Sunday, November 16, 2008

So, what did you see?

Amanda and I have known each other for more than ten years now; we met while I was still at Cable and Wireless. We reconnected when she returned to Bermuda earlier this year. Although our lives are completely different during, the many hours we have spent talking, catching up and reminiscing we realise that we have far more in common than you would ever suspect. We are about the same age and have reached points in our lives where we can absolutely appreciate, laugh and cry at the mistakes and great decisions we've made in our lives.

One day recently we were at dinner and talked about how we each viewed the world and how our perspectives are completely different despite our commonalities. She is white, English, educated, has lived in Bermuda for a significant portion of her life and is well traveled. I am black, Bermudian, educated, have lived in England for a significant portion of my life and I am well traveled.

So we set out to conduct an experiment. We agreed that we would go out together and write about the experience, what we saw, what we did, how we felt. Here are our stories:

My view
As soon as we agreed to conduct the experiment I decided I needed to brush up on my observation skills so I would be equal to the task. I mean suppose Amanda saw something that would be the complete focus of her piece and I didn't even know the incident took place. So I started preparing for our task by looking at what was going on around me and trying to make mental notes. I would like to think my preparations stood me in good stead but I think I failed completely because I can't believe any of the little observations I made a mental note of could have been of any great significance.

Here are some of the things I saw:
An old guy with a red walking stick - I didn't even know they came in different colors;
One woman with way too much make up on - I didn't even know you could get that many different colors on your face at one time;
Then there was the guy with the loud shirt - again, many colors.

After the whole color thing I felt I had to pay more attention to the atmosphere what was happening around me.

A lady I know who is returning home, due to work permit issues invited me to her leaving party. I dragged Amanda along. We sat at the bar chatting and all I could get from the atmosphere was "someone in here is smoking, is that even legal in this day and age?"

Since I couldn't get past the whole smoking thing I decided to concentrate on our conversation - what deep and meaningful nuggets of conversation would Amanda and I participate in that would be the focus of my piece. Would I impart a delicious morsel that she would spend her 1,000 words talking about or would she dazzle my mind and give me something that I would noodle around in my brain and have to write about.

I think that moment approached as she and I walked from my car to the restaurant we had decided to eat at. We strolled along Front Street chatting happily and I was totally aware of my surroundings, alert to any possible issue that I had to observe and I listened intently to Amanda waiting for her to wax poetic when I suddenly I veered left and was blind and deaf to everything around me I pressed my nose figuratively again the window of the store that sells Prada.

A black bag with brass hardware, two strap lengths and a catch that was totally unexpected caught my eye. I frowned as I leaned closer to the window trying to see if I could spot the price tag. My eyes glazed over as I imagined the smell of the leather and the feel of it beneath my expert, self trained hands. I imagined how it would look first on my shoulder and then in my closet with my other captives, um, I mean precious bags ... my precious!

I heard a voice in the distance trying to bring me back to earth -- OMG, I had completely forgotten about Amanda and I think she may have asked me a question, what? How many bags do I own? What kind of question is that? How many stars are there in the sky, how many grains of sand are there in the desert? I don't know and that isn't important right now. The important question is do you think we can find someone to open the store for us so I can look at this totally uncharacteristic Fendi masterpiece?

After standing around ostensibly looking at the other designer offerings in the window I realised that I wasn't going to be able to get my hands on the bag and so after another side long glance I shuffled along to the meal that awaited our undivided attention.

Once we had eaten I thought we would call it a night but before we headed off in opposite directions we decided to try one more time to find my brother and bust in on him and his friends on their 'boys night out'. We decided to look in his favorite haunt to see if he was there. As luck would have it we found him, despite the fact that I think he tried to avoid us.

Without invitation we joined him and some of his friends and started making small talk with two gentlemen, one I knew only slightly and the other I was meeting for the first time. As we exchanged pleasantries, my brother's child hood friend squeezed himself between me and Amanda and started monopologising the conversation.

I am sorry to say this is where the evening fell apart for me. I was trying to maintain an eye on what was happening in the place, stay abreast of who was where and how everyone was interacting. My brother's friend put paid to that when he decided to engage in a totally embarrassing and humiliatingly funny expose on our 'relationship'. He made up the wildest accusations and charges against me that he could think of - stalking him, court decisions on our (retarded) child, flagrant sexual acts. While these charges were flying back and forward all I could do was laugh my stupid head off. I couldn't even mount a convincing attack, especially for the two men he insisted on regaling these flights of fantasy to.

Given that they didn't know me and may or may not have known my brother's friend to them these things about me could well have been true which added to my total inability to respond due to the now near hysterical and uncontrollable raucous laughter escaping my person. Nothing I did would stop him and in fact when I tried to interject with my own accusations of his cross dressing things seemed to get worse.

In the end I gave up and went to say hello to someone who was standing at the bar. When I look back at that incident I have to shake my head because if I could have kept my wits about me I may be been able to dissect it and write about it objectively. However since I was desperately trying to defend myself I have nothing deep and meaningful to impart other than I have a long memory and my plan is to exact revenge on my brother's friend some day, somehow, some way.

We finally decided to call it a night. I drove Amanda to the taxi stand. I did consider taking her home but she was staying in the depths of Southampton and I didn't have the energy, strength or focus to make the drive there and back.

What did I learn from this experiment - I need to be more observant, obsess less about bags and perhaps not hang out with my brother and his friends, lest embarrassing things happen.

(PS - this essay is supposed to be 1,000 words. Who knew I could write so much - it is in fact 1,369, I'm sorry Amanda.)

Here is Amanda's entry ...

Night out

7am. Friday morning. I'm in bed. Asleep. Aderonke texts to ask if I am up for drinks tonight. What is she like? The day has barely begun and she is thinking of alcohol? Its a little early for me to consider such matters and I just cant think about it right now....

At work - several hours later - I text back to say yes.

She picks me up from work at 6 and takes me to someone she used to work with's leaving do at the theatre bar.

I fret about my situation over a vodka cranberry. Should I stay or should I go.

'Stay - enjoy yourself'.' she says over her G & T.

That sorted we head for our next venue. After a fruitless call to her elusive brother we make our way to LVs. A quick scout around the bar tells us our group isn't there...

'Are you hungry? '

'Yes. You?'

To the Pickled Onion we go.

A glass of champagne and a trip down memory lane - we discuss the great loves of our life over dinner. A heart to heart over broken hearts.

'So what are you doing to meet guys these days,' she asks?

'Well, Ummm - this is kind of it.'

'Well lets go to the bar and talk to some....' '

I don't know how. I dont do this sort of thing. Its not my style' - I protest weakly.

But she's in there. 'I'll ask him the time' she says 'its a start.'

To my surprise - she does.

To my surprise - it works.

I don't feel what follows is worthy of recording aside to say that I foolishly give out my number and instantly regret it.

Time to go home. We're in Aderoke's car about to drive off when she decides at the last moment to revist LVs to check if her brother and pals are there. Result!

We are suddenly surrounded by people. I am introduced to one smartly dressed man after another - ever increasingly levels of smartness - the final one perfectly dressed and immaculate in every way. When my attention returns to my immediate surroundings I see Aderonke at the centre of it all - involved in a raucous exchange with her brother's best friend Will. (This seems to be the case whenever these two get together.) I only catch fragments of their exchange above the din of the bar and the great gales of laughter coming from the amused on-lookers, but whips and high heeled boots are definitly mentioned between the screams of laughter as is money and Obama.

A little later - when its all died down, I am cornered by Will who comfortably lounges back beside me and insists that I work at weekends in order to hide or run away from something in my personal life. I don't have any good enough excuses to disuade him from this line of questioning or get him to believe otherwise. He continues 'How long since the break up? Three months? Six months? A year?' If only it were that simple. I can't even begin to explain.

Aderonke returns from the bar with a huge glass of wine in her hand. The crowd has moved on and she decides we ought to call it a night as we both have to work in the morning. More importantly - has she just bumped in to someone at the bar that she will be dealing with tomorrow - so doesn't want to give the wrong impression. Back in her jeep she offers too drive me to Southampton. I refuse her offer - Its a long way to Barnes corner. 'That's Somerset Southampton - not even Warwick Southampton...' she says horrified at the very thought. She drops me next to a taxi on Front Street. I say goodbye and she says she can't wait to read about our night out. She has been planning for her article for weeks. I have no idea what she has up her sleeve and know I will not be able to compete.

In the cab on the way home my phone bleeps. Its a text from my work mate to say - Her boyfriend's Mum has a cousin called Pork and Beans. She knows these things amuse me. I burst out laughing. Its been a good night. Just what the doctor ordered. I'm thinking of getting a nice cup of tea and heading to bed. As I settle down at home I wonder if Aderonke is busy thinking of her next night out and will be texting another unsuspecting friend at daybreak tomorrow to see if they are up for a drink...

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