Wednesday, January 30, 2008

strike out (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The comedown is hard. Nearly two weeks of late nights and early mornings, cocaine highs mashed with boozy lows, had finally brought me to my knees. Brilliant white beaches and manic sunsets plague me. Blue black night skies and a fiery morning panorama past the smudged hotel window blind me. I hug the toilet bowl and expunge last night's evil from my insides. Blow some blood-flecked mucous into a tissue. I rinse my face.

“We're out,” announces Jed on my entry into the sleeping area.


“Last of the posh,” he says, flicking a crumpled powdery square of magazine paper in my direction. “And not a great chance of finding any here.”

I collapse on the bed, covering my aching eyes in the crook of my arm, groaning just a little. A giant fucking mess. Sore legs from indiscriminate dancing. Sore head from hapless high living. Sore heart from her.

Her name is Kenya.

A whirlwind of a bartender, I first met Kenya at the other end of a long line of double gin and tonics. Skin nearly black, and eyes even blacker, the whites of her eyes leapt in my direction as I entered the room, and they held me, they wouldn't let me go. Mesmerized, I walked right up. Unable to speak, I allowed her.

Over the course of many biting drinks I learnt that she was not from Kenya as her name would suggest, but from Ethiopia. I learnt that she went to school not to become a bartender, but to become a lawyer. I learnt that lawyering never worked out, and tending bar was not her primary profession – I learnt she made most of her money as a hooker.

“But I will not work while you are here,” she said. “Instead, I will be your girlfriend.”

And who was I to refuse such an offer.

“You think the strike is still on?” Jed asks, breaking me out of my reverie.


“Back home. The strike. You think it's still going?”

I think for a time, nearly falling asleep. I scratch a little at the scruff on my face.

“Well? Would be nice to get back to work, wouldn't it?” Jed asks again.

“I don't really care,” I say. “No. Let me rearrange that line. I really don't care.”

Jed is silent for a moment.

“Isn't it weird that writers can go on strike in the first place?” he asks. “I mean, we write all the time, not just for work. Have you worked on anything since November?”


“Not even notes? Not even in your journal?”

“Not really, no. I've nothing to write. Not right now.”

And that's how we leave it. I stare for awhile through the window at the late morning horizon. Searching the soft white clouds for something indefinite. Settling my gaze on the lightest blues of infinity for a time. Scouring the tiny outlines of the distant cityscape for my inspiration. She's out there somewhere. Her name is Kenya.

She went back to work two days before. Prostituting. Searching the alleyways for something indeterminable. Settling on her knees in dark corners or beneath the fluorescent lights of offices throughout the city core. Scouring her soul for something more.

I have nothing to write about. Not right now. Nothing is right now. In fact, I don't care if the strike ever ends. No. Not anymore. I can stay right where I am. Drifting around Africa. From Tanzania to Zaire. Zaire to Uganda. Uganda to Kenya. Maybe back to Kenya. Maybe back.

I fall into a troubled sleep. A strung out, hungover, painful sleep. I dream of nothing.

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