Zachary. 19th Oct 2016.

[ Fiction ]

1:13 PM. Naguru 

{Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.}

Zachary smiled and started humming along. The music was fitting, the sombre lyrics drifting through his mind with the evanescent familiarity of a song that’s been listened to a thousand times.

He gripped the note tightly in his hand, the soft crunch of paper – whose contents were now burning their way into his memories – was barely audible in the still, quiet night.

He took a sip of vodka, cursing instantly at the bitterness that coursed down his throat. He could never quite get used to the taste of Smirnoff vodka; there was something vulgar and adulterating about it, like a sudden burst of lightning on a cloudless night. You couldn’t quite tell what the bloody hell had just happened, and yet, there it was… quietly, sublimely violent.

It was a beautiful night, though, with a bright, waning moon resting against a twinkling blanket of stars and an eerie silence punctuated only by the soft notes of Disturbed’s rendition of “The Sound of Silence” floating through the house onto the balcony where he sat.

{And no one dared disturb the sound of silence}

Closing his eyes, and tilting his head back, he whispered the words of the music into the listening night, imagining the majesty of the orchestra – he could just make out the violin motif building up to the crescendo – that played along to David Draiman’s powerful, haunting voice. A voice that lashed out across the stillness of time and brought you to your knees, holding you down as you wept at your own insignificance.

It was the voice of despair…

{“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you” }

The despair he felt was not something far off; it wasn’t in some abstract music file that sat on his music playlist, playing endlessly, subconsciously in a loop for the past four hours.

Another sip of vodka stung his tongue. He grimaced and cursed again, swallowing hard.

Okay, to be fair, it was. But also, the despair… his despair… was palpable… real… and it was clenched in his fist; a painful, physical reminder that he had – finally – lost everything.

{And the people bowed and praaaaaayyyeed to the neon gods they maaaaaaade}

Nursing the glass of alcohol in his hand, he stared out at the city; pockets of kaleidoscopic radiance broken by large swathes of darkness, through which he could tell which areas of Kampala he was looking at.

Damn, he loved this city.

The traffic had reduced – it was a few minutes past midnight, afterall – but he could still make out the roads as cars and late night taxis wove through them. Idly, he traced the route from Kabira, through Bukoto White Flats all the way to Kisementi. The Acacia Mall and the Kyebando bypass round-about stood out brightly, beacons of identity that grounded the people in a city that embraced everyone and everything.

In the distance, a little off to the left, the Bah’ai temple stood majestic at the top of the Kyebando hill, calling out to all who sought solace, belonging and acceptance, but only if you were out of the grounds by 7pm.

I really need to visit that place, he reminded himself, thinking back to how much she had wanted to go picnicking there; a request he had jokingly kept throwing off, talking about how he was too cool for things like picnics and the obligatory public displays of affection to let the world know that she was his and he, hers.

The note burned in his hand.

{And whispered in the sound of silence}.

Putting aside the glass, he unfurled the piece of paper, and – for what he could swear was the hundredth time -read it out aloud, speaking to the still, patiently listening, bright Kampala night.

“I’m sorry, Zach. I can’t do this anymore. I thought this was what I wanted. I thought I … we… could make this work, but … I don’t know anymore… It’s like…

He crumpled the note again.

It was torn in half. And that hurt – and annoyed – him more than anything else.

The other half lay somewhere in the streets of Kampala, torn and discarded in  a violent anger that had erupted in Kamwokya, somewhere between Java’s City Oil and the Kobil petrol station, just a few hours ago. He had had the presence of mind to walk away from her without a word until he had calmed down enough to wave down a passing boda-boda.

The missing half had the true contents of the drama. The whys, hows, and that stupid, eternally infuriating request to just be friends.

He thought of some random kid with a stupid half-toothed grin picking up the piece of paper the next day on its way to school, showing it to his other missing-toothed friends and them all laughing at another poor idiot who had gotten knifed by a Battousai…

Ahh. Shit.

And now, her phone was off.

He walked back into the apartment, closing the double doors behind him, not bothering to lock, because, quite honestly, nothing really mattered anymore.

In the distance, a dog howled, and shortly after, a whole lot of other neighbourhood dogs replied discordantly, raising a ruckus that nearly drowned out…

Suddenly pissed, he flipped the main switch in the corridor and everything went dark and quiet.

And then, without warning, Draiman’s raspy voice drifted quietly back into the night.

{ Hello darkness, my old friend }

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