There are always two versions, the day and the night, the light and the dark, equally distributed, each blinding in its own way. Then there is the wet and the dry. As for the wet, Monrovia’s rainy season is fully lubricated. I haven’t been around the dry season yet, but the humidity tells me that it’s still going to be damp.
In Liberia, dusk is short on time, and the window of opportunity for automobile drivers to flip on their headlights is narrow. Everybody who has headlights use them. Cars with dysfunctional lights are just darker than normal obstacles, but still drive until they can no longer drive. I drive a vehicle with one headlight so I turn on the high beams. The beams aren’t really high, nobody seems to complain.
There are few streetlights around my place. When day becomes night, invisible Liberians walk up and down the street and appear as shadows when suddenly a motorcycle or a taxi pass. Motorcycles carry one, two, maybe even three passengers out of Monrovia towards the communities of Montserrado County, towards Paynesville, Johnsonville, Bensonville. The daily commute turns nightly. When everything blends into the night, objects begin to exist as sound. The Liberian night is a concert.
It’s the rainy season. When the lights go out, the rain clouds form. Rain falls lightly over zinc rooftops and quickly builds into a roaring chorus. The Nigerian pop and local preacher breathing fire into the microphone are muted for the storm’s duration. Liberians sitting on dirt sidewalk read the lips on Nigerian dramas. Those watching the English Premier League don’t mind. Puddles form quickly, stretch from one building to the next, and people wade through urban ponds on 6th street.
By midnight the storm has subsided. Clouds quickly move across the shores towards the Guinean highlands in Liberia’s ‘up-country’. Then, when the crickets are dry enough to chirp and the televisions have all been turned off, the toads begin to belch for attention. The contest goes on for hours until the next rain storm unleashes another powerful gush over the city on the edge of the Atlantic.
I wake up the next morning and peek out the window. It’s still drizzling. Rain drops, rain puddles, muddy streams indicate the rainy season shall continue indefinitely. As I shower, a small yellow bird flies into the window above my shower. The window’s bars make him only seem like a prisoner. The glass is a much stronger deterrent to his feathery crimes against humanity. After pounding his beak on the glass, the bird turns around and escapes through the metal bars. He can’t be looking for a drink of water, I think.
It will rain forever. Next door, my neighbors are pinning up clothes on an outdoor clothesline. There are few moments in Africa’s rainiest capital city in which the rain is not falling, about to fall or all over the ground. But the dry season will come unexpectedly, and I’ll be singing a different tune.