He’s been here in the States for more than 20 years, but his accent is so thick sometimes it’s hard to understand him. A is finely dressed and extraordinarily handsome with a warm smile and almond eyes. He isn’t overly tall, and carries himself with a swagger. When he laughs, it is a big laugh. When he talks to you, he is focused and attentive. His head is bald, and he could be 25 or 50 – it is entirely unclear. His skin is gorgeously dark and smooth, like the skin of an Italian eggplant. He is a teetotaler, and can be found at the bar with a club soda. Although he lives in the midst of a pan Asian culture, he still cannot use chopsticks, which makes eating Vietnamese pho quite the occasion.
Although money isn’t flowing recently, his car is always washed and decked out with bright colored rims. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen his apartment, but it was spartan and bachelor like. He keeps inspirational sayings on the wall in his shower to look at every morning. A volunteers with the Rotary club when he has time. He is perpetually optimistic about life, and has a saying and a smile for each downturn you reveal.
A is from a west African country that is small, and even though my geography is above average, required a consultation with the map in private when I got home. He speaks of his homeland longingly, but has not been back in over a decade. There is only one other person on the island who speaks his home language. He finally met that other gentleman after living in Hawaii for over 7 years.
He likes to speak with passion about the baobab tree and its amazing fruit. One day, he wants to import baobab fruit to Hawaii, or start a laundromat, or manage a tomato canning factor in his home country, or sell NYC-manufactured hip-hop clothes in Hawaii, or become a business real estate agent, or… it’s always a new plan. It would not surprise me if he was one of those African gentlemen selling cheap watches near Times Square, but he never told me such details. When I think of A, I think of a “hawker”. He’s scrappy. He will never be rich, but he will never been homeless either.
Picture a man, from a tropical African country, who cannot swim and is afraid of the water, agreeing to work on an Alaskan fishing boat. It is still hard for me to imagine him doing this, but apparently that happened somewhere along the way.
A’s story is part tragedy. He lived in NYC for many years, and before I met him, had married a white woman of his own. She broke his heart. She became pregnant, and without him knowing, aborted the child. The divorce was never properly finalized. How he chose to end up in Hawaii, I do not know.
We’d only known each other for a couple weeks when he asked me to have his baby. When I met him, he was somewhere in his 40s (it’s always been a mystery), and was desperate to find someone to have a child with. His brothers give credence to the word “diaspora” – they are scattered across the developed world. Each has married a white woman, and has beautiful hapa children.
I said no to having his child. I was 27, in a Master’s program, and had no interest in babies at the time. He found another woman who looked like me, and had another child already, and together they had a child. A’s baby is so very beautiful, and he is so happy with her. But him and the baby mamma – it did not work. Now Baby is 3, and he is moving out and onwards. Where to? I’m not sure. With me? He’s asked, but it still doesn’t feel right to me.
Now, with a child, his schedule is restricted. He no longer goes out to clubs or bars. He looks tired from enduring a poorly fitting relationship for the sake of Baby. He is hopeful, though. In fact, that is his defining characteristic – whether about his relationships, his job, his child or his health. It is always the same with A – that big smile and new plan.