Three fragments on women, sex, and boredom.
Short and packed full of rich imageries. If you asked Ben Okri what these “stories” are, he might call them “an amalgam of short story and haiku, a “story as it inclines towards a flash of a moment.”
Thanks to Dami Ajayi for sharing his work!
A SWAIN’S MONOLOGUE
Why did we not fall in love?
I did. I swear I did fall in love with you, in slow installments, dulled by distance, tinkered by time. I was already in too deep before I realized that I had fallen. And that was before we had that really trite conversation about our favourite bars on campus. Then there was that long span of time that sandwiched our next encounter after our final exams.
So I came to you, brandishing my love. I watched you reward my proposition with amused smiles, a flash of yellow teeth; your lips parted demurely, the color of your lipstick complimented your gums.
I did not understand why it was so difficult for you to reason with me. We had known each other for about how long? Six years. Multiply that by 365. Add two days for leap years. Perhaps this is too much arithmetic. Just envision a big number, any number at all, in excess of five thousand, then imagine every one of them as days, inelastic days, days that must run their marathon course, two clockwise strolls.
Now imagine me coming to you after such a torturous and winding contemplation, asking for your hand. It must not be for sex and other guilty pleasures. It must be for something more, something more spaced, some more articulate, long-lasting, infinite.
I know I have not been of good behaviour but what would you rather have a testosterone-powered youth do? I had to exhaust my post-pubertal recklessness, drain the power surge of that stupid delusion of overwhelming strength; now I believe bodies also give.
What will you drink? Do you mind if I smoke? You do mind if I smoke. But you’ll be having what, a bottle or cider? No, a bottle of red wine.
You don’t drink much, you say. But the scenery has set you in the mood.
I look around us, it’s my favourite bar. You don’t like this place much, but you don’t detest it enough not to sit with me and watch the local Juju musicians sing praises of middle-aged drunks with hysterical wives waiting at home.
This is a small town, where death and commerce transact daily. Everything else recedes into the mirage of meaningful life; the spoils of the genocide was not worth the bloodshed, the rubble of crumbling properties. But here, the men and their kept women are expending sweat, dancing, hearts thickened with Dutch courage; I see a night of sleazy motels, discarded condom wrappers, gratifying ceiling gazes. Great casual sex sometimes breeds insomnia.
You say you can’t love me, not with this glowing cigarette pacing up my lips every so often. You can’t date a neo-Sango faithful were your exact words. I don’t laugh at your clichéd comment which you had meant as a joke. First off, I don’t care so much for your joke. Your presence and mine seemed to have merged, suspended by some sort of magnetic field, or was it the alcohol?
The Juju music stung the air, the piano was out of tune, the speakers had lost their baritones and diaphragms, and the microphone parts were held together by wallows of duct tape. Beyond the occasional elegant falsetto that climbed above the mediocrity, the music was tedious. That was when you asked me to take you home.
The car’s windshields were down as if we implored wind gusts to aerate the tension between us. We knifed through the smooth asphalt and the night. I wanted to turn into your junction when your hand touched the steering wheel.
The mess of my room, the laundry pile scattered across the rug, the creaking fridge, the pungent smell of alcohol drying on used glass cups were invariably forgotten when the hot kisses began. You kissed like a passionate lover, playing darts with your pitch-fork tongue, flickering here and there; you even laughed sometimes when I couldn’t keep up.
What is the wine, I wondered? What is the feel of kinship in the midst of cogwheel bureaucracy, the late night vigil at the hospital playing clinical sentry who kept diseases at bay. Or was it just my imagination?
When the tomorrow comes will you remember last night at all? Or will you ask me politely to take you back to your place?
There comes a moment in a club house when the DJ experiments unsuccessfully with less popular songs. The usual response of partiers is inertia: some partiers will dance languidly to the songs to douse the effect of the drinks they had taken, couples whose fleeting relationship blossomed might be kissing and touching themselves and yet, some, like me, will lean on the wall and smoke to pass time.
Usually the air in the club is stuffy, laden with cigarette smoke and people are woozy from either inhaling too much nicotine or from too many drinks. It’s a typical club, bourgeoisie in its patronage but they can’t keep the prostitutes out!
No one can pick them apart from the ladies who came in the company of male friends or sororities who came in the companies of themselves.
So here I am in the club, while the dance floor is on recess save an oddly-paired couple dancing a fast-paced salsa to a techno song. I am seriously considering retiring for the night to my hotel two blocks away.
I had left the serenity of my locale for the insouciant ethos of the city about an hour drive away in a rickety bus. The serenity of the dull town had begun to get on my nerves; the boredom had slowly morphed into ennui and was threatening to retch out my sanity. I thought some time away, perhaps a weekend, in the city powered on hormones and booze, will be a sort of release. But I seem to be wrong.
When I flick my dying cigarette stub into the air, I catch her eyes. She is looking at me, perhaps assessing me like I am auditioning for the job of her mannequin. I look away into the dance floor gradually being rejuvenated with a song popular from two years back and I still feel the fire of her eyes on me, licking my body, lapping my features generously. This stare has a kind of intensity that can shred my clothes. A question plays in my mind. Who are you?
She looks well off in her short sequin dress. Her face is rid of make-up, except that the glossy lipstick merged with her skin nicely. Her eyebrows are dark perfect arcs. She has hoop ear-rings on. Her body is hunched like she is wearing stilettos. She stands several paces away from me, her demeanor cold but her eyes are fiery halos.
Is she a student? No, she is more sophisticated. She looks about my age, on the wrong side of the twenties. Can she be a prostitute? Prostitutes are too interested in commerce to stare or meet gazes. Is she seeking pleasure?
A thickset man in Mohican and leather jacket soon block my view and holds her waist. He kisses her neck; she arches her neck so that our eyes still meet. She opens her mouth slightly and a sound, perhaps a moan, escapes her.
I weigh my options. I can walk up to her and have a short chat. Perhaps she’ll be willing to come back to my hotel room with me. I can walk up to her after the Mohican guy has left and incur his wrath: some back and forth pushing, bottle-breaking on heads and splitting of lips. I can walk up to her and tell her it is rude to stare. I can walk up to her and tell her how beautiful she is. Or I can just look at her one more time and walk out of the club.
I draw a long look at her and left.
DAFFODILS IN THE WIND
The door shut with a deafening shriek and he grabbed her. She let out a soft purr, her faculties soused in the countless bottles of cider she had taken at the open-air bar where they had met, where she had been waiting.
She had been waiting for a sign, for a word, an action, for anything at all. The ennui in that town was going to be the death of her—it threatened her sanity, constantly. She did have a job, which she despised. It spanned half a day; but this seemed to only worsen her abject loneliness at night when her room was deprived of air and she wished the cranky ceiling fan will just move.
She got a sigh instead. It came from behind. A man in a red face cap had just finished a phone call. He lowered his phone and reached for a tumbler of beer. She watched him relish the golden fluid, slurp it noisily like an infant. She tried to restrain a chuckle.
In a moment, his chair migrated to her table and he was telling her about his town, where she had been posted, her dead heroes; the devastating war that ravaged them and the bunkers that became erosion sites; the massive rural-urban exodus and the ultimate annual Christmas return. His voice bore that eastern intonation that failed to caress consonants and spat them out like bad kola.
He ordered a plate of stewed goat-meat for her. She ate languorously at first until she discovered that the meat was properly made. It was also quite spicy, so he ordered another bottle of the cider she had been having. Then she had another plate and another drink. Then another drink…
Soon, she was in the passenger’s seat of his Land Cruiser, its fragrance reminded her of the after-tobacco scent in her late father’s car. The scent called from a past that seemed so far receded. The unfamiliar bumpy road seemed to wind on and on and her throbbing head bobbed like daffodils in the wind. She closed her eyes to the blast of the air-conditioner and she felt herself falling.
A door opened and she heard an indistinct laugh. Her leg hit a bottle that clattered on the floor. That was when the door shut with the shriek and he grabbed her.