(As promised, some of our members who submitted for Mahube have agreed to have their work showcased on our blog. Here is our first short story)
This is what a bar should be: murmuring clinks and loud smoke signalling passers-by to join the hush and get out of the rain. The piano music meandered through the sound of pitter-patter and people. In the inescapable lull of old friends, lovers differed and delivered dreams and breaking hearts, gazes collide.
They said, “As far as lovers go, I am cocaine. You will need me. And I will break you. Tasting of desire, as do you. But I have mastered my highs – the itch barely recognisable. And you have barely scratched the surface. Sleep if you will, for I am the boogieman of your most desired nightmares. A dark dream as deep as the bone, warm as the flesh and steadfast as touch – feel me.”
She heard him well. Katherine Mokotedi watched the corner of this mysterious mouth rise to form a lazy half-smile. Thunder boomed. The crashing skies continued to drum as she swept back her hair, cascading her golden brown braids over the fawn fall of her shoulders as she undid the ribbon that held her do in place. Her cheeks reddened through mocha skin as she caught sight of the cerise lace peeking through her soaked grey tee. The stains, old and new, were barely seen under the quenched cotton. Her embarrassment didn’t keep her from admiring the striped black and crimson cups holding her breasts. She had cut the sleeves of the top and neatly tucked the hem in above the pockets of her washed out charcoal jeans. The white greyed and black receded, a sign of age. Her black pumps looked new, pristine in their gleam.
Her features, youthful and almost childlike, belied a sensuality that smouldered as she rolled her shoulders against the gaping door’s breeze. She heaved deeply, twice, catching the scents of carbonara and coffee, and raised the t-shirt that clung to her chest with each breath. Her figure could not help but draw murmurs. She adjusted the sling of her bag so her folded arms could cover her chest if only for a moment.
She held no regrets for visiting the restaurant on this rainy day. It broke the spell of monotony that surrounded her routine. The fans twirled lazily overhead, as the burnt orange walls warmed the room to its Casablancan character. An informed smile of tile, spread sophisticatedly across the tables, made the mosaic of her entrance complete.
“Welcome to Café 41,” greeted her waiter. His composed air brought her back from the stranger’s eyes and she turned her back on him and faced the waiter. Finally able to deal with her situation, she asked to be shown to the restroom. Her hands, absorbed in their acrobatics with her lighter, were lightly bandaged. Their delicate movements changed as her nose distinguished the dishes wafting from his crisp cotton shirt.
She faced the milling crowd, careful to avoid another ocular altercation with the handsome stranger in the smoker’s section. He seemed to have other plans.
“Excuse me,” he called after Katherine. He spotted the slowly spilling contents of her bag. His hand flashed forward, thumping firm buttocks as he kept a pair of blown glass bookends from meeting their doom. His smile persisted as his eyes closed in disbelief and his head shook as he muttered, “Sorry... But it was glass or ass.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle lightly and the surrounding staff and patrons chorused in. Kate removed her satchel from her shoulder and placed it in front of this new face. Catching the name of her waiter off his name tag she asked, “Leroy, don’t you think that someone who’s already familiar with my fanny…”
“Excuse me. But who says fanny?” Boyish charm added to his appeal. He still wore the same lazy smile that met her at the door. He motioned for her to sit next to him.
“I do.” She was an easy going girl, but could barely believe how easy he made approaching him.
“Tell me your name.”
The throb and thump of traffic and trickling rain were loud enough to muffle any further conversation to any onlooker. In fact, each table was dressed in intimate conversation, scantily clad in strangers’ sights. The curtain of rain lazily separated the street and the eatery. He looked to his right.
She began to be troubled by the fact that there were so many supposed adults here in their suits, twiddling the keys to their toys. But she wanted to be somewhere new. The group that troubled her particularly was the group of four executive-looking black men to her left. Voyeurism, thinly veiled in vulgarity, is often a trait shared by modern African men. Plenty, if not all, joined in the ogling overtures. Against the grain of femininity, she expressed her dislike of the display by men her father’s age. She had come here for the food not to be a meat puppet.
She gave them a withering look which was responded to by in-seat shuffling and the man-child chatter of her being ‘not that pretty’.
“My name is Bill,” he said as he undid the three remaining buttons revealing his red v-neck tee and the buckle securing his stonewashed skinny jeans, he stood and draped the warm black cardigan around Kate’s shoulders. “And as long as we’re here, would you tell me your name. And maybe have some coffee?”
The smokers’ section sheltered the two beneath whispering clouds and striking stillness. In rain strewn streaks, they gravitated towards the inevitable. They were a window, clearing as each moment passed.
Boleng Julius Bolokwe, born October 12th 1991, is a writer inspired by human interaction. His early childhood in Francistown and Gaborone was usually spent neck-deep in books or skipping math lessons to play with his friends. A storyteller by nature, he loves to relay a good yarn to those around him. Most of his teen years were spent in Pretoria where he began to take charge of the emotions building up inside of him. He is oddly mild-mannered and yet, peppered with moments of intensity. And if asked, his biggest fear is a life unlived.
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