All the writing advice I’ve read always warn: Never start a story by describing the weather. But this story won’t make any sense if i didn’t begin from the weather.
For months, North York has been covered in snow. But 3 weeks ago the snow melted and the spring breeze chilled the place for a while. Then slowly, but surely, the sun started to rise and stay up longer. As the dead branches began to spring, so did my mood.
It’s seemed too poetic that the cold winter, the long, dark and thick clothing people wore to protect their bodies also worked hard to shield their hearts from other humans. People always in a hurry to go somewhere, people snapping at the slightest provocation; and me mostly retreating into a corner of my room, enjoying the warmth of my electric blanket and numbing my mind with episode after episode of How I Met Your Mother. I didn’t make any friends. I didn’t try any extreme sports. Now that I think about it, i wished i was back home in Nigeria and didn’t leave the toasty weather, warm smiles and hugs and Loud people yelling for no reason behind. I wished I didn’t come here in that weather.
This sunday, things changed. Temperatures rose from subzero steadily to 4, then 13, then 23 degrees. It seemed to work on everyone. Clothes became brighter, people began dyeing their hair, i started seeing human flesh for the first time. Even the squirrels seemed far more rambunctious as they scurried carelessly across sidewalks and into hedges.
This wednesday evening, I decide to let my feet breathe. They’ve been trapped in shoes since morning. Luckily there’s a gentle breeze tonight. So i stroll over to the Nigerian restaurant at Fountainhead Park, feet happily in flipflops. That place that really reminds me that Nigeria is different, that there are places where people actually care about how your day is going. That place that also reminds me of how pretentious people can be- how many people are so keen to abandon their Nigerianness that they totally adopt ridiculous accents and mannerisms.
Oh yes, I’m trying to learn a ridiculous accent, so I can talk with them too.
But today was different you see. I walked up to the counter and instead of the usual pretty girl that takes the orders, there’s this other pretty girl who flashes me a smile. I may not have noticed on a normal cold day, but the weather was sweet. And then she admits she doesn’t work here and then she calls her friend. Ah, the regular.
I’m still assuming that the nice weather was messing with me. I tell the regular pretty that her friend is pretty. I’m trying to order some food- but i’m distracted when New Pretty returns. I end up ordering a hybrid white rice AND fish AND turkey AND plantain. While I wait for the order to arrive, I look straight at New Pretty and say the words that have never left my mouth since I got to Toronto:
Nope, the earth didn’t open and swallow. Nope, people didn’t burst out laughing. Nope she didn’t magically fall into my arms and tell me how awesome my ripply muscles were. She leaned towards me with a quizzical look on her face.
“what did you say?”
You can’t say “you’re pretty” twice in the space of 1 minute. The Universe will never forgive you.
“you look good” I say, waving with my fingers. She smiled.
And then i started talking. When I start talking, i lose track of time. People came in, placed their orders and left us talking there. At some point I invited her to join me at the bar. I sensed some hesitation but Regular Pretty yelled out “she’s single”. I took the joke well…and I yelled back “I’m single too”. And she came to join me.
Time slipped by again. Talk moved from school, to families, to career choices. It was when I tried to describe UnderOath to her that time stopped. She had no idea who UnderOath was. She had no Idea who Nickelback was. She had no idea who Sarah Palin was. EVERYONE ELSE in the restaurant knew who they were!
I whipped out my phone and started typing.
“what’s that?” she asked, still laughing at herself
“apparently you just crawled out from under a rock. And you’ve been in Canada since you were 16!”
“I really don’t know how come i don’t know any of those people”
“yeah. It’s definitely going on my blog”
“what?!!! you have a blog?”
“yeah I do. and right now I’m doing a series I’ll call ‘immigrant stories’. And people will positively die when they hear that I met someone who doesn’t know Nickelback or Sarah Palin”
I was truly shocked. I was tempted to think “oh damn…I can’t be friends with this girl”. But I realized I must look completely strange to her as well. She’s studying to be a nurse, something I can never do. She likes R&B, and I don’t listen to any of her artistes. People really are different.
I still blame the weather- that may be why she sat there and acted all nice. My food was getting cold and I wasn’t in a hurry. The restaurant was shutting down. And she said to me “It was really great meeting you”
Damn, she beat me to that.
“yeah, i was saying the same. I think I’d like to see you again…do you think it’s a good idea?”
The colour drained from her face.
“Ummm…I don’t know…actually…I’m sorry…they lied…I have a boyfriend so…”
I can be very poor at reading facial expressions, you know? Did i see some kind of regret? I know it’’s just my inner egomaniac showing his head. I was bit surprised she thought I was hitting on her. Is THIS how people hit on other people? randomly at a restaurant? oh well. I guess it started with “you’re pretty” and ended with “will i see you again?” . Hmm…I pulled that off without planning to.
when she saw the look on my face, she quickly added “But we can hang out. as friends. you know. Cos I have a boyfriend”
Maybe that’s when my first embarrassment came. For the first time I was flustered and I said “oh well, I’ll take that under advisement”
I took her number. When she told me her last name, I facebooked her. Turns out we’ve got two mutual friends- Jon Ogah and Onyema Cynthia.