TYPING: After independence, there are fireworks… After great sex, comes…
“So what does this afterglow thing entail?” I asked Maya as we walked around campus to nowhere in particular with a throng of students who were basking in the glow of another holiday with nothing ado.
“I said it earlier, Kobs. Great sex, powerful orgasm, then afterglow.” She pointed a girl who passed by with a grin on her face. “Afterglow there,” she pointed another,
“afterglow there too. Afterglow, afterglow, afterglow.” She turned to me with a grin and drew a circle around her features, saying, “Major afterglow here.”
“You are sure you are not mistaking this afterglow thingy for just any random happy feeling?” I shot my finger to a girl grinning along the adjacent sidewalk. “That’s not an afterglow, I presume.”
“It is.” Maya said in rebuttal. “It’s the sex-look, Kobs. I’ll know if anyone has had sex.”
She recoiled. “You do not get an afterglow if you haven’t had great sex.”
“I’m grinning, how can you be so sure?” I spoke through my broadest grin,
“Afterglow, afterglow, afterglow.”
“Whose mouth did you stuff your penis in?”
I choked on my breath.
“See, no afterglow there.” She intoned teasingly. “Anyway, Celeste, you know, that bitch personal assistant of yours?”
Celeste would throttle her right on this pavement if she’d heard her refer to her as that. “Personal stylist, Maya.” I corrected with a grin. The two had a mutual hatred for each other. Something to do with being in my bed. And it’s no fault of my own. If only my roommate would ever do the nasty on his own bed.
“Anyway, she’s throwing this independence party, and to get in, you have to email pics of yourself and others with the,” that circle drawn on her face again, “afterglow, and tell in a few lines what independence means to you.”
I closed my eyes and inhaled exasperatingly. “For me Independence is——“
“Hey, hey,” Maya cut me off, yanking me to her side so I do not face-plant into the traffic light at the junction we’d just reached. “You would have to have the afterglow, remember?”
That was just so discriminatory. I couldn’t have an opinion because my face wasn’t an epitome of neon lights screaming SEX! SEX! SEX! I stomached my protest. And quickened my steps so she wasn’t too far ahead. “OK…” I looked about in hopes of continuing the conversation. “Does she have the afterglow?”
“Who?” Maya turned sharply in the direction I was chin-pointing. She visibly recoiled upon seeing the object of my attention. “Ugh. Too much foundation.”
“Ok… does she?” I directed her gaze to another grinning girl.
“Ugh. Too much teeth.”
“Ugh. Too much braces.”
I was crushed. “Ok. How do you tell if someone has the afterglow?”
She smiled furtively, shrugged, and sped off the moment she spotted a group of girls, brandishing her phone for a ‘group-fie’. A group of girls who sported afterglows, I presumed.
By minutes, I was glaring at Maya and wondering if I should return to my hostel. She was dragging me all around campus taking ‘group-fies’ of people who had the afterglow——according to her though. (To me, they all looked like normal people who were eerily showing their set of perfect teeth.)
It was Independence Day, I could be in my room watching the ceremony and the president’s longest speech. Though I wasn’t sure that would be any fun. But I’d certainly rate it higher than being a tag-along watching people ‘squee’ into cameras not partaking in anyway. She wouldn’t even give me the chance to take the photos. Was I that useless because I had no afterglow?
I was about to turn and leave, having made my decision. Until I spotted Grannie-Grandma and Fetish Priest Husband ‘sqee-ing’ into one of Maya’s ‘group-fies’. I was enraged. My grandparents who were residing on campus at the moment because they knew no fun than they’d experienced in the past weeks certainly didn’t have an afterglow. Arthritis? Rapid-ageing? Missing teeth? Yes. But they were not having THAT kind of sex to gain an afterglow. And if Maya couldn’t see that, then she knew nothing about spotting ‘afterglows’———if ever there was a thing. Then I too can have an afterglow, because at this moment, I was insanely excited.
Minutes later, see me squee-ing into Maya’s groupfies without her consent. OMG, I do love groupfies! You all leant back so you could get into the camera’s focus and you ‘squeed’ as though you were having the best time of your lives. And the owner of the phones wouldn’t find out you were in it till they got back to their rooms and scrolled and realized, “Aaargh! Who’s this fucking guy who’s ruining all ten of my groupfies with people who were supposed to have afterglows?” Ten. Yes, ten. Maya would be so pissed! And I would be… squee! Eleven! OMG, you never got tired of groupfies!
Twelve, here I come.
TYPING: How do you fake an afterglow?
“There’s no possible way to fake an afterglow, I tell you.”
Maya and I were so exhausted we decided to take refuge on one of the ringed benches at Parade Grounds, where cemented paths broke through lawns with loads, and loads of trees for shade.
Maya was speaking, and I was smiling to myself as I scrolled through the earlier pictures on her phone. She’d asked for my opinion. And an opinion I’d give without asking her if I should delete the photos of Grannie-Grandma and Fetish Priest Husband. Delete, delete. “You were saying?” I looked up from her phone with the sweetest smile I never knew I had in me. Thin people did not indulge in confectioneries.
“I was saying, see how they all look radiant in the photos,” Maya resumed, “you really can’t fake an afterglow even if you tried to.”
See, that was where she was wrong. Because at the moment I was staring at my pictures and I did look as radiant as all the others in my group. Squee! “You are so right about that.” I bobbed my head with my faux smile.
“There sits Kobby without an afterglow.”
I shot my head up from the phone to glare at the owner of the familiar voice. It was Raymond, my uber cocky roommate who was also a man-ho ——the kind of person you’d trust if they told you someone didn’t have an afterglow.
“Afterglow alert!” Maya rushed from her seat to Raymond and together they shared a groupfie. Two groupfies. Three groupfies. I was beginning to think they intended on pissing me off. But then again, I’d found out earlier how groupfies were addictive. OK, so maybe I didn’t have the kind of afterglow they wanted. But I certainly had something special in me (an infectious smile, perhaps?) and they’d know if they made me join their groupfies.
“So you are also going to Celeste’s party?” I asked my roommate as he plonked down next to me.
“Certainly. So far I’ve got seven groupfies.”
“I’ve got more.” Maya stepped in before he could say more. “And Kobby with his witty writing would surely send the email with the pics as attachments typing in what Independence means to me.”
“Oh, Independence Day…” I exhaled, shivering for effect, resuming where Maya cut me off. “It means owning my life. Being me without any oppression from anyone.”
“Write that for me, would you?” Raymond dumped his phone at me. It certainly hadn’t been a request.
“For me… I don’t know…” Maya’s voice trailed off as she cast her gaze among the throng of students using the cemented paths, “I think being independent means I get to embrace my sexuality. I get to put my vagina out there and sign out! You know, social media?”
I really didn’t know. I looked on to emailing her pics and modifying her tale about the meaning of independence.
“I think the whole idea of being independent is enjoying your college experience to the fullest.” Raymond butted in. “Just being carefree and… independent of no strict rules like those times in Senior High.”
“Exactly! Freedom!” I said more in agreement to Raymond. “I could write that up for you.”
“Oh, hey, Mandy!” Maya called out to someone walking by. I looked up from the two phones in my hand to spot a familiar face I wasn’t too sure I recognized. The girl with her fringes hardly smiled and walked away. “She certainly didn’t have the afterglow.” Maya remarked, rolling her eyes indignantly.
“That was the girl who opened all the shows at fashion week, wasn’t it?”
Raymond’s question erupted a flood of memories: Fashion-week. Maya in an awesome dress. Celeste pissed for Maya being given Awesome Dress. Celeste swaps Awesome Dress of Maya’s with that of the familiar girl. Strut, strut. Familiar Girl wows everyone. Maya splits up her uber-uncomfortable dress into halves after falling off the runway. Ahh, Memories. “She really looks different now, or is it just my eyes?” I asked, confused.
“You’re right, Kobs.” Maya spoke, aiming her eyes at Mandy who not looking model-esque in anyway was passing among the crowds bumping into people like she held a grudge against them. “Perhaps it was drugs during fashion-week? But she looked so positively flushed, I could tell she was having the afterglow.”
“In that case, her boyfriend sure isn’t doing a good job.” Raymond stood up.
Maya shot him a glare and stood up to hook her arm under his. “Your booty-call girl is here Ray, you do not need to speed dial.” She reprimanded.
Raymond thought of this for a second. “Hmm… convenient.” a smile broke across his features. “We would work on your afterglow then we would take more groupfies?”
“Hey,” I called out as they run ahead, “who’s going to be working on my afterglow?” That got me a few disgusted looks from the public, but the laugh was worth every penny seeing Ray and Maya spinning to show me the finger.
In a few minutes, I was sending the pics and being all smiley and laughing to myself attaching more of the pics I was in and bluetoothing a few I liked to my own phone. Maya wouldn’t see it coming. Then a dreadful thought engulfed my conscience as my thumb hovered around ‘send’. What if Maya got disqualified because I was in her pics, and it was that obvious I didn’t have an afterglow? Was being dark-skinned a determining factor that one was obviously having no afterglows?
I shook my head, and unattached all the groupfies I was a member of. I wasn’t dong that to Maya. I’d let her have her party, and I would…
OMG! It was a holiday. I had the whole day ahead of me and I didn’t have plans! What was I to do all these hours Maya and Raymond were partying? I contemplated an idea that sprang to my mind for seconds. I could get into Celeste’s party? But I did need an afterglow. And I wasn’t going to have sex just so I could get an afterglow.
“In need of your own afterglow?”
I jumped up in surprise at the voice behind me. “Gran!” I could almost beat the crap out of my Grandma if I didn’t hate her so much. (I’ve always been harbouring the fantasy a slow painful arthritis would get to her before I do?) “You should never, ever give me such a scare.”
“We shouldn’t, should we?”
I jerked in fright again at another voice that had found its way behind me. It was Fetish Priest Husband, significant other to my cuckoo Grannie-Grandma. Why did I ever think allowing someone with supernatural powers into my family was a good idea?
“The gods heard your cry.” Grannie-Grandma began to my dismay.
Oh, one more time, if I heard anything about some crappy gods hearing my cry when I needed answers to puzzling sex questions I was going to hang. “What did they suggest this time?” I shook my head uninterested as I thought of the possible answers they could come with: Graffiti? Photoshop? I wouldn’t put it past these nut-job senior citizens to throw the stone anywhere near those.
“If you really could fake orgasms,” Grannie-Grandma walked closer to me, peering into the depths of my eyes with a spooky gaze, “why can’t you fake afterglows?”
At that moment, I was bewitched.
TYPING: Are afterglows a figment of our imagination?
My eyes raced to-fro amongst the throng of crowds lined up outside the club. I was perspiring. A bad thing for a night I was supposed to let my hair down and have fun. A worse thing for faking afterglows.
I really could do this, I psyched myself. I could fake an afterglow the way Grannie-Grandma taught me in order to get past the bouncers who looked the opposite of people supposed to detect an afterglow. How, how, how could you spot an afterglow through the world’s tightest features?
The bouncers kicked out (literally) a guy who didn’t spot an afterglow out of the queue. He fell on the pavement with a thud. I smiled, observing him. That was life. You fall down, you get up, you dusted yourself, you didn’t walk away. That wasn’t determination.
If this guy had stayed a few minutes longer, I’d teach him a thing or two about being determined. Because as I stood in front of the bouncers, took in a deep breath, silently chanted the mantra for faking afterglows my Grannie had taught me, (“Pop,” my lips twitched. “Crackle.” I smiled. “Spark,” I grinned), and demonstrated just how to fake an afterglow like my oldies had taught me, I was kicked out of the line. Sadly. But I wasn’t going to be defeated. I was going to try again by joining the queue, however daunting that seemed.
I turned to the familiar voice laced with a French accent. Celeste! My self-imposed personal stylist! The organizer of this party! That’s how I had free access into the party. By association. But I wasn’t going in without trying one last time with the bouncers the skills Grannie-Grandma had taught to fake an after glow.
Pop. Crackle. Spark.
Who knew my face could be fitted in a bouncer’s fist? Who knew my head could be crushed like it was just a mere tennis ball? So as not to prolong my pain and eventual embarrassment, let’s just say, I was never under any obligation to ever listen to the gods again.
“What were you doing there?” Celeste asked as she dragged me into the party.
“Aren’t afterglows a figment of the imagination?” I asked as we halted by——oh no, oh no——another set of bouncers.
“Oh, Kobby darling,” She stared at me with a mock-forlorn expression and shoved me into the jaws of the lions——in some circles they are referred to as bouncers.
I resisted the urge to scream as they handcuffed each of my wrist with a band of some sorts. Then one on my head, one on my feet and shoved me through the open curtain that was gateway to the party.
I stood stunned in the dark room. My eyes fell on my feet, my wrists. And the neon lights that were lit over every single living being on the dance floor.
“Afterglows, Kobby,” Celeste came beside me, shouting in my ear, “are real.”
I couldn’t agree any less.
TYPING: What kind of sex gives you an afterglow?
Oh, you would never guess I was a party animal. The sort of person whose dancing screamed ‘raar’ in the face of other people on the dance floor. (Um, really not literally, I promise. But I did dodge the few punches in my direction when I snarled… oh, yeah, ‘raar’ in some faces).
It was an amazing party! The glow-in-the-dark bands were enchanting. Lights spiralling everywhere around the club, Celeste having overdone it installed a galactic ceiling that was the very epitome of the firework-lit sky we were missing by staying indoors. Just as Ellie Goulding’s Lights were about to replace Katy Perry’s Fireworks, and I was about to really get down on the dance floor and eat up all its smoothly polished wood, the music died down.
“Hell-ooo, people!” Celeste’s voice buzzed through a podium I didn’t know was mounted. I took advantage of the lights, and swept a glance around the club, noticing the magnificent bar at which Mandy was occupying with a drink in her hand, the VIP area at which Raymond and Maya were casting incredulous stares my way probably wondering how I got the afterglow when I hadn’t had sex (Ha, ha! In your face, losers!), the chandeliers swooping over us for which——to my horror——had my least favourite oldies swinging in crisscross of each other giving me thumbs-ups and the railing that circled the top floor from which a few idle people were staring down at us.
“I’m so happy we are all together celebrating our independence—our independence which means exploring our sexual desires without judgement, our independence that labels us carefree, excited—and basking in the afterglow of our freedom!” Celeste smiled, and raised her phone to her eager audience, turned her back to us and leant back. “Happy Independence Day!” Flash, flash.
My eyes cast around the room of excited people wishing each other lots and lots of freedom. My heart was warm…
TYPING: Scientists explain afterglows as the look of contentment after a great orgasm…
“Happy Independence Day.” I mouthed to Raymond and Maya who raised their glasses in my direction…
TYPING: … so we know afterglows aren’t a figment of our imagination. But as literal as it is, couldn’t we transform the idea into something metaphorical too…?
My gaze swept across the dance floor and fell on Mandy who stood up from the bar with a sullen expression. She stood out like a sore thumb surrounded by people in glee.
And at that moment, the lights went out.
But I was able to make out her features and registered her glow-in-the-dark band which was strapped around her head.
Someone, who I presumed was a guy who’d also spotted her, approached her for a dance. Who knew she’d push him to the floor and yell in rage?
I didn’t. So I watched in shock as she bounded past me in all her glow-in-the dark glory. I watched her take the stairs to the top floor…
TYPING: … So we all could have afterglows just because we were having a blast.
In a split second, I pushed through the dance-floor and followed her. But someone had already beat me to tailing her. And I couldn’t sidestep this person on the narrow stairs. So I had to settle with being behind the shadowy figure in order to get to Mandy.
TYPING: But literal or metaphorical…
We were on the top floor in no time.
The voice in front of me called, and I was able to put a name to the unknown figure: Celeste.
The lights came on that instant. The glow-in-the-dark bands had no effects anymore. I think the distraction had been caused by my Gran who’d fallen off her chandelier and came plunging into the people below, I registered, from the missing chandelier above and the horrified face Fetish Priest Husband had on.
Had my granny broken a hip? At that moment, I didn’t care because right in front of me was the teary face of Mandy gnawing its chin into Celeste’s protruding shoulder blade.
Amidst the cacophony going down below, if my hearing did serve me right, I think Mandy just confided in Celeste. And I, being accidentally present at the right place and the right time, had her words echoing in my head:
I was raped. I was raped. I was raped.
TYPING: … at least we have established not all sex gives an afterglow.
Catch Sex And The City Campus every Saturday on this blog (12 PM GMT). I delight in your comments and although I cannot publish all the hate ones I am grateful you do question my authority to write this ‘filth’. You could also send emails to email@example.com with your feedback. And Happy Independence Day from this side of the world.