this one was exceptional,” I answered.

“We’re dispersed into many places, but still there are many things that bring us together. Harar is the one that binds up into one people. That is
why, I never missed a single annual gathering,” said Shulum.

“Aren’t you coming to my place,” asked Kimo, “and have a diner with me?”

She had no idea how many lunch and dinner invitations I rejected, had I accepted, I would have been booked for a month. Even I rejected three marriage proposals.

“Thanks, maybe next time. Tonight I would like to enjoy a moment of loneliness in my room,” I said, imagining myself alone, staring at my laptop screen.

“I live two blocks down. How about you just walk me home?”

“‘Mr. T’ soon will be here.”

“Don’t refuse,” whispered Shulum.

When Shulum insisted I became suspicious of his motives, as Kimo had acquired a questionable reputation in our community. Life puzzled me, as I did not find the piece of puzzle that I had been searching for a long time. I felt successful, dare I say it! But not emotionally. No one ever welcomed me in warmly at home. Anyway that became my way of life, since I led a strange life, checking the inventory of my towels, underwear, socks, and kitchen drawers.

Finally the dog-walkers emerged. The young men began cleaning the trashed park and collecting up the used disposable napkins, cups, plates, and bottles. Parents called their children and everybody started to pack.

The good thing was I booked my flight through to Seattle to meet a good friend of mine, who happened to be an environmentalist and a writer. She would be helpful in writing, what I experienced in the last two days, and putting my feelings into words.

I would have many stories for the book: about Shulum as a talkative guy, Kimo in the role of Ms. Bad, a veiled woman, a girl with “cutie” on her pants’ backside and much more.

***

The author can be reached at baharun@shaw.ca .

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