I never knew which was better, her or her stories. I know I became one of her stories. Now she’ll become one of mine.
It was an old DC Eight, I think Air Afrique, hopping from one West African capital to the next. One flight a week. We touched down in Libreville at like ten at night. The air was heavy, with a threatening to rain feel. Reminded me of a very humid night in August in New York. And everywhere is the presence of Bongo, his picture, stern and content. The last of the African “Presidents for Life”.
From the plane into the terminal we walk through a long cement corridor with big cutouts in the walls, I guess for ventilation, no glass. Every ten feet there are one or two soldiers with assault rifles ready. Looking at us, we are invaders. White men and rich Africans, taking their country and its oil bounty. Thats why I was there. My last attempt to salvage my fortune or my lost fortune, whatever it was. I knew oil and I was learning Africa.
I must have been booked into The Hotel Intercontiental, or something like that, about a ten minute ride from the airport on Boulevard Omar Bongo, lit up like a wide Paris avenue. Bongo was so enamored of Paris and its lights. Instead of the Seine he had the Atlantic. I checked in, they looked at my American Express card, they had no way then to know if it was good or not. If it wasn’t in the little book that was months old, of stolen or revoked cards, it was good.
The Intercontinental was the tallest building in the country, so I took a room on the top floor. The twelfth floor. It was the typical 1980s african hotel air conditioning … warm not cold, but better then the hot outside. A big “african” king sized bed, kind of like a California king, but bigger. Immediately I started to think of how many people could fit in that bed and what they could do. It had been a while since I had any sex, though I did seriously consider the cute Pigmy girl in Douala. We were somewhere in a discussion of “five CFAs – I stay whole night”, when I though better of the endeavor.
There were two channels on the television, both local, and with lots of commercials for French laundry detergent. Women down by a river, beating clothes, and swearing by this French detergent. After half an hour of African soccer news in French, I got bored. Or I needed an excuse to go to the casino in the hotel.