women. writers.

Creative Non-Fiction: "An Unwanted Visitor" by Fadila Henry

It is midnight when there is a knock at the door. I am about to turn off my lamp and get into bed but slip on my spectacles instead and, feeling both alarmed and curious, I go to answer. He greets me with a silvery smile. He is wearing a white tuxedo and carrying a frayed black satchel.

You, I say flatly, my feelings congealing into annoyance. His visits mean nothing but disruption.
I was passing through, he says. Thought I’d stop by and say hello.
Oh, hello. Now if you don’t mind…
I attempt to close the door but he skips over the threshold, artfully quick as always and proceeds to make himself comfortable in my home. He never cares if it is late or even if the lights are out. He will slither in regardless. He will linger, walk into each room and gaze upon my things while asking for refreshments. Insomnia is tiresome, a menace. A pest in formal attire! This time, he walks directly towards my bedroom and puts his bag down on my writing table. He picks up my cup of warm tea and takes a sip while I watch him, wary of his every move. He sits on my cherry leather armchair and puts his feet up on my table. He lights a cigarette.
It’s terribly late, I say, pointing to the large clock on the wall.
Is it? he replies, blowing out ropes of grey air. It feels like the night is just beginning for some.
Well, it was just ending for me. I have work tomorrow, you know.
A sliver of panic has crept in my voice, which he senses immediately and suddenly jumps out of the chair and paces the carpeted floor.
Then it’s a good thing I arrived when I did, he says, his smokey eyes glowing. So let's get right down to it.

To what? I ask.

To thinking, he says.

But I don’t want to think.

Well, I am not surprised. You never do think about anything interesting and I would know, he says stopping mid-pace to look at me. I visit you more than any other.

And that’s precisely why I can’t. I am too tired from your bothersome visits!

He continues to pace, unperturbed.

Do you ever wonder, he spins around to face me, whether the stars are hot or cold? Or both, cold at first, getting warmer toward morning or vice versa. Anything is possible I suppose, but I like to think of them as diamond drops of ice and I imagine my arms were long enough to reach up and pluck them from the sky whenever I wished, to add to a drink, and let them melt in the liquid and then drink them away. Could there be anything more splendid than to taste a star?

As a matter of fact, I believe resting is quite splendid…

He coughs, interrupting me.
I was at a dinner party this evening, he says.

Ah, that would account for your outfit, but why a tuxedo?

It’s all I have for these things.



He has resumed his seat on the chair. I sit across him on my bed.

So you go to dinner parties? 

He nods. They hire me.

Who does?

The hosts. Guests falling asleep over dinner is quite unsightly and you wouldn’t believe how often it occurs.

I would. I say. And that’s why I avoid them, as a rule.

Drowsiness begins to tug at my eyelids. I yawn, blurring the room briefly.

He takes out another cigarette, which I know means more talking and thinking to come. I climb into bed and lay supinely, my eyes slowly losing the tug of war with sleep.

Have you ever thought about creating a colour?

Never, we have all the colours we need.

We can never have too many. If I were to invent one, I’d call it 'prairie'. Such a pleasant word, isn’t it?

I don’t reply this time. I am falling further and further into the glorious void of sleep.

He continues to ramble about colours, and then shapes, and then he is back to stars. I hear the names Pavo and Musca somewhere far away. I doze off for what feels like forever, falling and falling until I am on the cusp of plunging into the deepest, richest, most satisfying sleep of my life. And just at that beautiful, luscious moment, I am jarred awake by a loud snap at my ear and he is standing next to me, his worn bag in hand.
I’d better be going, he says. His smile has weakened, his silver eyes pale.

Goodbye, I reply.

I turn over and hurry to get back to the sleep that's waiting for me.

Oh, I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I were you, you’ll have to be up in half an hour.

My eyes fly open in horror just in time to see him walk out the front door, whistling.
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