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175 LOSING IKO Kanika Welch “I can’t believe I’m in Africa!” “You’re in Ghana. Africa is a continent.” Your words quickly sliced through my euphoria. “They really should find another name for y’all. Call y’all something else,” you spoke, a chuckle in your throat. To you, Black was further removed from African. A different culture with no hyphenated connections. No pan-African Garveyism. I thought I knew you then. But this day, you were unrecognizable. How could you look into my brown face and see a “something else”? Were we strangers to each other? I wanted so badly to belong to you. To me, you were a brother. A friend. I would soon learn our kinship was not reciprocal. “We are not the same,” these words, laughed out of your mouth as you ate your favorite meal of RedRed, a stewed black eyed pea dish that filled my palate with memories of Mississippi soul food. I ordered the same with a side of plantain. “No African would eat that, “ you felt the need to comment.” And, “Oh you wanna eat with your hands?” you observed, slapping Africa out of my hands as if I were a toddler touching a hot stove. Each comment had me questioning if I was trying to subconsciously prove my “Africaness” to you. I concluded that I was just hungry. And sick. I started to cough as the black pepper cajoled my inflamed tonsils to dance. I excused myself quickly, never telling you I felt unwell, fearing my illness would prove your hysterics true. I was no African. I was allergic to Africa. Later, on the ride back to your father’s home, I expressed the desire to finally leave America, maybe start a school abroad and you laughed again. “You’ve only been here a few days!” Silly black girl tryna save the poor Africans, is what I heard. I brought it up again, gently, the next day at dinner with your friends. “Let’s just all move to Ghana,” I said smiling. You led the laughter then. I was not aware that my dreams had morphed into comedies. I became so small. You broke me; not just my heart but the entirety of me. I did not know you. I 176 only knew that I was more than a silly black girl. I knew that Africa was big enough to hold me. And I knew in my heart that we could share if we really wanted to. There had to be room for me. I knew you didn’t care but I vowed to show you anyway. We left each other in the strangest place. Intuitively I knew we’d never speak again. Something broke between us that could never be repaired because neither of us really knew what it was. I sent you an email from the airport, thanking you for the opportunity to visit Ghana and letting you know I was ok and aware that we were different now; no longer friends. The plane ride back to New York was hard. I missed Africa so much. Yes, the entire continent. I was hurting because I knew my spirit wouldn’t rest until I found a way to make Africa my permanent home. I wanted to share that with you. I wanted you to ease that pain with the encouraging words I had grown to rely on. A year or so later I reached out to you. I apologized for not being the best friend I knew how to be. I did not mention your words or how they hurt me. I did not mention how your laughter ripped me or how the entirety of our breaking had stayed with me. Changed me. I missed you. My brother. My friend. “We’ll see,” you chuckled into phone, reminding me that ours was not forever, but a season. I thought back to that strange meal we shared. More memories flooded. I remembered watching you look out at the ocean after dinner. I walked over to you. “What you doing? Thinking about your life?” “Yeh…” was your soft reply. No laughter then. I knew you were hurting, only I held no remedies. Fresh into the trip, you had already shut me out. I gazed out at the Atlantic. Took in your view. I think, that was the last time I knew you as a friend. Twelve months and several job applications later, I got the email I was looking for...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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