Early in the morning I go outside. I look over the fence into Chino’s yard. There is a girl doing her washing outside the toilet. She is wearing a short nighty that reveals her thighs and long black legs. She has black pantyhose wrapped around her head holding her hair. I can’t make out the exact words of the song she is singing but I catch the words “…like a natural woman”.
“Hi, my name is Nana.” She stops singing and looks up at me.
“I am Agnes. Did you say Nana?” She dries her hands on a cloth.
“Yes,” I say looking at her as she walks towards the fence.
“I spoke to a man called Chino here the other day. Do you know him?”
“Yes, he is my brother,” she smiles. “He is at work.”
“So they let him go?” I ask.
“Yes, for now. I had his papers.” She comes closer. “Nana. I haven’t heard that name before. It’s pretty. Where are you from, Nana?”
At once I know she is not like the other girls, asking me why I am not wearing earrings. This girl really wants to know about me.
“And how do you like it here in Masi?” she asks.
“I don’t know.” I tell her about the girls at school and the modelling competition. “I have to be a certain way, act and look ladylike. They want me to pierce my ears. The teacher says, ‘How can you not want pierced ears? Every girl wants pierced ears’.”
Agnes laughs. “Then she’s a stupid teacher,” and she looks at me in a different way, like she can see what I am thinking and feeling.
“I also feel different from the other girls at school.”
“It’s just that I am not into those things,” I tell her. “All the girls seem to do everything for is to get boys’ attention. I’m not like that. I just don’t see myself doing those things.”
“What do you see yourself doing?” She looks at me, but I can’t answer her.
And then she is laughing.
“Come on, I have something for you to help you in that modelling competition. I have a plan,” she says, running to her shack. She comes back with a set of earrings.
“You see these? We can clip them to your ears instead of piercing. Just for the day.”
“What happens if they fall off?”
“Then you tell those girls you are not ready to pierce your ears.”
“I like you Agnes.”
“I won’t let you down,” she says. “I know what it is like to feel like you don’t belong. You can count on me for anything.
And I know she is telling the truth.
What do you think? Have you ever felt different from the people around you? How do you treat people that you feel are different from yourself?
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