“Town! Oh! Very big present. From United States. And Mr Obama from United States, yes? Good man, good man. Verrry good man. Let go all prisoners. All prisoners go free. Very good man. Very big present.”
“From mother and father.”
“Ah! Oh! Verrry good. Lucky lucky. Very lucky. Birthtime! Birthtime! And Obama? You like Obama?”
“Well… he’s better than Bush for sure. Yes. So far, so good.”
“Very good. He let prisoners free. No one prisoner.”
“She means Guantanamo Bay, I think. Yes, but lady, let’s wait and see yeah?”
“Wait and see? No. He free now now. Free prisoners, yes, Guantanamo! Yes! Free now now. And Mr Bush. Oh, he only fight. Like fight with everyone. Everyone. Verrry bad man. Very bad.”
“Now, yeah. There, we agree. Very bad man.”
“But he should go to prison. Don’t you both agree?”
“Oh! You funny lady! Bush prison! Oh! Funny funny! That won’t happen! Very funny! You very funny at birthtime!”
“No no. She’s gotta point. He should go to prison.”
The lady’s mobile phone rings. Her hands disappear in to layers of scarfs, the phone goes quiet. She lifts it to her ear and begins to talk Somali. Her voice becomes louder and louder until she is shouting into the phone, holding it in front of her mouth, then replacing it to her ear each time the caller responds. She talks all the way down Balls Pond Road. Or shouts, rather. The man, hooded, in shades, stands up and tuts at her. She smiles to him, nods and lifts a hand in peace. She keeps shouting in Somali and the man and I both hear the word mobile mentioned. Finally the call ends.
“Oh, sorry sorry! Verrry sorry! Verrry verrry old man. No hear. His ear no hear! Very old man. I have to shout! Mobiles. Very bad. Oh, mobiles! Very bad. Sorry sorry sorry.”
Dalston. They both get off. The tall man with the hood and shades holding her arm gently to help her balance her bulging body clambering down from the bus. They wave at me as the bus pulls away, and she points at the large wrapped box at my side, smiling and smiling. The man has turned. He’s gone. I hug my box and remember Johannesburg.