Now I reached forward for a handshake. He moved the cup gently to the left hand, offering his right. I grabbed it feebly because his fingers were wet from whatever was in the cup. He smiled, pleased that I'd recognized him, revealing dirty teeth. We chatted a bit, and I gave him 40 shillings.
" Asante sana...asante ," he thanked me profusely.
"You're welcome. Well, see you around Adams Arcade. I need to hurry back to Hekima."
"Wait...yogurt, yogurt!" He pushed the cup against my fingers, his eyes begging.
"No," I said.
"No, bwaanaaaaaa ...take! Smile, cheers, sasa , huh?"
"Not yogurt!" someone called, laughing a mischievous laugh. "Leave broder alone! He don't like chokora ." When I looked up, it was a band of chokoras waiting anxiously under a guava tree. Also a few people on the road were watching us now; I felt my cover had been blown. He ignored his friends. They laughed at him. "Why didn't they mob me asking for a hundred things as usual?" I thought. "Why was he so insistent on giving, when chokoras were always interested in receiving? Was I about to be a victim of a prank? How many germs were in this cup?"
I gave him 20 more shillings and reminded him his friends were waiting for him. He thanked me but wouldn't go away. He was no longer sipping the yogurt. The chokoras followed us from a distance, roughhousing and loud like street dogs. Little gusts of wind swept the roads, bound into tiny whirlwinds of dust and trash and dead leaves, and blurred Kibera. I could hear buses groaning along the windy Kibera Drive. I tried to convince him that I wasn't thirsty or tired. I summoned all my strength to show this in my walk. I told him not to feel bad, that I would drink his yogurt another day. I laughed out loud to prove to him and the crowded road that I wasn't afraid of chokoras or of all the crazy things that could happen in Kibera. He hung his head and said nothing. Did he understand me? Didn't he understand me?
Finally, nearing home and not knowing how else to dismiss him, I stopped and took the cup from him. He gazed at me, his big eyes seeming to double in size, his mouth ajar, his hands at a ready as if I might change my mind and drop the cup. He glanced at his friends, who had stood frozen with surprise once I accepted the cup. I sipped his melted yogurt, returned the cup and thanked him. He received it back, his eyes teary and calm. He drank up the yogurt, tilting the cup till the last drops landed on his tongue. He turned away slowly from me and lifted the cup high like an Olympic torch, jumping and dancing and yodeling. Then he bolted toward his friends, bolted past them, his yellow wings spread in the joy of acceptance. His friends erupted after him in excitement.
About Akpan's book Say You're One of Them
We Hear You!