By Tafadzwa Razemba, Zimbabwe:
Sleep eluded him.
No matter how much he tried to focus on quieting his mind and all the anxious thoughts that ran rampant, he was just unable to fall asleep that night. As if sleep would cleanse him of the inexplicable shame he felt or rid him of the guilt that he ever presently felt. Taku lay in the bed in the early hours of the morning after a good day's, but mostly night's, work. Laying there in the darkness, in his warm comfortable bed in the Avenues apartment, it was a far cry from where he had been laying just eight months ago. Most nights were sleepless and tearful for him, and when he did sleep, his nightmares woke him up leaving him in continual despair. Although, it was a tortured existence, in the recesses of his mind, he knew he would rather have the life he had now, than the one he had then.
Tossing and turning hoping to get a glimpse of sleep, he finally gave up and decided to go watch TV. Maybe he'd watch something boring that would put him to sleep. As he walked along the corridor to the living room, he could hear sounds of moaning from one of the rooms in the apartment that escaped the purposely thick walls. “I guess some are still busy making their money”, he thought as he sat down on a couch and grabbed the TV remote.
Mabel, the owner of the apartment and his boss, kept the apartment immaculately clean and expected her employees to keep their rooms just as clean and tidy. She was a motherly woman, if you could place such a term on a woman like her. She cared for her young tenants or employees as long as you paid your dues. More importantly, she had saved Taku from the hell of a life he had been living and introduced him to a different kind of hell in which at least he felt more in control. His clients, mostly white foreign men, loved him and although they paid handsomely, it still made him sick to his stomach the things he did just to escape poverty's clutches.
As Taku got his young, small body into a more comfortable position on the sofa, with the remote in his hand skimming the channels for an adequately boring show, the door to the room with the last of the nights moaning men, opened. As he glanced up to see, he saw Michelle in her ironically modest gown as she walked her client, Gift to the door. Taku's knowing glance met Gift's eyes which made the man evidently uncomfortable as he nervously looked at Michelle, then down as he shuffled out of the apartment. As Gift walked out of the building, he couldn't quite place where he had seen that boy sitting on the couch, before.
“Why are you still up? Thought everyone else was sleeping by now?” Michelle asked Taku, as she walked back from the door.
“Can't sleep, so decided to waste time watching TV. Oh look, they're advertising HIFA; HIFA is definitely my favourite time of the year,” Taku said.
HIFA, the Harare International Festival of Arts is Zimbabwe's mini Coachella held every year, where artists and art lovers from all over Zimbabwe and the world come to celebrate all things arty.
“Ooh yes, I'll ask Stephen if we can go watch a few shows. You should go, market yourself and add more rich clients or nab yourself a sugar daddy,” Michelle said.
A queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach made Taku feel uncomfortable.
“You were working late today, made good money?” Taku asked, changing the subject.
“Yeah, I had a good night,” Michelle laughed, “let me go get my beauty rest, need to look fresh, I have a date tomorrow afternoon with Stephen”.
Michelle was a beautiful young woman, Taku thought. She was the type of girl he used to see when he used to beg for money in Avondale. She had a rich burnt caramel skin tone and a body to boast of. She had a classy air about her, as if she grew up in the low density suburbs, went to 'Uses' schools and shopped weekly at Avondale, Arundel Village and Sam Levy's Village. Her makeup always looked natural, not overdone. She dressed elegantly with manicured nails and expensive fake hair. The only thing that took away from her shiny, glossy cover was her accent; she just couldn't muster that salaa accent no matter how hard she tried. As she walked to her room, Taku couldn't help thinking of the day he had encountered the client she had just serviced, Gift.
Gift felt another rush of exhilaration as he entered his home.
He always felt that way, after a weekend of cunningly escaping the clutches of his bored existence in a life full of routine. The deceitful life he arrogantly lived without a care for those who loved him deeply and for the work life he had worked so hard for filled him with excitement. Excitement at the risk of destroying his entire life. The partner at one of Harare's top legal firms quietly opened the bedroom door, dropping his expensive designer luggage on the carpet. The perfect accessories to the perfect made up business trip. He quickly changed into his pyjamas and crept into bed where his sweet loving wife, Marilyn lay in a peaceful deep slumber. He closed his eyes and fell asleep with a wistful smile on his face.
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