I am Not Looking For Love, I am Going to Work

not looking for love
It began yesterday at the government office, which was saturated with immigrants whose anxious stares alternated between the digital display boards and their tickets, a square piece of paper with a number printed on it. At the sound of the beep, everyone looked at their ticket, and then the display boards. Some sighed. Some continued talking. Others continued sleeping. One person rose to meet an official walled in by glass on the other side of the counter.

My wait was shortened by an acquaintance with whom I chatted until our conversation lulled to a comfortable stop.

“Excuse me, it seems you are from Nigeria.” A tall man sitting a few spaces away from my acquaintance smiled at her.

“No, I am not.”

“Ah, but I thought—”

“I am from Democratic Republic of Congo.”

With her thick Igbo accent, she delivered her last words with a finality that inspired no argument from the man. He fanned himself, and then pretended to read his letter from the belastingdienst.

Because I am slow to change the expression on my face, she saw it. The disbelief. The wonder. The perplexity.

“Don’t mind the idiot. If not for dis yeye tax people, where e for come see me? See as e dey talk as if e be my mate. E nor see im type?” she whispered for my benefit and his.

I nodded like her co-conspirator, as though I had been dissing guys for the last ten years. What else could I do?

Determined to be a better person, this incident is hovering at the back of my mind when a young man approaches me today as I wait for my tram.

“Hello, are you from Nigeria?”

Surely there must be a better opening line? I give nothing away as I nod and he introduces himself. I tell him my name.

“Ah, Timi. Timilehin? You are Yoruba?”

“I am Nigerian.”

“I know, from whose part?”

“We have left Nigeria. Let’s pretend ethnicity does not matter. I am a Nigerian; that is enough.”

He looks at me as though the sky has descended on my head and I am unaware. Undeterred, he forges on in pidgin English. I respond in proper English.

He ditches Pidgin in favour of a kind of English that is interspersed with incorrect tenses and Dutch words. This is a cross some of us bear. The effect of speaking Dutch with non-native proficiency is the tendency to forget English words and to adjust our tenses automatically to match the wrong grammar of English-speaking Dutch people.

I am aware of every mistake he makes. Like the freckles on my neighbour’s face, they are many.

“I saw you at this tramhalte iedere dag, I mean, every day. Are you going to work?”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

I tell him. And then I help him because he seems lost, “I haven’t seen you before?”

“I know, but I am seeing you. You are very mooi, beautiful.”

I take in his overalls. He does not look like Idris Elba in Tyler Perry’s Daddy Loves His Girls, but this is real life.

“Thank you, where do you work?”

He talks about his work, links that conversation to how long he has been in The Netherlands—fifteen years, and then ties it to his goals and dreams like a neat bow at the end of a string.

My eyes do not wander from his face while he speaks. But my mind does. I wonder if he can read, understand, discuss, and comment on my blog intelligently.

Then there is silence. The wind dies. The leaves sleep. The seagulls take their leave. It is just me and him. And the silence. Without my help, he stews in it for a while—scratching his chin, brushing dirt from his overalls, staring at something behind me—before he says, “I must goes to my work place. Can I have your number?”

“For what?” Honest words spill out before I can reel them in. What else do we have to say to each other?

I wan know you.”

I do not know why I did what I did next. Guilt—over what? My resolution to be a better person? Pity? Maybe, my thoughts had roamed to how he must have been eyeing me, calculating his approach. Religious fervour? Hardly.

“I would like to invite you to my church.” I fumble in my bag for the flyers the preacher says we should carry around for opportune moments, moments like this one I suppose.

He looks at me as though The Rapture has occurred and I am unaware.

“Ah, ah! Won’t you know me first before inviting me to your church? I already goes to church.”

It is as if he knows. That I am not very good at this. That church is a cop-out. That it is too late to tell him I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That I do not have the heart to tell him he will not understand my blog, and therefore not understand me. He pounces on me like a wounded lion, as if to say, “This is for every man you ever dissed!”

“That’s the problem with you Nigerian girls! Church, church, church! Your mates don marry, you still dey here! Oya go and marry your God!”

He jumps on his bicycle in one swift motion and pedals away.

It is rare that I cannot express myself with words. But I am not writing a dissertation. This is life. This does not call for intellectual prowess.

I imagine that in a few moments, his bicycle chain would jam, forcing him to stop. I imagine him kneeling on the earth, humiliated, rattling the chains, while I watch from the elevated platform of my tram stop. Then the words that abandoned me would force their way out of my mouth, “I am not looking for love, I am going to work!”’

Nothing I imagine happens. He continues to ride and does not look back. But a curious thing happens. As I look, it is not him getting smaller in the distance, it is me!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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158 thoughts on “I am Not Looking For Love, I am Going to Work

  1. Okay, this has been included in my top ten list of the blog posts I’ve read so far.
    Thanks a lot. This is one of the reasons I’ll keep coming back. Love that church response. Hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I stumbled on this post from a completely unrelated word-search on Facebook. No regrets.

    In fact, I’m fascinated by the way you string words together in a way that stirs one’s imaginations. This is a beautiful post.

    Kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny yes, but maybe it was your beauty that really captured the attention. You are a lovely young lady. Maybe he didn’t know how else to express that. Sometimes guys accidentally do and say silly things. Just giving him the benefit of the doubt here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is soo funny! I never understand the degree of familiarity which enables someone speak to you in either pidgin English or assume you can speak “your language” and respond to you “your mother tongue”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that- “I’m not looking for love I’m going to work” – so many subtexts possible with that line. and LOl- I have to say- I loved that you brought up church as the way to deflect his advances. So much more interesting than “i have a boyfriend” or whatever the usual is.

    Like

  6. Hi Timi,

    This was packed full of humour, today’s been so hot, it really cheered me up.

    @ “E nor see im type?” 😄

    It’s amusing how some people have this take-it-as-you-see-it idea of Diaspora Romance, just because there’s a smaller pool of countrymen to swim in doesn’t mean one has to overly compromise.

    Ah! The many tricks we use to deflect unwanted propositions, “I would like to invite you to my church” is a winner hands down! Lol

    I wonder how I missed seeing this post before now, I ought to sit down and binge on your older posts.

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems to be a ‘famous’ opening line like using the weather to break the ice while waiting at the bus stop.

      I think that because immigrants of African descent are in the minority here in The Netherlands, there’s a tendency to acknowledge a fellow black person with a nod or something … And then conversation begins with exploring points of similarity… my facial features point to me being West African and he may have overheard me on the phone or something and picked up on my Nigerian accent … But still, the opening line is tiresome… I’ve heard it a lot 🙂

      Thanks Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I don’t understand what you mean by “attitude” and I’m not altogether sure from reading your comment, who wants who for the paper, men or women?

              In any case I’m not very familiar with the ‘paper’ arrangement. Although I would assume that the arrangement would be made with a Dutch national …

              Like

  7. Yup still made me laugh ;D
    Seriously, church? CHURCH??!! haba lol.

    In the spirit of valentine, you won’t imagine what someone said to me today.
    I still crave you. Hah! Am I food? I had to type the word in caps… CRAVE? Do people even use this word on humans? Hehehe

    Happy valentine Timi. Lots of love xx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh dear, crave… that’s strong desire, isn’t it 😉
      But here’s the thing though… if someone you like and whose attention you wanted, made that statement, it wouldn’t sound so bad … would it?

      This saga deserves a blog post, Uju 🙂
      I’m glad this post still made you laugh! 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Timi I have come back to this post, because yes I guess the time is around again. But oh how come the first time I read it I didn’t at least click like to let you know I was around? Ah my friend, recently someone wrote me and concluded with an image of an envelope sealed with the love sign or red heart you get it right? He said ‘ I wish you…’. I let the matter rest until I spoke with my special friend in Belgium today. I asked him as a man to discect what that meant because I don’t even remember telling this person I was looking for love. Ha, did ‘desperate’ show on my forehead? My Belgian buddy said oh come on he probably meant ‘luck’ – c me c trouble; and the image probably too abi? To crown it all, this is a single guy who tells me not only the winter is dealing with him but he has no one to fight it with (hence he comes to cameroon every december etc – and now looks forward to coming at least 3 times a year)… to cut the story short, I now know what I’ll reply him… I am not looking for love I already gave it to ME… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ha! You are very funny! I particularly admire your ability to evoke such full worlds so swiftly. Just the brief exchange re ethnicity reveals a major theme in Nigerian culture for an otherwise completely ignorant reader (me). But you never lose your momentum via the urge to accomodate readers unfamiliar with your references.Your authority alone is more than capable of sweeping everyone along.
    You really should write a book. I swear all you have to do is take notes when you run errands,

    You would laugh (I hope) at the sorts of squabbles my Nigerian physican and I have when she’s not lecturing me about my blood pressure. I could swear she deliberately raises it herself as she ignores my ballistic fury re the ravages of colonialism. She rolls her eyes and complains about American grammar when I outline my argument proving the continuing scope of Britains political responsibility.
    In the end, she can’t resist her approval of my speech and vocabulary (we are in a fairly remote rural area of the American Southwest where people speak as they will) because she is, at heart, a terrific snob. Once, she demonstrated a perfect curtsey.
    “There is such a thing as proper English, and if one is going to speak English it is the only form to speak,” she proclaims, and I imagine one of those big white wigs on her head.
    “Cultural devestation,” I mumble as I give up “The economic exploitation of post-colonial trade agreements.”
    “You Irish are fixated on colonialism,” my doctor concludes, sweeping from the exam room. “You people just need to get on with life.”
    “Oh, God save the Queen,” I call after her peevishly.

    Finally, I must remark upon your perfect beauty. As an old, experienced journalist I hope you will allow me to respectfully suggest that you allow that beauty to help define your text more fully. Nothing else is as effective. The young woman currently hogging the screen has the fishy appearence of a CIA agent.

    Please forgive the long epic, I mean comment.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hello Claire, it sounds as though you and your Nigerian physician have a chummy relationship. Come to think of it, the devastation of British imperialism doesn’t dominate the conversations with my Nigerian friends; the failure of leadership and endemic corruption does. Yes, God save the Queen 😉

      I keep meaning to change the photo for this post. I toyed with the idea of using the one I use for my skits but dropped the idea as this isn’t a skit. Thanks for giving me the push to do something about it.

      And thank you so much for your kind words. Your epic is welcome- it is just what my doctor ordered to start my morning, before I start running errands. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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