Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stoke Newington to Whitechapel

Perfect Fried Chicken. Orhans Cafe.
Two men leaning over a car.
Baggy trousers, hoodies, bling.

She hadn't noticed him when she boarded the bus. She was reflecting on a pleasant evening. Good food. Good wine. Good conversation. A playful smile on her lips she was imagining what of the night she'd recount to the man who wasn't hers. (And pondering when).

Polish restaurant with no name. Taste of Cameroon.
Two teenagers sauntering along.
Fitted suits, shoes, yarmulkas.

She turned slowly, narrowing her eyes, peering at the man in the seat behind. Sorry?

He repeated his request insistently. Can I touch your hair, please?

Why do you want to touch my hair? She fired back. Abruptly. Startled.

I've never felt curly hair before.

The words ran through her mind. Mental health. Psycho. Harmless. Dangerous.

It's just like straight hair but a different shape. She cringed, annoyed, asking herself how stupid her answer had sounded as she started to wonder who else was looking and listening.

I would like to feel how the curl springs. He sounds like a child, she thought, wanting to know how the wheels on a bike go round or a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

The okay just came out. Heart pounding, laughing too loudly, she added, be gentle!

She resisted the urge to screw up her eyes, grit her teeth and clench her fists to wait the unknown but watched as he, fascinated, carefully and methodically straightened one length of curls before letting go. Ping! His eyes shone and his body gave an involuntary jerk.

He marked the end of the exchange. Slowly, courteously and with a nod of the head he said thank you. He folded his hands in his lap and turned to look out the window.

Green Papaya. Dolphin pub.
Two men spilling kebabs on the pavement.
Ben Sherman shirts, jeans, trainers.

5 comments:

Martha Elaine Belden said...

i have really curly hair.

people i don't know touch it sometimes... it's pretty weird.

Ashley said...

I have red hair in a place where it's relatively rare. I have had similar, awkward encounters. My favorite though, was a little Mexican girl in a fast food restaurant (Dairy Queen) in a Texas-Mexico border town. She shrieked and screamed in terror when I walked into the ladies restroom and she saw me. She shouted Something along the lines of, "diabla palee roja" -- which means something like, "redheaded devil."

Rehan Qayoom said...

What you do and what you see
It's all poetry to me
Fi fy fo fum
The metre's going to make me come

Red said...

You come across the strangest people, but at least he asked you first and was polite about it afterwards. Even so, I probably would have said "I'd rather you didn't". You're clearly a nicer person than me! Reminded me of that programme last night (Return of the Tribe?), where the guys from Papua New Guinea kept touching people's hair. They seemed to be especially taken with the young girl's red hair.

Off topic: if you have a minute, I'd love to hear more about your Sicilian adventures... where you went, what you saw.

pat said...

this sort of thing never happens to me.
but then the 25 bus always works for you.
whats up with that?

though recently when leaving work at some rather stupid hour a slighty pissed middle eastern bloke asked me where i was from.
"london"
"no where are you from really?"
"london"
"i tell people i am from saudi arabia but i am from lybia"
"fair enough"
"i love london. the girls so sexy. are you a muslim?"
"no. catholic. but i don't care what people believe in. faith is your own"
"you should be muslim..."

luckily my bus came along before we got into the if you are muslim why are you drunk and looking got causual sex.

but at least he didn't want to stroke my beard.