"Nina Sings The Blues" by Catherine Strong
There’s just a small bunch of us foreigners who come here to drink in Luderitz; we huddle together in the small bar after a long day, cradling our beers in weathered hands. From the sea this little town is barely visible amongst the sands and, one day, no doubt it will be swallowed up by them, as all the towns here are in time. Either that or perhaps it will disappear under the guano that covers the jetty.
We’re talking about the word ‘makoro’ and the bride price of cows ... there isn’t much to do in downtown Luderitz, as you’ve probably gathered, so Dougie goes over to the juke box and starts putting in a load of coins. I hear them chuckle down the slot, one by one, like a pachinko machine and I imagine for a moment we’re in Tokyo or Las Vegas; Brian’s talking about his girlfriend back home, and Marion’s flirting with some guy in a beanie hat by the bar, when Nina starts up on the juke box.
It’s a tinny 50 cent sound, but it makes my heart race like I’ve just run a marathon along the Skeleton Coast. It’s only the third time I’ve heard ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’ in twenty-five years, and suddenly I don’t hear Brian or Dougie anymore, and the sweat beads up on the back of my neck as if it’s midday in the sands.
And I’m back in the buttery kissing you for the first time; walking through thick confetti mist as she blasts those lyrics right down the aisle. But this third time, the song makes my palms sweat-clutch the bare wood of my chair, trying to get a grip on the handle as Nina hits those high tones. I look at Brian and Dougie and Marion. None of them know about you ...
Dougie can tell something’s wrong, and pats my hand. He’s sweet, is Dougie. For a moment I think he’s noticed the ghosted band of diamond-white flesh on the fourth finger of my left hand; but it’s shrouded ochre now, and he turns away, nodding in time to the music as Nina sings the blues in this desert-drift bar.