I first saw you in the crowd
You stood out like a sparkle
Your laugh tickling like a sweet melody
You were the girl next door
And you were single!
I loved you then.
“Do you take this woman to be your wife?”
I was asked three times
Three times “Yes, I do!”
Valentine’s Night to seal the deal
I loved you then.
He was born with a lick of fair hair
Irish by name, African in the mirror, a unicorn
A newborn with an old soul
I loved you then.
Time stole by and went beyond
In sickness and in health, for better or for worse
Memories remain for those quiet moments
Lives will lengthen like afternoon shadows
Until they merge with the ending dusk
And still, I love you.
Xander could feel the bitter cold, blowing into Brixton Tube Station. He stood next to the ticket machines wondering what to do. He was sure his blind date had given up on him. He was already an hour late and BBC’s forecasted cold front had arrived. He was meant to have had drinks and tapas at the new wine bar on Brixton Hill. Murphy’s Law had dogged him all day. Monthly-end reporting to HQ in New York was never smooth sailing. This month’s was the Titanic and he had survived. He would send her an apology via the computer messaging board, when he got back to his flat.
All Xander wanted to do was to have a few pints of lager and a takeaway doner kebab to eat at home. He wanted a quiet pub. He didn’t have the energy to deal with his pub friends. He didn’t mind that they bummed drinks off him, but not this evening. Maybe, he would try the Angel pub on Coldharbour Lane. He always passed it when, he was shopping at Brixton Market. There’s always a first time.
Xander tossed a few coins in the busker’s guitar case and received a salute for his contribution. He braved the freezing rainy wind, which pelted him, as he walked quickly up Brixton Road. He kept to the shopfronts to avoid icy splashes from the traffic. He ducked past the Prince of Wales at the corner, hoping that none of his Friday night friends would see him from within.
He opened the outside door to the Angel and immediately felt warmer. He wiped his face with the dry part of his scarf. He opened the inner door and was met by warm beer and tobacco flavoured air. The elderly West Indian patrons looked at him They lost interest when they saw he was one of them. If they knew I was from Africa…. The jukebox was softly playing Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “No Woman, No Cry”. The pub was half empty. Some patrons were watching Eastenders, others were playing dominoes.
Xander ordered two pints of Tennent’s Extra and a packet of Walker’s Salt & Vinegar. He found an empty table by the jukebox. The lager was refreshingly cold. He downed the first pint without a pause. He felt the alcohol flow through him, banishing the memories of a bad day. He removed his coat and scarf and opened his packet of crisps. He crunched through the packet before he continued with his second pint. He surveyed the patrons, not recognising any of them. He spotted her coming out of the Ladies. She chose to sit alone and flicked through a discarded daily newspaper. He saw a flicker of recognition, when their eyes met.
Xander looked up from the evening newspaper left by a previous occupant. It’s her.
“Hello to you,” Xander responded.
“I know you,” she said in a soft Somali accent. “I met you at Mingles about two weeks ago.”
“Really? I don’t remember,” replied Xander politely.
“Buy me a drink and I will remind you,” she said with a smile. He noticed her well cared for teeth. I don’t know where this is going, but I’ll play along.
“What should I get you?”
“Diamond White. Two bottles and ice.” Strong stuff for a person that size.Either a party animal or a ……
Xander saw the look of the barman when he ordered her drinks. He wasn’t sure of the look, but he wasn’t going to ask. He could look after himself. She’s not with a pimp.
“Thank you,” she said, pouring the first bottle into the ice-filled glass. She downed the drink and poured in the second bottle.
“So, let me remind you. Yes?” The accented voice was enticing him.
Xander nodded and took a sip of his lager. This was better than his doner kebab at home. The min-cab office was around the corner, if the weather got too bad. If not, there is the last No. 37 at midnight or the N3& night bus. She was model-pretty and dark in complexion. Her soft brown pupils contrasted against the clear whites of her eyes. Her afro peeked through her woollen headband. Over her slim body, she wore a thick white polo neck jersey, faded blue jeans, cowboy boots and a fake fur coat. She wore the newly launched Angel perfume.
“So, tell me, then.”
“Look in your wallet. There is a passport photo of me. Read the back of it.”
Xander hesitated before he fished out his wallet. He found her photo and turned it over.
“Now, you believe me?”
“Yes…..” She’s not a frigging Paul Daniel, is she???
“You were drunk that night. Your friends left you and you came home with me. You gave me money. You slept in my bed. You disappeared in the morning, when I was in the bathroom.”
“I remember.” Xander didn’t, really. He remembered waking up fully clothed and in a women’s bed. He had panicked and left. He couldn’t remember how he got there or anything about her. He had spent the next day trying to piece together the night. Eventually, he had put it down to a drunken blackout. If I didn’t have sex with her…….
“No, you don’t remember. It’s in your eyes.”
“I would remember your flat.”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“A few quiet pints and a doner kebab to eat at home. Maybe, watch Red Dwarf and Blackadder II. It’s been a long day.”
“Okay. Come with me. I owe you a meal as interest. Here is your money.”
She took fifty quid from her coat pocket and put it on his newspaper.
“You thought I was a hooker when I came over, yes?”
Xander nodded. She laughed softly.
“I apologise,” Xander said. He was genuinely sorry. Fuck! What was I thinking?? She was undoubtedly a refugee yet she wore expensive perfume. Here she was in such a backstreet pub. Then, there was the barman’s expression. She was a mosaic of contradictions.
“Don’t apologise. A lot of people around here think the same. But, I don’t care. Ready?”
Xander downed the rest of his drink and watched her do the same. He put on his coat and scarf and followed her out. From the corner of his eye, he saw a few patrons shake their heads. He knew what they were thinking. Fuck you all! She’s not that!
The rain had stopped and the snow had taken its place. Snowflakes froze spots on their faces. She pulled him closer and put his arm around her small waist. She looked up at him and smiled. She has beautiful teeth!. They crossed over Electric Avenue, under the British Rail bridge and down Coldharbour Lane. Xander knew Brixton, but not that side. He vaguely remembered finding his way home to Herne Hill. She stopped and entered the Barrier Block. Xander had heard of it. Stories of drugs and muggings rushed into his mind. He pulled back, but she pulled him along. He took a deep breath and resigned himself to his fate. She tried to reassure him with a thumbs up and another Colgate smile.
Xander followed her in through the labyrinth of corridor and steps. His mind was in self-preservation mode. He realised she had stopped at a door and was unlocking it. The door number had been removed, but he could make out the number. Who the hell removes door numbers??
“Welcome,” she said, inviting him in.
She turned on the lights, as Xander cautiously entered. He followed her lead and took off his coat, scarf and shoes. She looked smaller without her fur coat. Her pert breasts and butt were in proportion to her physique. She’s very portable! I must have been so drunk not to notice a body like that.
Xander looked around the lounge. The warmth came from central heating. The room was sparsely furnished, a ghetto blaster, a sofa, a few coloured cotton bean bags and a four-seater dining table. There was a wooden giraffe that she used as a coat hanger. I remember that!
“So, you recognise the giraffe? Come, I will show you around.”
There was a second bedroom. “Flatmate,” she said, answering his questioning eyes.
He remembered her bedroom. It was much tidier. He remembered her unusual lampshade. The kitchen was open plan. It is been renovated recently, which means she hasn’t been here for long.
“What do you want to drink? Have a look in the fridge. Glasses are in that cupboard.”
Xander found a six-pack of Diamond White and Tennent’s Extra in the fridge and a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka in the freezer. Xander offered her a Diamond White and took a can of Tennent’s.
“You never told me your name.”
“You will know it when you remember it.”
“So, what do I call you in the meantime?”
“Nothing, Alexander,” she said with a laugh.
“Ah, my wallet.”
“No, you told me your name and a few things about yourself.”
“Oh, dear! I will change the subject and ask what is for dinner.”
“What would you like?”
“Okay, I will. First, I must change, if you don’t mind.”
Xander gave the lounge a closer inspection, while she changed. There was a stack of Cosmo magazines, an Oxford Dictionary, an English language coursework and a bowl of photos. He leafed through the photos. Some were of her, most were family photos. There was an older man in a pilot’s uniform and an older lady in a doctor’s coat with a stethoscope around her neck. She’s not from a poor family.
“Okay. Time to surprise you. You can turn around.”
Xander turned around. She looked like an Olympic runner, in a Nike t-shirt and shorts.
“You like, yes? she asked as she twirled around. Talk about a well-proportioned physique! And I actually ran away from her??
“Yes, I like. You look much younger.”
She laughed. “That’s what you said the other time.”
“I was drunk. I’m sober now.”
“I’m only five years younger than you. Let me cook before I embarrass you any further.”
Xander sank onto a red bean bag and listened to her sing, as she worked. She can sing! The day’s mental exertion caught up with him and he dozed off.
Her soft voice woke him up. She was inches away from him. They locked eyes. He noticed the light dancing in her eyes and her flawless dark skin. Her mouth was slightly open and her breath smelt invitingly of mint. He felt the moment and then it was gone. She stood up and helped him up.
“Do you want to eat at table or at the bean bags?”
“Table, please. Is this not a second date?”
Xander helped her set the table. With everything set, she put a lit candle on a saucer and placed it on the table. Xander switched off the lights. The candlelight transformed her face. The light and shadows accentuated her Afroasiatic features. This mysterious girl is as beautiful as Iman. Maybe, she s a model.
Xander enjoyed the food. It was samples of Somali cuisine. She explained the dishes and apologised for cheating, as she had the Somali food already prepared. All she did was to heat them up. Xander told her he didn’t mind and that he didn’t believe in women slaving over the stove. She thought he was funny and very unlike the usual African men that she knew. Xander knew that there was more to her than the cute, chatty and effervescent runner sitting across from him.
Xander helped her clean up and wash up. He always found the exercise therapeutic. She rewarded him with a Magnum ice cream. Xander walked over to the window, crunching on his ice cream. The forecasted storm had arrived. He could see snow falling heavily. The ground was already white. Shit, the bloody weatherman got it right!
“So, tell me all about yourself since you know all about me.”
“Okay. But, only if we have the vodka.”
“Bring it on.”
She laughed and brought the bottle. She poured two large measures, which they both downed. Xander stopped after the second measure. All Xander could do was to listen as she drank and told her story. The more she drank, the more she drowsy became until she fell asleep. Xander watched her sleep and heard her soft snores. He checked his watch. It was past two in the morning. He got up and looked out the window. There were more feet of snow and a gentle snowfall. The neon lights reflected orange onto the snow. A car passed silently leaving two black ribbons that were swallowed up by the falling snow. Should I stay or go?Shit! He had disappeared on her the last time. He had already let one person down; he couldn’t do that, again. Not to her after hearing her story, however, slurred it was. Not after watching her drink her painkiller. He remembered her words “That is my story. I don’t want your pity. I just want you to know. If you are there for me when the madness comes back, I will be happy. If not, I will understand. You are human, after all.” I will be there for you.
Xander carried her to bed and tucked her in. She looked at peace, a contrast to her tragic story. Xander leaned forward and kissed her. He felt her instinctively responded, her tongue waltzing with his. He broke the kiss. She licked her lips, but did not wake up. He looked out her window and saw sheets of snow lash silently against the window. The neon lights reflected their glow like a sunrise behind a wet veil.
Xander undressed to his boxers shorts and vest. He climbed in next to her and hugged her. She snuggled and pushed against him. She put his hands over her breasts and sighed.
“Xander, what will happen to me when the madness comes back?” she mumbled.
“Whatever happens, I will be here for you, Halima.”
He watched as the bus and its Christmas lights left the filling station and disappeared into the early morning darkness. He remembered a line from one of Kris Kristofferson’s songs, “Boy, you’ve sure come a long way from home”. He was in the Namibian north and a long way from the Blue Mountains of the Kingdom. Continue reading “Oletu”
I was twelve. She had invited me to her evening birthday party. Her name was Cindy Hepton-Jones. We were best of friends, just a girl and a boy with all the innocence of childhood. Her with her curly red hair and freckles and me with my unkempt afro. We were quite a pair. We were happy kids, growing up in an idyllic middle-class suburban existence. I was a cheeky-go-lucky delinquent.
One sentence carried the Virus. “Go away! You’re not one of us”. I realised that colour mattered. I had been infected. I can’t remember his name, but I remember his face and his voice. He was her visiting cousin from South Africa. He wasn’t much older than us. I spent the rest of the party in the shadows and alone. Dad knew I had been infected when he picked me up. There was nothing he could do, although he was a doctor and a very good one, by all accounts. But, even he couldn’t remove it. We never talked about it. He had been infected, too. His eyes had said it all.
Cindy knew something had gone wrong, that night. I wasn’t my usual self, the next day. She said she had looked all over for me, but couldn’t find me. I could only tell her “sticks and stones”. It was my band aid. I didn’t want to infect her. Someone would, but not me. After that, I pretended to not have the Virus, for her sake.
We parted ways after the last day of school. Se was going back to England, family relocation. There wasn’t going to be another summer of endless happiness. I remember the feeling of utter despair when I watched the Hawker Siddley aeroplane take her away. I watched it until it was a speck in the sunset. The next day, I destroyed our secret place. I guess that is why childhood friends stay childhood friends. Memories of innocence for when we get old and melancholy.
That was nearly five decades ago. For a long time, I abhorred teams, cliques, gangs and groups. I was never one of anything. I was one of me. The Virus was my prisoner, sentenced to life, imprisoned in my soul, with no chance of parole. It has tried everything to escape, but it couldn’t get past my thoughts and into my voice.
I am looking at our class photo. It was sent to me by Cindy’s daughter. It arrived in the post, yesterday, with a covering letter and her diary. It was the unofficial class photo, the practice one, the one before the official serious one. She was smiling at me and I was grinning at her as if we were sharing a secret. Such innocence. That was before the Virus.
I can still remember her infectious laughter, clear and innocent. I heard it a few minutes ago when I read her letter for the umpteenth time. I will read her diary after I have posted this blog. The diary book was my last birthday present to her.
So, when were you infected? Do you know if you’re infected? Or are you in denial? Well, dear Reader, you were infected the day you saw people as being different to yourself, the day you started labelling them, the day you introduced “us” and “them” in your vocabulary.
I lifted my thumb for a lift. The driver ignored me and passed on by. It was late August, in 1979. Apart from the odd vehicle, the only other sound was the haunting cry of the curlew. It was going to be another glorious Irish summer day.
We had spent the night in Letterkenny, but I had left her with her friends. The baker had given me a lift to the Derry road, on his way to Ballyshannon. I had met her on the bus from Galway, a mature arts student, she said. But, I had met her before. No, I had seen her before, at Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival, a month before. She had been singing at a campfire. Her haunting voice had touched something in me and had drawn me to her. Maybe, fate had brought us together. Who knows? Continue reading “Nancy Spain”
I wonder if the WordPress Community could help me…..
So, here goes:
A couple of month’s back I was reminiscing with my Mum. I asked her about an interesting character that used to visit us. We called him the Day and Night Man because he used to arrive just before lunch or supper. When he came, us kids were chased out of the dining room so that the adults could talk. We knew our freeloader was involved in hush-hush affairs.
So, back to Mum. She told me that he was a double agent, but she declined to go into details about his activities – best to let sleeping dogs lie. From what little she disclosed, the Day and Night Man was, indeed, an interesting character. He was Mum’s cousin. Their grandmothers were sisters. Sadly, he was gunned down by unknown assailants in his house, back in the 1980s. I guess one side got to him.
The Day and Night Man got me thinking. I started writing a story about him. I let my imagination loose and it soared like and African condor. The result was my second novel.
I had planned to have the story as three separate books, but I ended up with a book with three parts. I need the reader to get the full SP. I chose the Latin word for Conspiracy. I think it adds gravitas to the book. The story is about conspiracies, after all.
So, I would like the WordPress communities to have a read of my story, over the summer, as a respite to all your blogging. Or ask any of the new adults (18 to 30) that you might know.
Here’s the book description I have used when I published the book on Amazon: Would you have the courage to solve a murder, especially if the deceased was a family member?
Nineteen-year-old Zeb discovers that his uncle was not a victim of a hit and run accident, but of murder. After his shock, anger, regret and helplessness, he vows to find the truth about his uncle’s death.
Accompany Zeb and an unorthodox Celtic heiress with golden eyes and a gift of Third Sight, on his quest. Follow them down one heart-pounding rabbit hole after another, as they follow the murderer trail. Lift the rock off an ancient conspiracy and open cans of worms, as they search for Truth and Justice.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the roller-coaster ride of murder, mystery, conspiracy, sex, family intrigue and retribution.
If you are interested, feel free to e-mail or contact me via the Contact page. Parts of the story are autobiographical. London was my home for a decade, spanning the 80s and 90s.
Peace be with you.
PS: Is it usual for an author or writer to be moved by his or her work? Some parts of my story had me in tears.
I found this poem deep in my computer. I couldn’t open it with my current version of MS Word. The file was a DOC file, last saved in November 1994! I opened it with Notepad. In amongst the Zip DingBats was this poem and another. The events that warranted my poem was what was going on in Rwanda, Bosnia and Somalia. At the time, I was33, free, single and without a cat or a dog. Much has changed both with me and the world, but this poem hasn’t.
Trafalgar Square was full of tired Millennium revellers. His hands were warm in his pockets. She offered him a fag. He had given up the fags on the stroke of midnight. She looked cute in her Tinker Bell costume, so he took it. He leant forward for a light. Their eyes met, like passing ships in the night. A cold wind made her shiver. He handed her his warm parka. He smiled at her. She looked like the Michelin Man. They watched the buses come and go. The N3 arrived. “Are you coming?” He flicked his fag and followed her.