They awake to find the last of the daffodils have been met by an early bloom. It’s February and beyond the patio full of council-issued bags of garbage and amidst the barbed wires of Ivy that scaled the backyard wall on the Vietnamese side, the newborn petals had curled themselves out of their blackness overnight to fight against the stinging winds that came in the first two months of eighty-eight.
There’s a muffled series of tiny eruptions in the flat upstairs. The portrait of the accommodator’s absent sister stares out onto the living room and the traveller arrives at the shameful urge to be covered that only the sudden discernment of one’s permitted molestation can bring. Four eyes in two faces dart around the room like mice and both men search furtively for clues and their clothes. And as a herd of ochre light threatens to slice the drapes and flood the room with blades of the broken morning, the growing noise from the upstairs neighbours ensures the traveller gets dressed in a subtle bubble of second-hand silence.
Within minutes the traveller slips out of the foreign country and crashes into the familiar and unsmiling human traffic outside the army of red brick houses on Frontline. As Saturday morning ripens, the thoughtless bastard waits for his lost mind to catch up with him and when, within minutes, it does, the familiar longing he avoided yet another night unravels before him like the frayed sleeve of some unwanted bouclé bomber and he is reminded that he must be lonely once again.
‘When I die they will quote me, but while I live they will do everything in their power to keep me quiet.’ He spits the words at the pedestrians whose curse words pickle the air around him. ‘This is how I survive!’ he continued. ‘By jumping into rabbit holes of Mephedrone and sexual misadventure and exploring the land of decapitated queers where ripped torsos make abandoned men rip up their principles in favour of chem-friendly fucking. This is the only thing that will never leave me, this is lonely.’
The volume of his sincerity is stained with immediate embarrassment and he slams cold, wet palms to his ears and clench his eyes like fists until he sees stars behind them. Perhaps – he thought – he should have lied. The high street is no place for sincerity.
But Ajamu was bubble wrap. He said he worked in security. Boasted of being a head doorman, which, he said, meant he did not have to work the door. Instead, he got to sit in some control room in the brain of the building watching people do things people do when people think they cannot be seen by anyone, on the club’s surveillance cameras. He was a nighthawk.
This omniscience combined with the infamous conceit Nigerian men are known to employ to inflate everything from the size of their bank balance, sociopolitical influence, educational achievements, work position and the size of their penis made this minimum-waged black bouncer appear, in his own eyes, godlike but to Kamau – the quiet Kenyan warrior – he was but a temporary exit strategy. A way out.
He was kinder than his profession suggested and that kindness made Kamau a fool. It made him less vigilant. He stopped noticing the frequent battles quiet warriors need to look out for immediately, because Ajamu’s boasts carried within them the latent promise of protection but Ajamu, like the God he envied, was a forgery.
That first night was the night before spring. The night Kamau allowed himself to get wired in an effort to mask his excitement on skunk and a shared six-pack of Strongbow. The skunk entered and chased the fleeing tension throughout his body. It pulled his vest up over his head exposing his angry heart. It peeled his cap from his head like a scab and his hair bled into the blackness that made everything in the living room but Ajamu and the picture of his absent sister insignificant. It loosened his shoestrings, unbuckled his belt and plucked open his flies where Ajamu found the loneliness curled up and quivering in Kamau’s crotch. He masturbated himself and though the quiet warrior fought, he negotiated the loneliness out of his dick until breath burnt red in his eyes and made a mist of the absent sister and then Ajamu lay on his belly and Kamau fucked the nighthawk until he forgot the way numbness and his hypothetical Nigerian hierarchy felt.
‘My father died. I had to go back home to bury him. I just got back. I feel nothing.’ The sadness spilled from Ajamu with Kamau’s semen. Perhaps, the traveller thought, it was his ejaculation that inspired this sudden burst of unnecessary information.
‘So is he.’ A slight pause. ‘My father was a sorry bastard with many wives and all of them, like you, apologized for taking him from me but the blame is no more theirs than it is yours. Is your father dead?’
‘My father is dead to me.’
Ajamu liked his sex unprotected but he, like so many in the land of decapitated queers, guarded his gay little heart. As this sign that there might be some sameness under their unwashed black skin left Kamau’s mouth a fine beam of light came in through the curtain.
We carry one another. We carry cum like cultures from one fuck to unleash in the arse of another. We share syringes, we share partners, we share social cigarettes and upon further excavation we find that we share shame but we never share our identities. We always maintain a false name.
One day when you are not looking, he will be looking right at you. He will be studying your idiosyncrasies and the inflections you think are too small to make you great and too private for public consumption. Pity will tighten his slack jaw and an unexpected ray of light will cut through an unopened blind. That’s when he will begin to yearn for his no strings fuck to accompany him on coffee dates where neither party drinks coffee and cinema dates where you watch one another and ignore the fucking film. That’s when he will try to love the man with whom he thought he would only try his luck. One day raw sex will give way to raw emotion and one night will no longer be enough time to make Love, because surely making love is more than making sex noises under the watchful gaze of an absent aunty!
Love is a hand-me-down. A many peopled and densely populated city. It is an imperialist. A simple divinity often ruined by people and their complexities. The earthly edifice of all heavenly misinformation. It is not a joining thing. Love invokes separation. Love is common and inexpensive. It is neither rare nor unattainable but it is love and the only cure for the culture of longing that has so many nighthawks loosing teeth and loosing sleep in the hubristic underworld of sex, SLAM and second-hand STD’s.
Love. Your. Health.
Say NO to SLAM.
You’re safe as well as sweet now.