3 months after the spring meltdown. 3 months after the kevlar that guarded people’s personalities fell off. 3 months after the bikinis and shorts popped out; and the boys showed off their summer bodies (bodies ripped so impossibly perfect that I would need to sleep in the gym for 3 years to look like that).
I thought the summer would be hotter. My Canadian friends (Nigerians who have lived here long enough) tell me it gets really hot because the air is dry. So here I am anticipating a heat wave- and then the weather agency confirmed my fears by issuing a heat warning. Only for me to see that the “heat” warning was for the same temperatures in Abuja. 26 degrees? I laughed it off. gwagwalada would get up to 40 degrees.
Toronto became beautiful- I’ll admit that. The trees had different colours; people dyed their hair pink, orange, purple, red; All the people with body paint, the amazing street artists, the magicians who levitated forks with their minds; the snake charmers on the corner of Yonge & Dundas; the free concerts at the Nathan Philips Square because of the Panam games; the theme parks (which i’ve still not visited because I don’t want to go alone); the bus tours. Toronto became so full of tourists that i felt it was overcrowded; i felt it was MY city and these “foreigners” should go away and leave “MY” quiet city alone.
Funny i began to hate the beauty. There are some things I feel will never be complete if you enjoy alone. Some memories are meant to be shared. And as Fish isn’t here…well, let everything crash and burn. I would see really pretty girls who looked fun but I would ignore them. Even if I had to give directions or pay for someone’s train ticket (I’ve done that occasionally when a tourist didn’t have the complete fare), I would leave it at that. Some would strike up a conversation, I’d give them my number but not ask for theirs.
Two events changed my attitude to strangers.
Up till now (and after Lisa), I sort of avoided talking to girls I didn’t know. I know this should be the time I should explore, get to know people, understand how the white girls think- the guys back home think it would be a waste to not “sample” from the multicultural potpourri that is Toronto. While i disagree with the motive behind such thoughts, i still think of people as people- not black, white, brown, pink- whatever. So I took time to get to know my roommates (mostly Chinese people). I learnt some Chinese phrases; learnt to cook some chinese meals from my neighbours (and even allowed people from church to try my cooking. I was an instant hit). So how did this change?
A day to my birthday I met a lovely girl on the train. We got talking. I wanted to know where I could take my friends to celebrate my birthday. Well my friends weren’t that many- Just a guy from class, my roommate and these kids from church who I absolutely adore and they love me too. At first she was suggesting clubs and after-dark places until I made it clear there were gonna be kids. Anyway in the midst of the conversation I noticed how comfortable I was. I may just call it the Lisa effect. She told me she was from Eritrea, she was a final year Psych major at my school (small world). She had this amazing scent that I couldn’t stop talking about. Really, it made her smell fruity, like something good to eat. I sat closer to her while we were talking so I could just drink it in.
I asked her if she thought it was creepy and she laughed and said it actually made her feel good. For the rest of the 45-minute ride, I asked questions, she answered in this low-pitched tone that was just ultimately relaxing. I thought to myself- this girl would make a good friend. I could actually go see a movie with this person or go play lasertag (yeah she had that military edge). We both got off at Downsview station and she said to me, more than once- “it was really nice meeting you”. I said “yeah, the same here”. Something on her face said “do something, dude. take my number”. But you see I have this nevertakeagirl’snumberonthefirstday rule. I’d only broken that twice in my life and I didn’t want to spoil the statistics (Can you imagine how people have stupid traditions?). As we rode up the escalator, I asked her to remind her name.
“Salam”, She said. “it means…”
“peace. I know. Could it be related to the Hebrew Salem which means peace as well? you know, like salam-alaykum?”
“yeah the name’s Arabic” she replied with a smile.
When we got up to the parking lot, she said “It was really nice to meet you”. This time I was sure that was meant to be a signal. But I said the same and walked away feeling like I just threw something good away. Fish would later kill me for doing things like that- leaving a hopeful girl hanging 😀
On the Bus ride back home I felt terrible. I wished I could get back and run back and tap her like in a movie. I told myself what I now believed to be the truth. My no-numbers-on-the-first-day rule could possibly be a leftover from the days i had no self-esteem; was it REALLY still a matter of “let life bring you my way again”? This is Toronto, a city of over 3 million people. What are the odds I’d run into her again? That was completely a saddening experience. I couldn’t shake the feeling of loss till I got home. I’ll tell you the truth- when I got home I searched for her with every detail I could remember- her faculty, her country’s student association, the autism centre she volunteered with…but it turned up nothing. I was sad.
I decided to never do something that stupid again.
So when I met Ramiya I knew I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.