Places: Kenya, the Rift Valley
By John Yager
Some time ago I posted a series of four very short pieces under the collective title Seasons.
Many readers have since written to ask if I would do further such little vignettes. What follows is one such piece, part of a series titled Places, based on my own memories of some of my favorite cities and locations around the world.
Andrew, thank you again for so much help, for good advice, for proofing and editing and, most of all, for making me look so much better than I am.
This work is copyrighted © by the author, 2003 and may not be reproduced in any form without specific written permission from the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
The pink cloud moved and shimmered over the surface of the lake in the valley below us.
Jeremy stopped the Land Rover just on the crest of the hill so we could observe the phenomenon. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before.
"Is it a mist of some sort?" I asked.
"Flamingos," he smiled, "millions of flamingos."
It was only as we descended to the valley floor and drove closer to the lake's edge that I really believed him. The birds in vast numbers bobbed and twirled as they fed in the shallow waters.
Late that afternoon as the African sun began to set and the oppressive heat subsided, we arrived at the lodge, run by the Kenyan National Park Service.
We swam in the cool pool and dined at a vast buffet in the high ceilinged, open beamed restaurant of the lodge. The evening grew welcomingly cool and when we returned to our room a native woman was lighting a fire in the fireplace opposite the huge bed.
"Do you want to shower," Jeremy asked as he sat on a low stool and pulled off his boots.
"You go first," I said. "I want to write a few postcards."
In reality, I wanted him to be the first to get ready for bed. We'd only met two days before in Nairobi; he was the friend of a friend, willing to take a few days to show me around, me the wayward American tourist, not even knowing what to ask to see.
"Leave it to me," he smiled. "I'll be sure you see the best of Kenya."
Jeremy Broadbank looked the part of a colonial Englishman in post-colonial Africa. His family had been there for three generations and, while he spent as much time in London as Nairobi, he knew the country well. We'd agreed that he'd make the plans and drive his Land Rover. I'd pay for the hotels and food and petrol.
"What say we share hotel rooms? It will save you a bit and I'd enjoy the company."
"Fine," I'd agreed, looking at his handsome form and face. "I'd enjoy the company as well." We were of an age, both twenty-eight, both single, both doing well in the world. But while I was lighter skinned and blond, he had chestnut hair and a deep, glowing tan.
We were of almost identical height and weight and equally athletic build. For the trip we wore almost identical clothes; boots, khaki shorts and shirts, broad brimmed hats, mine supplied on loan from him.
That night was the first time we'd be sharing a bed and I had no idea what to expect. Jeremy was masculine in every way but there had been the odd sideways glance, the lingering smile. I'd wondered. I'd thought about what Roger Banks, our mutual friend, might have said to Jeremy about me, although Roger had said nothing to me about Jeremy, other than that he was "an excellent chap, and old school friend, you know?"
"Fine, then," Jeremy said as he stripped to his white cotton boxer shorts and went off into the bath. I noticed he didn't shut the door.
As I wrote my cards I heard the water and his singing, a lilting baritone. Strains of With Cat-Like Tread gave way to Love is Stronger than Justice. I got up chuckling and turned off the lights. The room was filled with a soft glow from the fireplace.
Jeremy came back into the bedroom drying himself. He was naked.
"I hope you weren't put off by my singing."
"Actually, I enjoyed it. I must say you have a very nice voice and rather eclectic tastes."
"Thank you, on both counts, I suppose."
"Well, you don't usually hear Gilbert and Sullivan and Sting on the same program."
He laughed. His body, beautifully toned and beautifully tanned, glowed in the flickering light.
"Well, the shower is yours." He moved, cat-like, to the far side of the bed and stretched himself up on tiptoes to loosen the mosquito netting which hung in a huge knot over the bed. I marveled at his beauty.
I went into the bathroom and undressed. Following Jeremy's lead, I left the door open. When I finished, still following his lead, I too returned naked to the bedroom, wondering what, if anything, my roommate wore to bed. I found him lying on his side, totally nude, propped up on one elbow as he looked over a map in the dim light of the fire. He'd spread the huge map over the unoccupied side, my side, of the big bed.
The room had become a little cooler. It would be quite cool later, I reasoned; a wonderful night for a glowing fire, a wonderful night to be cuddled next to another warm body.
"You'll ruin your eyes," I said, standing at my side of the bed running the towel over my back, feeling comfortable with him. He looked up at me and smiled. Without taking his eyes off me, he folded the map and slid it out under the netting and put it on the little chest by his side of the bed.
"I was just looking at our route for tomorrow."
"I gathered," I said as I finished drying myself and hung the damp towel over the back of a wooden chair.
"Well, this is the first of our five nights together."
"Yes," I smiled, standing there naked, looking though the netting at his equally bare body.
"I sleep in the buff," he said, his eyes still fixed on mine. "I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," I smiled as I lifted the netting on my side of the bed and lay down next to him.
"Of course, sleeping isn't the only thing I like to do in the buff."
"Oh?" I smiled as we reached for each other.