This being her second visit to the grocery store, with its blinding fluorescent light and constant AC, she came prepared. The wool sweater, a gift from her best friend back in Nairobi, smells of incense and coal, the scent of safe secrets, closeness and familiarity. Its fabric caresses her chin as she exhales a memory not far away in time, but distant in space. She looks around to see if others too, had their breaths and dreams crystalized for a brief moment and ruthlessly stolen again and again as they aimlessly rummaged for deals on frozen dinners.
She used to anticipate talking and touching vegetables; a cabbage in the palm of her hand, its aroma sharing stories of sun and soil. “Best One!” The boy-seller cajoled, regardless of her selection. She kissed teeth, he smiled. The first time she brought a cantaloupe to her nose in Toronto, the entire display cascaded onto the floor, causing everyone to stare, which made her feel small.
Today, she was on a mission and briskly walked to the produce section. She picked up a plastic container of spinach, leaflets cut from the roots and incarcerated in a cold transparent cell. She abandoned the idea of being able to feel, to brush her hands across living surfaces. She had to trust what the new gods declared; that all these packages are uniform and that uniformity is good. Trust that since it says “Triple-filtered wash”, that the machines prepped it like how gran-gran did back home. Word is Bond.
In the express cash, she pulled out a five dollar bill. “$4.99, plus tax ma’am.” Said the cashier.
She didn’t have enough.
E-Jesus? E-Jesus lives over there on Old Oven Hill and sees everything we do so you better not steal any parts and sell them to the Lebanese, okay? Don’t be like Doubting Thomas. If you want your blessing you better not do anything stupid. That’s the rule. Now, don’t worry about the old TV screens or the broken computer screens..you’re too weak and you don’t know how to use a screw-driver. You are still a kid, so you got to do kid stuff. That’s the rule. You should be looking for tiny-tiny things like batteries and the old i-phones with shattered mirrors, use your tiny-tiny fingers! Jesus likes car batteries. So batteries is your mission. I christen you Black-Battery-Betty, our newest missionary. Praise to e-Jesus. Praise to e-Jesus, Siemens and Sony. You must repeat.
That’s the rule.
Understand that all around you, technology is the future. The future is here and it is dead. If the carcass of the future, the corpse of technology is here, then where are we, B-Three? Yes, New- Ghana, but where are we really? Heaven. This is Abogbloshie, the future of the future, and it is Heaven. If it was no so, could e-Jesus survive the gray fires of Old Oven Hill? No, e-Jesus would burn blacker than black! But here everything and everyone is dead, no current through their metal veins and we, the chosen missionaries will resufficate and bring new life.
Tonight, e-Jesus will visit you in your sleep. He will open the door of your refrigerator-bed and pray in tongues and shower your face with silver dust. ‘Toshiba-panasonic-sony-apple-samsung’, he will chant. You must repeat. That’s the rule.
photo credit: pieter hugo