Shifting Gears [1]

shifting gears

 

Human clay finds its moisture in relationships and will evaporate into dust without them  – Beth Moore

 

When I arrive at Tamali’s house, she holds my arm and turns me from side to side, and then she sighs.

“How do you do it?”

She knows how I do it. Her eyes sunken, her voice nasal, her walk without bounce; she coughs as she leads the way. The aroma of sautéed bell peppers and tomatoes hits me. On the gas hob sits a stainless steel pot. Underneath the glass lid, I spy something white; rice, pasta?

“Food?” she gestures towards the pot.

“No thanks, I’m good.”

She opens the fridge and brings out Amaris’ cake. I recognize it from the photo she sent me on WhatsApp. The Barbie doll, which sat atop is gone as is half of Barbie’s pink-layered flowing gown. She gets busy with her knife.

“Too much,” I protest.

She eyes me, “You don’t have to eat it all at once.”

Her neck is lean and last week was tough for her. So, I take the knife from her and halve the portion she set aside.

Back in the living room, she offers me the stubby bananas that Kwame brought from Uganda.

“Very sweet. Not like the ones from Costa Rica in Albert Heijn.”

“I’m full.” I bend and hug my stomach.

“You never eat! I can’t count how many of them I’ve had,” she spreads her arms and looks at her torso; “I’m always eating!”

She is not always eating. It is her frustration speaking.

“How did I get from there to here?” She points at a framed photo by the TV and then digs out more photos from the shelf next to the TV stand.

This is what you do for a friend with flu. You stop by her house after work with a packet of Day & Night Nurse and explain how to take the capsules. You eat cake when you’d rather not. You pull your chair closer to hers and hunch over hundreds of photos. You listen as she reminisces about her days at Makerere University and her time in London, the jauntiness of her late teens and early twenties—that period before we tell ourselves, I’ve got to get serious and settle down. You see a girl you did not know, who helps you understand the woman you now know. 

She appraises each picture by size, interrupting my flow.

“Oh, look at this one, I was slim here.”
“You think I look good there? No way, I resembled an elephant.”
“This one was taken earlier in the year. See me in the same dress later that year; the dress is bursting at the seams! What did I eat?”

And you mourn with her, the loss of youth. Because flu makes you delirious. It makes you want your mother who is 6000km away; although you left home at twenty and you are now in your early thirties. It chains your legs so you miss the gym, stay at home and raid the fridge, and feel fatter than you are.

A pathological nostalgia has seized her and you cure it with kindly indulgence, not once looking at the clock. 

I recently read an article about why female friendships are fraught with infighting. Sitting here with Tamali, I cannot relate. Have my friendships always been this supportive?

There was that time Ada stayed over and borrowed my jewelry while I was at work, leaving me a note to dispel panic in case I looked for it when I returned. I stayed mad for months and ignored her overtures and peace emissaries. My anger was toxic, contaminating anyone who would listen. One day she braved my rage and showed up at my doorstep.

“Yes?” I filled the door space, arms folded across my chest.

“I’m sorry. It broke. I couldn’t return it until I fixed it.”

I blocked her advance, spreading myself wider.

“For crying out loud Timi, it isn’t even 24-karat gold. It’s costume; that’s why nobody could fix it!”

“Beside the point! You shouldn’t have taken it without asking!”

She edged passed me, pushing me against the doorframe. She dropped the broken piece of jewelry on the dining table on her way to the kitchen.

“Do you have any food?” she asked one hand on the door of the fridge.

I sighed and smiled. You cannot poison food if you are going to eat and share it. That was twenty years ago. Ada and I are still smiling.

My girlfriends and I congregate around food. We eat; we do not eat. Thighs and hips feature in our extended conversations. Size is important and relative. Beneath this shallowness is affection, deep and strong, binding us as tomatoes cleave to meat in stew.

When I was younger, I made war. Now I’m older, I make peace. 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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