Short Stories, Tale Africa

At the bottom of the glass (I)

By Egan Tabaro:

When he woke up this morning, it had been a normal day for Andrew; he had had his usual bachelor's breakfast; black tea and deep fried cassava chips he bought the previous night from the roadside canteen. Yet now as he climbs up the stairs – his phobia for enclosed places forbade him from using the building's lift – of the Metro Tower to the third floor Coastal theme Mwambao Bar and Restaurant, an eerie feeling engulfs him. He still cannot figure out exactly what he could have done wrong or, perhaps, misplaced during the day. When he was through with his breakfast, he went on to his art studio, which occupies the sitting room of his two-bed roomed house. School had closed for the long holiday so there were no art classes for him to teach at the St Austin University, School of Fine Art and Design where he was a member of faculty, teaching young eager minds the delicate skill that is fine art! The clients came into the art gallery, took a look, gushed on about how gifted he was and how beautiful his paintings were and left – without making a purchase! The clients were the usual suspects, just-settling-in-the-country expatriates and the art poseurs from the corporate world. He hated the latter, for the simple reason that when they bought his work, it was only because they wished to boast to their friends about its price tag and not because of any of its aesthetic attributes! Art was a lifestyle he chose; it didn't pay much -it brought him fame yes, but famine too! His parents and siblings would rather he quit all together and find himself a more stable job but being a pencil pusher in the corporate world was not his cup of tea! At twenty five years of age, Andrew was without a wife or kids yet married to his art and the bohemian life.

As Andrew finally reaches the Mwambao Restaurant and Bar, he walks up to the balcony, taking a seat at the table in far right corner from where he can see the entrance of the restaurant. Looking at his watch, he exclaims “8:00pm, I am always in time”.  He knows Maureen, his date, will not be here until another thirty minutes or so. Ordering a drink, he surveys the restaurant to see if he can recognise any faces but alas there is none, just as they had planned it. Mwambao is a fine place, and the patio is especially breezy on evenings such as these. At the far end from where he is seated, a band is playing Taarab music. The band's men are wearing flowing snow white robes and turbans while the band's women, with toffee brown skins and long wavy jet black hair perform that hip gyrating dance. Teasing, flirting and beguiling Andrew's countenance into smiling. “Ah, the wenches”! He mutters to himself, as his visage changes from a smirk to a hearty laugh – obviously pleased with the eye candy before him. Suddenly the menacing sensation he felt before momentarily vanishes. Yet he still ponders hard about what could have or will go wrong with him.

It is 8:43pm and Andrew is still glued to the stage. From the corner of his eye, he sees a figure of a woman. Quickly turning her way, he catches sight of Maureen at the entrance, as she scouts the restaurant and bar for her date. Finally, she sees him seated at the balcony and walks up to him. Andrew is gawking at her; she is graceful, beautiful – a thing to behold. When she reaches their table, Andrew rises and pulls a chair for her. “Always the gentleman, huh?” she says teasingly to him. In her mind and her heart, she knew that he would always treat her right, this Andrew…her struggling artist of a boyfriend. Just this year on her birthday, he gave her a nude painting of herself he drew just for her; he even wrote her poems and surprised her with freshly cut flowers. It was just what she needed to rekindle her youth's flame. It did not matter to her that she is married, or that Andrew is nearly half her age. Their moments of passion were fiery; in his arms she melted away like chocolate over ice-cream. Her screams were loud enough to wake the hounds of hell.

As they eat and order some more wine, Maureen is laughing away heartily. This man she opened her heart and life to was brilliant, spontaneous, humorous, passionate and creative. He was art's next big thing; even though the last exhibition she bankrolled for him pulled the crowds, it still did not mint enough money to pay the bills. She was too besotted to realise, that for Andrew this was only another aesthetic pursuit for him.

To be continued…

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