I love nighttime here. I spend the whole day waiting for the night and when the sun sets, I am content. I feel satiated, as if I have been hungry all day. I feel that my thirst has been quenched when the sky turns black and the streetlamps come on. Sunset is at a late hour, but sunrise is pretty early, which makes the dark hours of the night seem so precious. I have heard that mythology exists that tells the story of a man falling in love with Dawn, but nighttime? The streets are silent except for the occasional pedestrian or car. The buses glide smoothly now, towards the bus station and I can see that there is a smooth motion to the buses.
A little distance away are apartment buildings, large and towering. I can often see people on the verandahs, smoking, or just dreaming away at sunset. Occasionally, I can see people move about in their homes. I wonder if they can see me here, and I have wondered about this question for quite sometime. This was answered this evening.
I was standing in my verandah, smoking Rothman’s mild cigarettes. the rush of nicotine was pleasant, breathtaking, and there was an uneasy comfort in its lightheadedness. I stood there, savouring a cool breeze at the end of what was a hot day. I was at peace, probably. I was at rest, dreaming away about my muses when I heard a voice come from below. It was far away, lost in the distance between my flat and the pavement below. I looked down to see a young woman wave up to me. I smiled back, wishing her something inconsequential.
“Hi”, she said.
“Hello”, I replied.
“Do you live here?”, she asked.A simple enough question.
“I do”, I answered, shifting to a more comfortable lean against the railing that borders my verandah.
She smiled, unsure of what to say next. I waited for her to speak. I am a patient man.
“My friend lives nearby, on that building over there”, she pointed to a building a short distance away, “She often sees you stand here”.
“Your friend has great eyesight, I can barely see anything at that distance”
“Yeah, well, you know”, she stutters and I realize that there’s a greater game afoot.
“She’s got a pair of binoculars, hasn’t she?”
“A telescope, astronomical”, she says. I laugh.
“It’s not that we are spying on you or anything”, she says again. I am amused by her stuttering. She’s apologetic about the fact that her friend, armed with a telescope, can see me and probably spends her evenings stalking me while I smoke cigarettes. I laugh and tell her that she has nothing to worry. An astronomical telescope is called so because it’s used to see stars. I thank her for the compliment. She laughs, and I can see her white teeth.
“It doesn’t matter, though, all you’ll see is a man standing at a verandah. In your defence, it is difficult to see anything clearly”.
She agrees. I know this technical detail because there is only one model of astronomical telescope available in this town and it is pretty useless for spying on foreign men. The technicality lies in its purpose. I cheekily ask her if she and her friend have named me something, as is customary with stargazers.
“Yeah, we call you the “Man on the Verandah”. There is a poetic way she says it, like it is some title of a book or a movie. I laugh again, I am, after all, a Man on a Verandah.