I was growing increasingly more impatient as I made my way down the already steaming street to meet a friend at her house. First, it was the young boy who followed me several blocks asking me for money until I turned to him and said with the full force of my irritation, “Go your way!”
Next it was the unwelcome chiding by the shop keeper at one of my favorite neighborhood stores. “Afia, long time!” he said, “Why don’t you stop here anymore?”” Ahhh,” I said to myself, counting to ten, “You must pretend he didn’t say this and go on as usual.” I bought the things I’d stopped for and smiling, headed back out onto the street.
At this point, I realized I was not able to muster up my Celebrity Neighborhood Obruni face so I fished in my purse for my sunglasses and as an added defense began texting Amy who is out at the lake for a few weeks. And I missed my turn. “Drat!” I thought, turning around and looking at my watch.
Somehow my day was already getting out of hand at only 9:30 in the morning. The ditches stunk, people were annoying and sweat was dripping off my face. I felt sorry for myself. Between the heat, pestering, chiding and unmet need for anonymity I was flustered and now at risk of being late.
And then, up ahead, I saw something that completely turned my mood upside down. A young man was walking confidently towards me, his elbow and forearm wrapped in an ace bandage. In a split second I realized his forearm and hand were missing. Images of Malian Sharia amputations flashed across my mind. Or perhaps it was an accident. I thought of the trauma embodied in the absent limb.
I wondered how long had it been since this man had two arms and before I had time to look the other way, I met his gaze and we passed each other. Nothing in his eyes hinted of self pity, anger or frustration as undoubtedly those feelings shone in mine. I realized how fortunate I am and how silly I am to let the little things irritate me.
I realized I was swinging my arms.