The music adds people. The people multiply into a crowd. The crowd divides into groups and subgroups. Students. Non-students. Boy childs. Girl childs. The curious. The bored. Mendazi merchants. Beggers.
Two students have been stationed at the door to stamp hands and collect the entrance fee. One is the boy with the jaunty hat and the “OH SHIT!” shirt. The other is a girl with pink jeans and sunglasses. Her shirt says “California”. Her cleavage agrees.
The lack of parental supervision reminds me of the film “Bugsy Malone”, in which a young Scott Baio and Jodie Foster played Prohibition era gangsters in a world without adults. As if to prove my point, a seven-year-old girl walks by wearing high heels.
I have been charged with the job of supervisor. I have interpreted this to mean, “Make sure no one dies”. So far, I have been successful, but it is still early.
I walk around the quad. Some students have been gathering in the classrooms. As I walk by the Form Four room, some movement catches my eye. I look in through a window. A group of about ten is huddled around the chalkboard at the back. I cannot see what vulgarities they are scribbling. I am about to investigate further when I see Mr Z motioning to me.
“You have to flar the flar flar! Understand?” he says. For some reason he has chosen to speak with me less than two feet away from one of the speakers. I stare at him. My look of confusion spurs him into repeating himself. “Flar! Trouta flar flar!” The combination of his local accent, slurred speech, and the booming speaker does not yield comprehension. Eventually, I manage to figure out he is telling me he is leaving. He wants me to keep an eye on everything for him. I interpret this to mean, “Make sure no one dies”.
The sky is starting to darken. The music swells and…stops. The song starts over. The music swells and…stops. The song starts over. The music swells and…stops. There is a fault somewhere. The song starts over. The music swells and…swells. That should do it.
Small children attach themselves like barnacles to the walls outside the disco. They peer in through small holes, the only source of outside light and ventilation. I scrape them off. They return moments after I turn my back.
Some girls of high school age stand nearby. Their backs are hunched with babies of dubious paternity. A boy exits the disco. His shirt proclaims he is on Team Edward. He comes up to me. “I go to market! I come to see you!” he shouts. I ask him why he go to market? Why he come to see me? “Nothing!” is his reply. “OK!” I shout back. He smiles. He leaves. I stay. Confused.
Dusk arrives. There is a shift in the atmosphere. The crowd is bigger. The faces not as friendly. Money changes hands. Hands are stamped. But more people are approaching the door and being turned back. They try to negotiate. They joke with OH SHIT! They turn the charm on California. OH SHIT! does not laugh. California does not take off her sunglasses. The negotiators walk away. They are not happy.
I see a girl child lying on the ground. She cries hysterically. Tears and snot carve glycerin grooves in her cheeks. It trickles down and mixes just under her chin, hanging there like a goatee. I make a goofy face, hoping for a smile. She screams and cowers further into the dirt. The girls around her laugh hysterically. To them, everything I do is a comedy. To her, my every action is a nightmare. A boy stares at me. His clothes are filthy. His scalp is ring-wormed. He sucks on a nail. His eyes are very far away.
I walk inside the disco. Tight jeans. Tight shirts. Tight spaces. Much has been made of the conservative dress code in this country, but it is not on display with this group. The sea of sweaty bodies and the lack of ventilation have caused a sour stench to permeate the room. I feel old. I feel out of place. I flee.
Outside, there is an ominously large group gathering in the distance. I am about halfway there when the fight breaks out. Chants, cheers, laughter. I rush to stop it. They part as I arrive, and I am swallowed. The realization that I am dog who just caught a car arrives in my brain three seconds too late. Luckily, they are all at least a foot shorter than me.
I look for the culprits but they have been absorbed into the crowd. A boy grabs another boy’s coat. It’s good enough for me and I act like I am in control of the situation. The crowd melts then reforms 10 meters away. I give up the tough guy act and decide to get Elvis to handle it. By the time he arrives everyone is gone, leaving nothing more than a cloud of dust in their wake, as if the Road Runner had just MEEP! MEEP!ed his way past.
The sun sets. Darkness ascends. The entire crowd tries to fit into the small circle of light in front of the entrance to the disco. The children appear more ragged. Their eyes seem bigger, the contrast between sclera and pupil like black olives swimming in condensed milk. They begin to push and shove. It is as if the darkness has brought about some temporary madness. I begin to see people with boxes of Chibuku and plastic soda bottles containing curiously coloured concoctions. I smell one. My nostrils recoil. A boy stumbles out. “I have your undying love, sir!” he says to me. His breath is flammable. “I am enjoyment to dancing now!” He may or may not be a student.
In the rapidly dwindling light, a boy child dances. He thrusts his hips up and out, a massive erection in his pants. The dirt and dust and darkness give his skin a chalky color. He thrusts. He thrusts. He thrusts. The grotesque, alien bulge threatens to burst his tattered shorts. He stops. He unzips. He pulls out a large stick. He looks around, not bothering to close the barn door. He finds another improvised penis, reinserts it against his body, zips up, and continues his perverse dance.
At 6:15PM, Elvis arrives at the door. He is all business. When someone tries to get in without a stamp, he shoos them away with one hand. He collects money. He moves children to the side. A boy tries to enter. Elvis shakes his head. His face is expressionless. There will be no negotiations. The boy walks away without a single word.
For fifteen minutes, the crowd is well behaved. Then Elvis waves his hand. The music stops. The lights are turned on. The crowd begins to disperse. “You can go home now,” he tells me. He will make sure the money is divided up correctly.
It is full dark. The only illumination is the light from Elvis’ office. I carefully make my way to the Form Four classroom. I feel around on the wall for the light switch. I turn on the light and am briefly blinded. My eyes adjust. I look at the chalkboard. I expect graffiti. Crude words. Naughty pictures. FUCK YOU. I find matrices. Simplified fractions. Algebraic equations. It is homework. Not vandalism. Good for them.
The massive disco is over. Some were dancing. Some were drinking. Some were fighting. Some were doing math. There have been bigger. There have been better. But no one died. So I guess I can say it was a success.
I stumble home in the dark. Careful not to fall into any ditches. Or holes.