AFTER DARK

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

When girls get desperate to ease the economic hardship created by bad governance and personal greed, there are men with even darker intent land evil agenda lurking in the corners of their broad smiles.

Every night I stand in the light of a conspicuous darkness and watch. I always only notice their goings and coming, but where they go to and whence they come was the mystery I tried hard to uncover. As I watch every night from this open dark place, I see their despondent faces laden with guilt and burdened with contempt. I see as it were, their disposition bound with crushed hopes, crushed dreams, futile labor, fruitless, and vain struggle. I see their countenance yoked with accustomed pain and expected disappointments. They set forth at dusk, away from the eye of the sun, and sneak in at dawn while the sun still sleeps.

They often talk in voices that rend the curtains of heaven even though they were not praying. Their vicious laughter echoes with such sarcasm that scorns angels, the devil, and themselves. There was something malignant and innocuous veiled in their laughter and that ladened the air they traveled on. Most nights, as they prepare to set off, they adorn themselves far worse or better than Jezebel. But as I stand here bereft of the knowledge in their heads that stares timidly in their ostentatious and reckless words, I wonder, strangely so about the truths or lies that goaded them on to tread heedlessly on these pitiless and jagged paths besieged by fear, uncertainty, mysterious danger, and death, especially vile and violent death. Suddenly, they were done with their costumes and make-up. As their phones buzzed in unison, I knew it was time. They filed out in a brutal hurry beneath the silhouetted sky into a vast unpredictability, into an obvious unknown. Their hearts cradled in their mouth. And if they don’t return by morning, no one would look for them, report them missing, or cry if they were found dead on a high heap of rubbish or in a neat hotel bed in the city center.

The room is suddenly empty again. Empty and black as the purpose that sends the girls plunging into the darkness. The room like me will never know where they go or whence they come. But it will soon be morning, and the room unlike me must wait in resilient silence and embrace them and the stench they bring at dawn. It must bid them welcome back. Yes, welcome 'back' not 'home', for these girls, home is not what they seek. The concept and idea of a home have long been destroyed in all of them. This is a common denominator among the girls. However, the source of destruction varies. Some were put out of their homes by their angry, embittered, and disappointed parents - they were the black sheep in a family of only white sheep and so it was easy to cast them out and shut the door at their faces quietly.

A few ran away from home to keep dark things in the dark. They are victims of incestuous rape. The greedy predator will never stop and the victim will not speak of it, they cannot cry out. So they run fast and far into the sacred abyss of darkness to seek refuge. Others seek liberty, such fiery freedom, they strike out on their own into the dark. Now, they all gather in this room in a subtle self-hegemony. The room is only a base, a terminal, a station, not a place of warmth,  communion and rest.

Some mornings, they return to the room in graveyard silence. The night has been darker than their purpose and their labor under the night, beneath the blanket of the night sky, has been fruitless. On those mornings I would wait to hear them, but the dead silence of their return would be louder than the boisterous chatter of their departure. Suddenly, my heart goes out to the tired room that must spread its tired arms and welcome them. The room that must endure the putrid stench of stale perfume mixed with the stinky smell of dried sweat and Lord knows what else on their flesh or their clothes. And as I listen, suddenly, the silence is broken by the heavy echo of tired breathing and crashing sounds of snoring girls. Surely, I thought to myself; the spirit has not been willing in all these. It is the humongous desires of the weak and greedy flesh that goad these girls to tread on such disastrous and dangerous paths.

However, other mornings are as jocund as the night before. Their chatter would reach the high heavens and tear the curtains of the morning to shreds. Like raving thunder, they harass our ears and homes for what seemed like forever. They talk in quick codes that are hard to decrypt. They speak in clothed pidgin; their uncouth chatter would fill the air and sail into our homes and heart uninvited. Their chatter would nestle in our conversation and, as a coup d’état, take over.

We hear their loud chatter but could never decipher what it is they were talking about. It was as if they had a unique code, a rare sociolect that was theirs. They cut out the entire neighborhood in their veiled pidgin and talk of dark things that happened in the dark. But on these gay mornings, they laughed at everything and anything; such self-serving laughter that denotes intermittent triumph. They swear and curse blatantly, and somehow, I decoded that money was the crux of their loud and vicious chatter. They hurled ugly threats at men they had met the night before, over what money they had been promised and what money they had not received. They send black devils and white thunders on a killing spree; they are merry yet enraged.

On these mornings, the world was theirs and in a strange way, they had become the queens and princesses of all the earth and all creation must stand still at their uncouth and wild words. They would talk loud about things that should only be whispered in cornered places. Their words were naked and shameless, and they would flutter like flying fireflies over our neighborhood, showing their atrocious presence, dancing in open spaces and floating behind veiled walls like jazz music, meaningless.

 In this manner, they would chatter from the rise of the solemn sun to the emergence of the scorching sun at noon. And this burning sun would beam on their naked words like a flood-light beams on an empty street at night. And all who heard them were always stunned to silence, such repressed, violent silence. So that our ears prayed hard not to hear such bare recklessness. Still, they danced in the empty spaces and in the opening spaces. They flutter to us like black butterflies, and we would promptly detest and refute their wild word with such religious piety that could fault the pope. Yet, when their voices die down into silence, there were those of us who would repeat all they said word for word.

Soon at the high-point of noon on such gay days when the girls are worn out and truly wasted -whether from their festal talk or their all-night adventure, their chatter would dwindle away and silence so visible would hang over the neighborhood like black clouds. The girls will slump over the couch, bed, and bare floor of the room dead in sleep. On mornings like this, there would be no snoring sound but the squeaky breath that denotes an unchecked adventure or misadventure. And the room would stay still and look on their unclad, bare bodies forceless in sleep and hold its breath, for still, these girls reek of such stench that no perfume could allay.  They sleep and another kind of silence would greet our neighborhood and our lives are ours again. But they sleep, whether in sweet peace or in troubled peace, I could never tell. Nothing in the position of their bodies or in their loud laughter had suggested that life’s been sweet or sour. But they had triumphed over the night, and they must revel in it.

The night must have been good to them, I soliloquized from my window. They trade in something, or on something, or with something, but whatever they were trading on, in, or with must have paid off. They have chattered and talked loudly with such a brutal display of gaiety. However, nothing in their words or voices suggests joy, happiness, or contentment. Every time the trade pays off, it deepens the greed that goads them on and stretches the expectation that will set them up for an eventual fatal fall.

A discontentment creates in these girls an abyssal gaping hole. Thus, they labor mindlessly in the dark; hand and face in the pants of cute, perfumed, or smelly men daily in vain attempts to fill up the gulf of greed which widens and reaches new depth by the day. So, they dream by morning and have their dreams crushed like the grass beneath the feet of stampeding mammoth over and again every night.


Submitted: December 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 O'maleD. All rights reserved.

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