The kitchen is stuffy, the window so crusted with finger-marks, grease and dust that it makes the trees outside look like photocopies of themselves.
The floor is scattered with debris – breadcrumbs and fragments of crisps, tea leaves, curled up rocket, maybe a seed here and there – a forensic free-for-all.
He hoards food. The table is piled high with bread, some recently bought – others, encased in plastic, bloom with green spots of mould. There are rolls, flatbreads, pittas, cut loaves and pastries. Cookies, cheese biscuits, gluten-free biscuits, chocolate chip biscuits. Gingerbread stars in a large red plastic tin. Two tubs of butter. Tabasco sauce. A large packet of sugar. A toothbrush. A jar of pickles. A honeydew melon. A mug containing cold tea.
Do not dare not look inside the fridge. It is taped closed and dirty whirls mark its edges.
I do not judge. I only wish for rubber gloves, cleaning fluids and rubbish bags. As for what he wishes – I know he wishes for his country back, for the war never to have started, for his mother and sister, for a past that was different.
A small room, over-heated. The sky outside grey like the man’s hair. A desk. Not quite grey, not quite white. A young man. Hair, black and slightly woolly. Eyebrows also black.
Grey-haired man. ‘What is the purpose of your visit?’
Young man. ‘I have been invited to speak at the Festival of Words.’
‘On what topic?’
A pause. A raindrop sliding down the window.
‘Words does not describe the topic Mr…?’
‘Mr. Abias, sir.
‘Mr. Abias please describe the topic you will be speaking on.’
A pause. The click of a radiator. ‘The title of my piece is the impact of the Colonial Mind on the literature of Angola in the late 20th century.’
The grey-haired man taps his pen on the desk that is neither white nor grey. ‘The Colonial mind. Is that how you see us, Mr. Abias?’
‘It depends, sir.’
‘On what Mr. Abias?’
‘On who is speaking, sir.’
‘Why do you persist in calling me sir?’
‘Because I do not know your name.’
‘Is this a test?’
The click of a fingernail on the desk that is neither grey nor white.
‘Indeed it is, Mr. Abias. We deem it necessary for visitors such as yourself to explain. Do you understand?’
‘But I have a proper invitation, sir.’
‘An invitation is insufficient.’
‘I do not intend to stay here if this is what concerns you. When my visit is over, I will be returning to Angola. It is my home.’
The grey-haired man clears his throat. ‘There are other issues.’
‘What other issues?’
‘That, Mr. Abias is for you to work out.’ The grey-haired man smiles and sits back in his chair. Click, click.
Firsr published in Worthing Flash, October 2019