Sepia (novel excerpt) ~ Nate IV

“A touch of sepia will do the trick.” He barely heard her speaking to herself after taking a picture of the round-gauged retro interior dashboard of his Mini Cooper. A large bubble popped in Senza view. “What are your full names?”

“Oluseun Luate-Mofolo.”

“That’s a mouthful.”

“Oluseun is a Nigerian name. Luate I think a combo of Malay and Khoisan from my mother’s side. Mofolo is my father’s.”

“You have a Nigerian name? Senza has a Nigerian name.” she thought about it, “It’s kind of hard to ignore in light of recent spate of xenophobic tensions.”

“Anyway, Monna-moholo [old timer] was a huge fan of Nigerian Jazz scene. I was named after Fela Kuti’s son.”

She moved on to browsing and previewing his mobile phone playlist streaming via Bluetooth to the car’s sound system. Her eyes widened when she happened upon a ‘Piano Sonata No. 32’ number by Ludwig. He jumped to his defense. And as if caught in the act, Senza blurted out. “It’s just to unwind…nothing big.”

“I didn’t say anything. I’m just listening to music.”

“I came across most of them during projects.”

He hoped to fend off the possibility of the same reaction she had at the sight of Mylo Xyloto LP in his possession.

“We received a distress call from a client once.” His voice was a welcomed relief, “Separation anxiety. Normally, when you move, once you remove all decor the walls bear no memories. They become dull and disown you as soon as you leave them behind. Now, with all four walls a canvass, it’s a different story. With decor out of the way, they grow even more fond of the walls. It’s as if they leave a piece of them behind.”

“No pun intended.”

“We’d be called to assure the crying partner that we’ll manage a facsimile. We’ve been flown abroad, even when we said Orion can manage alone.”

She was growing disinterested. “Were you on a wheelchair? I think I saw a folded wheelchair on my way from your bathroom.”

“It’s a Dahon foldable bike. Cursor introduced us to them. He would go to the quietest of suburbs for his,” with the car still moving, he nudged every syllable of his next word with air quotes, “me-di-ta-tion rides. We bought ones for ourselves. We’d follow him quietly, three of us behind him. Thereafter he changed the routine. We make a quiet ascent to the top of Naval Hill, then all hell would break loose as we ride down screaming. Orion leading the craziness.”

“Mandla’s profile pic is a slingshot. What’s on his wall?”

“A still from The Book of Eli.” He chuckled from memory. She relished those moments which were few and far between. “It’s painted over a replica of Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast. He’d call it, the first divine mural. He’s single because of it. His T-shirts are imprinted with mostly Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, with the tag ‘my people’ on them. He’s apparently wearing the crown of thorns.”

This last bit of info chaste her. She disengaged from the subject, hoping it will change. Senza sensed her discomfort.

“Even today, here in SA, haven’t you noticed ads you can tell are from an all white male ad agencies? Your average black guy whose dream is to be surrounded by ten white beauties? You can tell that the CEO announced at the meeting. ‘Gentlemen, we’ve been going about this the wrong way. Our margins reflect the fact.’  A suicide bomber they intercepted is brought in. ‘Ten virgins are waiting for me on the other side.’ Brief and effective. A memo was sent out: what’s the average black man’s ultimate dream? Within a minute the skycraper rains with thick advertising manuals. Every employee is tossing them out the window.”

Reeva could not suppress her laughter. His mock-serious deadpan told her that’s the whole purpose. She wished he had a fixed sense of humour. Not comic-relief lifebuoys he threw her out of guilt for leaving her alone at the deep end to bouy her from his malaisse.

“I don’t get it,” she said still trying not to laugh, “I mean the part about Mandla being single.”

“So-oh, you wouldn’t mind spooning, with the ‘writing on the wall’ mural staring at you?” He answered a call. “I’m on the road. Alright. Send it to my Navdy system.”

‘Download In Progress’ displayed at the bottom of the car’s windscreen. What seemed to be a white paint job of a car faded into an animated image taken from a supplementary nutrition packaging. The scenery faded through four Seasons. She wanted to get out and see it. He asked her to search for Mandela Drive on EarthTV for a vantage point and music to boot.

“Let me guess,” she said, “the car is wrapped with Cornings Glass?”


[log date and location]

Thanks for the night, his Mini acquired an aura of sort.  It was just the grass at the bottom, a half hidden tree, and the sky. Such a simple and yet effective concept. His car-wrap turned into an animated GIF. First, the scene bloomed, the grass swayed gently during leaf, golden leaves fell, and then it snowed. The changes every three seconds. They hashtag the animation for cross-platform tracking – Vine, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and the like. Advertisers are knocking on their door in a state of flux.

Certain apparitions render us speechless. Because. I think words alone can’t be poetic. A poem isn’t a poem in and of itself. The portrait semantics attempt to furnish is poetry. Words are captions, not the picture. Just to worm my point across, picture this futuristic book club scenario:

After relishing the cover art, all will open a single-paged paperback (the allure of things vintage is timeless) to analyze a 12-point type complex glyph pirnted in the middle; a Hieroglyphic, Cyrillic, Musical Note and Meiryo composite. Three minutes later all will close and thumb their paperbacks. One of them will reach for a Kleenex and rattle off to a chorus of nods:

– How poignant And those painterly streaks of prose… a sensitive genius of our generation if you ask me. The opening line describing the umpteenth ad on her timeline about bionic cosmetics hung like Chekhov’s gun on the wall, teasing us from the corners of our eyes throughout the narrative. And this line [the book club pages at the glyph], ‘I needn’t refocus to juxtapose the before-and-after GIF and my Ball’s Palsy reflected on my Corning Glass Slate. The app auto-detected disorders from my Instagram selfies to toy with me [all close books simultaneously]. The ensuing distructive rift between her and her single mother.

The lady opposite the first would take a Kleenex, make a long face, dab her eyes as if to prevent spillage, and proffer her two cents:

– A bright teen, the discordant solace in her lecturer, a sex addict. A string of disappearances around campus of any female who even so much flirted with him. The horror of her mother discovering her bloodstained laundry.  I think it’s a bittersweet reveille on nouveau artificiality and privacy, and yet an alibi for science in this fourtieth century…

– So true. A capo for resonance on what greats have harped on for millennia.

– Arguably an involving revisionist Lolita. And the blasé tone of the narrative is but symptomatic. And [dabs her eyes] the descriptive final scene nature framed by the Psych Ward tiny window, every sensory detail tear you limb from limb – a swansong on vestigies of her sanity…ah.

Or, an orchestra conductor will open her single page composition to reveal the same human QR. Occasionally glimpsing at the glyph, she will follow the Sylph’s aerial ballet with her baton to unfurl something hauntingly Celtic. In fact, the music conductor will be projected from the iPhone hologram app that can read music from the QR-qlyph with which our book club is enthralled. Why the conductor? Well, the app can follow the baton’s signature of the conductor (the book club hired her services – she’s a real human – via iTunes to curate the accompaniment) for that idiomatic human register.

I wish civilization was long past the cusp of post-novumism (to periodize Suvin’s concept) where realizing any novel idea is Yellow Pages away. It’s as if language, beautiful as it is indeed, is a placeholder for something we lost. Maybe a maaí was vestigial, the last bastion of our innate, but now inexpressible wit. A few experience this moment. Others call it the afterglow: lying in each others’ arms in silence, you’d be overwhelmed by this underwhelming feeling you’re on the cusp of something. But, what?

I call that moment the Nova. I think, subconsciously, we sense this devolutionary trait. Sample our overinterpretation of art, especially the authorial intent (Lewis Carrol’s Alice, anyone,) and tell me if it’s not a febrile nostalgia, maybe, for when we were once maaí oracles. More pressing, what if we are going about it the wrong way? Are we grappling with mystic chords, triggered by mnemonic nuances cached in the arts?

Is this some kitschy Sausserean rehash? Umm… highly unlikely, but the jury is still out.

We don’t have to wrap this up with a self-depricating zinger, now, do we? I mean, really, I don’t know how many pearls I’ve cast back in the sea to fend off prigs. Only to rush back and rinse my pearl the minute they turn their backs on a crusade to trample other pearls. Let’s leave this one without a blemish.

What were we talking about again? Yes, the aura that was his Cornings Glass carwrap.



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