What did you say your name was? – A Novel, Chapter 9

(Fiction)

For Chapter 8 click here: Chapter 8

To go to chapter 1 of the novel click here: Chapter 1

(Author’s note: This chapter has multiple pages. Please click the number at the bottom to continue reading the next page)

When Demond got up for the third time that night Alicia got worried. It was 2.30 in the morning. He had occasionally felt shortness of breath and would get up at night. But today was more than usual, and that’s what worried her.

“You should see a doctor,” She said wrapping the bed sheet around her and half rising from the bed.

“Oh, it’s nothing. May be something I ate,” said Demond, rubbing his chest as he walked to the bathroom in the dark.

“I’ll be all right,” Demond said again as he returned to the bed. He coughed a bit, but settled down after a while and went back to sleep.

Recently Demond tired more often. The enthusiasm for travel he felt in his younger days was slowly diminishing. He was in his early forties, not really that old. He was happy to go to work at the dealership and sell cars. He enjoyed meeting new people, striking up conversations and making a sale. But he didn’t look forward to the very long plane journeys back to Malawi.

They had been married for twenty years. They had no children.

Alicia was a nurse’s aide during the 1980’s. At twenty years of age she was trying to find her way out of her life. Wanting to do something of value she had joined a church and had volunteered to serve in a missionary hospital in Malawi. She travelled to Africa twice a year. The church required her to stay there for three months at a time. It was during one of those trips that she had met Demond. He was occupying the aisle seat and Alicia had the center seat. During a casual conversation Demond said he worked for an Indian restaurant owner as an import/export manager.

“What kind of product do you import?” Alicia had asked.

“Oh, it’s a variety of herbs used to cure depression, anxiety, and other ailments.” Demond lied.

Alicia didn’t question. She liked Demond’s easy mannerisms and the enthusiasm he showed in telling her about his life in Malawi and now in New York City. He was always smiling and helped her with her luggage. Since both lived in Brooklyn they would share a taxi from the Airport. His trips between Malawi and New York were arranged by Hari. Hari would give him packages of spices and pickles and Demond hid the cannabis in them. He had been lucky not to have been caught by the customs agents.

In the beginning Demond enjoyed returning to Malawi and spend time with Badri and Abebi. Both were attending school. Badri was also helping Ninja in running the farm. As years went by Demond started disliking the environment surrounding their thatched hut. He covered his nose with a handkerchief as he crossed the open sewers, and to shut off inhaling dust from moving vehicles. He wondered how he had survived in such deplorable conditions when he was growing up. Perhaps life in America had spoiled him. When he had accumulated enough cash he helped Badri and Abebi move in a larger apartment in a better part of the town. Eventually they met their future spouses and got married. Demond attended the functions and provided financial support. He had made a good deal of money from the sale of the cannabis, the Spice of Life being the major conduit. He never forgot what his father had done. Sometimes he wondered if his father had made a better life for himself wherever he was. Maybe he had gotten married again and had started a new family. It really didn’t matter. He would never forgive him for leaving them.

On his arrival in New York in the early eighties Hari’s brother Ranjan had hired him as a cook’s assistant in his restaurant, but he actually worked as a bus boy in the hookah bar. He shared an apartment in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn with two other men. It was a short subway ride from the Spice of Life in lower Manhattan. Later he found a job working part-time at a Ford car dealership, preparing new cars for delivery to buyers — washing and cleaning the cars and installing license plates and such. He used this opportunity to sell his cannabis goods. The manager of the car dealership noticed Demond’s acumen in dealing with people and promoted him first as a sales assistant and then as a sales associate.

On their fifth meeting Demond had asked Alicia whether she would go out with him for a dinner. She had said yes. He took her to the Spice of Life as a way to show her where he worked.

Alicia lived in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. She was born there. A year later they were married. As a spouse of an American citizen Demond had no problem getting a permanent visa. After their wedding they settled in the same area that Alicia had spent her entire life. He applied for and was granted the American citizenship after the required waiting period.

When Alicia obtained her license as a registered nurse she gave up her work for the church mission. She had a job at the New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn.

It was the year 2005. The Spice if Life was still in business but the hookah bar was not as thriving as it was during the seventies. It had its regular clientele and the bar would hum on mid-week and on weekends. Maybe the young hippies of the seventies, now active businessmen approaching middle age, still wanted to frequent their hangout from their youth.

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