By Komlan A Aloysh
He walks with his girlfriend into his favorite Liberian restaurant on Plain Street. His right hand on her curvy waist and her left hand on his muscular chest. There is a short queue in the restaurant. Two people are waiting to be served. They order their food and just waiting to get their requests.
Neewlay stands behind his girlfriend, with his chest on her back. And she whispers to him occasionally with her head tilted back. His head sits on her left shoulder, with his hands wrapped gently around her.
Gertrude walks into the restaurant, wearing nurses clothing. She’s going to work, but stops by to grab some food on her way.
“I say… is that here you come to make love? Let me pass oh, my people” she says in Liberian English.
Neewlay steps aside and let her go, without hearing any greetings from her.
She cuts the queue and goes right up front. Neewlay thinks that she might have ordered before coming to pick it up.
Neewlay and Gertrude dated before but they broke up two months ago. They broke up after six months, with one accusing the other of cheating. Neewlay accused Gertrude of cheating on him with a guy from Minnesota during her friend’s baby shower.
Gertrude dismissed it as false, and accused Neewlay as the one who cheated on her with a Liberian girl in the Hampton Project.
“Why is it taking too long, Nee?” Jenn says. Jenn is Neewlay’s new girlfriend, and she’s white.
“Is that white girl now?” Gertrude says in Liberian English, while looking away as if she isn’t talking to them.
Neewlay hears it but pretends not too.
“Hey Nee, that lady has nice hair. I like how she did it,” Jenn says.
“Hi, I like your hair,” Jenn calls out to Gertrude.
Gertrude looks away, pretending that she didn’t hear it. But occasionally, she steals a glance at them and pushes up her mouth in disgust.
Jenn says nothing else.
Neewlay too pretends to look away from Gertrude when their eyes meet.
“Why is it taking too long?” Jenn asks, kissing Neewlay on the lips.
“Then go and cook your own!” Gertrude says in Liberian English, as she looks on her phone.
Neewlay pretends not to hear it as well and Jenn only heard cook, but she did not hear anything else.
“This is my first time here and like this place, but I am tired standing, babe. They must be busy in there,” jenn says.
Gertrude is handed her order and she walks to the line. While going by the line, she hits Neewlay on the shoulder without saying anything nor look back.
He says nothing as well.
“Why did she hit you like that?” Jenn asks.
“Leave her! Some people just look for trouble,” he says, while looking ahead for their order of beans torgbogee and rice.
Their order is handed to them. He takes a $20 bill out of his right front pocket and hands it to the server.
“Thank you, oldma,” he says, as they walk out of the restaurant.
“Why did you call her oldma? She’s older but still. You shouldn’t have called her old. She could’ve been offended by that,” Jenn says.
“Oh no. It is a term of respect” he says.
“Really?” She says, with shock. It is her first time hearing that.
“Yeah. In Africa, old age comes with respect. You are respected when you get old. In Liberia, calling an older woman oldma shows some respect to her” he explains.
He opens the passenger door for her as she holds on to their food.
He closes the door and walks around to the driver aside. He starts the car and drives away.