Outside of New York Laguardia Airport was sunny. It felt hot and noisy with the cars claxoning à tue-tête or the police personnel monitoring the airport traffic while their cars’ sirens were on full blast. The summer heat was almost unbearable but she had made sure to wear breathable material on this trip. The heat was somewhat worse than Texas because of all the tall buildings. The air simply didn’t circulate in her opinion. The heat had whipped her face as soon as she had stepped foot outside the sliding glass doors with such a vigor that Femta sighed and rolled her eyes. She kept a blasphemous comment she wanted to utter to herself and quickly marched to get to her stop. Some passengers brushed passed Femta and their body odors seeped into her nostrils. She crinkled up her nose and pushed the baby stroller faster to get to the passenger pick up station and forget the unpleasant smells. Scowling at the cacophony on display, she prayed the baby slept through it all. Her Tonton, uncle, was supposed to be waiting for her but she knew he wasn’t going to be there on time because she could count on African Time to be her demise. Femta would be lucky if Tonton Kaboré was only an hour late. The first time he had picked up her from the same airport was when she had arrived from Burkina Faso 13 years ago with a student visa and he was three hours fashionably late. Femta Compaoré stood at the gate pickup for American Airlines reminiscing as her eyes volleyed between the baby peacefully sleeping in the stroller, cars and buses going and up and down the lanes, and the airport valley parking boy or security man who reminded her of an old Kenyan crush. Whatever his job description was, she didn’t know. What was apparent was an uniform, a stand, and a walkie talkie that he sported. What a journey, she silently thought when he reminded her of the Kenyan. Thirteen years after her friends back home had started calling her L’Américaine, here she was a totally different person. And with a baby; a single parent I might add. Femta’s conscience piped in. She winced and tried to gather and re-direct her train of thoughts when she heard a voice a little too close to her and her personal space.
“Can I help you sister catch a ride?” The valley parking boy or security man had sneaked up on her and asked as she was lost in her thoughts. He had startled her but she acted like he hadn’t. Femta peered at her wrist watch just partly visible under her long sleeve shirt as an embarrassed smile tugged at her full lips. It was almost 2 p.m. and combining her sunnah prayers was imminent. Recollecting her thoughts quickly, she replied, “No thank you. My uncle will be here soon.” She whispered the ‘God willing part’ and turned her head around to discourage him to continue talking to her. She thought about going back inside the airport to find a quiet corner to pray but she could miss her uncle arrival. So she unpocketed her smartphone from her maxi skirt and was about to dial his number when the young man interrupted her again. “Where are you from sister?”
Dude, I don’t want to talk to you. I thought my body language was clear enough, she mentally said to herself snappily, rolling her hazel eyes. Before formulating an answer, she studied him carefully for a little while. Femta squinted while twisting the corner her mouth. His curly locks didn’t escape her. His doe eyes too. Somalian for sure. Hum, maybe Ethiopian. Oh dear God, I’m checking him out. She vibrantly shook her head horrified and said nicely, “Take a wild guess.” The words that suddenly flew out of her mouth surprised her, so she put her shades on. ‘Uncover something shady’ Curly Locks, she thought with a grin as she pressed call on her phone. Then she pressed the device on her scarf-covered right ear.
The phone ringed and ringed. Just when she was about to leave a message to Tonton Kaboré, Curly Locks said, “Nigeria”.
Femta scowled at him, instructed him to be quiet with the movement of one index finger, and left a voicemail in French to her Tonton. “Assalamu aleikum Tonton. C’est Femta. Je suis arriver à New York. Je t’attends au gate mais je dois prier. Je serais rapide. Fais mois signe quand t’arrives. Masalam.” She hung up after these words but she knew it was a stretch if her uncle was going to be there when she returned from praying. Wishful thinking, she mused. Why she had to come all the way to New York to renew a freaking passport for her son because of his paternal heritage in The Ivory Coast or drive to Washington for hew own passport irritated her to no limits. Why couldn’t it be easy like going to the post office? Bitter realities of being an immigrant indeed, she mentally added.
Curly Locks’ voice pulled her out of her momentary reverie.
“So it’s not Nigeria but you’re definitely from French West Africa. You have the West Africa facial traits,” he added, smiling knowingly. She despised his debonair manners right away and replied, “Good for you for figuring out a piece of the puzzle. Good bye.”
“I’m Uthman. Can I please have your name beautiful sister?” he continued, flirting with Femta. “I know you just met me but I want your number.” The pop culture reference wasn’t lost on her. She grinned and calmed herself down. What was the big deal? No harm could be done, she thought. He wasn’t going to see her again anyways. She wouldn’t allow it. No more Africans. No more men of any race. Period. The last relationship had scorched her for life and left her with a baby! Her secular aunt, Tantie Geneviève had jokingly said once, ‘All men have the same dad and the same mom.’ Femta inferred her secular aunt was right even though she actually didn’t believe in the story of Adam and Eve. Tantie Geneviève just believed all men regardless of race behaved the same way and Femta couldn’t agree more.
“Ousmane,” she said French like and continued, “I’m Femta. It sounds like the soda Fanta. I can’t give you my number. Now, how do you know I’m not married? Anyways, take care.” And she swiftly turned her heels around and went back inside the airport, behind the sliding doors, pushing the stroller faster before Curly Locks could barge in and impose himself on her again with more unwanted questions. A part of her sank and she didn’t know why but she carried on with her backpack secured on her back and her handbag nestled on her left shoulder.
“Femtastic,” she thought she heard him yell as she quickly got away. Her father loved unique names and sometimes her name attracted great feminism debates while other times it just created confusion. And today, she simply couldn’t place where the needle of the scale pointed with her muddled internal feelings and this over friendly Curly Locks guy. When she came back from praying Zhur and Asr, she stopped dead in her tracks just outside the sliding doors at the sight of her uncle and ‘The Ottoman’ chuckling like old buddies.
Ugh! Now What?! She let out under her breath and made a beeline towards them with her luggage and baby in tow. Mission: ‘Arrested Development’ of this clear and budding friendship.
To be continued …
©Papatia Feauxzar 2016
~Picture: African Violets~