He had stopped to take notice, maybe if he hadn’t glimpsed of the small miracle that day, his life may have gone on unchanged, he could have gone on to become whatever, be whoever, but he found one of these infinite possibilities, he stopped on the long winding road and decided to pause.
The settling was done on a cold night in Laos street, under the shaky orange glow of street lights. Chuka could feel everything ten times as intense, the orange glow had red and yellow in it, the music was loud, electrifying, the music had a taste in his mouth, a thump in his chest, there was a woman dancing at the middle of the plastic chairs, a beer in hand, taking drags of her cigarette, waist in rhythm, sweat pouring, clinging to her breasts
“For today, it’s free”
The strange man giving out heaven for free had a scar across his right eye that shrunk its size until it was barely open. He went by the name of one eyed killer. Chuka did not remind the him that he had paid fifteen thousand for protection. He did not even ask what he needed protecting from, one eyed killer found a man on his street in expensive shoes past midnight and they both understood without much bargaining that this was reason enough.
Reason was not one of his strongest pursuits, his new protector walked over to dancer woman, he whispered something in her ear then whispered in Chuka’s. Five thousand naira later, they were on a corridor, blue lights flickering above, pants down as she worked her way. She was as good as advertised, he had his back on the wall, head raised, he could feel the blood going through him, through his groin, the warmth of her mouth, the night breeze on his skin, all building up to something, he was there and not really there.
She handed him a tissue when she was finished, wiped her hands with a handkerchief and walked out silently, till then, he hadn’t realized that he had no idea what she sounded like.
He found his protector with a group of men outside
“Big boi” was the name bequeathed to him for the night
He offered to pay for a round of drinks, it was accepted with loud cheers.
He slumped into one of the chairs, his feet had begun to feel sore,
One eyed killer handed him another pill
“My brother, you need another ride”
He replied with a question “Why not?”
More cheers from the other men on the table, Samo being the loudest, Samo looked maybe 19, but with large eyes that gave away hunger, not just for food, the look that told you he was desperate for a respite he would die for.
There were many boys like Samo around, stuck on the pill, they had taken odd jobs and were controlled by one eyed killer.
Tee was shouting at dancer woman, shaking his head violently to the loud music, smelling of sweat mixed with beer. Dancer woman just kept on dancing. Tee had lost his last job from passing out too many times on site. The owners called him an unnecessary liability and let him go without a salary.
One eyed killer was talking too loud, battling the music, battling the urge to close his eyes, his hands toward Chuka
“You are not the first person coming here like this, looking for a taste of our life. Wanting some sort of rush,”
He let his eyes close, a swig of beer, a drag of nicotine, silence
“but the truth is that your experience is incomplete”
Another pause, he’s staring around, more women have joined dancer woman. There’s a light skinned woman, her weave falling down her back, her skirt transparent so you can tell exactly where her underwear stops and laps curve out, her large breasts tilting downward. Tee is staring and leaning towards Samo, saying something, laughing.
One eyed killer occasionally picks up where he left off
“There’s something missing that makes all the difference, the inability to escape is the experience. The desperation.”
“Look at us all here, my father was nothing, I will die as nothing. Many like you come here, they return to their lives tomorrow. They can’t understand what it means to float, to understand what it means to be truly reckless, because they have control over something, they can imagine tomorrow, they know what to expect”
“Here God saves us, god-willing, there will be food tomorrow, God-willing my son will make it out of here, wear shoes like you”
He hands Chuka the cigarette. Chuka sees the blood on the staircase, the body at the end of the staircase, he takes a drag, feels it in his chest, relaxing him.
He dwells on the word escape, how it is everything he wants, he imagines himself floating.
“God-willing” he repeats as crushes the cigarette on his ID card.