'Three things drew you to me." Amusing. "I heard you women are interested in foreign men." Try attracted, gorgeous Ivorian man. Not so loud though. Instead, "say, you believed this when we first met but now sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?" He hates it when I outsmart him. Will he ever stop complaining about me? I wonder. "You are interested in married men. You exercise freedom being in such relationship." What's with this guy? I claim to be like an open book and yet he still questions my friendship? "You are a spy," I laughed at him. "I don't know much about spies but I don't think I qualify as one."
We met at the National Museum. There was an exhibition. I was scribbling seated cross legged on the worn out mat. A towering man who wore traditional garb asked what I was doing: are you a journalist? No. Are you an art student? No. A frequent visitor. The probing continued paving way to friendship. Talking for hours, taking long walks to one part of the city to the next, visits to galleries, dining out, sharing drinks and basically bonding!
"You have this quality of drawing people to you and making them talk! I found myself telling you what I haven't told to people I knew all my life!" I said this and more but now lack of money puts me in a compromising position. Lunch is on me. I do not have a cent! No I don't want to cancel. When I called to say I'd be a bit late, I chipped in "I'd come right to your house!"
The second call I made was when I reached the gate. He said he'd be right over to let me in. He opened, regarded me meaningfully and then bent to touch cheeks. As he led me towards the house, I saw his paintings in the yard. Did I see drawings on stones? He would show me around sometime later, I hoped.
The exaggerated joviality in his voice didn't fool me. He was baffled by my presence. We were supposed to meet and decide where to have lunch. There was no invitation to his house. Couldn't he have made excuses when I called earlier? He was waiting for an explanation. It wasn't forthcoming.
Once I settled down with a glass of cold water, he set about preparing lunch after putting on music. I was grateful to be by myself. It gave me time to reflect on the next moves. I decided not to tell him I was broke. Better to enjoy his cooking.
Lunch was ready. He set the table in the kitchen. I joined him when he summoned. He laid out the food. I was taken aback when I saw a sheep's head! "Don't tell me you have never tasted this before!" "No!" "I don't believe you. My friend told me it is a special dish where he comes from. We shared one yesterday. He enjoyed it." "Where is he from?" "Up North." "Figures." "Try it. This will be a new experience." "I am not sure."
Gingerly, I started pulling bits of meat and putting in my mouth.
It didn't taste any different from what I know. I couldn't say I enjoyed it though. It was as if I was waiting for something strange to emerge. Actually, the sight of the pieces of strings puzzled me. I didn't stop him when he put some on my plate. Savored the bite I took. Tasty for sure. I racked my brain. Did I have this before? I tried to tell him we don't use some part of the sheep in my family.
Long forgotten memories surfaced. I began, "let me put it this way. I did see sheep head being cooked in an elaborative way. My mother's friend's brother graduated from college. I was part of the feast in Wonji town at the parents' house. The preparation! Rinsing the sheep's head, cutting out undesirable parts, inserting garlic in the holes, different types of spice thrown in the cooking pot, the whole lot was fascinating. At the time, it felt as if it was cooked for a whole day!" He chuckled and progressed to ask, "was it tasty?" "Did I say I got to taste? A special dish they say! They served it to the men!" This time he roared in laughter. How come he found it funny?
"Tell me more!" was what came out after he was done enjoying his merry time. Annoying. I resumed eating ignoring him. He got me talking about the strings though. I brightened up reminiscing about it! "It was a get together party organized by my big brother and his friends to mark the end of the adult education program they conducted in the community.
They bought a sheep, had it slain, and started dissecting. Simon Berhe started cleaning the strings. Most of us crowded around watching attentively. He cleaned the string which has the length of a good size rope. He asked for a knife and a board. He meticulously cut to small pieces. He managed to persuade the others to mix it with the chopped liver, kidney, intestine and red meat. Most of us got to taste after it was fried. The taste of the string was distinct. Unforgettable."
Composed, he came up with, "I did you a favor then." "What? How?" "Relax! Why are you defensive all of a sudden?" "Am so sorry. Thank you for being an extraordinary host!" This time, we laughed in unison. I confessed why I showed up uninvited.
At home, I told my siblings the interesting dish I had for lunch. They hooted in laughter! Was it the way I depict it or something else was at work here? I looked at them inquiringly. Minutes passed. One of them managed to state the obvious, "don't you see? You had Buchi's food for lunch!" Realization dawned on me. I didn't regret eating sheep head which we give to the dog. Bad idea though disclosing experience I got to enjoy with a friend only to be made fun of in a way which marred it.