Long Pants Under a Hot Sun

A novel about Africa, drinking and the meaning of life

The Letter (Part 1)

In this chapter, Dublin talks to a bird, shakes off a hangover, and meets a secretary.


The Letter (part 1)

Dublin woke up with heavy tables sitting on his eyes. They were loaded with empty glasses of rum. It took him forty minutes to climb out of bed and shower, cold water running over and around his eyes, looking for an opening. He made hot tea and sat up on the roof in his underwear. A bird flew over him, circled back, and settled on a planter just a few feet from Dublin. “The severity of a hangover is directly proportional to one’s proximity to the equator,” he said to the bird, which flew away somewhere around “proximity.”  He felt better.

And even better after a short nap.

——

Dublin walked slowly up the stairs to the second floor offices of the American Cultural Center. They were wrapped in scored linoleum. He liked taking the stairs; they gave him time to think.

Someone had told him about being able to receive mail at the Center. The building was just off Rue de Commerce downtown, still within the walking boundaries of the Grand Marchet. The Embassy was right across the street, but Dublin had never noticed the Cultural Center before. It smelled like ammonia inside.

The stairs opened up to a large room with several desks and private offices and ceiling fans and paperwork filling it up. He walked up to a desk facing the entrance and stood in front of it, waiting. The woman at the desk did not raise her head. He cleared his throat. Nothing.

“Excuse me.” His voice emerged nervously. You weren’t supposed to ignore people, especially if you were sitting at a desk.

“Just a moment,” she said, still writing. Her voice sounded like two hundred magpies. He looked around the room a little more. He could hear people making office noises in the little spaces off of the main room. I wonder what all these people get paid to do.

“Yes?” She was looking up at him now, and his knees sank into each other. She was the most beautiful woman he had seen since coming to Togo. Her eyes curved into violet ribbons over delicate laugh lines. “May I help you?” Her lips flirted with him.

“Um, yes. I need to, they said I could get, or, can I send, can I do mail here?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Dublin. Dublin Green.”

“No, who are you? What are you doing in Togo?”

“Oh! I’m a student. At UB.”

“Yes, you can receive your mail here. Outgoing letters go in this box,” she pointed, “and incoming letters will arrive in your box. Over there, right behind me. You see?” He nodded. “Good. Anything else?” He thought of a million things to ask her, to talk about. He looked at her fingers to see if she was wearing a ring. They were naked.

“Anything else, Monsieur?” He tried to delay, but shook his head at last. She gave him one last smile and put her head back down deep into her work.

 

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One thought on “The Letter (Part 1)

  1. H. David on said:

    This piece is pleasant and intriguing – a little easier on the senses than the very interesting Norwegian pieces which seemed more complex with sometimes difficult to interpret undercurrents.

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