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"Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me," I growled to myself as I tried to get Mom to answer her phone for the second time. I was standing just outside the city library where I was surrounded by what seemed to be every young hoodlum that could be stirred up on our streets. None of them were approaching me, but as the nerdy, five foot girl with a bag full of books on Ezra Pound, I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. "Son of a bitch," I whispered to myself when she didn’t pick up. I began texting her, trying not to look too nervous. Finally, I gave up and called her again. This time, she picked up. "I’m at the market," she said. "I figured you’d be a lot longer."
"Well, I made a point of getting out as quickly as possible to not inconvenience you," I replied.
"Aww… That was sweet of you."
"So… Uhh… What’s your ETA*?"
"I dunno. About ten minutes? Is that okay?"
Went my panic-stricken brain. My panic-stricken brain wanted out of there now before I was mugged by one of the hoodlums. However, realizing there wasn’t really anything Mom could do, I took a deep breath, looked around and said, “Yeah. Okay.”
"Okay. See you in ten."
"Yeah, ten," I replied before hanging up the phone.
I looked around me at the urban activity and reminded myself that I’d seen and been stranded in much worse in London and France. In fact, compared to some of those scenes, this one was downright friendly. True, there was a lot of smoking and rap music turned up to deafening volumes on people’s headphones, but nothing openly sinister. The worst I could say was that the people sitting on the trashcans and magazine vendors really ought not to be perched there and that the teenagers smoking weren’t paying attention to which way the wind was blowing.
I began to relax a little and settled myself on this half-moon bench that had been incorporated into the wall. I was careful to not clutch at my bag, even though that was my instinct. “You’re just being racist,” I thought to myself as I glanced at the mostly African American crowd of people and edged my fingers away from my bag and onto the strap. “No one’s going to steal anything from you.”
I breathed in the cool September air and tried to focus on my surroundings. There was a fair amount of singing going on. One teenage boy was singing in a nice, loud tenor to one of his favorite pop songs as he walked along the street. He stopped when a couple of his friends greeted him. One of the bored teenagers in the group surrounding the magazine and news vendors began to absent-mindedly jostle one of the vendors back and forth—creating a rhythmic: cla-clunk cla-clunk. Added to the headphones and the hiss and groan of the city bus, it was practically a symphony of sound.
Getting the most artistic stimulation I’d had in weeks, I began to jot down a modernistic poem based off what I could hear in the environment. Just bits and snatches of the conversations around me (in dialect) and the noises. I tried to capture some of the musicality of the situation, but I think it got lost. As I was furiously scribbling, one of the singing teenage boys walked past me. I smiled as I tried to think of how to incorporate his voice into the poem.
"Yeah, she like that," I heard. I looked up to see the singing teenager looking at me from the middle of the bench.
"She like the rap," he continued.
"Umm, not really," I admitted.
"Oh, come on. You like music," he prodded. "I saw you smile."
I smiled again nervously, causing him to break out into a grin.
"See! You like it!" he exclaimed triumphantly.
I shook my head and focused on my poem again.
"Oh, now she actin’ all shy."
"Look, I’m trying to write a poem, okay?" I said by way of explanation.
"A poem? For real?" he said, looking shocked and somewhat impressed. "Well, sing it."
"Uhh… What song?" I asked, a bit confused by this sudden non-sequitur.
"Whatever you like," he replied.
I tried to think of a song, but the combined pressure and my nerves weren’t helping my memory. While I thought, he greeted a few friends who had wandered over this way and began to talk to them. Listening to him, I began writing my poem again.
"And there she goes, writin’ her poem again. How long you been writin’ poetry?" he asked.
"Uhh… About a decade?" I answered, entirely truthfully. I was writing at about the same time that I was learning to read and I’d started doing poetry when I was around eleven.
He looked doubtfully at his friends. “Decade,” he chuckled.
I wasn’t sure what was so funny about this, but decided letting him laugh was better than contradicting him.
"Aren’t you gonna sing some a’ it for us?" he asked.
I looked down at my poem. It was in the fragmented style of Eliot and Pound and I didn’t think I could even read it properly, much less sing it. “Look, this is really modernistic poetry,” I began, glancing up from my notebook. “It’s not really…”
"Oh I like that modernistic stuff," he interrupted. Now that I look back on it, I suspect he meant more contemporary forms of poetry and rap rather than the works of T.S. Eliot. "I like just about everythin’. Well, ‘cept for country. Say some a’ it for us!"
"It dun’t rhyme or nothin’!" I objected, naturally slipping into his dialect.
He looked at his friends and let out a little whispered “psh”. “Dun’t wanna show me her creative side,” he grumbled, trying to look put out.
I smiled again and shook my head, flattered that he was so insistent about my poetry. I was just about to pluck up the courage to read some of it to him despite its flaws when I saw Mom drive up. “Shit. Tha’s my ride,” I said, getting up. I waved goodbye to him, keeping my gaze focused on the car that was obliviously driving right past me. I had to run to catch her.
"Di’n’t… Ugh… Didn’t you see me back there?” I asked as I got into the car, consciously adjusting my tongue back to Nebraska blank.
"No. You okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, I’m fine," I replied, sliding my bag and books to the floor. I looked at my poem and added as the last two lines:
Doesn’t want to show me her creative side.
*Estimated Time of Arrival
is there a word for “i’m okay but it’s a fragile kind of okay so be gentle with me”?
So, I read all of the Dark Child in one sitting, just like the introduction and my professor told me to.
To be honest, I don’t see the point in reading it in one sitting. It goes through several different parts of Laye’s life as a boy in French Guinea (including a whole chapter devoted to a vivid and semi-horrifying description of adult male circumcision) and doesn’t really have much holding it together besides: “This is what life was like when I was a boy in Koroussa.” It’s an interesting read, I’ll grant him, but why, in order to appreciate the “true meaning”, I had to lock myself in a room for hours on end and read it cover to cover is beyond me.
in all my years that i have been on this earth i have not played spin the bottle once. does this mean that i’ve never actually lived? do a lot of people actually even play spin the bottle? or is its importance and prevalence stretched and exaggerated in media? these are the questions of the hour
Are teen parties with alcohol and red solo cups even real?!!?!
Has anyone ever participated in a food fight?!?
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