I’ve never seen so many black people in one place in Cambridge. The African and Caribbean Society organized a lime at Nando’s. The first 30 people to get there got their dinner free, up to a maximum of £10 (I got something costing £10.35— the extra 35pence was allowed free—yayy!!). SEO London sponsored it. I got there quite early; ‘early’ because I wanted to ensure I got free food, and well, ‘there’ because I wanted to see black people. By ‘see’ I really mean just ‘see’, as in ‘look at’. It sounds creepy, I know. It’s a bit sad I guess, because I wasn’t particularly keen on socializing. I honestly just wanted to see people who looked like me so that I’d feel less like an anomaly in this city. Sometimes I want to stand out, other times I want to feel like I fit in, blend in… and being there in a crowd of black people, black students at Cam Uni just made me feel like I belonged there. When I arrived, there were about 6 other people already waiting outside the restaurant. I smiled at 2 of them that caught my eye. Either way, I waited, and more and more people crowded the pavement outside the restaurant. Soon enough, over 30 black folks, 3 white folks and an Asian girl were waiting outside the restaurant on the street for the lime. I looked at passers by look at the crowd, stare at times… obviously a bit amused, or confused. I don’t blame them, it’s strange seeing a large gathering of black people on the streets of Cambridge. Nando’s soon enough cleared the tables and the group, which probably amounted to around 60 by the end, went in and took up about half the restaurant. I didn’t speak much. I worried that folks would think me standoffish and weird because I was so quiet. Maybe they did think that. I was tired, and well, since I really just wanted to see the existence of young, black folks at Cam Uni, I pretty much got most of what I wanted out of the night before it really began. I ultimately ordered my free food though… it was good: Butterfly chicken burger sumthin with mango lime sauce and chips. Most members of the ACS are British with African and Caribbean ancestors. When I first got to Cam two years ago, I went to a group meeting they had to feel like I belonged. They were super nice…. But I felt sort of out of place because it wasn’t the ‘Caribbean’ I had imagined. I’d hoped to hear Caribbean accents in abundance, but I didn’t… and thereafter I made effort to find other Caribbean folks in Cambridge. At the time I realized that I felt closer to Caribbean folks, regardless of race, than I do to black folks who aren’t ‘Caribbean’ (generally speaking). It was an interesting realization… because perhaps for the first time, I came to know that in terms of identity, I see myself as ‘Caribbean’ before ‘black’.
Two years ago I started my ‘Happenings’ album. It was to be my diary of sorts; my catalogue of moments and experiences I had during my first time away from the Caribbean. I wrote stories of experiences that delighted me, conversations that bothered me, sights that confused me… and I shared it all because, well, because that’s just something I do. I won’t explore the underlying, deeper reasons why I might have. Either way, I shared my experience…. but not all of it. I kept a substantial piece of that story within me- not because part of me didn’t want others to know, but because part of me didn’t. I’ve allowed glimpses into that story each February for the past 2 years, nearing Valentine’s Day, and also through various drawings I’ve posted without deep explanation on Facebook. It’s not easy for me to open up on deeper feelings regarding love and attraction… though I can talk at length about how depressed I might be. A few months ago, I decided that perhaps I’ll tell it a bit more, tell it a bit less abstractly, but not all of it. Perhaps, I’d tell it a bit more according to the timeline during which it unfolded… a post in early October 2015 describing how I felt in early October 2013… and so forth. This is the first such post, and attached is the sketch I had drawn to accompany it a few months ago. I met a number of people when I first got to Cambridge in 2013; a number of whom are still in my life today, but when I first met them then, I had no idea of the friendships and relationships that would grow out of it. I had no idea of the journey I was embarking on, and to this day, some of those past journeys are still unfolding in beguiling explication. I assume that even with two years having unfolded, and even when 2 more go by again, I’ll still have more to unpack using matured hindsight. Life is rich like that; 1 million and 1 ways to look at the same moment. Still though, in that moment, there is perhaps only one way in which it is viewed… and back then, my perspective of that moment was ‘these are the people I’ll be working professionally with’. I had messaged my supervisor, John, to let him know that I was in Cambridge and to find out when we could meet. He told me when I could come in to the office, and so I came in and said Hi. He made me feel comfortable, everyone did. They smiled and said Hellos. To be honest though, I barely gave a thought to anyone else, and forgot almost everyone in the office shortly after meeting them. The only people I remembered meeting from the research group was John (my supervisor) and Bartosz (‘the computer guy’)… and I remembered Bartosz because he was just so ‘different’. However, I’d meet everyone else again in time, and they’d grow to make big impressions on me during my stay in the UK.
Little moments add up to make big differences. Little differences cause different moments. Walking around after doing some shopping, that thought played in my head. Time often feels monotonous. I often feel like I’m not that unique. But there’s often so much more to each little moment and to each little personal difference when you consider its intricacies beyond the instance. It’s these little intricacies that change you and change the environment’s reaction to you. I was shopping at Poundland…where everything is 1 pound…and this older woman walked up to me whilst I was browsing. She stopped me and asked, “Can you get something off the top shelf for me please? I can’t reach it.” I agreed and she pointed to what she wanted. I took it down for her and handed it to her. She said thanks, and we parted ways. I guess it’s a bit weird, but that instance led me to wondering about my height… how different would my life be if I were shorter? Would different people have spoken to me? Would I have had a large enough collection of different little moments so that I’d be a noticeably different person in my outlook today? How many different questions would I have been asked? How many different people might I have met? How many different lives might I have been a part of… cameos, mentions, smiles? The thought ended though, because I don’t know where I can go with it. I only know what it’s like being as I am. I can only see the result of being as I was; and even knowing what it’s like being as I am, I’m not fully aware of how being as I am shaped me in different ways to someone else. Still though, I can imagine. It’s interesting to wonder, and it’s beautiful to appreciate the difference a difference might make.