Long Pants Under a Hot Sun

A novel about Africa, drinking and the meaning of life

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.

 

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