5.57pm Bow Road, East London by Dean Atta
Dean came to an Who are we now? workshop in London. Dean's debut poetry collection is I Am Nobody’s Nigger. His poems appear in anthologies by Bad Betty Press, Emma Press, Stripes Publishing and Team Angelica; and have have featured on BBC One, BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service and Channel 4. His novel, The Black Flamingo, is due out in 2019.
""You’re early, so you’ll have to help!” He grins, as I step through the door. I’m only three minutes early. I hand him the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Last dinner party I brought Pink Moscato but I could sense the distaste for it. This is a white wine crowd.
“Wine glasses.” He says. “Could you put out the wine glasses? Then you can help with the salad.”
I get the wine glasses from the cupboard. Six. I look for more. There are two on the dish rack by the sink. “How many are coming today?” I ask.
“10, possibly 12.” He has three pots on the go. All with lids on. He lifts the lid of one and it looks like a dal. “Pour us a glass. The one in the fringe will be colder. Get that out and put yours in.” He instructs, handing my bottle back to me. As I make the exchange at the fringe, he begins. “So… I’m thinking of taking a sabbatical. The Civil Service is chaos right now. No one knows what’s going on with Brexit.”
“You’re thinking or you’ve decided?”
He grins but doesn’t actually answer.
I remember over a decade ago, when he said he was thinking of applying for a position in Brussels. He said it would look bad if he didn’t put himself forward. But there was no way he would get the job, he said back then. He got the job. We ended our romantic relationship but remained friends. When I visited him in Brussel his flat was huge. I remember when one of his colleagues asked how we knew each other, I said we were exes. Later that night, back at his huge flat, uncharacteristically angry, he pointed out that we were never officially together.
This small flat in Bow heaves with his possessions. Wood carvings from various African countries. Many large empty bowls and vases. Records in old whine crates. Art on every wall space. One wall completely covered in postcards. When he returned to London and bought this flat, I thought he was back for good. I’ve been getting used to having him around; his dinner parties, his friends that don’t like Pink Moscato. I’ve been getting used being friends with him. It took a long time for me to stop having romantic feelings for him.
Is this a leaving party? I wonder. I pour one, then two glasses of the Sauvignon.“Where and when?’
“The Gambia and soon.”
“How soon? And for how long?
“In two weeks. For a year.”
I hand him his glass and ask, “While you’re gone, can I live here?”