Also, no one told me I was tan. Only one person suggested I straighten my hair. No one commented on my headcovering but someone did offer to go sheitel shoping with me.
“My God, I am the wrong color. The way I am burned by the sun, scorched by flinging sand, prickled by heat. The way my skin erupts in miniature volcanoes of protest in the presence of tsetse flies, mosquitoes, ticks. The way I stand out against the khaki bush like a large marshmallow to a gook with a gun. White. African. White-African.
“But what are you?” I am asked over and over again.
“Where are you from originally?”
Arriving in Rhodesia, Africa. From Derbyshire, England. I was two years old, startled and speaking toddler English. Lungs shocked by thick, hot, humid air. Sense crushed under the weight of so many stimuli.
I say, “I’m African.” But not black.(Aliza’s note: Oooh, I could say, “I’m American but not white.”)
And I say, “I was born in England,” by mistake.
But, “I have lived in Rhodesia (which is now Zimbabwe) and in Malawi (which used to be Nyasaland) and in Zambia (which used to be Northern Rhodesia).”
And I add, “Now I live in America,” through marriage.
And (full disclosure), “But my parents were born of Scottish and English parents.”
What does that make me?”
Mum doesn’t know who she is, either.
She stayed up all night once listening to Scottish music and crying.
“This music”—her nose twitches—“is so beautiful. It makes me homesick.”
Mum has lived in Africa all but three years of her life.
“But this is your home.”
“But my heart”—Mum attempts to thump her chest—“is Scottish.”
Oh, fergodsake. “You hated England,” I point out.
Mum nods, her head swinging, like a chicken with a broken neck. “You’re right,” she says. “But I love Scotland.”
“What,” I ask, challenging,” do you love about Scotland?”
“Oh the…the…” Mum frowns at me, checks to see if I’m tricking her. “The music,” she says at last, and starts to weep again. Mum hates Scotland. She hates drunk-driving laws and the cold. The cold makes her cry, and then she comes down with malaria.”
The guy shook his head.
“So where do you live now?”
“Long Island.” But I’m Indian!
The rabbi said, “Ah! I’m from Long Island, too. I really was just asking where you lived, not where you were from.”
ALIZA BLOWS IT OUT OF PROPORTION:
“But I was born in New York.”
“But my parents are Dominican.” (“Where’s that?”) “That’s in the Caribbean. Columbus landed there. So we’re probably 1/3 African, 1/3 white, 1/3 Native American.”
“Oh, but (full disclosure) there is some Venezuelan, Spaniard and Puerto Rican lineage in our blood.”