I slept fitfully as the vacuum cleaner went back and forth above my head. Doors slammed, feet pounded down the stairs, furniture slid and rumbled on the hardwood floor. The same dream over and over like a skip in a record: me alone on the line for a four-in-the-morning rush, a blizzard of slips, drunks hollering for their omelettes. And then more shoes overhead, a boombox switched on — Kenyan dance music, loud — and the tromping becoming rhythmic, coordinated. The doorbell buzzing and buzzing. Damn, must be a party! Each of my housemates probably thought the other had told me.
Our paths did cross: in front of the T.V. in the living room, usually, where the more religious of the two would sit every morning in his robes, fresh from praying toward Mecca, to watch a chirpy female aerobics instructor while he sipped black tea. It’s good exercise, Dave! he’d insist, quite seriously, when I tried to tease him. The other, also named Salif, rarely hung out at home, except sometimes to make couscous stew in the kitchen and pound on my door whenever I played music he didn’t like, which was often.
I dragged out at ten, showered, and pulled on a ratty Metallica t-shirt and checkered, gray-and-white chef’s pants wide enough for a clown. I moved slowly, dreading what I knew I’d face upstairs: the entire African Students Association packed into our living room, dancing, glamorous, laughter in a dozen different languages suddenly falling silent as the hairy white guy emerged from the cellar, dressed for the graveyard shift.