I met a man from Nigeria today
My brain itches wanting to talk to you
I see him across the water as he crouches near the pavement. I swear he’s taking a picture of me and then I realize I don’t exist in this moment for him. He’s hyper focused on the ducks near my feet, careening for my attention. They quack at the water’s edge and I make kissing noises at them like when I rode horses.
I’m hyper aware of him, especially since he sticks out like a sore thumb. A tall man, broad shoulders, and a calm persona. He seems to have an incredibly young face I can hardly see since it’s obscured by his camera continuously.
I wonder if we’ll cross paths. I want him to. But why? I’m unsure of the reasoning besides my intuition picking up on things I’m not sure if it’s correct.
He’s introverted, trying to blend in but it’s so hard for him to. This is because he’s not a herd creature like most people. While most people blend in by moving at a pace he meanders, strolls, taking in all the beauty around him. My feet strike the pavement at a quick succession and my Pandora serenades me.
I easily overpower his stride and end up passing him. He’s still moving at that molasses slow pace. My lips are turned up into a tight smirk that I’m trying to repress. That side of me that says he will be incredible to talk to is hushed as I dart inside the Koi pond.
My pace slows down and I wind through the corridors littered with vines. It yawns wide and opens into this serene little paradise. My feet climb up the steps and I sprawl myself on the wet concrete to take a few pictures of lilies.
I’m so enthralled with the lilies and relaxing I didn’t even notice he came in. He takes a few snapshots crouching close to his subjects. I bite my lip and the rain starts to drizzle slightly. It is light enough that I could stay longer but I want him to have this beautiful space to himself. He turns to leave and I end up getting up from my cross legged position.
I go back to the entrance and come across him just as he snaps a shot. I hear him apologizing and smile. There’s a part of me that finally wins to engage him. My headphones slide down to my neck. Pandora keeps playing chill tracks and murmurs near the nape of my neck.
“If you want some absolutely stunning pictures you should check out the lilies.”
“I didn’t even know there were lilies,” he responds.
He’s incredibly soft spoken, with a gentle demeanor and persona. I eat people like him up with my overwhelming personality. I’m quiet just like him, but I was taught to hold my own and that’s what I do. I wave at him as the sky drizzles lightly on us.
“Come follow me, you gotta see them.”
I make a come hither motion with my hand. He follows me and we stop in front of some gorgeous water lilies. The brilliant colors seem to be on a different color scheme of beauty. They always take away my breath every day I come across them.
“So, the most amazing thing happens here. The water lilies are never the same. Within twenty four hours there will be new blooms, older ones drown beneath the surface… just total rebirth every day.”
I tell him in an awe struck, excited tone.
“I’m speechless, I never even knew these were here. And they are beautiful.”
He appreciates nature in the same way I do. I explain and point out the honey bees lazily pollinating and crawling inside the yellow interior.
We end up talking about photography and family. He is being forced to go to college but all he wants to do is hustle. He’s incredibly vulnerable with me, such an open book that it disarms me.
“I have social anxiety. I try to conquer it but it’s… hard. I just want people who know me to know that about me,” he says with a bashful smile.
I step away from him and then toward him. The Koi fish’s scales shimmer beneath the surface.
“I could sense that. I deal with it mainly in elevators and with crowds. I’ve had panic attacks before but with my career I control it better and need to be outspoken. Everyone always thinks I’m so outgoing but I’ve been quiet most of my life.”
“Yeah, I can totally see that. You do seem rather outgoing. What’s your name?”
I give him my name and ask him to tell me his. When he tells me his name I literally take a step back. My mouth drops open and I say he can’t possibly be telling me the truth. He smiles at me and chuckles a little under his breath.
“Seriously, you’re named that? That is crazy. Is there a story behind your name?”
“My parents were trying to have a child for thirteen years and then they finally had me.”
I adore being told the history of his name. And the uniqueness of it, I knew there had to be a story behind it. I’m finding that all of my intuitive knowledge from that first look at this man is turning out to be correct.
I decide to ask him a question since he seems like a transplant to this area like me.
“Where are you from? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“No, I don’t at all. I’m from Nigeria.”
“Oh my goodness, really? I have a friend who was from there. And you guys are so… polar opposite. He was loud and boisterous. You seem like a quiet soul in a loud world.”
“I used to be that to hide that I’m more quiet. Being all loud to try to cover up what I am. But I just embrace that I’m not that anymore.”
I’ve decided to give him the name Faith since I always give my friends nicknames. And, he’s just one of those types of people who gives you a sort of faith in the human race being decent. He tells me how he wishes to build a school back in Nigeria when he gets older and has the means to.
Faith is genuine, kind, caring, and someone who just says things exactly as they are meant to said. Not sugar coated, but a raw essence of who he is. It’s refreshing, and makes the time melt away as the sun breaks through the clouds overhead.
People filter in and out of the space, a random few, but we focus on each other and the stories of our lives. It’s deep discussions that would normally take months, years, to cultivate that kind of trust with another human being. I’m honored he feels so comfortable with me especially since he says he always just tries to keep to himself.
“That is seriously amazing wanting to give back like that. Not many people have a desire for something like that. And you can start the means to do it now. I know you can and will be able to do this if you have this goal set. Just make it a reality.”
I say this with every bit of conviction within me. He’s young, admitting that he’s twenty four years old. I tell him that my guess was incorrect and I guessed at least twenty.
He asks my age and he tells me he’s surprised by my age. That I look younger than what I am now this year and I do a little curtsy with my clothes. He laughs at this gesture and I find that the hours of my shift are melting away being engaged with this young man from Nigeria.
“I think most people are intimidated by me. Since I’m big and how I look…” he gestures at his skin. I shake my head wildly and my hair bobs back and forth.
“Maybe most people, but I wanted to talk to you. I resisted, I saw you across the way when you crouched down to take that picture. I knew that you were more of an introspective, reflective soul. Part of it was the camera but… something else too.”
He smiles at me shyly. His head makes a slight nodding motion. Faith plays with his hair occasionally as we talk and leans forward into one of the steps. It’s an awkward position that reminds me of a cat stretching its back.
“Thanks, and you noticed me when I was there? I didn’t even see you.”
“I know, you were too involved with focusing on the ducks. But, I’m that type that doesn’t follow crowds and you seemed like that.”
“You’re right, I was always the weirdo back in school. Just stuck mainly to myself. I only have one friend and my sister has like twenty and partied every night. We were brought up in the same household and I was like what did I miss out on?”
The drizzle of rain has let up but I don’t notice it. I am hyper focused on this young man and I think carefully about what I’m going to say.
Because I know that sensation of feeling like the world passes you by when truly you are meant to move at a slower pace than others. You’re meant for quiet, for beautiful moments alone in nature. That matters so much more than being lit at a party and feeling lonely even though you’re covered in people.
“You didn’t miss out on anything. I’d trade a million fun friends for my one best friend. That person who calls me up when I say I’m not okay. Who cares about me, that is worth all the seasonal friends.”
We both admit to each other that this conversation is the best part of our day today.