A square is an open, four-sided area surrounded by buildings in a village, town, city. That is what I remember from the dictionary meaning many decades ago. I used to wonder what the equivalent in Swahili was. I thought of Kijiweni. Not the same. Maybe, yes; Kijiweni. Or Under A Mango Tree?
Squares are huge, special places in this developed world.
You always find yourself strolling across one. Memories of Rio De Janeiro, where i lived...flashback and Largo De Machado springs through. I recall many pigeons. Pigeons like crows are everywhere on our planet.
Crows and pigeons.
Like the ones I am watching at the edge of this north London square. I just took a photograph. So many grey-white birds!
They could be fifty.
Some flying, others checking; scores feeding. Pigeons are urban birds and behave like us city dwellers. Meandering like a long river circling two large fir trees. Firs ( Misonobari in Swahili) are considered special in European culture and no wonder a certain kind (Noble firs) is used for Christmas trees, during that December festive season.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice three young males, in excited dialogue with a grown up, restless chap. The wary chap has been walking around asking and asking and asking and asking and asking.
The three young males are listening. A heated argument.
“Is it stolen?”
Restless chap man scans the area. Sees me. Again!
A while ago he was asking me about the laptop. Like those young males I also enquired. IS IT STOLEN?
He announced a big NOPE.
Now he is saying NO to the three lads, too.
They do not seem to believe him.
I pass them, avoiding the man’s stare, vaguely aware of the three youths’ distrust.
Sellers of stolen goods can be found IN ALL MAJOR CITIES OF THE WORLD.
This chap approached me fifteen minutes ago as I ambled out of the bank.
“Want a laptop?”
I said I am always looking for laptops of course. What make? He said DELL.
“I have a good one for you. Really cheap.”
“£ 100 . I will give you the battery charger for a fiver.”
I thought it was too good to be true. Why would someone sell a brand new DELL laptop for a hundred pounds? Too cheap. Around 130 US dollars. Too cheap! Too....chchcHchch.... Around 300 thousand T shillings. DELL? That is TOO cheap.
So I asked the S word.
NO IT IS NOT IT IS NOT STOLEN. He pretended to be furious. I walked off . Then he cornered a mother with a child. The mother was uninterested. Next were these three boys. And now they are suspicious too. You don’t buy laptops on streets, let alone squares.
I keep on walking and see a man hobbling out of some roadside greens. He has a leg crutch. He is hopping and strolling with difficulty. Straggles down the road without bothering to watch speeding cars with blowing horns.
On to the opposite side. Falls down onto the door-way of a huge supermarket. It is his begging spot. Yes a professional beggar. Can be seen here 24/ 7.
Now I am crossing to the farther end of the square. While waiting for the traffic lights I notice a group of black people gathering right at the centre of the square. There are many flowers – some still fresh- some dried or drying and withering. I hear a distressed, curious woman.
“Was he SHOT?”
No, he was STABBED. One of the women replies.
She is holding a young black-male’s photograph. Passersby take pictures with their phones.
. . .”They stabbed my baby, they STABBED MY ...” She hollers a name. Then I realise what is going on. Frames of a young male, decorate the place. Another youth murdered, prematurely. Last night. Typical London, news.
“How old was he?”
“Twenty two.” The mother says.
Then asks. “ How old was yours?”
She says 27.
Takes out a photograph. Another handsome, promising young black male.
“They shot him. Three BULLETS in the head.”
I realise it is all women talking about loss. Grieving mothers.
The last in the line. A mother is always the first to bear a child. She is also the last to carry the sorrow. Not saying us fathers do not feel the sorrow. Both parents always do. But boys are being slaughtered ENMASSE in London. Cities always kill the young. The young can be reckless ,daring, adventurous, brave, fearless, innovative, stupid, clever...youth is about exploration. IT has always been. No wonder during wars, the average death toll of soldiers is eighteen to mid 20s.
In peace so much can happen as well.
Being in a city square is the beginning of a narrative.
Story of our lives...