A couple friends of Scotty and mine recently had a going away house-party. It was very well put together, complete with the compulsory oversized speakers and snacks. At around half-past midnight, once everyone was full of libations, as my buddy Bill is known to call them, and it was time for a change of venue. The new playground was ‘Plaza,’ which is, more or less a debaucherous parking lot.
Some of the crew.
On one side of the parking lot is a kind of deserted shopping mall. In it are a couple of bar-type places to grab a drink. There is also a popcorn guy hanging around, and, of course, multiple speakers playing African dance tunes so loud they rattle your teeth. That’s pretty much all there is to it. If you’re a man and in need of a quick tinkle, you make your way to the overgrowth next to the lot and do your thing. It’s a simple and silly recipe for a laugh.
What makes Plaza really shine though is all the people watching you can do there. It really doesn’t kick off until 1am or so, but once it does it’s a free for all. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the place, because it a well known pickpocket’s paradise. A buddy of mine had his wallet lifted a few weeks back. Another, his mobile phone. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it’s a scene.
Once we located our little group, we herded together like cattle. I was already out of it and ready for bed before we even got there, which I attribute to the post illness drag, but I did my best to pretend to dance.
Soon after, I spotted a dude I’ve met a few times out and about. He is always friendly and goes out of his way to greet me, which is nice, but also a little odd since neither one of us have every exchanged names. One thing I’d like to add is that this fellow is, according to another friend of mind, and I quote, ‘the biggest gangster in Makeni.’ This gangster and I chat for a minute or two about the gym and some other unimportant stuff before we decide to shake hands and go our separate ways. Before I go on, it should also be noted that this is a rather strong, muscular man and every time we’ve slapped hands it’s been more a display of grip strength than a friendly hand shake, which is still preferable to the ‘dead fish’ style most people give you these days. This time however he added a new wrinkle, or should I say, a new scratch.
This new move involved a series of three scratches with his pointer finger along the inside of my wrist. As this is happening every muscle in my body is cinching up and I’m imagining my skin turning ghost-white. He then added, ‘I’ll be over there’ and winked a couple of times for emphasis. I panicked, smiled (grimaced?) and said the first silly thing that came to my mind…’uh,um, ok, I’m not sure what that means.’ He laughed and then went and sat down with his buddy on a nearby chair.
After another gentleman made a pass at me, a bisexual pal of ours wandered over to my rescue. I told him about the uncomfortable encounter I had moments earlier and he got a good chuckle out of it. I then had a quick flashback. Years and years ago in middle school, my friend Rene used to jokingly tease me with this same move, so I was familiar with the meaning. This being West Africa, I was very much hoping it meant something else. Nope. Turns out the scratch is a universal sign for, ‘I want to jump your bones.’ Gulp.
My buddy then informed me that if that should this ever happen again, the way to shut it down in a polite way is to offer up your fist. Not to the other person’s nose mind you, but rather, when the aggressor goes to shake your hand, you offer up a closed fist instead of your own open hand. I could’ve used this information a lot sooner.