“I would have thought there to be worse fates than this, but now I know there are none. Man is no island. We need those who love us. We need those who hate us. We need others to tether us to life, to give us a reason to live, to feel. All I have is the darkness.”
– Darrow in Morning Star by Pierce Brown.
I find myself in a forgotten corner in a forgotten street lined with forgotten houses as I wonder if my legs have led me astray. This wouldn’t be the first time. After a certain amount of time living in The Streets you’ll realise that it never is deserted, come rain, come shine, come dawn or come dusk. The Streets always holds a certain promise. The kiss of counting money. The glint of cold steel. Always a certain promise. I wonder again if I’m in somewhere else entirely. I see old houses and kiosks well supplied. I hear electricity. I hear pipes leak and the creak of rusty hinges turning in the wind. What I do not hear is man and the noise of his [her] existence. Everything here feels haunted. By ghosts? By me? My appearance here shatters the illusion of life going on in a lost civilisation.
Have you ever paid for sex? [pardon the non-sequitur] Not to courtesans or escorts, no, nothing that expensive. Not even with girls you pick up by the road side, you can’t afford a car. Sex with alley whores [for lack of a better word] and ashawos*. Sex in a duplex where some of the girls are related to the matron. After negotiation and the awkwardness of unbuckling your belt [you pay for one round, cannot afford the whole night], the sight of her can barely stoke your lust. You settle for her hurried automatic mechanical strokes [her mind is on the next customer already]. Finally, when she has her clammy thighs around you, your eyes close. Drift off into your own world of fantasies where the androgynous female under you is replaced by a lover.
Your thrusts become energetic. You do not imagine different positions, that does not come with the package and, thus, will be problematic. She [the lover] starts resonating to your rhythm. You imagine moan and screams with a look of pure ecstasy. You begin having a not-so-bad time [with your eyes closed]. It is silent for a while and you have stopped imagining the pleasure. Then you hear the knock on the door which you duly ignore. Knocks again, loud and insistent, you can hear the matron’s voice leaking through the doorframe. Previously muted sensations come crashing down: the smell of unwashed bodies, the heat, the unreceptive female. The next customer screams through the door, telling you to “do your one round sharp-sharp”. Your eyes open and you look at the girl’s empty eyes. She has probably overdosed on alabukun*. Yeah, it feels somehow like that.
I think this is the first time I am truly alone. Well, the first time I can remember being alone anyway. Alone enough that I can’t hear the noisy drone of humanity in the background. Just a spectator to its cruelties and its wonders. The first time I can stop and admire humanised nature: the buildings like rocks and concrete trees; shacks and kiosks are anthills; fading paint, moss and epiphytes; and rusty aluminium roof sheets, the red leaves of autumn. I feel If I listen close enough I would hear parents fucking [love is not made in the streets] wildly in this humid heat not minding that their children in the other room [barely a demarcation but call it a room we shall]; I would hear children sharing experiences and made-up stories, laughing loudly not minding their parents in the other room; I would hear arguments teetering on the precipice of becoming fights; fights a step away from bloodshed; I would hear life in its human form. I’m scared of what I may hear, so I don’t listen close enough. Instead I hear mosquitoes buzzing with wings beating at 300 hertz; I hear the wind keening through broken windows, a lament for what is and what was lost. Solemn music for my ears.
My feet fail me and I crumble to the ground. Meanwhile, The Lantern blazes on, an open invitation, a welcome post. At first I find peace in being alone. I find order to apply to the chaos of life and the aloneness becomes another sane thing in the world. Like me. Then it gets corrupted by humanity. By existing outside of humanity. It transforms, metamorphoses into loneliness and I begin to crave that which despises me. That which I despise for corrupting peace. Time passes and I ache for contact. Just when it begins to physically hurt me, I hear footsteps approaching.
*Ashawos – Prostitutes [derogatory]
Alabukun – Drug? Contraceptive? Analgesic? a Powder with numerous uses.