At anyone time, many important things are happening.
A sperm meets and egg.
Someone eats a drugged sweetie given them by a stranger on a bus. They will find themselves encrusted in dung, wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city one or two days later.
A woman tries to hide her face as she enters the throes of orgasm, tries to muffle her voice, but people hear and her co-sexee sees.
A radio programmer falls asleep, missing the point where one show should end and another begin, broadcasting silence for ten minutes.
A man falls asleep for the first time without noticing the sound of insects, two days after returning to his rural birthplace, after many years living in the different constant hum of the city.
A rare plant blooms its first flower for thirty years, deep within a rainforest, unseen by any person.
At a subductive zone, the destructive margin between two continental plates, a large chunk of the once giant supercontinent Pangea that has been slowly melting under enormous heat and pressure for millions of years, finally breaks free of the solid crust above and begins a slow descent into the mantle, destined to be molten into the homogenous lava before it reaches the core as liquid.
A child utters its first word.
A parrot’s pointy tongue reaches forward in its beak as it grabs as mineral rich clay on a cliff face.
A nipple becomes firm, from cold, not arousal.
The last smelter in an iron foundry reaches the temperature where it can finally be abandoned.
Milk is drawn from the teat of a yak.
The president of the United States of America focuses all his attention on blasting a lump of shit stuck to the porcelain of his private toilet bowl with a stream of urine that is no longer as powerful as it once was. Disheartened by this, he returns his mind to the frustrations of foreign policy he is also powerless to effect.
Like tuning a shortwave radio, we select the events that are in a language we understand, and that are relevant to us. In many cases we simply stop on what seems to be the strongest signal.
Tonight I sit here in this dim hotel room, with its harsh white fluorescent light. Something in the design and decor of the room results in the light having taken on brown tinge by the time it reaches the floor. I am alone. Lonely. I failed to tune the radio. I can’t have both the fan and the radio. Something in the wiring disrupts the signal, and the humidity and mosquitoes forced my hand to choose the fan. So I sit on my bed listening only to the mini hurricane winds cast off by the fan’s blades, hearing the oscillating chatter that lies behind the whooshes. As much as it cools me, the fan affects most things in the room. The radio. Scraps of paper blown from the desk, that now rush to the perimeters of the room. My clothes over the back of the chair, dancing rhythmically.
I once took a shower at five in the morning in a hotel room in Amsterdam. I must have been the only person in the building showering at the time, as I got the full possible force of water pressure from that shower. The cubicle was close to air tight, and the jets of water created a vortex of air with me at its centre, the wind sucked back out of my lungs.
Here the vortex is not so powerful, but there is more for it to effect than just me. I hope it is pinning the mosquitoes to the floor, those that have survived after I circled the room, spraying Rungu brand dudu killer in every direction, before retreating and barricading them in with the noxious fumes.
That cooling air laps over my face, more, so it seems, when I close my eyes.
At dinner I met a man. He first met his angel when, at fourteen or fifteen, a woman he knew decided she wanted to introduce him to adulthood. They were in her house playing cards. She might have been a cousin or an aunt, he did not say. After playing several hands, she departed to the other room in the house. After some time he heard her call to him. He moved into the other room, and found that she was suddenly asleep. She lay there naked, her loins covered by a kanga. She appeared to be peacefully asleep. His heart started beating fast and powerfully in his chest. For whatever he did now, he would cross into the realm of manhood. This woman had called him across the gulf and he had crossed out of curiosity. He decided he wanted to return to the other side, and ran through to deal himself another hand of patience, but his heart still pounded and sent blood rushing rhythmically, surging through his ears. His face felt hot. His ears tingled, burned. He looked up to the ceiling and saw a pair of hands reaching down to him, coming closer and closer. Reaching to him, but not for him. The came down and stopped before his face, palms out, pressed together like an open book. He stared at the hands, tried to read the stanzas written in the lines of those palms and fingers. They were powerful hands, large, yet the fingers were slender. Something about their stillness suggested total power over the boy, and the power to take away. The power to soothe, and the power to punish. Then a voice came to him. “If you ever sleep with another man’s wife, you will die.” Although the voice was loud and resonant, he knew that those words had come from within his own body. He closed his eyes, trying to see the face that produced this terrible voice that spoke truly, but no features were to be seen behind his eyelids. When he opened his eyes the hands had gone. He walked to the other room. The woman was still lying there, her breasts full and beckoning. Here eyes were open, and she looked to him with desire. “Come here” she beckoned, but he shook his head. “I must go” he said, and walked out of the house, into the night.
There is a sound from outside. People coming up the stairs. A man’s voice. A woman’s voice. “But I wouldn’t want to be walking back to your hotel alone” he says. She giggles and says something back I don’t make out. I know who they are. I saw them earlier outside a small kiosk stocked to the roof with everything you might want. Especially some certain things you might want to buy if you had just met someone you found attractive and were staying in a place distant from your responsibilities and commitments if you had them. I stood in the darkness and watched her buying the condoms, as he stood dumbfounded to one side. She pointed with the full length of her arm to the box and the vendor extracted the requested number. It made me feel alone and I asked myself, where is my vivacious and lusty woman taking control of the situation?
By now I am standing on my pillow and staring through the mosquito netting and louvered glass window to see her face, as they reach my floor. I realise suddenly that I will be visible this close to the glass and as they reach the top step I duck out of sight, shocked and embarrassed by myself. They are giggling to each other, but I am too caught in my own voyeurism to hear what they say. I sneak another look, but don’t see their faces as they turn to walk down the corridor to their room. He has his arm around her waist, and she walks with a slight skip, leaning into him. A walk as if they had been together for many months or even years, but somehow it betrays that they have just met over a cheap meal or a couple of beers. Her hair is pulled into plaited bunches. She wears a t-shirt and britches that show her ankles and lower calves off to the mosquitoes. He is dressed in the formal attire of the young traveller – light cotton trousers with a pocket on each thigh, but not combat trousers. And a khaki shirt, not tucked in. His hair is carefully tousled, and he walks with a practiced swagger, having gained a confidence that escaped him when she was buying the protection. They sway together into the penumbra of the corridor beyond their giggles are too far to make it over the roar of my fan. I slip back down on the bed I have been standing on to spy. Slump with my body stretched out, my head against the wall, forcing my chin into my chest. I could put my trousers on, slip out into the corridor, and follow them to their room. I could stand nearby, as if looking through the perforated wall at the city lights outside, but focus my attention on the sounds from their room. First the confident conversation melting back into awkwardness, followed by the quiet smack of a first kiss, followed no doubt by the sound of her pressing her lips onto his and making the decisions once again. How long might I stand out there before I heard belt buckles rattling into the tiled floor, and the smooching noises accompanied by a rising in their breathing. By that point I would be tempted to stand on my tiptoes to gaze in through their mosquito netting to see if I could make out anything through the darkness. Or maybe she would have snapped the light back on in order to see.
I won’t do any of that. I will sleep alone, waiting to be bitten by mosquitoes and be woken by mosques.
There are moments that stay with you for the rest of your life. There are no acts of remembrance involved, for they remain in your thoughts at all times although we cannot always seem them. If we can find those moments they are the key to unlock the meaning of any event.