A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
Lauren watched the fishermen struggle with the fishes. The ocean rippled as they casted their nets into it. She rose from her lounger and strolled to the banks. Few persons learned to swim at a far end, not whites, but black teens, guiding themselves on how to flap legs in the water.
She returned to her lounger and continued watching the fishes struggle in the fishermen’s nets and baskets.
The sands beside her carried a shadow of someone long, holding a lounger and advancing towards her. A man. The shadow stopped moving and the man dug his lounger by her. It was the American harbour engineer she had befriended over time.
“Today is for the anglers, not the tourists or surfers.” He settled on his lounger. “Why are you in shirts and trousers?”
“I don’t plan on swimming. I only need the air.”
“You’re on vacation?”
“No. Newfield is still in session.”
He lowered his hands and picked some of the fine sand, and then, funnelled them through a folded hand. “No lectures today?”
“You’re missing lectures for Tarkwa bay.”
“Today is my first.”
The sand on his palm sprinkled as he dusted them off. “There shouldn’t be a second.”
“Why aren’t you at the harbour?”
“I thought I could use some of the air here. I’ll return there any second.” He picked up more sand and funnelled it to the ground.
A trader holding a carriage of snacks and other things wheeled to her and tried cajoling her into buying some doughnuts. On her refusal, the trader left with a bad face that Lauren wished she had bought some, even little as one.
“There’s nothing the traders don’t hawk. That one had sachet gin in his carriage, and children might be tempted to buy.” His phone beeped. He fished it out of his denim pocket and looked at its screen. “I’m needed for a small job at the harbour. I’ll be back.”
“Wait.” She stopped him from moving. “I could use a walk to the harbour.” She rose and stretched herself. “You’ve ever been to the lighthouse?” she asked.
“Yes. Sometimes after vigorous workings, I would go there to rid myself of the noise the beach offers.”
“I heard the surroundings is very rural and contains a few of the nation’s monuments.”
“Yes. You can call it a village. When I first began working in the harbour, I do visit there to see some of the country’s monuments. That was years ago. I doubt if those artefacts are still present. Currently, not much happens there, and the stress of boating yourself to it is not much encouraging.”
At the berth, some harbour men crowned in navy hardhats unloaded moored containers. The engineer discussed cranes and cargo sheds with a white-hatted black man that had an oil whiff.
The engineer and she leaned by a ledge protruding from a cargo shed and watched the men crane out containers.
“How is working in a midst of blacks like?”
He wobbled his head as though confused of the words to voice out. “Initially it seems perverse, especially when you’ve not previously lived amongst them, as it was in my case. But after a number of years, you’ll understand they are like any other American, nothing but a race of interesting people with black skins.”
“How many years did it take you to understand that?”
“Not as long as I thought or as anyone would think.”
He shouted to a man and strode to the berth. His fingers, he pointed at different places and did more shouting before returning to the ledge.
“How’s Newfield?” He stared at the busy men.
“Newfield is good.”
“There should be a good number of whites there.”
“Aren’t there white lecturers?”
“Not a slew of them.”
A white man walked to them. He hailed to her and then began a talk with the engineer. They talked navigational channels and wharves. The engineer dug his hand into a pocket and brought out a white sheet, wrote on it and handed it to the colleague.
“I figure an okay number of whites work here,” she said.
“Yes, mostly as engineers, and few as motormen. The work here needs some expertise that the locals haven’t fully mastered. Newfield teaches a course on this, Marine and Harbour Engineering. Very soon a majority of the locals would have gained enough expertise.” The engineer rose. “I’ll return soon.” He headed to the berth, where he stepped into a moored ship.
She sat on the ledge and lifted a knee up to her chest. Some men began transferring sacks to the cargo sheds. Those who walked past her smiled at her. Returning the smiles wasn’t very easy, but she tried to.
The engineer stepped out of the ship, now wearing a white hardhat like most men around him. He advanced to her side and pointed to the jutted tower. “There is the lighthouse.”
“I wonder what could be in it.”
“The only things in it are the little openings of its walls. It’s as empty as hell.” He lifted himself onto the ledge, now whiffing of oils.
To Be Continued….