Long Pants Under a Hot Sun

A novel about Africa, drinking and the meaning of life

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Falling Off

 

In this chapter, the Norwegians leave Africa. After a beer or two.

 


Falling Off

“He’s gone, Landlord.”

“Already? I mean, he didn’t wake me up or anything?”

“No. He left for airport at six this morning to get Aeroflot ticket. He’s gone.” David’s accent was heavy.

“Well, shit. Why do you think he left in such a hurry?”

“Let me have one of your cigarettes so I can tell you.” Dublin gave him one. “Now, Landlord,” he said, lighting it, “our friend has left in such a hurry because he is paranoid. He is delusional on his best days, and constantly living under the shadow of pretext and tricks of the mind. Does that explain it?”

“No.”

“Vegard is bad enough without the booze. The other night, whatever happened to him, it scared him bad. He is afraid he is going to die. He is afraid he’s young and has done nothing but drink and shit all over Africa and sleep with hookers. He knew the only thing to do was get on a plane. I imagine he will go to the hospital someday soon. Something is wrong with his prick.”

“Oh.”

“I leave today. I need some socks. A clean, white pair of socks for my travel with the Russians. Do you have socks for me?” Dublin nodded.

“But what happened the other night? Did you ever find out? And what happened to you?”

“I don’t know what happened to him. He won’t tell me. I saw him at Robinet, and then he was gone while I danced with two blackies. I waited for him for hours, even after the girls left, and he didn’t come back. I took taxi home, one of the two-wheelers, and the damn thief tried to rob me. I fell off his moto. Didn’t you hear me screaming?” Dublin shook his head. “Well, clearly, it is time to go. The car is sold. I don’t have any money left. Daddy’s credit card died three days ago. I have my ticket for Aeroflot today. In fact, I am already packed. Help me down to the beach so I can get a beer and a taxi.”

“Not done drinking yet?”

“Of course not. I still have to get on a plane. Grab that bag. And that bag. Good. Let’s go.” He opened the front door and let Dublin walk through first. “You’ll have to say goodbye to Belem for me. It’s too bad he’s not here. We had many good talks together.”

“You did?”

“Yes.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“He is a fine man. Doesn’t say shit, but he’s sharp.” Dublin suddenly felt bad he hadn’t had a good conversation with Belem for a while. He made himself a promise to do that as they walked through the gate.

Dublin struggled a little with David’s bags. The two walked side by side down Dublin’s nameless road to the coast, where cars zipped back and forth from the border to downtown. David walked past Hotel Lilly, shaking his finger at it, and into a bar facing the ocean. Dublin followed him in and let his bags fall to the floor in front of the bar.

“Can you buy me a beer, Landlord? You don’t have to drink.”

“No, I’ll drink. I can drink. I’ll buy you a beer.” He didn’t want a beer, but…you know. And besides, it was his last chance to drink with one of the most degraded men he’d ever met.

Dublin listened to David talk while they drank, about his upcoming flight, about having to go back to work, and about his band in Norway, Astroburger. “I will send you something. I think you will like it. I can tell you are the kind of man who is ready to fall in love with Astroburger.” It sounded like a sales pitch from an episode of The Jetsons. They made sure to exchange addresses, told a few more stories, and drank about three more beers. Just as Dublin started to feel heady, David wiped his mouth and stood up.

“OK, Landlord. This is goodbye. Don’t forget me.” He gave Dublin a hug and squeezed his butt.

“Do you want me to go to the airport with you?”

“No. You should stay here and drink.” He bent over and picked up his bags. “Tell the darkies their lives won’t be the same without me. I’m off.”

Dublin watched him walk out the door and stop at the street. A moment later, a taxi stopped in front of him, blaring soukous. He bent over the passenger door and pointed at the ocean. “How much?” The driver shook his head, confused. “Then take me to the airport.” He placed his bags in the back seat and climbed into the front. He always sat in the front of cabs, maybe to force something different onto people. Dublin waited for him to wave as the cab started off, but David stared straight ahead, silent, as the car pulled into traffic.

Dublin stood outside the bar with his hands in his pockets. There wasn’t a bit of wind coming in from the sea, and sweat pursed above his upper lip. He had a lot of thinking to do. Now that the Norwegians were gone, he had to find his focus. Enough time had passed for him to find some comfort in his new home. Now he had work to do. The world was a spiritual virgin for him to take in, ready and swollen for his teachings. Once he figured out exactly what those were, he would force them upon the planet with a gentle ferocity.

He started back home, a little sad. He felt more determined than ever to start writing, to get all his thoughts back down on paper. Soon he’d have to figure out a way for the meaning of life to be injected into the blood of African culture. These poor people that had started the whole world tens of thousands of years ago had fallen on hard times for the last few centuries. It was time to make things right.

In front of his gate suddenly, Dublin paused before reaching over the top of it to throw the latch. What would he do inside? There was all kinds of daylight left, and it was Friday. Plenty of time to do anything. Anything.

Friday – he could go to the Marines’ house tonight. It was movie night. Maybe there’d be some good looking Peace Corps girls there he hadn’t met yet. With hours to go, he had time to drink heavily until night fell. He turned his back on the house and checked his pocket for cash. He had a few thousand francs. It wouldn’t be hard at all to get good and tanked at a local bar. Maybe Mandela’s.

He started walking. Yes, at Mandela’s he could find somebody who knew where the Marines lived and ride there with him. Life could wait.

 

On Top of the World

In this chapter, the Norwegians and Dublin drink some more.


On Top of the World

Dublin found himself in an elevator with two quiet Norwegians, jolted again by his surroundings. He didn’t remember parking the car or walking through the lobby. He looked at David and Vegard, who stood tightlipped with their hands clasped behind their backs like bellhops, gazing at the numbers on the rise above the doors. It smelled clean in there, like new burgundy carpets. All the walls were mirrors framed in brass.

The doors opened at the sound of a bell, falling on Dublin’s ears as the hand of a conductor leading the day’s strange symphony. David stepped boldly forward and did not stop until he reached the tall glass walls of the bar that looked out over the city. He turned to the other two standing just outside of the elevator, beaming.

“On top of the world!” he shouted.

Dublin glanced aside at the bartender, who stared at David without surprise. He was immaculately dressed in a dark green vest and white shirt, a black bow tie and ironed wine-colored pants. He wore a tightly curled mustache.

“David, I thought you didn’t have any money,” Dublin whispered to him.

“Credit card! Mon ami, everything is fine! I have Daddy’s credit card, and I’m on top of the world!” He smiled the look of the insane at Dublin. “Bartender! Give us a list of your most expensive drinks!” The bartender passed a packet of paper tied with gold string across the counter to David. Vegard and Dublin joined their friend, pulling up tiny black vinyl stools on either side of him. The three of them hunched over the drink list for four or five minutes, pointing things out and talking loudly. They ordered at last, a blackberry flavored drink for Vegard, a coffee flavored drink for Dublin, and a screwdriver for David.

“Screw your head on straight,” Vegard mumbled. They toasted.

“To being on top of the world!” cried David (of course).

“On top…” Dublin managed before hiccupping. David stood up and walked over to the windows that stretched from floor to ceiling.

“Look at this,” he said, motioning over the other two. “Look at this big fucking city. It’s beautiful. Look. I can see the bar where that girl rubbed her crotch against me while dancing. Just beautiful. I can see for twenty kilometers. You can’t even see people from up here. My friends,” he turned them, a single tear welling up in his left eye. “I love you both. Vegard, my brother, Landlord, my landlord, I love you. Let’s sit down before puking on this window.” He sat down.

Dublin and Vegard sat down, too, choosing wide, soft chairs situated around a rectangular, veneered coffee table. Everybody sighed, holding their empty glasses wrapped in the dew of liquor and ice. They sat quietly, heads slightly tilted, eyelids flirting with blindness. Dublin’s ears were very warm. He felt like he wanted to drool all over his shirt while he sank away into a very black sleep. What’s the word for, like, baby talk? Goo goo? But no, what’s the word, like bauble, or mumble, or something. That’s what I want to do.

Vegard’s voice gently pried apart his eyes. “Valet.”

“Huh?” Dublin whispered in a croak.

David was looking out the window with his chin in his hand. “Landlord,” he said, turning and pulling on his belt. “Landlord.”

“What? What do you guys want?”

“Landlord, I don’t ever want to fall off.”

“Fall off what?”

“You know.” He looked back out the window. “Fuck it.”

“Valet!” Vegard shouted. They both looked at him. “Valeeeeet!” The bartender looked up at the men with, interestingly enough, a disappointed look on his face. David looked at the bartender, then back at Vegard.

“OK. We go.”

They left.

 

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