Like a bana nyonka, dusk slithers into night and friends come together — BlackAss, Rag Doll, Azotus, Jimi Hendrix, Oris and me. Something is devised. BlackAss wants to show us his hometown strip club.
Taxi in Port Harcourt moves into a homely suburb.
No stereophonics in the taxi and none of us is talking during the drive.
We come to a car park. Finally, a familiar riddim — Dancing Machine groove coming from somewhere. It makes me say something, retrieve from my mind-dumps a nonsense revelation.
“The African Wild Dogs don’t know patriarchy. It has never been observed. I myself have only seen photos and drawings of the African Wild Dog. Its cousin is the Ethiopian Wolf. The girls leave the pack once they mature. When they kill an animal, they let the kids eat first. They themselves sit back and watch and let the kids finish. Then they move in.”
Men are at ease, leaning on cars, talking with lit cigarettes in their mouths. It’s relaxed out here, it’s almost like a Nairobi evening. Surprisingly no humidity in Port Harcourt tonight, a cool breeze teasing around the car park.
By the time we enter the strip club the Jacko riddim is gone. I could have walked faster.
A dim strip club bathed in red fluorescent. Three compartments, floating islands of darkness and semi-darkness. Degrees of red, shades of red lipstick, mountains of lips and lipstick. My pupils adjust to the dimness. Flourescent bana nyonkas are curled around poles. It is still early so bana nyonkas everywhere are wearing their two piece hide and seek kamfai.
Velvet sofas. Azotus and I sit on the long one. Azotus stretches out a leg on his half of it. Jimi Hendrix takes the one man sofa in the middle, his poet eyes observing this red world, his famous angled slouch as he sits down, controlled psychosis I always think, a laughing face entrapped in cosmopolis anguish. Oris disappears into one of the other compartments. Rag Doll and BlackAss take the far end sofa, they are far away, looking at them is like seeing them atop lipstick mountains on the horizon of the strip club.
Chubby banya nyonka gyroscopes on coffee table in front of our sofa, Azotus wants a beer, Jimi Hendrix looks at our bana nyonka, standing in this strip club is being too tall, everything is low, everybody is sitted low in sofa, bana nyonka in two piece kamfai gyroscopes, her arms diving into coffee table, her legs kicking in red air, ass bouncing off my face, rough lace of kamfai scratches and burns my nose, BlackAss comes down from lipstick mountains and walks to us.
“Gorilla, you want beer? Azotus?”
“Give me five hundred naira.”
Beers come. There is nothing so tough we did all day but we seem tired. Holding a cold beer in a dark red place is an interesting moment. We writers in this compartment are inert, passively waiting for something to happen to us, like we fully expect something will happen.
Jimi Hendrix’s famous angled slouch.
Rag Doll sucking on her beer bottle, another observer in this world, watching everything, x-raying into the darkness and seeing the bones of this moment.
Do bana nyonka bones look red when x-rayed?
It is a new feeling holding a cold beer in a dark red place, a cold beer is held in sunlight, out there in the brilliant world. Inert, I sit.
I guess a bana nyonka can see an oyibo even in the greatest darkness.
She comes and straddles me like I am horse.
I am sitted relaxed and tired with bottle and body weight lands on my laps.
She removes one piece of her kamfai.
I put beer bottle on coffee table.
I now need a word, I am holding her waist, even pinching her nipples, finger roll, adjusting pressure with fingertips, her body is suddenly the wall in front of me.
‘Body’ is not the word. I need a word.
Jism. That’s the word. The Hindustani word.
How should one say it? Say it ‘Jizzm’, soften or dilute the zee, make the zee halfway ‘ess’. Jism.
What does it mean?
She peels off all her fucking kamfai now. I hold her waist.
‘Body’ is weak, so basic, it has to be peeled away like kamfai to reveal the real word, her chubby jism.
I am holding the jism, smoothing my hand over whatever I want, she actually takes my hand and does it for me better.
There is sweat, of course.
Jism, where the ‘ess’ has a zing of zee, Jizzzmm.
She reaches out behind her and picks up my beer bottle, takes a swig from it, puts the bottle back on the table, shakes her head and bathes me in a spray of beer and sweat.
Jism like the bulbous torso of a Nok terracotta found submerged in the sands at Janjala.
Her appointed time to get off me is not known.
Jism pressing into me, jism whose hands hold the back of my head and force my face to bathe in the sweaty hills and valleys of her chest.
Now, do I show violence? Do I shove her off? Do I feel like doing that? I am suffocated in her embrace. Jism takes my hand and tries to force my fingers into her vagina. I manage to roll my head on her chest and see to my left, I see Rag Doll looking at me, x-raying through, seeing the bones of jism.
“Two thousand Naira, you give me.”
“You have to give me now. For what I have done.”
“I am not giving.”
Azotus lends me one thousand. I give her. Jism gets off me, walks away into the red and darkness. Now it is back to how it was, but I cannot drink from my bottle. Now there is a small moment of boredom, there is music I don’t like playing, the surprise of seeing jism is gone, what is there to do now? A new beer bottle is placed on my table, cold and sweaty, I see to my left, Rag Doll gives me a nod, raises her beer bottle and like that she wishes me a good drink.
Bana nyonka, hafum aka. We leave the moutains of lips behind because night is awake and roaming the dank streets of downtown Port Harcourt too.
That crowds here are warming themselves around suya grills, that an okada comes to a stop in front of me, burning the air around with its machine heat, speaking in the booms and burps of its engine lingo, and I step back and I think of okadas speaking to each other in these downtown streets, perhaps I see the antecessor of the cyborg-iguachan to come. That the girl on the okada doesn’t want to look like any other girl here, that she looks through the smoky air, the smoky air smelling of roasted boli, grills afire, looks at the crowds packed into the dance bars, looks at the other girls, and here she is, still on the okada, white dress, blue is her hair, shining nose ring, not yet getting off, resting her chin on a wrist, looking. Now she gets off, legs stretching out, that legs have character, her apatas shock absorbing the fear and fatigue of the endless fights of the so many nights lived on this street so far, that legs have a life of their own, her ikperes imagining the night they will shed the burden they carry.
She gets off and her legs play with gravity like its plastacine.
This girl prancing away.
That I lose her in the crowds, that all these humans here are a blur because I don’t have the seconds to look at each one of them properly, that this night in Port Harcourt is the dankness.
Mehul Gohil is an Africa39 writer and a founding member of the JALADA collective. A Don DeLillo fanatic and an MJ disciple. He is also a chess addict and a member of the Kenya national chess team. Born and living in Nairobi.