He sensed she’d moved out of the room and must be in the kitchen, making coffee, as every morning. Here, in the city near the sea, their routine was fixed: rise at six, coffee, gym, shower and swim, breakfast, then work for four hours, which normally took him till about four in the afternoon. The rest of the day was a matter of mood. May be a walk in town, another swim, followed by a drink by the sea, in one of the many little bars of the harbour. Some other day it was sex, and then dinner in one of their favourite fish restaurants, under the stars.
That morning he reflected on the last night’s dreams. Slowly he got up, put-on his lose kimono and walked to the kitchen. She was there, naked, as he liked to see her first in the day. Coffee was brewing. She came to him with the usual words, a miracle of sensuality and attachment. The dreams had taken him, and her, far away, in a world he did not recognise, but knew was, would be, had been their world. There, like here, his special talents and knowledge had made him, them, indispensable. There, like here, she was his guardian angel, his indispensable alter ego. She asked him about the dreams, and listened, her face showing a profound attention. He told her he did not know where the planet was, and she said she would try and find out when he was asleep.
They drank coffee and got ready for the gym. There, as in many other activities, she was his coach, knowledgeable, and infinitely patient. Their apartment was on top of the building, in the centre of Dakar, with magic views of the seafront and the ocean beyond. The gym was next to the large terrace, a green area she was looking after with expert skills. The bay window in the living room opened on the terrace, tropical plants and small trees grew everywhere.
She put on her thin trainer shorts and bra, and helped him to his light training suit. They both did the same exercises, she effortless, on a menu Agnes prepared every day. Paul guessed that every morning she was running a health check on him, and adjusted the exercises to his metabolism. Most days they started with running twenty minutes on the treadmill, and then rowed. He loved rowing. He loved watching her row. He was fit, but he knew also he was no longer young. As for her, she was youth, and strength, a sensual athlete and lover, who looked after him. Forty minutes in their training she stripped him naked and took him to the massage table. There was the height of each morning, when he relaxed totally, surrendering to the magic work of her fingers and palms, to her strength. She was an expert. Followed the luxurious shower. Today they would swim in the small swimming pool just on the lower floor. They were, as usual, on their own. The young African lifeguard greeted them with enthusiasm. Paul knew he worshipped Agnes, since he’d seen her exercise on the pair of rings near the pool. She led Paul for two hundred meters then had some personal training under water. As ever Paul chose not to count the minutes she was underwater.
She had breakfast ready on the terrace, fruit and bread. She said she was pleased with his progress, that she would increase the pace the following day. They joked about olympic records. After work she said she wanted to go for a walk on the shore.
Image: By Jeff Attaway from Abuja, Nigeria – dakar beach, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18246180
The two of us
His office was two floors below their apartment, opening on a wide balcony, and richly populated with green and tropical plants Agnes had chosen. His secretary and senior assistant, Helena, was waiting for him. Together they drew up the agenda for the day, a summary of collected project data, the inevitable government calls, and reports from the field. Paul had a programme of local visits, across the vast number of projects he was responsible for. Daily their data centre collected large amounts of information on crop, meteorological data, water supply and geophysical information across the whole West African domain. He went to his desk to check the latest field reports. His thoughts went over the immensity of the continent, its colossal resources, the changes over the past decades. He immersed himself on the field report from his largest project, deep into the hinterland. He had to balance conflicting interests between land owners, the government five year plan, powerful corporate interests, and what he felt was right for the country.
Helena brought in a list of outstanding calls. He would expedite those in the next hour. In the meantime he got a message from Agnes, who said she’d booked dinner at the “Elyseum”, a top notch fish restaurant on the shore, and would be meeting him at their apartment at six. He got on with the calls while watching the statistical crop graphs on the screen. He went through a long call from a government minister who hinted he would be approached for a post in the central bank. Paul dismissed the idea, albeit silently. He was good at what he was doing. After all he was a mere technician. He dealt with the remaining calls, asking questions, making notes. He called Helena and together listed the tasks for the following day. She was precise and reliable. They checked the latest messages, then closed the desk for the day. It was nearly six. He called Agnes and said he was on his way.
She was waiting for him, dressed, and looking fabulous. He paused at the door of their room, she told him to strip. Slowly she chose his clothes. As she did he admired her sheer elegance, the simple black dress she wore, her hair neatly braided revealing her lovely nape. She got him to wear his evening suit. In the mirror he caught her smile, looking at him, admiringly, lovingly, possessive and confident. There was something he remembered from the dream: he and her walking on the surface of that world, bare-faced, and her commenting on the breathable atmosphere. Then she had said to him, we are here, we now know we can live here as well. They were ready. She adjusted his tie, took a last look in the mirror. She called Hans, their driver and bodyguard, a native of Berlin, like Paul.
Hans was waiting for them at the lower floor, with the antic Mercedes ready to take them through town. In the car she kissed him hard on the mouth, and he knew tonight she would be the hot female act. He and Hans exchanged a smile on the mirror. They took the usual way around the harbour, avoiding the crowded boulevard. Hans stopped smoothly at the entrance of the Elyseum, had a careful look around, then unlocked the doors and opened for them. He and Paul exchanged a few words, and Agnes preceded him to the door, held wide opened by the portier. They were led to their table by a stylish maître d’, as Paul noticed around the tables the usual admiring looks of male interest directed at Agnes. They sat facing the shore and the lights reflected on the Atlantic waves. They drank champagne. Then Agnes said: we will be going there, together, referring to his dream. He sat silent, admiring her, sipping the glorious wine. She said: I will follow you, be with you, love you, to the end of the universe. He knew it was meant, not just words. He said, since you are with me, I will go. They looked at each other for some long silent minutes.
The meal was delicious and refined. She ordered some wine from Sachsen. He said to her that she was his life. She said she was his slave, that the only reason for her being alive was to serve him. He said, no, he was her slave, without her he would perish, disappear into dust and ashes. In the dim light of candles her black skin shone, eerily, lined in silver. She ordered some vodka, she knew he liked. She said, do not worry Hans will drive us home. They walked over to the long terrace overlooking the beach. She held her close to him, and kissed him, deep, pressing him against her. He wanted her and told her. She pushed her tongue through his lips, her hand feeling him hard. He felt suddenly very tired, and said to her he wanted to go home. Hans was there. The two of them helped him walk back to the entrance where the car waited. He was floating. The drive took only twenty minutes through deserted streets. Hans walked with them to elevator. At their door Agnes expertly unlocked and led him in, closing the door behind them. She took him to their room, undressed him and got him to lie down, then undressed and, naked, went to the bathroom. He heard water flowing, then she was there, naked, beautiful. She went to the kitchen, came back with two glasses of water. She took him between her lips, worked her magic, opened herself to him, and he felt himself pulled inside that wonderful body. Much later he fell asleep. There she was waiting for him, in the lunar landscape, under an alien sky.