Salem | ohpeter.com

Salem

Summer, 2015.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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 😀

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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.

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Comments

    1. Hmm Emeka this place is just too big. Her campus is so far from where I am that I don’t even know how to get there. I don’t know the course she takes/took. She was in final year then- she could have graduated. And what would be my reason for tracing her? “I really enjoyed talking to you?” That’d be super creepy ?

  1. Missed chance! Too bad. And oh, Gwagalada is surprisingly very cold and the rains pouring daily nonstop.

  2. Peter oh Peter…
    You should be flogged
    Letting budding friendships peter out without a whimper…
    Kai.

    Now I’m much more in love with Canada yo. Which your city?
    Good thing you and Brume seem to hang out more.
    Live in the moment more bruh, ask for that shit. I know I have that bad habit too but damn, your’s is so… :p

    1. I can get possessive like that. I’ve grown used to going everywhere in peace so when you can’t find space on the sidewalk, tourists who can’t stop smoking…it’s just annoying ?

      Anyway. Salem was an annoying experience and going forward it won’t happen again. I’ll take their IG or Twitter or something

  3. There’s a certain poignant sweetness in the way you write. Comforting, really, like curling up with a cup of something refreshing and just listening to you talk. iLike, very much. Will definitely follow this….

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