JASON REYNOLDS

writin' and whatnot

The years go fast...in America: A conversation with a friend from Cameroon

Yesterday, I was talking with my homeboy Adamu. He's from Cameroon, and has been here for about ten years. The conversation started with us catching up, checking in to see how each other's holidays were. "Ah. Mine was cool," he said with his normal laid back disposition. His accent still thick, no sign of New York in it. No sign of America. He liked it like that, and I liked that he liked it like that.

He continued, "I just hung out with a friend, had a few drinks, and called it a night."

I told him about mine. How I had gone to DC to see my family. My parents, my siblings. How family time had been the greatest gift.

"When's the last time you saw your family," I asked. Adamu's face changed, and I could tell the conversation was about to shift.

"Man," he sighed, looking up at the sky as if he was searching for the answer in the clouds. "I think it's been seven years."

"Wow." That's all I could think of. Wow.

"It's just so expensive, you know? But the crazy thing is, it doesn't seem like it's been that long. The years go so fast in America," he smiled, and shook his head. "In Cameroon, seems like the years take forever. Like time goes so slow."

I smiled. I've never been to Cameroon, but I always imagined a big moon, and a slow second-hand.

"Why do you think that is?" I asked.

"Because here, you work so hard to survive that all you can do is come home and sleep so that you can have the energy to work hard another day. Then you get up and do it all over again. And over again. And over again."

I nodded.

"In Cameroon, you live man. You work, but you live more. And when you spend more time living, with your mind on living, life seems to last longer. But when your mind is always on work," he paused and started smiling, "work seems to last longer."