I ask if he is making friends… She tells me he has black skin, lifting her arm to show me in case I don't comprehend the significance.
Thursday 19 June 2014
“How have you been?” I ask as she takes off her headscarf and hangs it up to dry.
“Oh, you know … fine,” she answers, not looking at me.
“And how is your boy doing?”
“Yes … fine,” she says while changing shoes.
I ask if I can get her a cup of tea and she doesn't refuse.
While the kettle boils, she sits at the kitchen table and lets out a small marsupial-sounding noise, a sigh that ends with a wet click inside the cheek.
“He wants to play football, you know … and I tell him he must finish his classes and get good grades.”
“Is he any good?” I ask, as only a man can focus on the specifics of his footballing talent.
“I don't know. I heard of it just now. He wants to play for the student team, but I say he must not waste time or he will have to go back …” she whispers “… if it is football he wants why did I bring him here to me; he can stay in Zimbabwe?”
I ask how much time the football would take up. She says training in the week and matches on Saturday … she thinks he already plays because he is never around when she comes back from French classes.
I ask how old he is and tell her how difficult it is to hold him back; he's an adult after all.
She tells me it is for his own good, that if he gets bad grades or fails he can't stay in the country.
I ask if he is making friends, spending much time with people outside class. She tells me he has black skin, lifting her arm to show me in case I don't comprehend the significance, and says it is hard.
“If you hold him back, you have no guarantees his grades will continue to be good,” I offer, “and if you let him play you don't know for sure his studies will suffer.”
She nods silently and takes a sip of her tea.
“You have to show you trust him but set conditions … tell him he can play but it would be a trial,” I continue.
“Yes, you think so?” she reflects.
“I do. It's going to be hard enough for him to get a job once he finishes studying, so he will need the social contacts … people from the football club can help him. An employer looks for well-balanced young people and he'll need to show he's a team player … not just good at school.”
She brightens up and takes another sip of her tea. The doorbell rings. I don't feel the urge to answer it.
“Perhaps tell him you agree to the football providing his grades stay good and that it is a positive thing for his CV.”
“Football yes, I can show I trust him … Do you have sugar, Mr Melisma?”