Lovebirds in the Buckeye State
By: Theodore Hodge
January 20, 2004
Dear readers: This is a short story presented for your reading pleasure. There are three characters in the story - Joe Blow, an African man; Sheila, an African American woman, (a rather colorful and interesting personality) and myself.
Before I begin the story, I'm obliged to make one thing clear: This is a fictional account of bits and pieces of events herein re-arranged. The characters, Joe Blow and Sheila are purely fictional. As they usually say, "Any resemblance to any actual people you may know is purely coincidental". You may know folks by the names of Joe Blow or Sheila who may resemble the characters herein depicted. Again, I must insist that it is a matter of pure coincidence.
On the other hand, I play myself in the story. My character is therefore real, not fictional. The events described in the story happened from time to time, but not necessarily in the order in which I present them in this narration.
The setting of the story is Ohio, a real place, not a fictional place. The great state of Ohio goes by the nick name "the Buckeye State", hence the title of the story. The significance of the title will be become apparent as the story progresses.
I have known Joe Blow for a very long time. When I was a student at T.R. Andrews Elementary School in Gedetarbo, he was an accomplished soccer star at Bishop Ferguson High School and a star player on the Maryland County team. His popularity extended way beyond Harper, he was popular around the country (at least in name) because he had demonstrated his soccer prowess while playing in yearly soccer tournaments in Monrovia - the county league. (Some of my readers will remember those good, old days).
To a small extent, Joe was even an international soccer star - he was well known and admired in Tabou, Ivory Coast. (Again, some of you will remember the annual soccer events that took place between Harper and Tabou to celebrate our respective national independence days.)
Not only was Joe popular because of his unique soccer-playing ability, he was quite a handsome looking guy and a very good dancer and an amateur musician. He was quite a guy with the ladies. I relate this background to say that Joe was the first celebrity I knew in my life and I counted my blessings to know him. He was also quite a generous and gracious fellow, quite a delight to know and follow. He was our star and we loved him and looked up to him.
After graduating high school, Joe moved on to Monrovia where he did a brief stint in the majors (IE and Barrolle) before moving on to bigger and better things. When I eventually graduated and moved to Monrovia, he welcomed me with open arms and showed me life in Monrovia. I was always proud and impressed to meet his circle of friends. (I must add here that Joe introduced me to a number of young ladies whose acquaintances I would not have easily gained without his help). In short, Joe was one helluva guy.
I eventually moved to the states. During the many turbulent years of political instability in Liberia, Joe remained there, ‘determined to see things through', as he used to say. As time went on and the situation got progressively worse we lost touch with each other, for years. Well, all that changed when he finally gave up in desperation and moved to the states. He immediately found my phone number and contacted me. We arranged for him to pay a visit.
Being mindful of our past relation, I tried to show my gratitude. I took him to a number of interesting events and places, including of course, a couple of night spots. I wined and dined my guest… the whole nine yards, as they say.
We caught up on events happening since we last parted; we relived the glory days. But before very long, he posed that typical Liberian question - "But where all the chicks eh, my man"? (You know a Liberian man is serious when he switches to the Liberian vernacular).
I knew exactly what he was trying to get at so I said, "They here", responding in kind. Then I continued by saying, "You aint seen no women since you been here? The gat women all over the place".
Cleverly and expectedly he retorted, "My man, I see all the women, I aint blind. But this is your town. I just can't go running and grabbing all the women I see. You suppose to put one on your man… I in your town, my man." He smiled cleverly as if to indicate that he had gotten me in a trap. I looked at him and listened quizzically, wondering: "What's wrong with this fellow? Does he know where he is? Does he think I'm some paramount chief that can just order a woman to sleep with him?"
Obviously he wasn't reading my thoughts, so he said, "When you come to my town I will lay one on you, quick". He looked at me and smiled broadly as he snapped his fingers for emphasis and added: "Quick, before you come to yourself".
So I did what any decent Liberian would do. I told him, "Don't worry my man, I will lay one on you tomorrow." He smiled so broadly I could see his jaw bone. He asked, "For true"? I promised him all would be taken care of although I had no idea how I was going to do it.
As I rested that night before falling asleep, I pondered the conversation we had just had. All of a sudden I felt a sense of anger for being put in this embarrassing situation but before I got up the next morning I had a bright idea. I thought to myself: "This guy asked me to introduce him to a lady - he didn't say a young, attractive woman… he didn't say a "spring chicken" and he certainly didn't say an "iron tit-tit" - he simply said a woman".
That's where Sheila comes in. Sheila had been an acquaintance for a very long time. She was a very attractive, very outgoing and very intelligent woman. The key word here is "was". You see, Sheila used to be all that and more; She used to be at the center of all parties, the most popular and most attractive. But that was over twenty years ago and she was past her mid-twenties then. It would be an intelligent guess to even say she might have been in her early thirties. If you did the math, it would not be inappropriate to conclude that in the year 2003, Sheila was at least in her mid-fifties.
Sheila was one of those African American ladies that take their relationship to Africa and Africans very seriously. She loved meeting and partying with Africans. It is safe to say that Sheila never met an African man she never liked. It is also safe to assume that every body loved Sheila as well. In some cases the love went deeper. Sheila had four kids; each of them was fathered by an African. She had a son by a Nigerian, a son by a Ghanaian, another one by a Senegalese and a daughter by a Liberian. For this and other reasons, we nicknamed her "OAU" in honor of the Organization of African Unity".
Sheila did more to help Africans than anybody I had met and in those days she was fond of saying "I love Africans". She really did and it showed. Unfortunately, none of these African men ever married Sheila (except for convenience, you know for a green card or something like that). None of them ever "kept" Sheila for good.
As time went on and everyone grew up and paid more attention to other things such as family, school, professions and other dreams - and less time to parties - she faded out of the social circle and out of memory as well. She raised her children by herself without any resentment towards Africans. Every now and then I would run into Sheila and she would always have one request: "Find me an African, kid", she would say. And then as if as an afterthought, she would add, "I want me an African. But this time I want me a good one. Yes, kid, I want me a good African".
I would always smile and promise her that I was working on it. Poor Sheila, I would think. "Does she think an African is something you pluck off a tree or find on a beach"? I would ask myself, "Where am I supposed to find an African to give to Sheila"? The thought would pass and I would forget Sheila until I ran into her again and she would ask me "You found me an African, yet? Where's my African at?"
If you have guessed that Sheila and Joe Blow are about to meet, you are ahead of the average reader. Yes, I took the pleasure to introduce my friends, Joe Blow and Sheila. What could be more perfect, I thought? Sheila wants an African man and Joe Blow wants a woman. Joe is an African and Sheila is a woman, case solved.
I arranged for the three of us to meet in a restaurant. Sheila was dressed like she was going to a party - her hair was "done", her make-up was well applied and her outfit was beautiful and matching… the dress, the shoes, the bag and everything looked hip. You can say that Sheila had it going on. But as bright, intelligent and out-going as she was, Sheila was young no more and it showed principally around the waist and a few other strategic places such as the derriere, if you get my French. We shared a couple of drinks and chatted a while. I suggested a plan but encouraged Sheila to come up with some creative ways of entertaining my friend. I knew a night spot for some dancing was not out of the question; after all, this was Sheila. I got up and said, "I'm going to leave you love birds alone". Sheila laughed but Joe Blow just stared hard at me before I split.
The next morning while I sat to drink some coffee I saw my friend and asked him, "So how did it go, lovebird"? I was not prepared for the reaction I got. He snapped at me. He said, "My name is Joe, Joe Blow. Don't call me lovebird". I said, "I know your name is Joe, my man…" but before I could finish my thought, he snapped again. "But then call me Joe, don't call me lovebird".
We sat and drank the beverage in silence. But I wanted to get to the bottom of things. So I gingerly brought the topic up again. "So, how did it go last night? Did you have a great time"?
Joe Blow sat in silence for a while. Then he looked at me and asked, "My man, what is a buckeye card"? I had no idea why he asked the question. But I replied him by saying that the buckeye is a card issued to senior citizens in our state (the buckeye state). I told him it is a local version of the AARP card - (American Association of Retired Persons). Some of the benefits allows the state to defray the cost of certain goods and services as a social gesture to … I didn't finish before Joe interrupted.
"Senior citizens? You say senior citizens? How old you gat to be to be considered a senior citizen in this state"? I didn't know what he was driving at. But I answered, "Anybody around fifty-five years and older is considered a senior citizen."
It was like I had stabbed him in the heart. He yelled back, "Fifty-five? Did you say fifty five years?" I said "yes, but the state will send you a buckeye card earlier than that. I think the state sends them out to people by the time they reach fifty years of age. But why do you want to know about the buckeye card?"
"Do you know Sheila has a buckeye card? I came to visit you and the chick you introduced to me is a senior citizen? What kind of business is that, my man?"
I asked him how did he know that this lady had a buckeye card. He said they stopped someplace to make a small purchase and the she gave the clerk her card to get her discount. This left a bitter taste in his mouth. Even if she had a senior-citizen discount card, why did she have to use it while she was out on a date, he wondered.
I apologized for hooking my man up with a senior citizen. But then I remembered to ask him, "How old are you?"
He said, "I don't give a damn how old I am. I don't want no damn old lady and never ever introduce me to no old lady again." Then he said something that almost made me burst out laughing. He said, "Never introduce me to an OAU again." When I asked him what he meant by OAU he said it stood for "old and ugly". Coincidentally, we called Sheila OAU. I could not resist the urge to laugh at the incredible coincidence.
It was time for him to leave; the rest of the day was spent in a gloomy atmosphere, although I must admit I laughed every chance I got. I personally thought I fixed this guy up pretty good. It was funny to see him mad; he got what he had asked for.
That evening I took him to the Greyhound Bus station. I escorted him to the bus, when he took his seat, he looked out of the window at me. I smiled and waved at him one more time and told him to have a safe trip. As he waved back I said, "See you later, lovebird". He immediately frowned and gave me the finger, the middle finger, that is.
Apparently he failed to tell Sheila that he was leaving. She came looking for him and I had to tell her that Joe Blow had gone back. She was surprised to hear that, she thought she had just begun a relationship, how could he just leave like that? I had to console and comfort her; I promised to put her in touch with him as soon as possible so they could discuss the issue. Sheila shed a tear and said "I want my African back". And I didn't have the guts to tell Sheila what Joe Blow had said and that he wasn't coming back.
Every now and then I run into Sheila and she says the same thing to me: "Hey kid, when you gonna find me an African. I want me a good African." I'm still looking for a good African to introduce to Sheila to; but only senior citizens need apply.
As for Joe Blow, I meet him in Philadelphia every now and then where he now lives permanently. Each time I run across him he offers to introduce me to a lady friend. I always thank him and decline the offer. He says the same thing every time: "You in my town, I suppose to take care of you". I always insist politely, "Thank you, I'll hook myself up, lovebird".