He spoke in that thick local accent that is so hard to understand because of the way it swallows the ends of words so that they sound like a firing of short, terse syllables. I was walking home from the gym and I had a podcast coming through my earphones so that his question did not register at first.
Often when I walk someplace I get stopped at least once or twice because of the novelty that I represent. Sometimes it is because the solicitor wants just to greet me but mostly it is because someone wants to sell me something. In these cases I have found that wearing earphones is the surest and politest defense. Those who want to sell you something always begin with a greeting of some kind so that I acknowledge the gesture of greeting with one of my own and then quickly divert my attention as though I cannot hear the sales pitch that follows.
‘How can we be friends?’ he said again.
I heard it and understood it this time and because of its strangeness I decided to respond.
‘These things just happen, I think,’ I said.
He was an older boy but he was small and clear-faced so that he looked younger than he really was.
‘Where do you live?’ he said.
‘In Sinkor,’ I said, which is the neighborhood of Monrovia where we were.
‘No, I mean where is your house?’ he said.
‘So that I can come visit you sometime,’ he said, his local accent breaking the last word into a staccato ‘son-tie’.
‘We need to be friends before that,’ I said.
‘OK,’ he said.
He extended his hand and then I mine and we shook and then he walked away.
‘I guess he couldn’t argue with your logic,’ Jess said when I arrived home.