Monday, July 25, 2016


Late last night, on my way home from a marvellous musical soirée at friends' house, I'm waiting at a bus stop. Two African women next to me are talking with great animation, their voices bubbling, swirling like amplified, orchestrated bird song. I want to speak this language! I turn to the larger, more voluble of the two:

me: where are you from?
she (smiles, gives me a hug, kisses my cheek): Nigeria.
me: which part?
she: Lagos.
me: My friend Teju Cole is from there.
she: Ibo?
me: Yes, Ibo. You?
she: Yoruba.
me: Oh, I think he's Yoruba too.  

(Truth is, I can't remember which of the two Teju is).
The bus arrives. The three of us get on and the large woman sits behind me.
she: How old are you?
me: I'm not going to tell you. Guess.
she: Sixty-two.
me: Thank you, I'm flattered (actually I'm ecstatic) but you're wrong.
she: Seventy-one?
me: (smiling enigmatically) Wrong. How old are you?
she: Guess.
me: Thirty-five?
Her round face, firm and polished as a nectarine, breaks into a gleaming smile.
she: I'm fifty-one.

It goes on like this and by the time I get off at my stop, we have been friends forever. We hug, we wave. I love these women. I love London.


Vincent said...

Nice. Odd coincidence or what, I don't know, but you and I have had similar experiences in which African girls chatting on a bus sounded like birdsong. Except that I didn't get a kiss out of it ...

Wrote it up here.

Should Fish More said...

A nice parable on how we are so much more alike than different, and an examination of our dna cannot differentiate between black or white.

Catalyst said...

It's in your attitude, Natalie. I think we would be good friends at first meeting too.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Vincent, thanks for the link, that was an interesting post of yours. All the languages I don't understand don't sound like birdsong to me but this one really did, maybe because I was listening intently to its rhythm and patterns. If I had many many many more years on this planet I'd love to learn Yoruba...and Farsi, and Arabic, and Icelandic, and Polish. And improve my smattering of Russian, my father's native tongue. Alas, not world enough or time!

Mike, absolutely right, thanks.

Bruce, yep, I agree.When are you coming over for a cup of coffee/beer/wine/tequila?