Queen Amina of Zazzau, now the province of Zaria in modern Nigeria, took a new lover in each town she conquered, then had the men beheaded in the morning when she left.
Woman Warriors: An Unexpected History, Pamela D. Toler
It was locker room talk, but not the bad kind, the grab-them-by-the-you-know-what type, it was more like . . . information gathering.
“Hey, do any of you guys know the new chick in town, ‘Queen’ Amina?” I said, just floating her name to see if anybody else had his eyes on her.
“Don’t know her,” came one response.
“Not my type,” said another.
“She’s all yours, brother,” said a third.
“Great,” I said, but still–I had a funny feeling. A striking woman like her, an actual Hausa Queen. Where was her king? Why hadn’t anybody else dated her?
You know how it is with some women–they’re so beautiful, all the guys are afraid to approach them. After a while they get lonely, hoping that some non-threatening friendly-type like Alan Alda would just come up and say the magic word: “Hi.”
Well, if nobody else was going to make the first move–I would!
I got her number from the White Pages, in the “A’s” for “Amina,” not the “Q’s” for “Queen.” She didn’t pick up, it was her lady-in-waiting who answered.
“Hi is, uh, Queen Aminah in?”
Good question. Who was I, a lowly commoner, to be calling her boss? Well, as my mom always said, a cat can look at a queen.
I gave her what are referred to in professional circles as my “quals”–qualifications. “Captain of my 7th grade school crossing guard, two-time Pettis County spelling bee champion, the only Boy Scout in the history of Camp Pa-He-Tsi to get a perfect score on the Rowing Merit Badge test.”
“The written part, or the rowing part?”
She had seen–or heard–right through me. I’m not good at actual stuff in the real world, more of a book-learnin’ kind of guy. “The, uh, written part.”
“Okay, that’s good. The Queen doesn’t like ‘street smart’ men.”
“Then I’m the guy for her!”
She put The Queen on, and we chatted amiably about the things that men and women feign interest in when they’re sizing each other up. “You know, it’s funny,” I said at one point.
“Funny strange, or funny ha-ha?”
“Funny strange. You blow into town, wowing all the guys, but you’re a woman of mystery, without a history.”
“Are you a poet?” she asked, and I detected that she was susceptible to the strangely hypnotic power of verse.
“I’m not only a poet, I’m a professional poet.”
“How did you lose your amateur standing?”
“The Christian Science Monitor once paid me $40 for a poem.”
“Christian Scientists–are those the people who don’t get vaccinated?”
“Among others. So anyway, would you like to have a drink sometime?”
There was a moment’s hesitation at her end of the line, long enough for a gnat to bat an eyelash.
“That would be . . . all right,” she said. I’d hooked her!
We met that Thursday night at Quincy Market, ground zero of the dating scene in New England. I arrived first, as is my wont–I’ll be early to my own funeral. She, on the other hand, made a grand entrance, fashionably late with a retinue of servants bearing gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks, as if she were King Solomon. I was glad I had stopped at the ATM on my way over, this was one high-maintenance chick.
I had already started in on my light beer, but she didn’t stand on ceremony. Good thing, since one of her eunuchs had a scimitar long enough to behead me from where he stood way over beyond the little wooden dish of Pepperidge Farm Pizza Flavored Goldfish on the bar.
“So tell me a little bit about yourself,” she said as she sipped at her white wine spritzer.
“Well, I like cats, hate golf.”
“That’s a start. Any hobbies?”
“I collect grievances. How about you?”
“Well, I guess you’d say travel. Don’t like to stay in one place too long.”
“Hmm. I’m more of a homebody.”
“Why is that?”
“Bad back from stupid sports injuries. It gets aggravated when I have to sit too long.”
She looked me over with a calculating air. “That’s okay I guess.” She seemed to be warming up to me. “Okay, let’s get personal. Any nicknames?”
“I don’t know what people call me behind my back, but my password usually includes some variation on ‘Iceman.’”
“Is that because you’re cold and unfeeling?”
“Yes, but I actually worked as an iceman for three summers. How about you?”
I noticed that a few guys in her entourage were stifling giggles. “Well, my girlfriends call me ‘The Praying Mantis.’”
“Huh. That’s unusual. What’s the connection?”
“I really have no idea,” she said with a self-effacing smile. “I’m sure it’s not because the female praying mantis bites the male’s head off after sex. I would never do that!”
Oh boy–did we have a good laugh at that one! I was really starting to like her, she had such a great sense of humor.
We each had a second drink, but I said I’d had enough when she asked if I wanted to get another round. I didn’t want her to think I was the sort of lounge lizard lush–and try saying that five times fast–who hangs around bars until he’s so green he blends in with the ferns.
The waiter brought the check and I was quick to grab it. There was no way I was going to let her pay it, even if she had the entire exchequer of Zazzau at her disposal. “Let me take care of that,” I said as I reached for my wallet. “I always insist on going Dutch the first date.”
“This ‘Dutch’–these are the former colonists of Africa?”
“Yes. They have a tradition of splitting the bill. I want it to be clear that I have absolutely no expectation of getting into bed with you just because I bought you”–I looked down at the check–“$26 worth of liquor.”
Her face clouded over, as if a sudden summer storm had just swept into town. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Whatever chance you may have had of making love to me, you just blew it.”
“What? What did I say?” I protested as she got up and swept angrily out of the place, which wasn’t easy since it was an outdoor café.
“Don’t take it so hard,” one of her eunuchs said as he calculated her share of the 20% tip. “So many guys go on one date with her, and completely lose their heads.”