When we were still dating back in 1997, I spent a summer with an “uncle” and his wife who lived in Columbus, Ohio. Uncle Elliot was a Ga and a family friend who’d known my dad from their secondary school days, so we shared no blood relation at all. However, Ghanaians rarely let a thing like DNA keep one another from referring to each other as “sister”, “brother” or “uncle”, so when my mother requested that I be allowed to lodge at his house over the summer he was obliged to take me in.
Uncle Elliot is like the Ga equivalent to a West Virginia redneck. His house reeked of fish and floral air freshener. He worked 4 jobs (at once), had a sprawling back yard with shin high grass that was littered with various alliances in different states of repair and/or use, and 3 or 4 vehicles that were all miraculously road worthy. It was uncle Elliot that taught me how to parallel park and prepared me to take my driver’s exam. As a reward for my hard work and determination, he allowed me to use one of his cars to get around town. The vehicle that was to be mine was a sky blue Nissan with dark blue interior. Since I was still not confident in my skill as a driver, I asked Marshall to drive the car on the freeway. I hadn’t ridden in it yet.
When he arrived, I circled around to the passenger side and sat down, telling him what I wanted to do that day. He opened the driver’s side and prepared to sit.
“I want to go to the movies and maybe get a little lunch,” I said.
He prepared to close his door.
“And then maybe when we’re done…ei! Ei!!! What’s going on?!?!” I screamed in horror.
Marshall had shut his door, and in doing so had cause the Nissan’s automatic seat belts to slide across our shoulders.
“What do you mean ‘What’s going on’?”
“The seat belts,” I shuddered. “They moved by themselves!”
Marshall looked at me quizzically.
“Malaka,” he sad gently, “these are automatic seat belts.”
I was amazed. They didn’t have these things in Ghana!
“Shiiii. Magical seat belts.”
I settled comfortably in my seat and prepared for a great date with my boyfriend. Conversely, only God and Marshall know what was going through his mind that day.