By William Saint George
My spirit this morning was as severe as the North Legon sky, as the wind that raised the curtains up and let them fall while I lay in bed staring back half bemused by their haunting manner, severe as the silence in the hostel that reminded me of my sudden loss.
It was sunnier in my sleep, I recollect. There were people. Many people. I called them friends. We had things to talk about, stuff to do, smiles to exchange. It was sunnier in my sleep. I heard laughter too and she was there.
That thought made me smile. The curtains raised themselves high and I caught a vision of the stark Madina skyline; the zongo spread into the distance, a hundred corrugated sheets above which was a dense forest of low hanging power lines and jutting antennae, the ragtag estate was held back by our high wall protected by a razor fence. The world had lost some colour, or I was going mad with grief. Either way, my reality was not what it had been yesterday. I loved my sunnier dreams. I had friends there.
An hour must have passed. I heard the sound of rain outside. The smell woke me up. I don’t remember what dream I had this time, but the feeling lingered: it was the warmth of humanity, the belongingness that I longed for so much it drove me mad to think that some god had preordained this present lot.
I slithered out of bed and sat on the cold floor. I stared at nothing for a while, then, I shook the spell of sleep from my eyes. It was eight AM. I should be getting ready for work. The curtains agreed with a frantic nod. The rain was still falling outside.
I got up and briefly considered my austere room. There are two beds at each end of the square room; one for myself, the other for my quiet roommate. He must have slipped out while I was asleep. He always woke up at six, bathed, dressed, sat at the edge of the bed closest to the window to check his email and then, without rousing me, exited. My dearly beloved roommate is a specimen of mechanized humanity. His unchangeable routine annoys me more than it should. No, it isn’t that I am jealous of him, far from it! I am rather glad that I am not like him. He is a machine, programmed to be productive and religious and clean and generally dutiful. He executes his internal instructions with passionless accuracy. He is good at what he does; he is manufactured to be normal.
I am not, and though right now I am beset by demons on all sides, I feel more at home with them, understanding that they are in truth on my side and together we make my life more fascinating.
Beside his bed is our only study desk. Beside my bed is the chair. Between the beds is just the bare, concrete floor. In the middle of that, in a little heap, are my clothing. I left them there last night after my last frustrated evening with her. My dutiful roommate did not disturb them while performing his morning ritual. The good boy that he is, he knows not to interfere with my personal matters. He knows as little about my life as I know about his. I don’t care much for him beyond having his presence constantly remind me that there are people most unlike me. And he cares little for me beyond what is generally acceptable to whatever social algorithm he lives by.
We like our arrangement as it is.
Our room is dark and spartan as the love in my heart. It contains all that is necessary and nothing more. It smells because most of my clothing are unwashed, the bathroom door is left open, and no one bothers to flush the toilet these days.
I dropped my underwear in the pile of clothing and walked naked, in dejected fashion, to the bathroom to stare at myself in the mirror.
After five minutes of deep consideration, I concluded that I was not a happy man. My eyes were red and hungry, my cheeks empty. I wore a fierce scowl because I must have been angry at myself. My skin was dry and peeling. I had dark spots where pimples of days past had been removed. The aesthetist in me thought that I was ugly. He wanted to avert his eyes but you see, the flagellant in me was stronger. He held my face to the mirror. All my past selves looked at that face with pity. Were I another person, they would have spat on me.
At last, having had enough of myself, I splashed cold water on my face and buried it in my towel. The water stabbed my face like a knife. It dripped like the tears I was unwilling to shed. It was too cold for a bath, I convinced myself, and hurried out.
I glided like a ghost to the pile in the middle of the room and, without much thought, slipped on the same old black trousers, two months unwashed and muddy, the same old shirt filled with her scent from our last embrace, and I tucked an old handkerchief in the back of my pocket.
Beneath the pile of clothing were my sandals. The straps were torn, the soles were pealing from overuse. I did not care. The fabric of my soul was in tatters and that needed mending. I have no time for torn sandals and smelly shirts.
In five minutes the last bus will arrive. I will have to go out and sit among people. They will shun me as they often have and wonder in their minds what a queer sort of individual I am. They will have conversations around me but not with me. I was nothing but an afterthought to them.
Strange as it seems, this gave me some immense comfort. I had become a ghost, thin as air and unseen. I left my haunt with one hope, that the day will swiftly pass and night will come so I can sleep once more and dream my sunny dreams.
Jesse Jojo Johnson writes under the pen name William Saint George. Among his several interests are world history, philosophy, photography and amateur music composition.
He works as a software engineer at Asoriba. He publishes on his personal website.