Tramiti took in the scenery- lush green trees were standing tall, protecting the fragile flowers underneath in the soft grass. The Netherlands was a beautiful country once you got out of the busy city. A lone biker was enjoying the sun and beautiful surroundings and she felt homesick for the first time.
Liana stirred and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes with her tiny fist. Tramiti kissed her softly on the cheek and reached for a wet towel to freshen up her little girl. She promised to take a lot of pictures – such special occasions must be documented properly. She waited for the bus to come to a complete stop and for the other families to exit the bus, before she grabbed her bag and carefully went down the stairs.
The weather was nice- a soft breeze made her feel refreshed and the sun was warming up her face nicely. The belly of the bus seemed to have violently spit out all the different colored strollers. Liana’s was a simple stroller with a retro print on the seat. The original lining frayed long ago, but she managed to buy an inexpensive piece of good quality fabric to sow a new lining. Her mother would have been proud. Again she felt homesick, without being able to control those irrational thoughts. Why today of all days would she feel homesick?
“Liana? Liana?”, someone was calling out her daughter’s name just as she managed to fish her stroller from underneath the stroller vomit. “Yes, over here!”, she whispered. “Liana?”, the girl calling out her daughter’s name was stunning. She had golden brown skin, searching dark eyes in beautiful almond-shaped frames. Her dark brown hair shone in the sun and was held casually in a ponytail. Her breasts fit nicely in the shirt and her jeans fitted seamlessly as if they were tailor made. They probably were, no doubt she was one of the richies, but somehow Tramiti felt drawn to her. She seemed different somehow.
Their eyes met and Tramiti walked up to her to introduce herself. “Hi, ik ben Tramiti en zij is Liana” (Hi, I’m Tramiti and this is Liana), she said in her best Dutch accent. Just the way they taught her at the refugee shelter. The girl smiled and introduced herself as Danae. Her smile was almost hypnotizing. “We wachten nog op een ander gezin en dan kunnen we naar binnen” (We’re waiting for one more family and then we can go inside), she explained. She went on calling the name of the other family that was to join.
They were paired up with (presumably) a single mother from Ghana with a boy and a girl. Nateesha was exactly what Tramiti would have expected from a woman from Ghana- broad hips, big breasts and weave in her hair that didn’t match her own hair. The little kids were overweight, even though Tramiti would imagine they didn’t have much money between the three of them. The little girl’s hair was divided in several stomps of hair and already Tramiti could see that she would grow up to be anything but a lady. “Hoe heet jij?” (What’s your name?), Danae asked the little girl while stroking her hair without any reservation. “Lakeesha, mevrouw” (Lakeesha, Miss), the girl replied. Tramiti was surprised that the girl seemed shy and was very well-mannered for a four-year old. “En jij, jongeman?” (And you, young man?). The little boy was as polite as the girl. Lahi was 12 years old and thanked Danae for the opportunity to join the group on the trip. Danae laughed and said that the pleasure was all hers- she let them all in on a secret: without having kids of her own she had no real excuse to go to the zoo, so she thanked them instead.
They made their way to the main gate. They scarcely set two steps into the zoo before Nateesha had to use the restroom, Lakeesha was hungry and Lahi was thirsty. Tramiti couldn’t help but roll her eyes, but Danae didn’t seem bothered. She asked the gate attendant where the nearest restrooms were and she seemed to have conjured up three juice boxes and snack out of nowhere. Magical. Tramiti watched with fascination the way Danae seemed to be able to connect with Lakeesha as well as she was able to connect with Lahi. She had no trouble switching to more adult conversation when Nateesha joined. And before she knew it, Tramiti was engaged in a lively discussion with Nateesha, while Danae was helping the kids take pictures with the disposable cameras she had in her handbag.
“Jouw dochter is heel lief- jij nog bij vader?” (You’re daughter is sweet- you still with father?), asked Nateesha. She wasn’t fluent in Dutch, but instead of annoying Tramiti, she found it endearing. She hesitated, but decided she liked Nateesha and she shared her life story. Nateesha smiled because of the bitter way she talked about her former lover. She knew all about African men, after all she met some before she met her husband. Her husband was a loyal husband and loving father, but she agreed that he was an exception to the rule. Tramiti smiled. Yes, she could agree- African men were intoxicating, amazing lovers and you couldn’t get a more manly partner in life. Suddenly, she missed Ken. She remembered the good times, how she felt safe in his arms. How he inspired her to be better than she ever thought she could be.
Tramiti and Nateesha stood by the giraffes and looked on as Lahi helped Liana with the camera, while Danae was taking pictures of Lakeesha posing. By the time they moved on to the tigers, Tramiti was fully engaged in a story that Lahi was telling her. Supposedly he won a basketball game at school and everyone thought he was a good player, even though he was a bit heavy and short. At lunch, Tramiti found herself standing at the buffet and helping Lakeesha choose wisely- no fries, but greens and vegetables.
The sun was setting and they were all summoned to the bus. Danae gathered them in a nice sunny spot and asked a passer-by to take a couple of pictures with the group. Tramiti felt included and Liana seemed to have a permanent smile on her face. Back at the bus Nateesha helped Tramiti load the stroller and they sat together chatting the two hours away.
It was tough saying goodbye to Nateesha and the little ones. Tramiti was especially sad to see Danae hop back on the bus on her way to her daily life of privilege and comfort. Her tram wouldn’t get her for another 15 minutes, so she crossed the street to the internet cafe. She might as well load the pictures while she had internet access. One picture she decided to print- it was the group picture they had taken at the end of the day. Danae was holding Liana in her right arm, while her left arm was casually draped around Nateesha’s shoulder. Tramiti was hunched forward, both Lahi and Lakeesha holding her as tight as their little arms would. She knew now she could move on. She was ready. She forwarded the picture to Ken with a simple message- I get it and I forgive you.
As she was crossing the street, a dark-skinned muscular, very good looking guy smiled at her. Yes, they were not all the same- Ken was just not the one. She crossed the street and stood there shielding her eyes from the sun, waiting for the tram to roll to a halt.