By Ndey Kumba Demba
I craved ‘Chinese’ that evening. The first time I had ‘Chinese’ was on one of the many newspaper nights we had. Newspaper night was basically meeting as a team, compiling stories, editing and doing the layout before our next print. We spend a lot of time doing that so we order some food to eat to keep us there as long as necessary to get the job done. We take a vote on what we wanted to eat on each night, as we all wanted different foods. Let me correct that. They had cravings; I am always good with anything. So on this particular night, the team, well most of them suggested Chinese. I’ve never had Chinese food before, so I wasn’t keen. I am not the “adventurous,” “experimental” type. I never get tired of the same ole.
When we ordered from Jade Garden, a Chinese restaurant nearby, I settled for the familiar. Fried rice and a soup made with shrimps, and vegetables. It wasn’t the best I’ll tell you that. I enjoyed the fried rice, egg roll and fortune cookie. To be fair, I did like it enough to order it at home on my tab. At that point, I considered myself an expert on Chinese food. I have experimented enough to know what was good and what wasn’t. Or in my case, what I liked and didn’t like.
It was a very cold and chilly night, a little drizzle when my delivery driver arrived at the front door. I had to go get him because you can’t enter our campus building without a key or someone from the inside to let you in. I greeted him with a genuine smile. You know, the kind you give to someone who just brought you food. He smiled back, shy and didn’t look me in the eye. I thanked him and told him that I wanted to tip him but I didn’t have cash on me. If he wouldn’t mind driving me to the patrol station nearby, I’ll withdraw some cash. He told me not to worry, but I wasn’t taking no for an answer.
We arrived at the gas station in less than five minutes and I headed directly for the ATM, withdrew some cash and gave him US$20. His entire face beamed. I don’t think he had ever been tipped that much. At most would it be US$10, and that is really stretching it. He thanked me, clearly grateful. I was like “No, thank you!” And I meant it. He drove me to the gas station without hesitation and that’s not because of the promise of a tip. He was genuine about it. I sat in the front seat and didn’t say much. Neither did he. The silence was not awkward, no, it was comfortable. I was able to withdraw enough cash for myself too. I have been meaning to do that but the cold wouldn’t let me venture out that far. I relied heavily on my debit card. Sometimes though, you just need cash. So it was a big favour, really. I headed back to my room on the second floor and enjoyed my jolly good Chinese food. Boy was it good!
Minutes later, I received a text from my delivery driver. His name was Logan. He said he wanted to thank me again; it was very generous of me. I thanked him for thanking me. He later said I should let him take me to dinner sometime to show his gratitude. “Dinner would be on him,” he said. I pondered on it for a split second. I mean, I could use the time out. He was nice too, and seemed well mannered; well, if his text was anything to go by. I said yes. I would go to dinner and it will be a one-off. To be honest, Logan was not particularly good-looking. Matter of fact, he was overweight, with a protruding stomach in front of him, and not so beautiful features. At least I get to say I went on a date with a white man. Date with a white guy? Check.
Logan and I had been texting back and forth after that. I told him the basics about me. Things he would find interesting. “I am from Africa!” That line never fails. It is the one line you can rely on when you are an African in America. If you need an icebreaker, or a desire to fit in, or have your manners excused, just say the magical words, I am from Africa! Frankly, it draws misplaced, misrepresented sympathy.
“OMG! You are from that barbaric place we were or are told about, occupied by endless wars, where all our aid goes to? The one place that is most in need of our help and misdirected empathy.”
Thankfully, Logan was not that ignorant. We chatted a little about it.
Logan told me more about him. About how his grandparents raised him. His father went MIA on them and his mom abandoned him and his sister when they were little. His life was a series of heartbreaks and aches. I felt sorry for him. He now lives with his grandfather after the passing of his grandmother and his sister lives with her boyfriend and two-year-old daughter. Logan visited them occasionally and raves about his niece all the time. I could tell he loved her so much.
I kept pushing the date with Logan until I got to know him better and was somewhat comfortable with him. I mean through text mostly. The day of the date finally came. It was winter. I wanted to keep it simple. I had no intentions of dating Logan. I wore my blue high waist jeans and favourite cream sweater. I also wore my comfy everyday brown boots. I let my braids fall to my shoulders. I applied light makeup, threw a coat on and tah dah. I was ready. I looked good and I knew it.
Logan was waiting for me at the entrance. He was sitting in his car. He didn’t come down to meet me, walk me to the car, or open the door for me. I was taking note. Small things matter to me. When I got into his car, his front seat had stuff which he shifted to the back. When I looked at the back seat, it was like a dumping ground. His car smelled like cigarette burn and was so stuffy that the air felt suffocating. I tried not to be judgmental, but he was making it hard. I sat in the front seat and tried to find a place to put my feet in-between the trash. At that point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the date anymore.
“Didn’t you know you were going on a date?”
“At least make an effort.” Of course I didn’t say that to him.
It put me off completely. I sat silently and let him do the driving, while I looked out the window. He started to chat me up. I responded and gradually the conversation began to flow. When we got to the restaurant he led the way and requested for a table for two. He was shown a couple of tables and he asked me where I wanted to sit. I chose the booth. I was somewhat uncomfortable. The restaurant was all white except for the one mixed race couple at the bar. I ordered a shrimp something. He ordered something else. Told me he was allergic to sea food. I can’t imagine being allergic to sea food. What? Kill me first. I enjoyed my food and we chatted a lot while we ate. One thing about Logan was he was really good at initiating conversations and
keeping them. We laughed a lot through dinner. His way of laughing almost sounded like he was choking. It was cute and annoying all at once. I couldn’t finish my food; it was a lot so I had the rest packaged and ready to go.
On our way home, Logan had this bright idea of showing me the cool neighborhoods in Iowa. I mean where the richest of the rich lived. The drive to those neighborhoods was long and the area was dark and secluded. I barely saw people or other cars. I began to get anxious. I watch a lot of forensic files and real life monster stuff on TV. So at that point, a lot of what ‘ifs’ started flowing through my mind.
“What if Logan is one of those crazy psychopaths I see on TV?”
“What if Logan is about to kidnap me?”
“What if Logan is about to rape me?”
“What if worse, he wants to kill me?”
I convinced myself that I would open the door and run if he attempted to do anything. I was so scared.
Luckily, soon enough, we came across this beautiful neighbourhood, it was breathtaking actually. Logan told me his former boss lived in that neighborhood and he’ll show me the house. Told me his former boss was a millionaire. He had a big house, can’t remember how many servants and he showed me a separate quarter.
“This is where the servants live,” he said.
Looking at the house, I wouldn’t have minded being a servant. It was better than many houses. We drove through the entire hood, Logan telling me who owns what home. As if I knew the names.
Having seen enough, we drove back to my campus. I concluded that the date was nice, he was nice. However, that was it. I’m not doing it a second time or ever. When we got to my door, I remembered my packed shrimp was in the back sit. I didn’t want to ask for it. I don’t want to sound hungry or greedy. Was hoping to hear the words “oh you forget your shrimps.” I didn’t hear them, I didn’t ask. It probably skipped his mind. I thanked him for dinner and got off.
“We should definitely do it again,” he said.
“Yeah, sure,” I lied.
I didn’t talk to my roommates about my date. Matter of fact, didn’t tell them I was going on a date, which was why I was very anxious when Logan took a different route. I can be dead or kidnapped and no one will know where I was or who I was with. Promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. Though, my roommates and I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. We stayed out of each other’s businesses.
Logan wanted to continue chatting after the date that night. I told him that I was sleepy and that we’ll chat the next day. I was ready to move on so my plan was to start letting him off slowly. I would say I was in class when he texted or I’ll tell him to text me later, that I was reading, or doing homework. I don’t know if he didn’t get the hint or was just being persistent.
“How about another date?” he asked.
“I am busy this weekend; I have a bunch of assignments. Next weekend, I’ll be doing a story for the Campus Chronicle. May be the weekend after. I’ll let you know when I’m available,” I lied again.
“Just let me know when you’re free,” he said.
I order Chinese food one evening as a treat to myself. My order came through and you wouldn’t believe who was my delivery driver? You guessed right, Logan! I was a bit shy when I met him at the front door. I have been deliberately ignoring his messages. There he was his usual shy self. I totally avoided talking about anything else other than the usual pleasantries.
“How’s it going?” I already know the response to this. I thanked him for my food and headed upstairs. I didn’t tip him this time and I didn’t feel guilty about it. To be fair, I didn’t have cash on me. But I also knew I didn’t owe him an explanation.
After that awkward incident, I totally avoided ordering from Jade Garden. I mean, is Logan your only delivery driver? (Rolls eyes) I had to respond to his messages after that.
He just saw me, I wasn’t dead and nothing was wrong with my fingers. What excuse did I have really?
Logan told me that his grandfather kicked him out of the house and called the cops on him. His grandfather said he stole from him. Logan swore it wasn’t him. He told me he was living in his car. I felt sorry for him and told him that he’ll be fine. He kept going on and on about it.
One evening, he texted me again saying he was going to visit his sister. It was a three-hour drive and asked if I would go with him. Never mind it was raining that night.
I told him that I wish I could. It was not true. I can’t imagine going with Logan anywhere else. He called me later that night and told me he got a flat tire on the way. And it took him a while before he could get help and that he got soaked in the rain.
One thing I have come to learn about Logan was that in his world, nothing ever goes right. And that is scary for me. That was a little weird, he was a little weird. I don’t know anyone who had it that bad. Whatever happened to oversharing? I feel sometimes he just needed someone to listen, empathise and inspire hope. I don’t know if I was that person for him. All I know is he trusted me enough to tell me all the personal stuff he was going through or he just was not stable. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if any of the stuff he said was true. Is it really possible for one person to be that cursed? Nothing good ever happens to him.
The final straw for me was when Logan called me saying he received a text message threatening his life. I asked him if he knew who would have wanted him dead and why. I brushed it off, saying it was perhaps a wrong number.
Logan swore the text was meant for him and that whoever sent the text knew him.
“You should go to the police. This is serious,” I said.
“I am not going to the cops. I’ll be ready when ‘they’ come for me,” he said with much confidence.
That was it for me. I deleted his number and never ordered from Jake Garden.