The next morning we got up at a leisurely hour and wandered town a bit. Not before I played Santa a bit more and gave K the copies of Something Happened and The Brothers K that I’d brought for her. When we hung out before we discussed both aging and that she collects good books. I figured these would make good additions to her collection. I also gave Leah a little wooden Moroccan pot filled with pepto-bismol tablets. She was initially posted to Morocco before it was evacuated and so the pot was a safe bet. The pepto was off of a conversation where she may or may not have been joking about liking them. Either way, I thought it was a quirky, but not too weird gift.
I’ve found I really like giving gifts. I like shopping and the acquisition of stuff. I like hunting through the stalls of trinkets and from time to time I even like bargaining. I don’t really have the attention span though to maintain a large collection of brik-a-brak for myself. Giving gifts let’s me shop and make my friends happy all at once. Granted, certain of my friends ought make out with me upon reception of their gifts, I think, but I like doing it even without the physical expression of appreciation. â˜º
We went by one of the nicer stores on the island: a fair-trade shop called Keur Fall. We were secretly hunting for something for K. They had lots of cool stuff and Leah got a very fetching orange beret.
At the pool I hid out under the umbrella for a good bit. My skin hadn’t seen the light of day for a couple months before the previous day’s pool excursion and I was currently working an very convincing overripe tomato impression. I was in a bit of a mood and sulked by the pool with The Blind Assassin and practiced my writing a bit more, this time in the key of Faulknerâ€¦
Drama flows through my veins. Melodrama to be exact. Much as I try to rid myself of it, I have been as of late unable. It stems, I think, from the uncertainty that I doubt I’ll ever be able to shake. My ideas don’t get played out directly; instead they bounce around my head for a while losing their touch with reality: becoming epic. She doesn’t adore me, she doesn’t hate me. The truth is mottled and complex, but as I sit here stewing rather than out there really living things are getting too simple. When things finally break free I can tell that they’ve come unmoored from what is, but I’m hard pressed to do anything about it.
It is apparently my job to stop the thinking and drive the action. I don’t fault her the responsibility, I just suck at at. Last night we spent far too much time talking and none at all kissing. I don’t like this drama. I don’t want my life and my feelings played out in my head and spoken on my voice. That pale shadow of reality. That reflection of the moon on the water. I just want it to fall away. Live and be consumed! Blah, blah, blah… If wishes were raindrops this’d not be a desertâ€¦
Since I knew I needed to get off my ass and go talk with everyone, I eventually did. Most of the conversation still escapes me since it concerned people and places I didn’t know, but I did manage the occasional interjection about their desert neighbor to the north. Everyone was really friendly and I enjoyed hearing the stories even if I wasn’t up to my usual loquaciousness. After we’d been there a bit a few more of the girls from the Fouta showed up and brought a good deal of energy along with them. Our crowd surpassed ten now with a combined travel time of around forty hours to be there. It was an impressive show of affection and I told K as much.
The Kaolack crew and I headed out from the pool a bit early to run a few errands. Dell headed back to Keur Fall to pick up K’s present while Justin and Leah went to retrieve the cake they’d brought from Kaolack: enter Africa’s ability to muddle the best laid of plansâ€¦
Kaolack’s cake was a wonder of American culinary skill. Easily a foot in diameter it had the shape of a heart to represent the world’s love of Kathleen. When they’d gotten it into town after a harrowing five hour ride on Leah’s lap, they gave it to the care of the hotel staff to refrigerate while waiting for the party. The ownership of the Hotel Harmattan has recently changed hands from an industrious Frenchman to an elderly Lebanese couple. By coincidence the son of the Lebanese couple also lives in Saint Louis and owns a pÃ¢tisserie down the street. When they got up in the morning and discovered a giant heart shaped cake in their fridge they were touched by what they assumed to be their dear grandson’s surprise. They must have been touched all the way down to their stomachs because they ate a good five slices of cake between them. The Lebanese style of cake cutting is a bit less ordered than our finicky Western methods, so there’s a jagged round chunk missing right out of the middle.
Sufficit to say, Justin and Leah were less than pleased at this defacing of their culinary masterpiece. I missed the initial confrontation, but Leah was uncharacteristically pissed when she made it back to the room. The contrite grandson did a bit to soothe her anger when he offered to give them a replacement cake from his pÃ¢tisserie. There was nearly a second conflict when the Lebanese couple attempted to appropriate the as of yet unseen uneaten parts of the heart cake because it was “delicious.” This suggestion was met with surprising fury on Leah’s part. The remnants of the cake were soon returned to their creatress who grumbled a bit about lesbians and frogs, but seemed to be calming.
Everyone else came back a bit after and other than some giggling that had to go unexplained as the cake was iced, Kathleen was none the wiser about the preparations for the evening. Since this was to be our nice night out donc, il faut s’endimancher, n’est pas?
Everyone was in rare form, but there were a few shining stars that come to mind. The birthday girl herself was wearing a lovely red and white floral print that did an excellent job of accentuating her finer points.The outfit was drawn together very well by a string of faux pearls that she’d received as a present earlier in the day. Leah had a light green ensemble, also in a floral motif, and with ruffled elastic back on the shirt reminiscent of her senorita outfit from the Kaolack party. She was certainly looking good, but this was just an appetizer for her true hotness which was to blossom later in the evening. Marie Elsie nearly took the prize for most striking outfit with a pink tie-back halter top than was guaranteed to leave some unsuspecting fellow with whiplash before the end of the evening. In the end modesty or good sense won out and she put on a shirt under it which did a lot to mute the effect.
The gents, of which we were two, did our best to look presentable to escort this bevy of beauties. Justin managed it with a cotton striped shirt that brought out both his height and build. He looked debonair without being aloof; a versatile escort capable of pleasuring the mind with scintillating dinner conversation and later pleasuring the body with a firm but tender touch. I myself was a bit rougher in appearance. I was wearing my traditional Saint Louis dancing ensemble of Malian print pants, gray wife-beater and a blue button down shirt worn open. I tried to leave my hair uncovered, but eventually thoughts of having been called a “poodle” and “mushroom” wormed their way into my psyche and I covered it with a bandanna.
Dinner was at La Saigon: a delicious Thai restaurant at the end of the island where we all stuffed ourselves on delicious curries and lo meins. K received a couple more gifts: a very nice handbag from Keur Fall and a fancy mulafa from myself. I’d never purchased a nice mulafa before and something that I learned is that the top of the line ones have little braids and buttons at one of the corners that are the signature of the artist.
A couple of our girls had already had a bit to drink and they’d call the waiter (with whom they were familiar) with alluring cries of “Oh Oooousemaaannn…” For a very black man he’d manage to turn quite pink. To help everyone to get on the same page we had a couple rounds of saki shots. Ever sensitive to the ambiance our proprietess provided us with little ceramic shot bowls. The base of each was a curved lens that normally distorted the light, but when filled with a clear liquid, such as saki, became transparent to reveal a nude figure lounging in the bottom of the bowl.
After dinner we headed back to the room for a bit. Marie Elsie made a very stiff screwdriver that was literally almost half vodka and she and I nursed that together. I didn’t really get especially drunk given the extent to which I’d imbibed. I think part of the problem was that I’d still not really talked to Leah about where exactly we stood. Running around all day combined with my being a chicken shit just kept it from happening. While we were back at the hotel she changed clothes into a pair of jeans that literally stopped my heart for a beat when I saw them. Those jeans combined with the addition of her orange hat purchased earlier in the day was the perfect blend of spunky and sexy. Her looking as good as she did managed to push my nearly mind numbing chatter of self-recriminations up yet another notch. I took a shot of vodka chased with Red Bull to try and quiet the damned things down.
K’s final present from Leah were a couple of glow sticks that were broken out once we got into the club. Our group was in a big circle and as the sticks would move from person to person you’d take the spotlight for a bit in the center. Tara was likely the best contestant with her flowing and sensual moves reminiscent of an arcane ritualistic dance out of ancient Egypt. The most entertaining was a random Wolof woman who joined our circle dressed in full boubou regalia and did a tawdry seduction of a distressed looking Frenchman.
The music was pretty good, but I wasn’t being grabbed by anything. I was sort of pissed that just as the glow sticks found their way into my hands the music changed to a Senegalese m’balach. A perfectly fine and acceptable form of musical expression, just one with a beat so complex that it generally just confuses me and I end up flailing like an epileptic if I attempt it for any length of time. I passed the sticks off to Ouseman from the restaurant who had apparently been captured by the Siren calls of Kim.
Eventually my courage and a good song lined up with 50’s Candyshop and managed to get in a bit of dancing with Leah. Some time after that I told her that I’d really like to get to get a word with her if she had a chance. After a bit we did head out and we did get to talk a bit. The conversation was mostly me raving and her trying not to fall asleep. I didn’t really leave with any more of a clue than I came in with other than the knowledge that we wouldn’t be hooking up that weekend and it would be best that if we ever manage to catch up again that we do so in a setting where it is just us two.
How I feel about the whole bit is muddled. I think she is beautiful and I’m definitely interested in her. We have a unfortunate tendence toward awkwardness in our group interactions though. At this point I’m willing to just let things play out as they will. I’ve pretty much said where I stand, so the ball’s in her court. I figure I’ve done a pretty good job of being both nice and cool to date, so however it works out I did what I could and that’ll have to do.