Suddenly the train is flooded with sunlight and we look back at the city. The sun reflects brightly against the windows of tall buildings. Nwabi says, “enough about me. What about you?”
I pause then say, “I go to school at Queenspark High, up there,” I point up towards the freeway. “I love soccer, play the guitar, and would like to travel the world and maybe work in the field of science…” I stop, embarrassed. It sounds like I’m trying to advertise myself as the ‘total package’ – You can get it all with Khaya – and more. The truth is my guitar playing sucks. I nearly failed science last term, and the nearest I have come to a soccer pitch is standing watching the game.
She smiles, with a look that says that she can see through me. The train shudders to a stop. Woodstock. For a moment I want to flee with the crowd as they push and shove to get off onto the platform. But it’s like I’m glued to my seat.
A new wave of people board the train and jostle to get a seat. Then the ice-lolly sellers jump on board. They move up a carriage at every stop. You can’t see them but you can hear them loud and clear as they shout, “Suckers! Suckers!” They sell all kinds of sweet and drinks too. I say, “Can I buy you something, Nwabi?”
“An ice-lolly would be nice. It’s so hot in here,” she says. And I wonder if she’s just being polite or whether she really likes the ice-lollies they sell on the trains. I wave down the guy. He looks at Nwabi and then at me.
“So! One sucker?” he says and then laughs at me. His eyes are saying… you are the sucker… like Nwabi is playing me. “One sucker,” he repeats, until he gets the laughter from the other commuters that he wants. He thinks he’s so funny – and they are all laughing at me now.
I pay him and hand Nwabisa the ice-lolly. She laughs at me a little, glances at the ice lolly seller, then shakes her head. As soon as he is out of earshot I blurt out. “Sucker!? Sucker!? I mean come on. Who is the real sucker here? Surely it isn’t me? It isn’t me who has to sell crappy, ice-lollies for a living. He sells cheap-flavoured water and these people buy it. So who are the real suckers? Surely it is not me.” I pause then look up at Nwabi who is sucking the lolly. She has a wounded look on her face. I am making such a fool of myself now. Straight after that lolly guy made a fool out of me. “I… I…,” but what can I say? That I didn’t mean that she was a sucker to want the lolly? It’s a complete mess! I might as well get off at the next station. She’s never going to go out with me now. Never!
Nwabi looks out of the window, sucking her lolly, pretending that she doesn’t care what I said.
Tell us what you think: What is Nwabi going to do?