Adejoh Idoko Momoh
I do not remember the date, what I do remember is that it was on our way from Orlando to Atlanta. The trip registers fondly not only because it was a 7 hour drive but also because on that trip I had a fight with my sister.
After everyone tired of hearing my hunger complaints, we stopped at a local Wendy's just on the highway to get a burger and a coke. I had gone in, placed and collected my order and returned to the car when my sister in her usual calm demeanor asked why I didn’t ask if any other person wanted to eat. I do not remember if I did ask, what I do remember is that I was so focused on my own hunger that I probably would have forgotten to ask.
'Supreme Chicken burger and a coke please'
I said to the red haired lady behind the counter. I was going to laugh at the very silly looking bright red hat that held her hair up the middle and had the word 'Wendy's' inscribed on it in white, but I decided not to at the thought that she might be rude if I did.
I ordered the most basic item on the menu so I didn’t have to speak a lot of English and have the lady annoyingly say 'excuse me' intermittently in her silly American accent that to me sounded very un-english.
'So, if you’d take a seat over there, your order'd be up in 5 mins'
She pointed to a sitting area splattered with color it looked like a child’s playground. I didn’t sit, I felt like it would be wrong to sit there so I stood.
This is one thing that confused me about Americans: the practice of ordering you to do something and making it sound as though it was merely a suggestion.
As she handed me my order, she finally asked:
'Where are you from?' I would hesitate and she would continue 'I ask cos your accent is so cool'. I would say Nigeria and thank her.
In about a week, I would leave Atlanta and head for Chicago where I would visit the Northern Illinois University to consider graduate school options, I would meet a dark skinned Cameroonian- whom I would first refer to as my African sister and therefore think her easy to relate with. Before I would notice her beauty.
Very sightly both in looks and features: humbly small breasts that would fit perfectly in the palm of my hands, healthy round hips and those kind of legs you only see in catalogs.
In the course of conversation, I would describe Igbo girls as light skinned and pretty. My Cameroonian would say:
'I enjoy listening to you, Momoh'
Her hands holding mine as we stared forward in the realization and discomfort that it was the first time we held hands.
'Here the 'T' is blurred such that it sounds like an 'L'. The 'R' is rolled off your tongue such that it sounds somewhere between an 'R' and a 'W'. If you’re considering graduate school here, you really have to learn to fit in, to sound like us'
I tightened my grip on her palm as though signaling that it was okay to hold hands and she tightened hers too in agreement. I looked at her and felt pity for this green card holding African. Despite being here 10 years, I could see she still tried to fit in. She was trapped between a country that would forever label her foreign and one very rich in culture and hospitality that lost her 10 years ago.