Friday Night Lighting

I like to tell stories about nameless people who live pseudo-mundane lives. Simply because there are days in everyone’s life where they feel boring and uninteresting. Where the most fascinating thing you do is change clothes, and climb right back into bed. Days when nobody says your name yet you are not any less a person. Or relevant. This is a short story about a girl who goes somewhere. But nowhere particularly special. She does some things, but nothing particularly earth shattering.


She walked quickly through the small apartment as she checked to make sure the clasp of her worn watch was properly fastened. Another crack on her favourite timepiece could not be afforded, which prompted her to make a mental note – for the fifteenth time – to pass by the repair shop during her lunch break to have it checked out. As she bent over to check the contents of her handbag, her extra long dark braids fell forward, temporarily blinding her. She cursed as she fumbled with the hair-tie which she kept permanently fixed to her wrist for moments such as this. She tied up the inconveniently long hair with much effort, made another mental note to never get braids this long ever again, then went back to her task. After ensuring everything she needed was in the bag, she practically sprinted out of the house to the waiting carpoolers, three floors down, barefoot, bright yellow heels in hand.

This was her routine. Wake up on time, dilly-dally, cue up a playlist for the day and eventually dash out to her lift of perpetually annoyed travel mates, whom she would further annoy by applying her make up in the car in between begging the driver not to drive too fast for fear of poking her eye out with her mascara wand, and yelling for more volume. And as usual, after half an hour of navigating traffic, they parked in the musty basement of their building, which to be honest, needed to be abandoned before they all were buried alive beneath it one day. Whilst the rest of the passengers disembarked (yes, it is a car not an aeroplane, but when 8 people exit a soccer-mom’s car in relative order, it counts as disembarking), she crouched to buckle each shoe, starting with the left and finishing with the right. When she was done, she straightened up and admired her latest purchase and the way the strappy sandals complimented her bright blue toenails. She strutted (because in 12 centimetre platforms, one can only strut) towards the elevator and squeezed in just as the doors eased shut. As she psyched herself up for the day ahead by imagining a large gin and dry lemon waiting for her at her pit-stop before she headed home, she was vaguely aware of the chatter behind her as well as of the kaleidoscope of smells ranging from what had to be green tea to the driver’s pungent cologne.

The day flew by and before she knew it, she was the waving goodbye to the last of her colleagues from behind a precariously balanced stack of hard cover files filled with manuscripts. She felt across her desk for her now cold cup of coffee and took a careful sip of the awful stuff before turning another page in the book she was busy editing. She scrunched up her face at the futuristic descriptions and forced her mind to imagine barcodes emblazoned onto forearms and struggled to reconcile the use of medieval English with the robot-esque voices now speaking in her head. She glanced at the watch on her wrist and shut down her computer. She softly padded, heels now abandoned beneath her table, to the windows which overlooked a sparkly skyline, and further, the nothingness of the ocean in the night. A light sheen covered the ground below and she immediately regretted her choice of outfit. She focused her eyes on her dim reflection in the glass. The braids she had fought with earlier now fell in an elegant waterfall around her shoulders and down her back. Her black eyes stared back at her underneath layers of mascara, and her pouty lips still bore the telltale signs of the dark plum shade she’d applied in the car that morning. The predominantly red ankara dress she had had made in a kiosk in Ghana by a chatty fellow named Francis, touched her in all the right places without telling too many of her secrets. It fell down to below her knees in a subtle ball gown style. She reached up to the top button which gave the dress some modesty, hesitated for a second, then shook off the uncertainty and unbuttoned it. And then the next one. She reached into her left pocket and pulled out her lipstick and re-coated her lips, then squinted at the girl in the window to make sure she looked presentable.

Satisfied, she walked back to her desk and checked her handbag again before putting her shoes back on and ignoring the slight pain she felt from traipsing to and from the printer and kitchen and bathroom. She did a quick sweep of the office and turned the alarm on before locking the door behind her. She double checked it as though she had not just turned the key in the lock. As she waited for the elevator to make its way up to the 11th floor, she hummed Grandma’s Hands to herself in a bid to calm the rising nerves. Negro spirituals were for some reason, what her childhood sounded like, despite growing up on the outskirts of middle class suburbia in a landlocked country. The unfriendly grouch who sat at the eyesore of a security desk on the well-lit ground floor every week night, rubbed his face vigorously as the ding signalling the elevator’s arrival sounded. The sleep practically fell from his tired eyes as he caught sight of her – all hair and red dress and train of pitch black hair peppered with tiny golden haircuffs. He grunted a greeting and she waved a twinkling goodbye, the light catching the rings adorning her fingers, positive she could see the saliva drip from his mouth.

When she arrived at her destination, she pushed with practised strength against the massive wooden door that marked the entrance to a hidden basement bar, three blocks from her office building. She stood at the top of the stairs to collect herself after running like she was being chased by screaming banshees through the old neighbourhood, teeming with gentrification masked as development. Every corner had an artisanal restaurant which charged too much for too little and forced those who worked in the 5 block radius to carry food to their spaces of work or forfeit their housing. Or both.  And if one didn’t watch where one was walking, one could easily find oneself faceplanted after tripping over rubble or an abandoned tool. She took one last deep breath, sniffed her armpits and stepped onto the narrow staircase, shut the door, and made her descent towards the large room at the bottom, careful not to snag her dress on the splintered bannister. The walls on either side were lined with gold and black art deco wall paper which reeked of old cigarettes and reminded her of old movies set in the 1920s.

She pursed her lips and added extra swing to her hips as she pushed through a set of swinging doors and was met with exactly what she expected – Miguel on just the right volume, brown beautiful bodies either swaying to the music, carrying on around tables and velvet-lined couches, milling around at the bar or yelling orders at the friendly (and equally beautiful) bartenders dressed to the nines behind the bar. Her skin pimpled with goose bumps when she recognised a white, hand-stitched Prada purse thrown without caution, onto the floor beside one of the couches closest to her. She resisted every urge to seek out the big brown eyes that belonged to its owner and continued on her trek to the bar.

Fortune smiled upon her and she grabbed the remaining free barstool and dragged it to the far end of the wooden bar. She plonked herself on its shaped seat and dangled her handbag over the damp bar-top. It was quickly taken from her by the youngest of the barmen – a Turkish fellow with an unlikely Mohawk and the thickest eyelashes she had ever encountered. He deposited it under the bar and immediately busied himself with her usual order. She risked what she thought was a discrete glance and the owner of the Prada bag and allowed her eyes to drink in the neatly done high-bun, faux fur jacket and the newly manicured hands which moved as she regaled her group with what must have been an entertaining story. She shifted her gaze back to the barman before she got caught gawking and took a healthy chug of the gin. She leaned over the bar and picked up an extra slice of lemon, plopped it into her drink and nodded at the DJ booth, signalling the short, bearded artist to raise the volume and get the party started.

He started playing one of her favourite mixes – an old school vibe featuring Craig David in his prime and the newer sounds of GoldLink and Xavier Omar. The crowd shook out of the lazy energy that had gripped it and a few “whoop-whoops” were heard as some migrated towards the middle of the room to what had long been designated as the dance floor. She now sat with her back to the bar and her yellow heels swinging. She sipped her drink and gazed out at the show, feeling like a puppet master- controlling her puppets from the sidelines with the music she knew they loved so well.

The night progressed without a hitch and she even sent one of the bouncers home early. As she pressed the brown envelope filled with his wages into his giant palm, she giggled and kissed his cheek. He whispered sexy French things into her ear and she swatted at his behind as he walked off. It was easy to be disarmed by the hulking man – looks and height, married with charm and dreadlocks that looked like the gods themselves twisted them whilst he slept. She was still staring at his back as he swaggered away when she felt someone press up against hers and her skin came alive again at the familiar Burberry scent. She didn’t turn, but rather, leaned into the warmth and started moving to the music. After a brief hesitation, Burberry and heat joined her and two songs turned into four. Hands on the waist and light kisses rained on shoulders. Eventually, they turned to face each other and join the dancers in the middle in sing-shouting the lyrics to a Rihanna tune.

As the song seamlessly merged with another, she noticed a slight change in her dance partner’s energy and followed her gaze to the balcony door where two men stood to one side. One wore a fitted, grey three-piece suit that could probably pay to keep the lights on in her apartment for a month, easily. He had the haircut to go with it, and the beautifully maintained beard to go with it. The other wore a white shirt and loosened tie with dark slim-fit pants. His black brogues complimented the look nicely and the matching black tie almost brought out the blackness of his eyes even more. She let out the breath she forgot she was holding when there was a clearing of a throat beside her. She had the grace to blush and offered an awkward smile as an apology. They continued dancing, but not alone for too long. The duo from the door had placed their glasses down and joined them and she was positive there was a connection she was missing.

More gin and slick RnB led to more dancing and eventually, a corner set up with a bottle of Bollinger- the last one to be precise. The clientele was more whiskey and wine than champagne. She silently thanked the universe for preserving this one last one as she made her way back to the table after kissing the Turk too enthusiastically on the cheek when he announced that there was indeed a bottle available. She popped the cork to a rather loud celebration from the threesome facing her. They clinked glasses and made increasingly more salacious toasts with each sip. The bar was emptying as closing time drew near and the music softened. The lights got brighter to discourage exactly what they were trying to accomplish – chasing sunrise in the seats they occupied. The DJ signalled to her this time, indicating that he was ready for his envelope. She excused herself and handled her business. After the last of the staff had clocked out and the floor was gleaming, she paused and watched the corner table argue over what could only be something to do with where they were heading from here. She rubbed her lips together to check her lipstick and satisfied that she still looked good, she crouched to unbuckle her shoes. Leaving them where she removed them, she settled back into the chair she had curled up in before- in between Dark Tie and Burberry.

The sun had begun its ascent into the sky and first rays were peeking in through the open balcony doors. The empty bottle now stood upside down in the ice-bucket next to similarly empty whiskey glasses and champagne flutes. The gentlemen stood up to make their exit. Grey Suit pulled Burberry aside and after a brief exchange, they turned to her and the other one with looks of expectation on their faces. She unfolded herself from her seat and slowly stepped towards Dark Tie. On the tips of her toes, mentally cursing the loss of the height her heels gave her, she kissed him with a kiss she knew he wouldn’t forget and one that she knew would guarantee that Burberry would be here again tomorrow night and perhaps finally allow her to give her the same. As she pulled away, she chuckled softly at the look of what could have been shock or satisfaction on his face. She gave the remaining two a quick hug and cheek peck each and made a beeline for the exit. She motioned for them to follow her as if they wouldn’t know to do just that. At the top of the steps, she turned the key in the door and shoved hard.

Final goodbyes said and after a coy refusal to give her number, she ran downstairs, unfastened and refastened her watch, secured the windows and doors, double-checked the locked the safe, collected her belongings and made her way back up to wait for her requested ride home. All the while planning her outfit for the coming night because, Friday nights like these always led to the kind of Saturday nights which always led to the kind of stories aunties whisper to each other on Sunday afternoons, in deserted car parks after church, where they asked for forgiveness for their sins.

Diaries of a day drinker

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Happy New Year everybody! Yes, it’s early. The reason for this is that I spend every new year’s eve in church. I don’t know what I will do with myself the one year I don’t make it to Africa (read Zimbabwe) for the holidays. If this ever happens, please can someone strap a whistle and my address to my person? I can guarantee that I will be comatose by the time I am required to make my way home.

As I write this I am sipping on vodka and coke. I’m usually a wine drinker however, Africa makes it unreasonable for my pocket to sustain my preference of  the red stuff and they don’t have my nice bottles. So I buy vodka and lace everything with it.My Mazoe (I cannot explain this to you. You must experience it), my coke, my tea.. There isn’t much to do at my house over the holidays. Our helper is away so I am the helper. I use the strong stuff as both motivation and reward (I’m a good master). Also, I have a curfew here. You know, the usual African girl child curfew that stipulates that any youth that possesses a vagina must be within the gates of the homestead by 6pm or sunset (whichever occurs first). The vodka helps pass the time.

The vodka (bless the Russians) is also an amazing thought stimulant. This year has been a roller coaster for me and because I am such a lovely individual,  I shall share what few pearls of wisdom I have gathered. In truth, these are truths my mother should have shared with me but we’re black and we don’t believe we should share important things with our children until they are married. (except ‘stay in school, don’t have sex and booze is bad’)

A few months ago I fell for a boy whilst I was busy minding my own business. I swear I wasn’t looking. (ain’t that always the way) The boy expressed his desire to chill but was crystal clear about his commitment issues but I fell anyway (because I’m a girl and if you pay me enough attention I will plan our wedding). Chile, when a man says he doesn’t want a relationship or is a fuckboy or likes dressing up in his grandmother’s pantihose, BELIEVE HIM. DO NOT FOR A SECOND think that because he’s hitched himself to your particular brand of female that you can change any of that. And even if you do fall please #thuglife your way through the mess. Play the Backstreet Boys at home whilst you guzzle the wine but be Beyonce pretending to be single when you leave the house in your 5  inch heels.

The trouble with blurred lines and uncertainty in romantic situations is ambiguity. Are we a thing or not? Does he really not mind that I’m a raging alcoholic who hates the gym? Did he enjoy my cooking or was that a ploy to make sure I put out? Where in defined relationships there is security and you can ask these questions and trip when he gives the wrong answer (yes, there is always a right answer), in blurred lines situations, you don’t ever know where the boundary lies.

Know yourself enough to know whether this is a person with whom you can handle uncertainty or one that needs to know that you are high maintenance woman who likes holding hands in public. And then be honest with both yourself and him about what you want. If it doesn’t work out, you can always visit your mother and clean her house for two weeks whilst perpetually tipsy.

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Another thing women are never told enough is that we don’t come with ‘sell by’ dates. Be single. Be married. Be divorced. Be a mother. I am surrounded by women in each of these situations who haven’t hit thirty and FYI, they are currently QUEENING. SLAYING. Living the heck out of their lives. My plus one is almost always a woman I love. And I refuse to apologise for being 25 and slaving away to prepare my future (whether there is a fabulous man pouring my wine and letting me help him take his empire to dizzying heights or not). Love yourself so hard that the absence of a partner is not a vacuum, but more room for your wine.

Always carry condoms. Having been raised in a Christian home, sex and condoms are taboo subjects unless euphemisms are being used to describe how cousin Thandi’s belly got big. Thandi most likely got pregnant because her person didn’t have condom and was surprised when she accused him of hiding her period. Men don’t get pregnant and can walk away when you do. Buy the damn things and stay ready. Do not be sold dreams about team skin-to-skin or team pull-out. Do not allow your aunts to tell you that carrying condoms makes you a penis hungry slut. The world is already on team men-run-the-world, they don’t have to run your womb too.

Finally, dear black girl, scrub your knees. With a stone. Our mothers have always taken pride in our dirty knees because it means we can polish the life out of wooden tiles and future husband will appreciate this. Mandela did not die so you cant wear a mini-skirt and be proud of your knees. Shine that floor and exfoliate like you are being paid for it.

Much love and hopes for mini-skirt summers

The Empress

 

 

 

 

Honesty washed down with a bottle of red

They preach honesty

They preach honesty. They talk about its virtue and its healing qualities. They forget to tell you about the disconnect between honesty and those that are unprepared for it. Or the dangers of telling truths to psychopaths on the down low. You know, those girls that will call your mother and tell her how much she loves you and all along your mother thought you liked boys. Yes.

Have you ever told a truth to a drunkard or to a liar? Those are easy truths. They are facts of which both of you are aware (varying degrees granted). If a drunk does not know he’s drunk, he’s a liar. If a liar is blind to his fibs then he is off his meds. Like god from Nurse Jackie. You know, the crazy guy who yells insults at everyone except the English lady? Side note – Nurse Jackie is an expert liar and a great example of how BAD honesty is. Coming back to my point, the hard truths are the kind that drive a sober man to a bottle.

Like telling someone you love them and they aren’t ready to hear it? -or even more cringe worthy, they aren’t ready to love you. The salvation in the former is that X may come around one day. With the latter, you are highly likely to fall into a box labelled “here lie the remains of hearts suffering from unrequited love”. Don’t worry though, it’s happy hour every hour in that box, and you shan’t be short of company. The only trouble is that your sad story will never be the saddest or most embarrassing so buck up and guzzle away.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t go around telling people you love them or that you think about them all the time. If, however, you insist on doing such silly things, carry a bottle of wine with you. I recommend already ingested-it hurts less when you hear the crickets. If you hear the crickets at all over the thoughts of more wine that the tipsy voices in your head will inspire. That way when your advances are batted away with the skill of a test cricketer in his prime, guess what? Yup, you can have more wine.

It’s quarter to weekend though so let’s not have a bottle today.

The Empress

Xx

 

 

Of chocolate cake and copious amounts of liquor

I a woman of many talents but none of my numerous gifts are as impressive as the wonders I conjure up in an apron

Today I baked a cake. A pretty scrumptious looking one if i do say so myself. And my handy work tasted even better. People say it’s bad manners to toot my own horn-i disagree. Vehemently. I a woman of many talents but none of my numerous gifts are as impressive as the wonders I conjure up in an apron and earphones blaring Ryan Lesley-he’s my cooking mate and we shall have many children he just does not know it yet. I’m a bit scared to let him know in case scare him off..I hear baby-talk does that to the male species.

As always, I digress..and as I was saying, I am a BEAST in the kitchen. And if my ghetto lingo (remember them?) does not articulate to you just how amazing I am when standing in front of a stove let me break it down to you; you know the stirring in your loins you feel when you see a beautifully sculpted human being and said human being is striding past and away in slow motion much like they do on the beaches of Baywatch? Now imagine that feeling in your mouth and imagine that being achieved without the assistance of aforementioned human being (let’s face it, it wasn’t gonna happen anyway-that’s what my dark chocolate cake will do to you. Well that’s what it does for me and my family members – although they wouldn’t describe it as being orgasmic because that might be a bit awkward coming from mother dearest…but I see it in their facial expressions. They are as happy as they’ll ever be with a spoonful of cake in their mouths.

A friend of mine is baffled by how I can be a law student, love to party and guzzle wine like I do and yet still find time to cook hearty meals (she’s always at my house eating said meals). She calls me “the last of the Mohicans”, which I quite like because it makes me feel like a rhino that might be going extinct and the world is trying to save me except I don’t have to run from poachers.I don’t like running much. I lie. I don’t like running at all but a girl has to do what she has to what with all this food consumption. She (my eating friend) likes to insinuate that I will be a great wife because I cook voluntarily and with love except, she doesn’t think the Ryan thing and the ever present bottle standing almost ceremoniously at the end of the counter (Ryan sometimes takes breaks and the red keeps me company) will fly with husband. She feels that advertising my vice will reduce my points. My argument is if he”s full and happy, he wont notice.

At the end of the day I know I am no super model and if this lawyer business doesn’t work out (which it will because I’m good at that too but that’s a story for another day) at least my family will not go to bed hungry or upset because dinner went terribly wrong. Few things make me happier that a room full of the people I love and know dirty secrets about with bellies stuffed with my creations, smiles on their faces and a glass of red in my hand.

Peace, love and niggeritis

The Empress

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