that every night out now
is steven’s last night in town”
Hartley’s farewell festivities have been a weeklong affair, and it’s been hard for me to keep up. Every day she tells me the plans for the night – a sundowner at the Hilton, shebeen hopping on Evelyn Street, a braai at her apartment – and every day I tell her I’ll come out because I want to see her before she leaves, only to flake out because I’m feeling tired and I have to work the next day.
Saturday night she threw a party. We showed up in the afternoon, ate boerewores and braaivleis and nachos made with cheese Doritos, and we drank and partied for over twelve hours. People passed out on the floor. We went out to a club and danced. I fell asleep around 7AM to strange dreams.
But tonight is finally her last night in Namibia and there’s just three of us, Hartley, me, Max. For her last night, Hartley wanted to go to Maerua Mall and have cocktails at Que Tapas, but it’s closed because it’s Sunday. So we end up at the only place that’s open at the mall, which is the pizza place that looks like a Pizza Hut ripoff, and we order vodka sodas.
Maerua Mall is the biggest mall in the country, but it’s not actually that big. Well, I guess it’s pretty big, and I know Namibian kids love to come here. It’s no West Edmonton Mall, but it does feature the city’s only movie theatre, a Woolworth’s, my very expensive gym Virgin Active, two sushi restaurants, and about a half a dozen MTC store locations within the one complex.
Hanging out at the mall at this time of the night makes me feel like I’m a high school kid again. As if she’s reading my thoughts, Hartley discovers next to the bouncy castle one of those toy vending machines selling press-on temporary tattoos for five rand.
“We have to get tattoos,” she says.
We fish around for some five rand coin. With my first try I accidentally get a sticker. This is not a tattoo. I put in another coin. My second try is another sticker, one of an eagle.
“This is you,” I say to Hartley, because she’s American. But this is still not a tattoo.
On my last try I finally get a proper temporary tattoo rather than a sticker (I’m not sure the words “proper temporary tattoo” even makes sense). It’s a tattoo of a pink fairy surrounded by pink flowers.
“This is pretty gay,” I say, meaning it in the truest non-pejorative sense of the word.
“It’s pretty,” says Hartley, who despite being a lesbian is far more femme than I. “My tattoo doesn’t make sense.” Hers is flames with water coming out.
I explain to her that in Canada, at Parliament Hill there is a large water fountain with a fire in the middle. It’s called the Eternal Flame. I’ve always wondered if I could cook a sausage on it.
“Do you want to trade then, since you’re Canadian?”
“Nah, I’ll be the fairy,” I say.
Hartley decides she wants hers to be a tramp stamp, so she has Max lift her shirt and apply the tattoo on her lower back. We ask the waitress (waitron?) for a glass of water and a stack of napkins. We’re doing this in the restaurant booth, and people are looking at us.
“You’re pouring water down my butt,” Hartley complains.
“Sit still,” Max orders.
I put mine on my arms, hoping it’ll draw attention to the biceps I’ve been working on. Max watches us girls put our tattoos on, and he decides that he wants to get one too. He wanders off the vending machine and comes back with a spider tattoo, which he also puts on his arms. I rather think that the tattoos have been mixed up; I the Canadian should have gotten the Eternal Flame, Max the Gay Namibian should have gotten the pink fairy, and Hartley should have gotten the spider, because she’s got long thin arms and long thin legs that are made to look even longer with her four inch stiletto heels.
By then I’ve finished slurping my vodka soda and we’ve paid the bill. Hartley wants to hit up the gay bar in Katutura one last time, but I’m feeling the effects of having watched the sun rise yesterday so I ask them to walk me to the cab stands. This is the last time Hartley’s going to be in the mall. This is the last time I’m going to see Hartley. I don’t do good-byes very well, so I pretend this is not the last time. I pretend that we are just a couple of teenagers hanging out at the mall in the suburbs, killing time the night before school starts tomorrow. We are not in Africa. We are not grown adults. I was never robbed. Hartley is not being sent away to America on a sixteen hour fight. We’re just hanging out, us and our cool new tattoos.
don't like to talk about leaving so i'll show you my tattoo
"By the time the buzz was wearing off
we were standing out on the sidewalk
with our tattoos that looked like rings
in the hot Nevada sun
and they won't fade
I've got you to thank..."