My cellphone rang loudly, rousing me from the uneasy sleep I had just drifted into. I reached for it, with half a mind not to answer if it was my elder brother, ‘Chief.’ It was.
Courtesy, and the knowledge that I seldom called him, won out. I flipped the phone open.
“Hello! Azuka, this is Chi!” I was assailed by his loud voice. My brother, like my Dad, has a habit of shouting into the phone. I held it some distance away from my ear.
“Hello Chief,” I said. “You just woke me up.”
“Sorry, Azuka, I had something important to tell you.”
I already knew what he wanted, but let him go on just in case I was wrong.
“Did you remember to buy the book I asked you to?”
I was drifting off to sleep again.
“Yes, yes, I’ll buy it today,” I said. “You don’t have to remind me.”
“Ok,” he lowered his voice. “How’s school?”
“I’m done for the semester. Chief, I need to sleep — you know it’s night here.”
I think we both hung up the same time.
Later that day, I walked into Borders with my friend Kwame. While browsing, I picked two Clive Cussler books, surreptitiously looking at the section titles to see if I could find the book without asking the clerk for any information. She was a fiftyish, grandmotherly type, who helped me check whether there were any Marie Corelli books available, genuinely pleased (I think) at meeting someone who could talk books with her.
I summoned the courage to ask, “Um… do you have any copy of the Kama Sutra?”
The smile was still there on her face, but something changed in her eyes. The smile was suddenly not so inviting. Usually, she would walk me to the bookshelf where a book was to be found, but she nodded me towards the Relationships Section.
Good Lord, I thought, I’ve been labeled a sinner.
I got the edition with pictures. Chief had been specific about that.
I was checked out almost mechanically, and hurried out of the bookstore, Kwame trying to keep up with me.
‘m pretending to have no idea why that happened, but I daresay I never felt more relieved when it was done and over with.