Rhapsody, because it is Wednesday (1)

Piercing. That is the only fitting description of the day sky. Piercing. It is clear; the clarity of a still and deep section of a river, the kind that makes you expect something to jump out at any moment, or rather since it is the sky, to fall down. It is hot, the heavy heat that seeps into your clothes and lies beneath them like a recalcitrant puppy hiding under a sofa. I enjoy days like these; I like the feel of the dry warm air on my skin, I like watching the fine blinding dust as it is carried by the wind, the dust that forms ghosts of objects that are observed through it, that finds its way onto every surface and the comforting warmth that rises from the ground in the evening and into the night.

They are quiet peaceful days, the heat having lulled the world into a resigned torpor. The land becomes barren, the grass shriveled up into infinite soft thorns that crackle under your feet, the vistas that were once green are now dead and dull. I walk barefoot when I am outside the house, relishing the tickling sensation of the dry blades as they give way beneath my weight and titillated that one might puncture my skin. And the smell, the heady earthy smell of the dust and the dryness. I love this smell, I have from as far back as I can remember. It is raw, pure, nature untainted, at its most naked.

The nights are lovelier: no clouds, clear stars, clear moons. Trying to absorb the vastness of space makes you feel small and fills you with child-like wonder, looking at that infinity of light points, communing with the past because many of those stars are long gone. And, always, the silence. The simple bereftness of it all. There is an inexplicable beauty in desolation, in the deadness. Maybe it is in the knowing that life will bloom again, or that the skies will be grey and angry soon enough and that cold and the wetness will follow. The anticipation of change. Or, maybe it is that it is a reflection of the end (or a beginning), of everything, of us: everything will will end, everything will die, we will die, sooner or later, and that is alright

Frontin’

“Uhm…”

“Uhm…?”

“I was thinking…. we could, erm….”

“We could….?”

“You know, if you aren’t too busy this weekend….”

“Spit it out, man! For someone who claims to be a writer and an avid reader you are surprisingly inarticulate!”

“Surprisingly inarticulate when it comes to you.” I do not say this out loud, I grin and lick my lips, now chapped because she brings out the nerves, brings out that special daftness reserved for infatuated boys. I can almost hear the gleeful tittering of the other commuters beneath the music. Today, it is an oldish hip-hop mix, most of the songs are from the 2000s. It could be worse. Another time, I would have looked away, or let that be that. Not today. Today I get damned. Or not. Hey, I cannot ruin it any more than I may already have with my hemming and hawing and dancing about it. It is not like I have anything else lined up in this department and I am not swimming in women, so I may as well fall on my face with this one, and swim with her. Swim in her?

I stare at her face as she stares back, not backing down, never backing down. She wants an answer, and instead of coming up with one, I am imagining myself tracing her high cheekbones with the tips of my fingers while I whisper stupid shit to her and grab her arse. Stupid shit because by then it will not matter, I will be grabbing that onion from heaven. I do not know what said things may be. I have never been one to talk dirty. But, it is not just about the onion. She is just the right amount of mysterious. Looking into her is looking into a dimly-lit room: I can make out that there are beautiful things there, but I cannot make out what they may be. I just know that I want to know what they are. We are seated next to each other, we do on most rides, in the morning and the evening, and she lives four gates away from my house, yet on most days she feels too far.

I narrow my eyes and match her stare, curving my lips into what I imagine is a cross between a resigned smirk and a I’ll-get-you-soon smile. She smiles. I not so much as see it but feel it. It is like when the sun peeks out from under the clouds on a gloomy day. I cannot help but smile back. I only now notice the current song, Frontin’ by Pharrell. I much prefer the Jamie Cullum cover, being, as she put it once, “a poseur with pretensions of sophisitcation. A village superstar in the big city who now becomes just a village boy.” This is exactly what I am doing, what we are doing, frontin‘.

Our interactions are based on denial: we pretend that we are not in love with each other, and we pretend that it bothers neither of us how cool we play it. And very cool does she plays it, cooler than I do. Beneath her veneer lies a tangle of emotions I might have quite a bit to do with. She would never admit it, especially if I was right. It is in the little things, like last week when she sneered and looked somewhat deflated when I told her I had been invited for a play that Thursday evening and I would not be helping her with her shopping. I have never openly admitted my obsessive fondness for her until now. Almost everyone who meets her gets tangled in her effortless invisible web. I am no different. But now she is here with me, closer than she has ever been. That has to mean something.

She shifts a bit more to my side even though we are about to reach our stop, and leans towards me. Her perfume is cloying, a thick floral scent that her mother got her as one of her presents when she visited Israel, strong Christian woman that she is. Her breath smells vaguely of onions and pepper from that kachumbari she never seems to get enough of at lunch time, the one Mama Oti prepares “special for mrembo”, and that more often than not reminds me of tear gas. Her bust brushes against my arm, softly-hard against my shirt. I imagine that it is her nipple that is pushing harder, straining eagerly. It is not; it is a brooch, a yellow one today – a lizard eye that draws me further into her abyss. I can feel my pulse quickening. Shit, this never used to happen when I used to walk to and from work when I was still living with my parents. I have become unfit. At least this is what I tell myself.

“Stop being such a pussy.”

She whispers and pulls back, her soulful brown eyes widening a bit more. She slowly bites her lower lip and lifts her left eyebrow in a quizzical manner.

“Come over to my place this weekend. I’ll make you that kamande stew I’ve been promising. We can…. Watch a movie after, or let the movie watch us?”

“Much better! See, that wasn’t so hard! That’s one thing off my plate. Ungeniuliza mapema tumalizane haraka. A girl has things to do you know.”

I do not know if she is joking. That special daftness again. I look at her and I can tell my face is frozen, perplexed into silence.

“Do I make you this stupid?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Well, better me than anybody else.”

I feel the matatu jerking to a stop. She gets out first and I follow her, hanging back a bit, thoroughly enjoying the view. I adjust my belt and tuck in my shirt a little more. Wearing button-downs and dress pants to work is concept I am still getting to, even after two months.

“Stop staring at my arse.”

She half turns and smiles as she says this. She knows what she has and what it does to everyone who sees it. Experiences it, rather, because one does not simply see the moon, one basks in its glow, mesmerized by its shimmer. I catch up to her and she links her arm with mine, pulling me closer. It is dark already. She would probably never do this in broad daylight.

“I can’t help it.”

“You’ll have enough of it soon to last you a lifetime.”

She winks. I smile. Good problems.

Crepitus

She put on a brave face, stoic, even in agony, as each of my words cut into her. Even in this moment, she would not let me see her cry. Or, maybe she could not anymore. Her tears had turned to ice and there was ice where her heart used to be. I could almost hear what was left of her heart breaking, and feel the pieces grind against each other with each labored breath. Every motion she made, when she unwrapped her straw, and moved her glass of passion juice closer to herself, felt pained and effortful.

The frozen pieces at the bottom of her glass crinkled as she stirred the contents of her glass mechanically, looking everywhere but into my eyes. I could hear the eternal question, in the heavy silence, “Why?” It is funny how such intense moments always seem to occur without any outside noise. I know they play music in that restaurant, I know there is a hum of voices and cutlery and crockery hitting against each other. But, I only remember the silence…. What I remember as silence. I do not recall anything I said, only that whatever it was burned all those bridges. There was no going back to what we had, or to anything for that matter.

“Just go.”

She said quietly, looking downward and to her left, avoiding my gaze. I moved to pay for the juices we had had.

“No, I’ll take care of it.”

“Are you s…..”

“Yes.”

She spat, cutting me off. I stood up clumsily, not knowing what to do. A handshake, a last hug? I strode out after it occurred to me that that was that. There was a pebble stuck on the underside of my shoe and I felt it scratch and tap the ceramic floor as I walked away, I felt myself walking all over the pieces of our broken hearts, breaking them further. I did not know if I could pick up after myself again. I felt that I had burned through my karma. And, on most days, it still feels like I have.

Back to sleep

You were here, now you are gone.
This wasn’t a dream,
but a reality covered in shadows
of dreams to come
and dreams deferred to near-death.
Looking through the fog
and seeing what I wanted to see.
You have shown me how wrong I was;
what sweet sorrow.
I won’t dream again.
I’m going back to sleep,
back to where
I’m king and conqueror.
It was beautiful while it remained,
this delusion, or was it more?
I don’t know.
Maybe the answers
will flash behind my eyes
tonight or tomorrow morning,
as I wait for new dreams to come.

Not Tonight

I am not feeling her. I want to hang up so that I can go back to The Wire, so that I can go back to sleep, so that I can go back to daydreaming. I want to get up and walk away from this restaurant, walk away from the cloying fried-foods’ smells and the dizzying EDM, and not look back. I want to be my isolated self tonight and to forget these obligations that come with all relationships, romantic or otherwise, the mundane arguments, who is right and who is not, the small talk, the “Tell me something I don’t know about you”, the “You seem reserved. Talk to me. I’m here for you”. I do not know what you know and what you do not know about me. How do you expect me to answer that? There is nothing to talk about. I am fine. Really. It is late, and it will not matter over the course of our lives anyway. I am not feeling any of it tonight. Not tonight. I have a headache and a long day ahead tomorrow. Really.