Intense. That’s the way it felt to breathe the same air with Stacy.
Church had closed. I’d led worship that day and I took my guitar and amp to church. i didn’t feel too happy because for some reason the mixer wouldn’t pick the guitar signal. And my church folks really aren’t used to distorted guitars (they kept asking me why the guitar had a “delay” and a gritty sound).
I shook some hands, held some babies like the future politician i should be, and headed to my friend’s car to put my gear away. Then I saw a face that looked familiar. Like someone who used to go to my church but had been away for maybe three months. I moved closer to ask “was your sister in this church before?” then i realized it WAS former-church-member.
“hey did you go on vacation? you look darker” I teased
“yeah i went to jamaica” she smiled back.
“is that so?” I trailed off, trying to force my mind to believe it was really the same person.
“i actually thought you were someone else. how long have you been on vacation?”
“uh for just about a month”
“but you haven’t been around for longer than that”
“well i’ve had some personal issues…”
“oh yeah, that’s just hanging a huge DO-NOT-DISTURB on the issue”
“oh it’s not like that…”
She laughed. Then it hit me that this was the first time i was talking to her.
“you know I haven’t spoken to you before”
“i know, right?”
“well I’m a shy person”
“I’M the shy person”
“wait a second- I’ve never actually heard your voice. You’ve never spoken a word where I was”
“now that i think about it, i’ve never heard YOUR voice. okay maybe once you said something and i heard it but it didn’t stick”
“i actually imagined you had a deeper voice” I told her.
“haha i can’t believe you’re actually talking to me” she said
“i ask about you though”
“oh DO you now?” she asked, as though she did not believe me.
As we stood in that corridor talking, people came and went. Mostly their reaction was surprise to see her after so long.
“am i keeping you?” I asked, suddenly aware of how much time I was taking
“no you’re not. I’m waiting for the Pastor. That’s why I’m here actually”
“oh is that so. What do you do during the week?” i asked.
“well…” she began
“let me guess, you’re a rich heiress with a $20-million fortune just sitting nicely in the bank” I offered
“haha what?! no oh. I have TWO jobs, a part time and full time Job”
“really? what do you do?” now i WAS curious.
“I’m a special-care worker. It’s like being a nurse but it’s not. I plan to get my nursing degree from either Georgebrown or Humber College”
“ohhh nursing. I could never be a nurse” I said.
“why not?” she asked
“well, i think nurses make the best serial killers” I joked.
“what?!” she asked, shocked.
“well seeing death all the time- I think it just desensitizes you. You don’t value human life anymore. I mean when there was that Tsunami in Japan, it took me a long time to recognize that it killed 300,000 people. 300,000! that’s like the size of North York!” I said.
“well, it doesn’t work that way for me. Two of my patients died this week and it really got to me” she said, with a beatific smile on her face.
“oh my gosh…i…”
“one of them was a child. Ernesto was just 14. He had brain cancer. They say you get used to it but i was so hurt I had to take a day off. Or even the first time a patient died. He’d a surgery and needed me to change his catheter. Not like he was palliative or anything- just between when I placed him on the bed and arranged everything I would need to do the change- i looked up and his head was bowed and he was silent. I checked him and he was DEAD. I was so freaked out! I called the ambulance and when the EMS came they the pronounced him dead on the spot. It gets to me every time- you just realize how frail human life is”
I tried to imagine the horror of someone i know dying. Thankfully that has hardly happened.
“i think working with people like this has helped to put my life in perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I just laugh.”
A lightbulb went off in my head. All of a sudden i was seeing a new side. There was no way in the world I would have concluded that by looking at her. I mean- she was pretty in a way that made her look delicate (which is why i could imagine that she was some rich heiress). This one is truly a brave soul.
Just then some of the other people it church showed up to say hi and we got caught up in the conversation about World Jollof Rice Day. I kept telling them it was a real thing but they wouldn’t believe until I showed them photos from all over the world. Then she did something funny. She said
“hmm, it looks very sweet oh”
“you sound weird doing that”
“that fake Nigerian accent”
“ah ahn, eet is not fake oh. I am original Naija girl”
“oh please you sound Ghanaian or even Kenyan or Ugandan”
The other people laughed and pitched in. Then she switched to a British accent. You know how i’m a sucker for accents. I’m terrible at accents. So anyone who can pick one up is just a star to me. Oh and British accents. I go out of my way to find audiobooks in British rather than American accents. Even when I download commentary and voice recognition software- it has to be British English. I almost swooned in there 😀
“would you like a cup of tea?” she asked in that delightful accent.
“omg stappit” I pleaded, laughing my evil cartoon laughter.
“gosh is that how you laugh?” she asked, a smile starting to form on her face.
“no of course not. I’m learning my evil laughter so i can delight the kids. and then I’m saving up the laughter so when you finally hear it you’ll be smashed”
“oh come on, just laugh” she asked in her British accent.
I’d spent so much time laughing with them that my friend left me and went home. Now I had hands full of stuff and there was no way i could drag all that to the bus stop, then switch buses and drag them home. So I asked her if she could give me a ride home. I was a bit surprised when she didn’t hesitate.
“I hope i’m not taking you out of your way. I’m meeting you for the first time. It’s supposed to be bad to ask for favours on a day like this”
“ah, no worries. I’m still waiting for Pastor and from the looks of things he’s not gonna be done in a while. I might as well spend that time better. You’ll just have to give me directions though. i have very short-term memory and I don’t want to get lost today”
she picked up her phone and texted Pastor. I’ll be back in 10 minutes she said.
“It takes 10 minutes to get there” I reminded her.
“I’ll be back in 20 minutes” she corrected.
As we drove down, she told me stories of growing up in Jamaica.
“I had the best childhood anyone could have” she declared.
“where did you grow up? Kingston?”
“no. everyone just assumes you’re from Kingston when they hear you’re from Jamaica. I grew up deep in the country. We had cows. I mean we would milk the cows for ourselves.”
“ugh i can’t touch animals. i’m like super scared. Okay i once touched a dog in 2001 but never after that.”
“what?! how is that possible?! didn’t you have pets as a child?”
“no. In the part of Nigeria we only had cats and dogs. Dogs would give your rabies and cats were witches”
“hahahahah omg i remember working with someone, a Nigerian. We had to go meet someone at home and when we got there he said ‘I’m not going in there’. I asked him ‘why?’ and he said ‘can’t you see they have a black cat? I thought he was joking but he refused to budge. I called the office back to tell them and they didn’t think i was serious. eventually they had to send someone else and they were pissed but they didn’t fire him though. They did warn him that he shouldn’t decline to help a customer. he could ask them to put the car away if he was allergic but it’s a different thing”
“if it were me I’d just say I’m allergic for those purposes” I quipped
“yeah although weirdly i don’t have a problem touching roaches and ants. I can let them crawl on me”. I really don’t know what people find disgusting or scary about cockroaches. They’re just insects!
“haha not cockroaches. Ants. the amount of damage they could do is highly limited to a small surface area. Dogs can bite, cats can scratch, birds tickle.”
“you’re ticklish” she asked
i wish I didn’t say that. Because from the mischievous look in her face she was going right for the kill. I saw it too late to escape, plus I was buckled in. This human being took one hand off the wheel to tickle me. And you know how i get when i’m tickled. Oh you don’t? Jesu! I punch, i kick, i scratch. In this case I wanted to get out of the car. Partly because I couldn’t stand the tickling, partly because her fun spirit was contagious. In that short ride she managed to turn everything into a joke. Like when I said “oh i only just noticed your dashboard. Really cool. Feels like a cockpit” she burst out laughing. I looked at her face to find what was funny. “you said cockpit. Cock…pit”. I couldn’t help laughing. This naughty human being 🙂
Why then would that be a reason to want to get out of the car? Well, as you know I live a pretty boring existence. School, Church and the occasional nice people I meet. People sort of consider me a stuck-up recluse (i’m not really protesting that): I basically ignore the girls except i really HAVE to talk to them. I’d just been explaining about how all the girls in church seemed to be flat, boring and one-dimensional. Now here was someone who worked hard, played hard, and knew just how to kick back and laugh. It’d actually be a relief to have this kind of person in the choir. It’d surely be a break from the monotony of frowning mothers and hyperactive teens. I could get used to laughing with someone like this. But she wasn’t regular in church like before. what if she disappeared again? I’ve often said there’s something sexy about a woman who can disappear at any time. But this time it’s different. I’d be far more bored than I usually would be. So yes, the intense laughter boiling inside me and the quickly spinning possibilities for both a happy existence and a worse one were clashing violently. And her lips…
We got to a stop at my house and I felt like the ride was too short. So we sat there and just talked about random stuff. She told me about her dad…”he died when I was really young so I don’t remember what he looked like. But I remember some things he used to do. I remember being at his funeral- that memory is surprisingly clear”.
She excused herself to text Pastor that she was on her way back and would be there in 10 minutes. I wanted to say “stay a little longer” but that would be crossing a line (don’t look at me like that. I have all these rules for a reason 😀 . Plus Fish is going to read this hehehe )
so now to the awkward phase when you’ve meet someone you think you click with. The part where you have to take numbers or say “I’ll be in touch”. After Ramiya and Salem and Lisa I’d learned to watch out for telltale signals that such a gesture would be unwelcome. There was no way around this topic. Maybe she saw the hesitation and decided to put me out of my misery.
“Don’t be a stranger, Peter” she says. I don’t know what that means. I turn it over in my head and look for the most naughty meaning i can find.
“you should call me” I finally tell her
“I don’t have your number” she blinked at me.
“oh. I’ll give it you then. Text me”
“oh yes, I’ll call you and tell you to come over for a cup of tea” she declared in her British accent. It got me yet again. I chuckled quietly and then I remembered i had promised to save that laughter for a special occasion.
“what was that?” she asked
“i laughed really quietly but you didn’t catch it”
“ahhh i wasn’t paying attention. you were lucky”
As I was getting out of the car to get my stuff, her phone rang. She had it hooked up to the car’s bluetooth and so when she picked it went straight to speaker. It was our Choir Mistress.
“hey Stacey. I heard you were in Church today” CM said.
“oh, yeah I just came back from vacation”
“hmm you’re enjoying oh. Hope you brought me some rum cake!”. she joked.
“haha well i got back a week ago. No way that cake survived”
“haha okay oh. how is your husband?”
“he’s fine oh…”
I blinked. Husband.
In the words of a great Philosopher, Deoye Falade,