Wednesday, July 21, 2010


About a week ago, two sisters from Nigeria began occupying the bunk bed next to mine. We introduced ourselves and chatted as people do when they’re sharing a very small space. One day, the younger of the two, Anita (who speaks the most English) asked if they could use my toothpaste. I told her they could help themselves.

“You are very kind,” she said. She exchanged a look with her sister that was laden with meaning. “We have a brother who is staying here, too. You should meet him.”

A little while later, she asked me for my number. Thinking it only natural that as roommates we should exchange our contact info – maybe we could hang out some evening – I gave it to her. She and her sister proceeded to giggle a great deal, and she made a phone call. I couldn’t understand what she said, but I heard my name. She hung up. A moment later, my phone rang.

I answered it with a sinking feeling. “Hello?”

“Hello. This is Austine, Anita’s brother.”

Good grief. My roommates were pimping me out.

I told Austine as nicely as possible that I was going to sleep and that I was sure I would see him around the hostel, but in the space of thirty seconds he managed to ask for my email address and tell me that he was sure we were going to be “special friends.” When I hung up, the girls were looking at me expectantly.

I didn’t have the heart to lecture them about privacy and courtesy, so I made hasty reference to my imaginary boyfriend/fiancĂ©/husband, who I’ve been talking about so much lately that he’s started to develop a distinct personality, mostly invented on the spur of the moment in answer to the probing questions of Kenyan men who suspect I’m full of shit.

We met at school, naturally. He’s a photographer. He’s coming to visit me in a few weeks. His name is Daniel. And – because hearing that I have a boyfriend does nothing to dissuade persistent would-be suitors who will not be satisfied until I have a Kenyan boyfriend, too – he’s black. That is, Kenyan, actually! What are the odds?

It would appear that Anita didn’t pass on anything to her brother about my lovely fake Daniel, because the next day, Austine called me fifteen times. At least. From no fewer than three different numbers – hoping, no doubt, to catch me unawares if I was screening his calls. I sat at a cafĂ© with a friend, the both of us watching in mixed amusement and horror as my phone lit up again, and again, and again.

Then he sent me a text message saying he was trying to reach Anita and asking me to tell her to call him. I held fast. If her phone wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be able to reach her either, and I was miles from the hostel on my way to see a movie with a friend. Then, another text. “Please help me out, it’s urgent.”

Against my better judgment but unable to ignore it just in case, I called him to ask what was the matter and if Anita was okay. I couldn’t make out everything he said, but I’m sure of two things: 1) he didn’t answer my question and 2) he professed his love for me.

All this before we’ve even met in person! Whenever I leave the room now, I half expect him to be standing outside my door in a tux with a ringbearer and a preacher at the ready.

Up next: Baby elephants!

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