Car 7

223
Professor Dionne Butler

Outward appearance

Elegant, but slightly down at heel, black woman about 45. Very tall, so her long brown flared trousers extend into the aisle, showing thick-heeled but scuffed shoes. Huge, new fawn anorak, low cut black sweater.

Inside information

American academic and ex-student of Angela Davis's at UCLA. Dionne emigrated to Nigeria ten years ago and now teaches at the University of Lagos. In London at the invitation of SOAS to lecture on African literature. En route to to visit MOMI.

What she is doing or thinking

Since getting on at Kilburn, Dionne has had her eye on the old lady in the corner, who kept looking around her, horror stricken. She has just stood up and asked a young man to dance. People's faces froze, they looked away. Oh come on, she just wants some life! She hasn't asked you for money. People cough and shift.

Then the woman starts to sing: Is that all there is? and Dionne understands.

Dionne first heard the song when she was 17, and it seemed then to sum up America; something sad and disaster-bound about it. Even then, it was loneliest country in the world. One reason why she lives in Africa.

And people look as if the poor old dear has said something obscene. She's singing!

Dionne stands up, and with her strong clear voice, joins in. Her eyes fix all the frightened people in turn. "Everybody!" Dionne shouts and links arms with the old woman, who looks up at her with comprehending gratitude.

The young man bows. The dance begins.


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