Have you ever..
.. come across those people who don’t know who Elvis Presley is, or what made Anwar Sadat a distinguished Egyptian, but can give you a brief description of each and every position on the Kama Sutra?! They are hardly religious so Kipling couldn’t have been talking about them when he observed many religious people know more about iniquity than the unregenerate. But from the way some of them have been giving me a shock-treatment in the past decade, he might have as well been 😉 .
Enter MY AUNT. A saintly woman if I ever saw one, in the right profession for it too – Head Nurse, who (inspite of tending to naked bodies all day) blushes at the mention of any thing intimate.
SCENE: A house of a neighbors’ whose maid servant is suffering from something nobody has heard of.
After holding the girl’s back, making her breath in and out and asking her various questions, my aunt took a couple of us outside to confide her suspicions. “All symptoms point to one direction: HIV” she said “but tests need to be done to make sure. Better take her to the hospital”.
My mother, who immediately assigns herself an Advocate to anybody she likes (or is a protestant Christian) lamented “but she’s a virgin”.
“Well,” my aunt said cooly “blood transfusion, tooth brush, ‘siletama negeroch’, anything can cause it. What’s more, I’ve heard that’s how her uncle died. Who knows what happened? He was a bachelor and she was living in his house. Some men would do anything when they are drunk”.
“Eh?!”, I must have protested before I knew it because my aunt eyed me with compassion. As if she felt sorry for us “ewe lambs” who would hold our silence infront of the shearer’s.
I realize working in a hospital and police station has a tendency to rob you of your innocence. But the easiest conclusion would have been “taking care of uncle” instead of “incest”. It was unsettling.
And then there was that time on that “know your country” trip I was a part of in my old organization. We had a custom of contributing one birr each to help us buy the latest album, which would be played on the trip and given to whoever won the lot.
“Let’s buy English songs”, somebody begged that year, “We are always buying Amarigna muziQa. Let’s buy English for a change. Abesheet, any suggestions?”.
“I know Electra [MuziQa Bet] has Shaggy”, I said “Let’s buy Shaggy. I love him”
“Yes, make it Shaggy” a mechanic called out from the back of bus “Shagging is good”. A laughter, the happy, exploding and unstoppable kind any Ethiopian would recognize as having something to do with sex, followed. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read Bridget Jones’ Dairy yet so I didn’t know what the word “shag” meant. My demanding an explanation, however, only made the laughter worse. When a year later I came across the word “shag” along was “ciggy”, I was impressed. “Who would have thought..!” I mused.
After class Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at the hair saloon that does my hair waiting for my cousin to have hers’ done. The soap on tv being too girly even for a Hair saloon, I started browsing through a magazine I found nearby. That’s when I came across a beautiful model named “Lulit”, “Eyerusalem” or “Gelila” in the bag section. I beckoned the teenage daughter of the owner over. Her decency, inspite of a sharp wit, and her love for movies reminded me of my young kins so I preferred killing time with her when time needed a killing.
“She’s Ethiopian, did you know?”, I said with, no doubt, a twinkle in the eye. “The texture of her skin and bone structure makes you think she’s Afro-American. But she is flesh and blood, that’s her name Lulit (Eyerusalem or Gelila)”.
Then, ofcourse, the discussion turned to beauty. “I don’t care what anybody says these days” I said “I’ve always thought the way West African women are shaped is how a real woman should be shaped like. As long as they have a proportional body and are healthy nothing beats pears”
“But that’s the problem..” the girl interrupted “African women have big butt and the fashion world doesn’t like big butts”
“Well..men do!” I joked, “even when she isn’t that pretty, a girl with big butt seem to attract more attention than a pretty girl who doesn’t have much of it”.
“I know” the little darling chuckled “‘cover the face and attack the base’, right?”
The expression was new to me. But that’s not what I found shocking. Here is a girl, I mean to say, who chose to be so old fashioned that she still does her hair the way me and my college classmates used to a decade ago (“GilBit” or “Qutirtir”), looking extremely bored when the women in the saloon start talking “women talk” and seem to shrink behind her book when her mother starts bossing the employees around, talking about something she shouldn’t be talking in a language she isn’t supposed to know.
“I know, right?”, I think I said. And turned to the magazine. This time to hide in it.
Perhaps I am an “ewe lamb” after all. Or we have to come up with a new definition to “innocent” that would include & legitimize the innocence of this generation at whose finger-tip every thing society has been keeping from us seem to be. But I know one thing, that little girl definitely isn’t!
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