The City Will Love You

By Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Stories that peel the skin off cities to reveal the beautiful dramas within.

Friday, 7 June 2019

The Art of Crowdsurfing

Hi y'all,

I bet you feel like one of those faithful friends who is always there it pick things up from exactly where they ended the last time. No? Well, that's how I feel about you. I go on these long no-update breaks and come back and yet (I like to believe) you listen and you continue to support this The City Will Love You movement. That's why I named this update The Art of Crowdsurfing; I've only done it once, rather by accident, but the brief feeling of weightlessness I recall is what I experience when I think of 155 of you supporting me and this collection of stories. Thank you! We're at 41%. We've crossed the UK uni pass mark (which I alluded to last time)...

So, I'm having a nice hot chocolate at 10pm for the first time in a long time because I spent most of last month working on literature events for Brighton Festival, during which I was lucky to have two Unbound projects - the Kit de Waal edited Common People and Gautam Malkani's Distortion - as part of the programme. It was a great experience and it was wonderful to see funded Unbound projects out in the world with readers queuing up to buy copies and get them signed. Soon, I told myself, soon! In the meantime, I can share some of the translation news I mentioned in my February update: Scotch Bonnets - a peppery, funny, political story from The City Will Love You - got translated into Spanish for an anthology called Doce Relatos Urbanos, including stories by the likes of Armand Gauz (Cote D'Ivoire), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Boubacar Boris Diop (Senegal) and one of my favourite writers ever Zoe Wicomb (South Africa); another story is about to be released in German next month. So, the stories are out there working in the world while we're on this journey. I appreciate you being here with me. I may not be trumpeting all the time in the quest for support because of how much work I have on, but I am committed to making this collection absolutely amazing.

While you wait for my next update, here's a small section from Scotch Bonnets for the curious:

***

Mbaki carefully peeled an onion and began to chop it when the sound came. It was a high-pitched scream that lasted for about twenty seconds before it morphed into the name Charles. It was couple in the next studio; a bespectacled, bicycle-riding duo who looked as harmless as isolated clouds on a sunny day. The ones who seemed to look right through him whenever he attempted to say hello. Three times a day – before work, after work, and just after 1am when his sleep was just beginning to settle into a rhythm of sweetness – their carnal siren would kick in. Charles would come in two bars later with his own D minor grunts, and Mbaki would imagine their spectacles trampled underfoot as they rode the rodeo bull of their lust until it threw them off.

He finished chopping his onions and threw the finely diced mass into the pan with the chicken, which he was pleased to see was beginning to look like a cookery book photo. He chopped the carrots next, then the sweet pepper, stopping to chuckle as he remembered the very first time he heard the screams; he had actually run out to help. It was only when he got to the door of the studio that he realised that the screams were the refrain of a song of pleasure. He had been amused then, but when he realised that it wasn’t a one-off the intrusion began to grate. It wasn’t just the screaming that got to him. They were thorough. Ten minutes after each screaming and grunt chorus, they began a sustained opera of moans, which led to a crescendo of its own. In the thick of the night, this caused Mbaki to toss and turn so fitfully that he once stood on his bed and roared in frustration until they were silent.

Oddly the other occupants of his block of studios sometimes complained about the loudness of his music but never the screams from Studio 9, which caused him to raise the volume of his music in the first place. Even the red-haired Russian man who lived next door to the screaming couple in Studio 10 said he hadn’t ever heard any noises in the night. He shook his head vigorously when Mbaki persisted and asked about the mornings. The man’s denial piqued a panic of paranoia in Mbaki. Was he imagining things? He knew a couple lived in studio 9. He knew because the postman had twice told him that studio 9 had refused to sign for his packages. It was a man the first time, then a woman. How come no one else heard the screams?

***

 

That's it for now!

Nii

P.S. Tell somebody about The City Will Love You and let them get a copy too so you can argue over stories together :)

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