Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sonata of Clinton Close

The first movement begins as the sun's fat fingers stretch beyond the precipice of the hills. Mosques shatter the subtle hum of nocturnal insect ensembles with insistent calls to prayer: reminders reverberate like ping pong balls, reflecting across valleys and over wire-clad walls, to the ears of restless sleepers. The morning curtains raise and reveal bleeding oranges and pinks that signal the entrance of the sunbirds' delicate chirps. The whir of trucks speeding down gravel, the bleats of moving herds of cattle, the rapid footsteps of work-goers, and the honks of half-filled mutatus quickly join the tune.

By midday, the key shifts and the cacophony crescendos into a muddled din.  Dogs bark sharply at wandering goats. Boda bodas chastise swerving cars. Laughter trills; another couple is reposed under the shifting shadows of my overgrown ficus. Tires fling pebbles as cars announce their arrivals with echoing horns; metal peepholes rattle open and close; sandals slap the pavement as escaries pull at squeaky gate hinges. Radios atop vehicles or bicycles blare Lugandan tunes. Children 's falsetto voices call "mzungu, how are you?" as pale men amble towards Quality Shopping. Squawking turacos add their staccato jabbers to the dissonant chord. My dog and cat scutter about, a duet of screeches and growls as they wrestle; dry leaves crunch as the cat escapes under a bush. An ibis protests the hoopla with angry cries as it abandons the scene in search of more peaceful gardens. The tempo of this afternoon medley is fast, its fortissimo tune broken only by momentary pauses as life frantically grasps for air.

By sundown, a nearby bar's bass serves as a metronome. Its persistent rhythm keeps time for rounds of impending car alarms, off-key choir rehearsals, and rambling 1 AM wedding speeches. The syncopated jingle of my cat's bell signals a gecko hunt in progress. There is a harsh grating of nails as she scales the door's mosquito screens. The wire sags under her cumbersome weight. A generator purrs in the distance. Meanwhile my inverter struggles to compensate for Umeme's failed promises; it groans as it fights to protect my duty-free chocolate in the fridge. Strays report their locations; my dog lifts his voice to join the canine glee club and my scolds banish him to the yard. Crickets commence their enthusiastic all-night minuets.

Poco a poco the volume decrescendos. The celebratory ululations from various churches decrease in frequency. The tinny voices of a guard's radio prod him awake. My cat concludes her nightly stalks, her bell silent at last. The relentless drip from my faulty bathroom sink patters in time. The bugs continue their steady nocturnal strums, their high-pitched buzzes forming a seemingly infinite fermata. Even in these wee hours, the drone of life and movement persists. Pianissimo, a term Uganda does not know.