The first thing that attracted me to her were her earrings. Now, I know most people probably think this is the worst thing I could have ever admitted. Worse than admitting that I secretly ogle half- naked people sunbathing at Central Park. Worse than the fact that I have taken up smoking despite what the Federal Ministry of Health says. Worse than all the horrors that plague the world daily…
I can already see all the feminists in the world getting their skirts in a twist over the fact that I was attracted to a woman’s jewelry rather than her brain or heart. They will ponder over what a sexist I must be to value a woman by her baubles. If I ever successfully finish this PhD and get to publish a book, they will tell women all over the world to boycott my book because I am chauvinistic and value women only for what s on the outside.
The world is a weird place these days- compounded by feminists, activists and the like. But that is not what my story is about…
It was her earrings that led me to her. I saw the earrings and couldn’t take my eyes off her. They were made of bronze and when she laughed, they laughed with her, vibrating as her body shook with laughter. They hung from her ears like frozen waterfalls and for a moment all i wanted to do was take them in my mouth till the ice melted. She would tell me later that she found them at a flea market in Brooklyn.
Our first date involved walking from booth to booth at the said flea market the very next Saturday after we met. She wore the earrings to our date and I could not take my eyes off her as she oohed and aahed over wares from around the world. There were calabashes that looked like my Grandmother’s back home in Odogbolu. There was cloth from Thailand and handwoven mats from Peru. Everywhere we turned, the world greeted us. I caught a glimpse into her heart every time she stopped to pet a dog or smile at a child. The earrings drew me but it was that heart, carefree and beautiful, that kept me.
I knew I was in love with her when my grandmother died and the tears failed to cease. The girl with the bronze earrings held me while I mourned. She put me to bed with lemon tea. The lemon tea tasted more like fish oil than tea but I was in love and she could do no wrong.
We moved in together into a one bedroom apartment in Harlem and made love every day. The next door neighbor’s child was two and the walls in the building were thin. He kept us up on many nights and so the girl with bronze in her ear would read me excerpts from her best loved books till i fell in love with them as well. Things fall apart, A Prayer for Owen Meany, An African Child, Trials of Brother Jero…
One day in winter, she stopped reading those books and got herself a cookbook instead. We had to learn to entertain, she said. I came home one day and Things fall Apart and An African Child were missing from our bedside table. She would tell me later she got 3 dollars for them from the thrift shop down the road. She replaced them with books on business etiquette and grooming. She got a job on Wall Street and gave away the earrings. There was no place for them in that concrete corporate jungle. We stopped going to the flea market and resorted to Saks and Bloomingdales for every other thing. We moved out of Harlem and the child that kept us awake at night cried even harder when he saw the movers packing up our things.
The girl with bronze in her ears got pregnant and our child died on the cold steel table of some surgery room. There was no place in her career for a child or the joy and sleepless nights it would bring.
I wept for two nights after that and dreamed of my grandmother.
Last week, I met someone. And yes, it was the earrings again. This time though they were gold and purchased while the oppressive heat of Kano smothered its inhabitants and its winds made their eyes water. The girl with the gold earrings walks me through the sands of her city while we hold hands in a bar in Flatbush. I can almost see the Fulani women with their calabashes of Fura. I can almost taste the dates she tells me will be part of her bride price. I met her on Saturday and had kissed her by Tuesday. I put my lips on hers and felt the warmth of the sun from faraway Kano. She can cook too, this wearer of gold earrings. She told me just yesterday that she learned how to from her grandmother and my heart beat faster than it had in a long time. Her books are stained with the ink of the henna that crisscrosses her hands and feet. She will never stop reading, this one.
Her earrings are made of gold. Gold never fades; but the bronze earrings, those ones dimmed a long time ago.
Song of the day: Carlos Santana- Maria Maria