Is this…if your ringtone is John Mayer’s Heartbreak Warfare, I’m going to strike up a conversation with you. I am not declaring my weirdness, just the profound understanding of what that song means to me.
I was meeting with a group out of town today. I had just strapped myself in when one of the guys in the back shouts to someone outside, “Weh! Ali, simu yako…”I could have cared less but then it was Heartbreak warfare and all I could think of was laying my weapons down and turning to get a good look at this Ali dude. Ali comes back, looks at the caller ID and then says “wacha tu ilie,” and at this point I’m thinking it’s a conversation he is not ready for.
I dig that. I get that.
Two magic words: Airplane Mode
When I’m not down for anything be it a text, call, notification or beep, I set my phone on airplane mode and read a book or two. Sometimes, at night, if I am unable to write, I would look up random policies on children and read them comparing what each government has to say about child protection. (I find Singapore’s policy quite refreshing; but Liberia does take the cake when it comes girl’s education and gender bias and merging it with their basic education policy, that’s kickass if you ask me. I’m yet to read Japan’s but I feel like South Korea could be worth a read some night.)
Ali comes back to the van. The driver steps in and introduces me to the team. At this point, I know two things: they are working on health and sexual reproduction in a community and they need me to help them plan out how to reach out to the women and young girls. I am introduced to; Anne (Sociology major, cute glasses), David (Masters in Community Development, Unapproachable facade), Ali (Communications, hence the John Mayer vibe and I tell him that I was once a Communications Assistant at my previous job), Stella (Project Manager, the one who reached out to me) and then Humphrey (the driver whom I like, but know he’s the senior field manager and he’s just too modest to admit that he’s the boss). Stella is keen on clarifying that this is me just giving me a guideline and that I wouldn’t be employed by the organization they work for. She hands me some liability documents and I take them and sign them. Ali asks “won’t you want to read those?”
“No, I know my way around them. The only document I ever read is anything that deals with photo and video consent and it’s not here. So, this means that any photos you take of me while we are working would not be shared without my consent. Is that so?”
“Eh, I have the consent forms but I thought I’d give them to you once we are in the field.”
“Why did you pick heartbreak warfare as your ringtone?”
“Your ringtone, that’s John Mayer’s song Heartbreak warfare off his Battle Studies album. Why did you pick it?”
“I like it. Do people have reasons behind the ringtones they assign?”
“Yes, you just said you like it. I love that song. It’s cool that you have it. Can I take a look at the consent forms you had in mind for me?”
“Sure, let me just get them for you.”
At this point, Humphrey looks at me and smiles, “You are not what I expected.”
“What did you expect?”
“Someone taller, older or let’s just say a bit different and serious like most consultants are, but you are…easy to talk to.”
“Why do you say so?”
“Ali does not talk to anyone while we are driving. He would have his earphones on and listen to music the whole way, but you come along and suddenly he’s talking. I don’t know what to make of that?”
I nodded and we talked about everything including why it was important to buy bananas at Kisian and not Ndori. They dropped me off at home an hour ago. I wished them well but Ali jumped out of the car and reach out to me just as I was opening the gate. He dipped his hands in his pockets and leaned closer and said “I really like you. I mean, I like how you talk, but don’t get any ideas, it’s just that few people can…you know, speak, yaani hawawezi kuongea vile unaongea and that’s dope. Na, juu ya hiyo ringtone, well, sometimes you like someone and she’s not yours and it’s like war every time. So, see you next time, I’d love to hear your suggestions on a success story I’m working on. We could do something together, I mean…nitanyamaza sasa, bye.”
“Sure, bye Ali.”
I knew he was cool from his ringtone because you’ve gotta have something in you to set heartbreak warfare as a ringtone.