The sun sets late in Orient city like a visitor overstaying his welcome but it does not stop streetlights from blinking above countless heads, hanging loose in the distance like tiny candlelight glows held by threads amidst a flock of crawling headlights that make pools of mirage on the tarmac. Unlike the tiny twinkles of a million unknown bulbs in the sky at night, these lights are the stars whose limits we know. And as the light and city grudgingly part like two faithless lovers, the ramblings of random pedestrians and the impatient blast of horns mingles with black and white smoke from exhaust pipes, like an assembly of day and night witches, to stiffen the air.
It is exactly fifteen minutes since I’d left the apartment and I am still fuming. I am perfecting a plot in my head, assuming Charlene isn’t a woman. I imagine walking up to her male version at work and ramming my fist into his face. I think of it as the perfect payback; something that would make revenge seem sweetly cold but fortunately, he is a she and I’m already resigning my mind to letting snoozing bulls lie as an incontrollable thirst pricks my gullet. I let out a throaty snort to appease the itch, my eyes scanning the busy sidewalks for a bar. I can see none from my standing position. I walk a few paces and stop. The zebra crossing is meters away but I pay no attention to it. I glance at my digital watch. 18:15.
People patiently stood in clusters, waiting for cars to slow down to a crawl so they can cross to the other side of the road. No pedestrian in Orient city scaled these roads without standing by a zebra crossing, and it is perhaps the reason why a few persons over there are staring as though a nut has gone loose in my head. However, I’m indifferent; I act invisible.
My father used to say that a lunatic would never come to accept he is mad. That it is rather the sane that acknowledges madness thereby justifying the lunatic’s claim of (him) not being in need of lucidity. It is like saying too much normalcy is madness; that normal people are the reasons why the mad ones chase everything but sanity. I am yet to find any sense in that even though I deem it fit in this situation. I am the lunatic, they have sanity, but I am in dire need of a drink and it is, apparently, the only sense that comes without a prefix.
I therefore step onto the tarmac, halting almost immediately as a motorcycle breezes past me, and the rider probably female, sputters “idiot!” at me. I pick up my pace again a second later, ignoring the blare of horns coming from all directions, when it happens. I’m not sure if it is behind or beside me but static screams, straining to be heard as if to ward off an incoming threat hit my ears before a deafening screech of tires almost jerk me off my skin. The unending screech apparently crashes into something, something contrary to its volume and size, squashing it like crickets thumped by boots. I am now at the other side of the road, imaginary mosquitoes whining in my ears, wondering how I got there in short notice as my eyes roll with the white tiny circles dancing before them.
A congregation is gathering; shaking heads, shrugging shoulders, snapping fingers as a sob harmonizes everything like background music. They all are looking down at an oblong figure lying still on the ground.
“He’s dead!” someone shrieks.
“Can somebody please call an ambulance?!” returns another.
I notice from my distance that like me he has a black jacket on. The here and there movements of cars and excited people made it difficult to tell but I think the jacket is leathery considering its familiar luster. I think of walking across to join in their commemoration but the sight of blood cycling the figure, forming an island retracts my mind. The fear of that red substance has always been the beginning of my wisdom. It is the same reason I had ignored father’s insistence on me being a medical practitioner. Of course, he never understood. He only wanted a hyperbolic slice of the prestige that came with being the father of a doctor; of one who played God but the forgery of his crown wasn’t going to be at my expense or any of my brother’s until Todo; meek, submissive and younger to me by seven years had taken up the challenge. Father, swollen with pride had sent him off to the glacial islands of Northern Penelope to study where pneumonia snuffed out his lights two years later. It had been a major setback for me and the other seven. He was not just a brother to me. He was my best friend, and it took a considerable amount of time for me to accept the unbroken silence that followed his absence. I remember stargazing alone on the roof of our retarded bungalow. I remember wishing he were there by my side to tickle laughter out of my lungs. And I remember also that I’d hoped his death was peaceful like unknowingly slumbering off after a cool drink of fura de nono on a hot afternoon, as I’d hoped father’s would be horrid…
Thus like my mind, I retract my legs, taking three steps backwards before turning to walk away. And as if to start a dirge, wailful sirens begin to approach in the distance. I will not pray for the dead man on the ground.
To be continued….