Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Conversation with Two Somali Girls About My Clothes

Ubah wants to know where I bought my shoes.

(Ubah loves clothes and jewelry and always notices whenever I wear something new or different. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen all that often--I wear pants and a tee-shirt almost every day--so sometimes she has to resort to making requests. Wear your beach rock necklace tomorrow, she'll say. And your silver earrings. I want to see how they look together.)

I look down at my shoes. These? I say. I'm not sure. They're pretty old.

When did you get them?

I don't know, I say. Maybe 2005.

She holds ten finger in front of her face and starts ticking them off.

Khadra, who is much better at subtraction, interrupts her. Five, she says. They're five years old.

Five! Ubah exclaims. Your shoes are five years old?

Um, I say, yeah.

What about your shirt? Ubah asks. How old is that?

About a year.

What about your pants?

About a year.

How about your necklace? Khadra asks. Is it old?

I touch the pendant I'm wearing. It was a gift. I know exactly when and where I got it.

Pretty old, I say. 2003.

2003! Ubah says. She starts ticking off digits again.

Seven, Khadra supplies.

I don't have anything that old, Ubah says.

And she probably doesn't: she's a refugee.

I consider telling the girls how old my underwear is, but decide against it.

What about your sweater? Khadra asks. When did you get that?

My sweater? I say, trying to remember. I don't know. Maybe 1990?

What! Ubah says. That means it's--

Twenty! Khadra says.

Ubah leans over and strokes my arm. 1990, she murmers.

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