– “Do you know Adem?” said Henry, or that’s the prominent name in his introduction. We had spoken about the bits of folk music from Oromia that I had begun obsessing with. Adem Harun is what was primarily referenced. Pieces recorded in lo-fidelity but hardened by clear emotion, but remained some of the most visceral emotions. A fluttering guitar, rudimentary drum and a harrowing voice, torn with distress while allowing the supple glides in syllables to soothe. Each piece struck at sorrowful reassembly of memories built around a life, I would not be close to living. It was the first time I had ever heard it played in someone’s car.
– “I try to listen to as much as I can.”
-“You know where I’m from, and why I’m here?”
-“To earn money?
I had been taking early morning walks lately. I live above a few gourmet restaurants. Places which tend to attract vile customers with too much time and money. Though there are some instances of real beauty in the foliage scattered on the each side of the torn streets. The amalgam of a soft breeze and the smell of fresh cappuccino will never make these lumpen-drearies any more desirable to be around. Conversation with Henry took place at the local garage while buying cigarettes. He called me over, I guess I seemed familiar. He struck me as a seasoned raconteur, rather than someone who spoke too much. An Uber driver who had just finished his shift, but also an engineer from Ethiopia. His charm made me think metallurgical, but his friends made me think electrical. He sat beside his car with some of his colleagues who all seemed quite knackered and called me over for a cigarette. I obliged and was quickly offered some mageau. I took one sip from a drink I’m not quite but found myself strangely enamored, possibly due to two shots of cheap whisky enhancing its taste. Our conversation was fragmentary, but its imperfections did not hamper our tête-à-tête.
-“Yes, but some of my customers are the most fascinating. I drove someone from Melville last night, who said he was a big official!”
I wondered what he meant by a “big official”. While I had a vague mental impression drinking around in my head, the human being form still remained quite abstract.
He added, “Someone with friends, y’know. They have nice things. We had a chat, it was nice. He told me that Africa will be big in economics in a few years because of all the resources among all the countries, but we just need the skills.
I was holding my tongue while driving him, y’know. He carried on saying these things and I knew, you know? I felt like I knew more about what he was talking about, and felt a strange feeling in my stomach. Having him tell me that we need the skills, to insinuate that the skilled individuals are not around here. I came all the way here to drive around a man who can’t see everything in front of him. Either he’s dumb, blind or just evil. Talking about the youth. People who need my help, who I can help, I can bring my knowledge. But there are points in history where knowledge doesn’t matter. Where the world doesn’t want it anymore. You put your life in its hands sometimes, but it doesn’t want you. I felt like he had nothing to give, only ideas too complex for him to understand [I could hear the frustration in his voice]. This oaf, giving me a lecture on subjects one should know when powers beyond your control make them less abstract. I don’t know his experiences… I mean… I don’t know where he’s from, but finding yourself in the backseat of an Uber can make your story a little less important these days. What would you do?”
-“I don’t know, maybe turn Adem up on the radio?”
-“Adem? No! Sometime he can’t help us when that happens.”
He grabbed a small sip from his half-finished coke, and exhaled while some of his colleagues got ready to go home. I took a drag from my cigarette and looked around as morning traffic began to pick up. Checkers cashiers run across the main road. Children skipping as their parents held their hands tightly along the pavement. We stood silent for a second, listening closely to the rhythms in the hooting intermingling to the harsh bass coming from a deprecated hyundai near-by. Every passing voice was incredibly audible in that lull, the sound of my cigarette burning could be felt on my fingertips. A morning walk to remember.
“So you know what I did?”
“Carried on driving and dropped him off.”
-“No… not really, I just made sharper turns the rest of the evening. Sometimes it’s something you need to do.”