It was just the two of us, at intervals of kisses, trying to understand each other. Soon we began to foster the basics of politics and race into our conversation. Kisses had to share a room. Wait longer to shower. We were both black and British. But she was secretly ahead. Kept it from me because men grow uncomfortable when outsmarted, they told her. Across the road from us was the home-time flurry of private primary school kids and their parents. Both of us watched, part broody, part parading our youthful freedom with mid day drinks and the smiles on our faces. “other people's kids have an odd way of making you feel young if you don't have any, and old all at once. Like, I could be that little boy over there's child to be's granddad.” “I know, as they grow into youthful adults, you're bones are getting progressively brittle.” “I barely see my godson,” “oh, but you must. My goddaughter is a measure of how well I've done in life. In two years, she can now walk, talk and feed herself. Those are huge milestones. 'What did you do in those two years?' she asks me without even knowing.” We both laughed... Then I said, “those children are so cute in their 19th century uniforms... I really think white kids are the cutest. I look at pictures of me as a toddler and see this mesh of features not yet formed. I had to grow into them.” After a moment's thought, she replied with actual curiosity, “so white babies are cuter than black babies, you're saying?”
And there it was, a slice of self-hate revealed to the tiny world we were building. There was no going back. My head used it's furrowed eyebrows to nod at her question. The muscles of my neck – the splenius capitis – felt odd so I rubbed it. “I see.” She sipped tea and politely looked away as I dealt with my nakedness. There was silence.
We sat. A comfy sofa each; chatting, never minding the TV. In fact, she reduced it's volume as we were deep into pebble counting the rosary of race. We were on the age of social media and it's explicit portrayal of police brutality. “It's like watching road kills become road kill.” She said. “It's the only way the West can believe race issues exist”, I said. I meant white people. “It does raise awareness, but what about the more ubiquitous racism that happens just by wearing the wrong lens?” I took the high radical route. She took another. Explained, with slight torment, she has close friends who are white. How can she be so militant and stay friends? I say it is easy to be friends with someone who is racist unknowingly. Just like you can love someone who hates themselves unknowingly. But it's funny how we find it hard to befriend the knowing racist or the 'all-knowing' radical. She half attacks the growing number of 'militant' posts on social media and then, blended perfectly, went on to highlight the sort of elephant in the room in all the police brutality situations. “It's not just the police brutality, but the men not complying.” I responded, “so if all these men complied to the point of giving up their human rights, they wouldn't have been killed or brutally attacked?” She nodded then turned to the TV. The TV's volume seemed to increase of its own volition. She looked at it as one looked disappointedly at a reflection of their thoughts. I sat back and tried to think of things to say that the silence hadn't already had a handle on.
I peddled hurriedly across the road to meet him and it came to me all at once, wearing baggy black tracksuit bottoms and a dark blue nondescript jumper, that the passing traffic may have discerned our handshake to be one between the dealer and the customer. He was stocky and brighter dressed. We laughed at the thought and it was perhaps this that spurred our next conversation. I saw a billboard of a white model less dressed and made a comment. Perhaps a sexist, male gaze one. He then brought into the conversation, “beauty is equal in all skin colours, but when it comes to average looks, white women are better looking. On average,” then he added pointedly, as in actually pointing at me, as if I were a part of his gut instincts about to put his summary to task; “and you know I'm right!” “I don't think, living in this country, we've truly seen the length and breath of beauty or averageness in black women. Perhaps go to sub-Saharan Africa and exploit the beauty there. The UK currency and your skin colour would make it easy. Many surprised white men do it.”
Written by Chima Nsoedo