A short story that got lost somewhere…
Ade’s walk was furtive, feet scratching at the pavement, eyes downcast. Sometimes when he walked this pavement he would direct his gaze to shop windows, watching himself go by – but not today. Sometimes people stared at him, their faces masked in suspicion at the Asian youth with his imperfect skin and his hangdog stride. Was he rabid? Whatever he had, could it spread to them?
No! No man, not that. You don’t catch my disease: what ails is inside me, internalized; and I have no doubt who gave this thing to me – it was you. All of you!
You made her hate me! You made her turn me down! You did it by hammering her with that connection – bad; Asian. Asian, bad.
I saw the look he gave me, man! Her father, yeah? What am I doing soiling the air next to his daughter? What right have I, like, to walk beside her, or dream of loving her, yeah? I’m just a guy, you know? A guy in the wrong skin.
Since that first sweet exchange of smiles a year ago Siobhan’s remembered image was never far from Ade’s mind. He had printed her name on his heart. Each morning he wakened to the memory of her pale skin, the almond of her eyes, her feline grace, her gentle voice. The way her cheeks flushed when he told her how he felt, the little shake of her head when she laughed. Siobhan, always there.
He increased his pace, skulking through the gauntlet of High Street commerce, glaring. Its garish displays glared back, windows drooling with blatant western fat. The dresses that were made by people, his people, working in conditions unfit for dogs and wages that barely kept them alive: the mannequin waiting to be dressed.
Just left like that – disgusting, man!
Western wealth, everywhere, oozing down the greasy streets, exuding from the fat pores of the godless whiteys who rushed by him in their pursuit of more – money, more gratification, more, more, more.
Her father had ended it. Ade, trying to do the honest thing, the honourable thing: “Sir, I love your daughter. I love Siobhan.”
He had seen the man’s face close up as he said it, knew it was over, even then. Siobhan had cried when he tried to look at her, shook her head, hopelessly. That was a week ago. He had seen her since, accidentally, on the street, like their first meeting. Just once. No smile then. Not even a glance. She had passed him by as if he did not exist. Her old man had been getting at her. He’d turned her against any thought of loving an Asian.
So that was why – why he was here. And it wasn’t just about her father, about Siobhan. It was about all the years of being different because his speech and his color made him so. It was about a kind of hatred that was soul-deep, a burning need to right something that was horrible and wrong.
His footsteps had led him from the High Street to the park, through its grand, pretentious gates into the green solace beyond. A favourite place this, balm for his troubled soul, somewhere he could rest on a favourite seat, watching the foraging of the city birds and playing his music.
He was tired now. He had worked late into the night, preparing everything, making absolutely sure he had done it right. And now he had five minutes to himself, when he could relax on the wooden bench he always used, and breathe the air he so needed. He checked his smartphone. Exactly five minutes.
One for the brothers, man. For the ones who died for the fight.
A voice that brought all the sweetness of white magic to his ear: Siobhan’s voice. He was dreaming again. “Siobhan?”
“Yes. How are you, Ade? I’ve been thinking so much about you.”
He was dreaming, wasn’t he? But no, she was real. Siobhan, leaning on bare forearms over the back of his seat with her cheek so close he could catch the scent and the sound of her breath.
“I been okay, yeah?” He stammered. She brought the wanting back; yet for a minute he could not believe it – believe her. “What, you talking to me now? You’re dad won’t like it, will he?”
“Look, Ade, I’m so, so sorry. My dad, he’s a prejudiced old man, and he just doesn’t understand, you know?”
“Yeah well, he got my number, didn’t he? He got you so you don’t speak, Siobhan. You walk right by me, girl.”
“I know, I know. I had to do some hard thinking. But I couldn’t imagine, like, seeing you every day, after he hurt you so bad. And this morning I made up my mind, because I miss you so, and I just want to be with you, Ade. With you.”
“But he’s your dad, isn’t he? He rules. I got no chance, Siobhan—no chance!”
“What, I should, like, spend the rest of my life with my dad? I told him this morning: if he doesn’t accept you he can go boil himself, right? Hey, you crying, or something?”
“It’s because, yeah? Like this is so… ”
Siobhan pressed her finger to his lips to quieten him. “It’s alright, Ade; it’s all right. I was going to come and see you tonight, but then I saw you in the Mall sitting by that planter thing and it was like: shall I – shan’t I? And I followed you here. I couldn’t wait to be with you again, Ade. I love you so much!”
One minute. It had all gone so wrong, Ade thought. But he was happy beyond measure because Siobhan was with him, and he loved her at least as much in return. As for the rest…
She asked: “Anyway, Ade, what were you doing in the Mall? You don’t usually go there in the mornings.”
And he said lamely: “Oh, nothing. Just hanging.”
“Shall we walk to college together?” Siobhan squeezed his arm, easing him gently to his feet. “I tell you, you’re lucky I’m here to look after you, Ade, you’re that absent-minded sometimes. Guess what I’ve got here? I picked up your bag, mate. You left it behind under the planter – in the Mall.”
© Frederick Anderson 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content
Featured Image by Free-fotos from Pixabay
Mannequins by s. Herman and P. Richter from Pixabay