Backlight chapter 2

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CHAPTER 2: RAVE

My phone dings with a message. It’s Nigel.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Hey mate ready to get ur RAVE ON???? Let’s go to [club]!!

Holy shit. There’s no way I could refuse this.

LightEnvelopingDark: Hell yeah! When?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: I was thinking like 20mins from now

Oh shit.

LightEnvelopingDark: Give me 30min? Gotta shower

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Ur on thin fukin ice but ill allow it

LightEnvelopingDark: I’ll be quick.

I shower and dress in record time. As I’m trying to get my eyeliner right, I send Nigel another message.

LightEnvelopingDark: Are we meeting up at the club?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Uuuh yeah, let’s do that since im already omw


I get to the club and make it in. The music is already in full blast and people are dancing.

I need to find Nigel. But I also want a drink.

> Get a drink > Find Nigel
Right on. No one’s sober here. I head towards the bar. He invited me here, after all.
I try to flag the bartender’s attention for a fruity drink. Because those have more alcohol than a beer. I navigate through the crowd, searching for Nigel’s light hair. I gravitate towards the bar in hopes that I’ll get a better view of the dancing mass from here.

There is a tap on my shoulder. I jolt a little. I turn and see Nigel grinning at me.

Nigel: Getting your drink on already? I like your style.

I chuckle.

Valo: You know how it is, no one is sober at the club.

Nigel: Right on, mate.

Nigel: Hey man, the main DJ is about to start, let’s go.

Valo: Where?

Instead of answering, Nigel just grabs my arm and pulls me to the dancefloor. My cheeks heat up immediately. Does he want to dance? With me?

Nigel: This guy is one of the most energetic DJs I’ve seen! His set is far out! DJ Baridi, he calls himself.

I have never heard of this DJ Baridi before. But I am eager to get to know his stuff since Nigel seems to be a fan. I memorize the name so I can look him up online later.

The music starts and the crowd goes wild. I look up at the podium and see a muscular, dark-skinned man fitting neon green headphones on his ears. His skin is so dark that he almost completely blends into the shadows, if it wasn’t for his neon green tank top, the lights from his soundboard and numerous glowing tattoos on his muscular arms. He’s far away and it’s dark, but the small light sources slightly illuminate his face, giving me a hint of an African face.

The set is really catchy and I find myself dancing to it. I turn to Nigel in case he would be down to dance with me, but he’s already grinding against some white blonde girl. Irritation and disappointment bubbles in my chest and I look away.

I guess I’ll dance alone.

I sway along the music, trying to ignore the jealousy gnawing at my insides.

Someone in front of me stumbles and collides to me, pushing me backwards. I stumble against someone, who grabs my arms to keep me upright.

Valo: Sorry!

???: You okay?

I get a better look of the stranger, and words die in my mouth.

jahid.png

His hair is wildly curly and dark brown, with some lighter streaks catching the rave’s neon lights. His eyes look almost black in the low light. His nose is strong and hawkish and he has a well-groomed beard. He looks Arabian and handsome as hell.

Is he an angel? He must be an angel. Or a model, at least.

He tilts his head with a concerned look and I realize that I’ve been so busy staring at him that I haven’t replied to him.

Oh god, what did he ask?

> Fine, thanks! > What?
The stranger smiles, looking amused. He pats my shoulder gently slides his hands to hover on my elbows. Handsome stranger: Are you okay?
Handsome stranger: Good, good. Don’t drink too much. Valo: Oh! Yeah. Thanks!
The stranger smiles and pats my shoulder before his hands gently slide down to hover over my elbows.

His smile is making me dizzy and I look away. I see Nigel still dancing with the same girl and irritation flares up again.

I glance back at the stranger who’s still holding my arms. He’s looking towards Nigel’s direction too. His expression is unreadable. He notices me looking at him and turns back to me and fixes a smile back on his face.

Handsome stranger: Do you want to dance? With me.

Valo: S-sure.

The stranger smiles and pulls me close.

Oh. Oh wow. His eyes are really brown up close.

He starts to sway to the beat and I follow him. We’re pressed chest to chest as we dance, until the set ends.

Nigel: Hey, Valo!

Nigel appears from the crowd with the girl he had been dancing with.

Nigel: This bird says she can get us to backstage to meet the DJ!

ivy.png

The chick waves her hand and smiles widely.

The chick: Tatu’s a friend of mine.

She looks at the stranger with me.

The chick: I see you found Jahid.

I blink. Jahid?

Handsome stranger: Nice to see you too, Ivy.

Nigel looks between tall dark and handsome and the chick.

Nigel: You two know each other?

Handsome stranger: We’re friends.

The chick: With each other and Tatu!

Nigel: Uh huh… Cool.

Nigel: Anyway, can we get a move on? Can’t miss the afterparty, can we?

The chick: Nope! 𝅘𝅥𝅮

She grabs Nigel’s hand and pulls him through the crowd. Tall, dark and handsome takes my hand and follows them.

Handsome stranger: My name is Jahid, by the way. The girl is Ivy.

Valo: Oh. I’m Valo. He’s Nigel.

Jahid: I have… heard of him.

Valo: Really?

Jahid: How do you know him?

Valo: Uuh…

Before I conjure up enough brainpower for a decent lie, we arrive at the backstage. It’s immediately more quiet than in the dancehall, which I can appreciate. Or at least, until the DJ recognizes Jahid.

DJ: EYYYYYYYYYY! DJ Tulut, my man!!

tatu.png

The DJ is sprawled on a sofa with an androgynous, Southern-Asian looking person dressed in deep turquoise crop top and black, shiny trousers sprawled next to him.

Androgynous stranger: How are you? Have you made any new music?

irantu.png

Jahid laughs uncomfortably, a warm low rumble.

Jahid: I have tried, but it’s… you know.

The DJ and the stranger nod, their smiles dying.

DJ: Yeah… I hope you feel better soon, dude.

Jahid: Thank you.

Ivy: Jahid! Drinks!

A can of coke sails through the hair and Jahid catches it with little effort.

Ivy: Nice catch!

Ivy: What about you… uh… four-eyes?

Jahid & Valo: Valo.

Ivy: Cool. Valo. What do you wanna drink, Valo?

Valo: Whatever has alcohol.

Ivy grins and winks at me.

Ivy: I like your attitude.

She ducks back to the mini fridge and digs around. Nigel doesn’t even hide staring at her ass.

I grind my teeth and look away.

Ivy: Cider for Valo!

…and almost get hit on the head by a can of cider.

Ivy: Ahahaha! Oh my god! I’m so sorry!

I juggle with the can before it falls onto my lap.

Jahid: Are you okay?

Oh shit, Jahid saw all of that. Fucking stellar.

Valo: Uh… yeah.

Jahid smiles and My fingers itch for a camera. This is the perfect angle of him for a portrait. He has to be a model.

Nigel: God, Valo, you’re so clumsy.

I grimace a smile and open the can and immediately get drenched by foaming cider as it rushes out of the jostled can.

Valo: Fuck!

DJ: Oh man, tonight is not your night. Hold on, we have towels here somewhere…

The DJ stands up and leaves, followed by Jahid.

Nigel laughs and shakes his head.

Nigel: God damn, mate. You’re making me look good by comparison.

Valo: You’re welcome…

Ivy giggles and snuggles up to Nigel’s side.

The DJ and Jahid return. Jahid is holding a white towel.

Jahid: Here you go.

Valo: Thanks…

I take the offered towel and start dabbing at my lap, sipping my cider with the other hand.

Despite my now cider-smelling trousers and ruined social status within this small circle of people, a comfortable atmosphere starts manifesting. The five of us lounge about, chat and drink. Or, rather, Nigel and Ivy are talking amongst themselves while the DJ (whose name is Tatu, like I learned) and stranger (Irantu, like I learned), Jahid and I are talking amongst ourselves.

Even with the slight separation, I am painfully aware of how Ivy is pressed against Nigel, and how Nigel’s arm is around her shoulders, his hand slightly too close to her breast.

Tatu: I’ve kept an eye on your Soundcloud page and your fans are really missing you.

Tatu: Like, listen to this:

He pulls his phone out and starts reading out loud.

Tatu: ”Where are you, DJ Tulut?” Sad face emoji.

Tatu: ”Pleas come back, we miss your music!” Crying emoji.

Irantu: “Please” without an e.

Irantu interjects, reading over Tatu’s shoulder.

Tatu: ”Prayer circle for Tulut’s comeback” And there’s like, five prayer hands emojis.

Jahid chuckles and shakes his head.

Jahid: No way.

Tatu: Yeah! And that comment has like almost a hundred of replies, all full of prayer hands emojis!

Jahid: You’re over exaggerating.

Tatu: I am not! Look for yourself!

He turns his phone so Jahid and I can see, and he wasn’t lying. The replies are close to 80.

Valo: Wow.

Jahid: …

I glance at Jahid, who looks… pensive? Sad? Melancholic?

This subject is making him uncomfortable. I should change it.

Valo: So… what does Tulut… Where does Tulut come from?

Jahid’s eyes brighten up and I immediately feel like I hit jackpot.

Jahid: Tulut is a type of Islamic calligraphy.

Valo: Oh.

Valo: I had no idea that Islam had its own type of calligraphy.

Jahid: It does!

Irantu: Oh boy, he’s not going to stop talking now.

Jahid laughs, embarrassed.

Jahid: Shut up.

Valo: I-I don’t mind.

There is a spark in Jahid’s eyes and he leans towards me.

Jahid: Are you sure?

Valo: Yeah! Infodump me, dude.

Jahid chuckles.

Jahid: If you insist…

And so Jahid gives me a detailed lecture about Islamic calligraphy, during which I empty my can of cider and refill maybe three, four times? I lose count. At some point, Jahid makes a concerned comment about the pace I down my drinks at, but I shrug it off.

Jahid’s sermon is really fascinating though! I had no idea that there were so many types of calligraphy. He even shows me some pictures on Wikipedia, and they’re all impressive.

Valo: So do you do calligraphy yourself? Since you know so much about it.

Jahid flushes.

Jahid: Uuh…

Irantu: He does.

Jahid: Nrk…

Valo: Really? Can I see?

Jahid: I don’t know…

Irantu: Pssshhhh, you’re being too modest! Here, let me show…

Irantu taps at their phone and pulls up some pictures.

Irantu: He has a blog where he posts his calligraphy.

I look at Irantu’s phone screen. I see a stylized drawing of a flower, but when I look closer, I see that the countless petals are actually letters.

Valo: Whoa.

Valo: Wait, that’s text?!

I zoom in and sure enough, the petals spell out a poem.

Irantu: Yeah! That’s…

They look at Jahid, waiting for him to explain.

Jahid: It was a present for my mother. It’s her favourite poem in the shape of her favourite flower.

Irantu: Yeah, that.

Valo: That’s so sweet.

I smile at Jahid, who looks down bashfully.

Club staff: Gentlemen, we’re about to close, so you should probably start heading off…

Tatu: Oh damn, it’s that late already?

He stands up and claps his hands.

Tatu: Alright, gang, let’s pack it up and mosey on out.

I look towards to where Nigel is sitting, only to find the sofa empty.

Valo: Where’s Nigel?

Tatu: The blonde guy? He left with Ivy two hours ago.

Valo: Oh…

He said nothing to me when he was leaving? How didn’t I notice he was gone?

After Tatu has thanked the club staff for hosting his concert, Jahid, Tatu, Irantu and I pile out on the street. The night is still somewhat warm from the heatwave, so it’s not quite enough to sober me up.

I still wish I had drunk more.

… I guess I should get to a bus stop and get home.

Where was the nearest bus stop again…?

I take a step and stagger a little. Whoa. I didn’t realize that I’m this drunk.

Jahid: Everything okay?

Valo: Yeah, just… drunk.

Jahid looks at me for a long while. I can’t read his expression. I realize his hands are on my arms. I get a weird sense of deja vu.

Irantu clears their throat loudly.

Irantu: Sooooo… Bus stop?

Jahid: Yes.

Tatu: Cool, cool, cool. I think the nearest one is this-a-way.

Jahid and I follow Tatu and Irantu to the bus stop and settle to wait.

Tatu: The next bus comes in 30 minutes. Because it’s two in the morning.

I groan and sit down. I still can’t believe Nigel left me behind like that. He didn’t even send me a message! How didn’t I realize he was gone?

A huge sigh escapes me.

Jahid: Is everything okay?

Ah, shit. Jahid noticed me moping.

> Lie > Tell the truth
Valo: Y-yeah, just crashing. Valo: I just… Nigel left without saying anything to me.
Jahid nods. Jahid is quiet for a moment.
Jahid: You’re almost home. Hang on. Jahid: Are you close to him?
I give him a tired thumbs-up. Valo: …Yeah. We’re friends.
Valo: I’ll try. Jahid’s expression is unreadable again. Tatu and Irantu frown.
Jahid smiles. Jahid: You shouldn’t get too close to Nigel.
Jahid: You can do it. Valo: Huh?
There is a moment of silence until Jahid speaks up again. Jahid just crosses his arms and looks away.
Jahid: So uh… I talked a lot about myself tonight. The mood shifts. Even Tatu is serious now.
Jahid: What do you do for a living? I want to ask what Jahid means, but I suddenly can’t make a sound.
Valo: Me? I, uh. I’m a photographer. Between the three of us falls a silence which stretches on until the bus arrives.
Jahid: Portrait photos?
Valo: Haha, I guess.
Valo: Mostly it’s just passport photos and baby pictures.
Jahid: Surely you take pictures outside of work, too, right?
I shrug.
Valo: If Instagram counts.
It’s actually kind of embarrassing how active my Instagram is. Or used to be. I haven’t really posted anything there lately…
Jahid smiles, interest sparking in his eyes.
Jahid: What’s your Instagram?
Valo: It’s uh… LightEnvelopingDark.
In wince inwardly. How did I never realize how embarrassingly edgy that handle is?
Jahid smiles.
Jahid: Because your name is Valo?
Valo: Yeaaahh…

Tatu: Oh hey, the bus is coming!

Sure enough, a bus is rattling along the road towards the stop. Finally. Jahid lifts his arm and it stops for us. We climb in and collapse in the seats.

Tatu: Where do you live? Is it far from here?

Valo: Toppila.

Tatu hums.

Irantu: Tatu and I live in Tuira. Jahid’s flat is at Kaijonharju.

That means they both leave the bus before I do.

Jahid: Give me your number.

Valo: Huh?

Tatu chuckles.

Tatu: Slide into the DMs.

Jahid blushes.

Jahid: Sh-shut up! I just want to make sure Valo gets home safely!

Irantu chuckles and explains.

Irantu: Jahid does this to everyone. He’s a mom friend. He likes to make sure we get back home safely every time we go out.

I chuckle and give Jahid my number. Jahid taps it in his phone and soon I feel a buzz in my own phone. A message, from Jahid, sure enough.

[unknown number]: This is Jahid. Text me when you get home. My last name is Mansour, by the way.

LightEnvelopingDark: I will. My last name is Huang.

We settle in tired silence until Tatu and Irantu get off the bus. After about ten minutes, Jahid gets a message.

Jahid: Tatu and Irantu made it home safely.

Valo: Good.

Another ten minutes pass and Jahid gets off the bus.

Jahid: Remember to text me.

Valo: I will.

Jahid stays on the bus stop and waves to me as the bus starts moving again. After about five minutes, my phone buzzes.

Jahid Mansour: I got home safely.

LightEnvelopingDark: Good.

Yet another ten minutes pass before I get to my stop. I get off and start walking towards my flat.

… I don’t know if it’s me being drunk, but the air… feels a little more solid. Like I’m moving through some really watery jello.

Now that I’m alone, I realize just how tired I am. Somehow, I manage to drag myself back to my flat. I drop my shoes near the door and shuffle in, shedding my clothes as I go.

Oh, right. I was supposed to text Jahid.

LightEnvelopingDark: I’m home now.

Jahid Mansour: Good to hear. Drink a glass of water and take a painkiller before you go to sleep.

Jahid Mansour: I hear that helps with hangovers. I don’t drink myself, so I’m not sure.

I smile.

LighEnvelopingDark: I will, thanks. Goodnight.

Jahid Mansour: Goodnight, Valo.

I down two glasses of water and beeline to bed. I faceplant onto my bed and fall asleep almost immediately.

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