I would like to write down what happened in Katanga – a little grimy hole, deposited in an abandoned hinterland in the outskirt of town; overshadowed in two hideous rocks, but I’m not sure what name to place on such act – the lowliest among the list of other despicable acts. I can feel the pain and the agony of that night clawing at everything that has life in the town, humming ominous rumblings of doom and sapping the littlest fleck of hope in the inhabitant’s somber countenance. The air in the town smells foul with pungent odors escaping the nauseous gutters. It eternally wears a pale face, peopled by sickly natives and haggard animals trotting lazily under the scorching sun inhaling the dusty air that their coarse feet unsettle.
It has never been this hopeless until the town chose to stir sleeping tales of a million tragedies than letting them sleep still. Katanga is the sort of town where sinners judge other sinners for sinning differently. It has a dark history of squashing transgressive stories and burying them under the rug like they never existed. It got away with all its hideous acts which started but didn’t end at lynching the old woman who was accused of being a witch, prowling at night to torment villagers, and casting out a young girl who gave birth to a baby whose skin was as scalded and pale as a toad’s and white as a chalk. For how a black girl could birth a white baby, they never can say. Maybe the child was fathered by the white man that settled in the town, they thought. But the white man was known as a eunuch who preaches to a God nailed to a cross with a garland of thorns on his head. He looked harmless and even sexless.
How could this be, they asked themselves. Try as they might, they couldn’t explain a black woman birthing an albino. It must be the curse, was the rumor around the town.
Days crawled to weeks and weeks into months. The seasons came and passed with nothing remarkable happening around but one day a beautiful face like a flower appeared threading the streets of Katanga. She had a look that catches the eyes and quivers the heart, and it wasn’t even about her beauty or the way she carried herself. It was how she exuded such sensual attractiveness and a little dark indifference. A mystery – surreal and elusive. Her face was like an empty vacuum that needed to be filled, leaving enough space for each beholder to carve different stories out of her. In her face was the stifled voice of boundless woes and at the same time an immeasurable horizon of beauty and hope. She looked enchanting and at the same time distant, leaving the villagers following her every movement cold and still desirous.
A dry wind kept the town dense with tiny dust flying hazily to rest on blinded panes while dry leaves rustled in the breeze, hovering over badly carved streets flanked on both sides by dilapidated structures of coffee-brown corrugated zincs. The streets, squiggly and undulating with narrow bends, she could barely stride through without an elbow or bag scratching one rough wall or coarse pole. She stared wide-eyed at each house, generously betraying her newness to any ardent observer. Finally, she turned abruptly, wobbling into a driveway that leads to Fati’s apartment— the most talked about spinster in Katanga. Eyes peeing from their furtively through their windows followed her up from the bus-stop until she disappeared into the apartment. The men scanned her long legs and flawless skin, imagining the bit her blouse concealed. The women fumed in their rooms envying her expensive coat and sophisticated jewelries— hating her for distracting their men.
With a premeditated demeanor of one being watched, she swerved seductively and jiggled her loosed braids, tucked them behind her alluringly before she dangled her hips and sashayed into the warmth of the parlor.
Fati rose in hospitable haste, her face covered with a wide grin as Aisha stepped inside the sitting room. They held each other tight in a warm embrace, their eyes exuding passionate bliss and desire.
“I do miss you” Fati muttered, “hope you had no trouble finding your way? Her fingers stroked her partner’s bottom while her lip fondled her face.
“Not at all” she answered with a slow wink. “The people were all eager to help out with your location”
Love has a beaming way of altering the face and sending tiny bliss rippling down the skins of two lovers looking each other in the eye.
“It must be tiring,” Fati said while taking Aisha’s hand and rubbing it soothingly in a fit of wanton gaiety. Her partner couldn’t have been more absentminded. Her eyes bulged into the ceiling while random thoughts buzzed in her head. She threw a look of sudden interest when Fati clucked her elbow into hers and whispered “Let me show you around” then immediately darted through the open door standing between the sitting room and the bedrooms.
Aisha heard Fati’s footsteps as they puttered lightly on the floor. She heard it echo in the pathway of her memory digging up long memories that remained unforgettable in her mind. Thoughts of her with Fati stuck to her head like a leech to a dog, she could barely stay without having this bewitching feeling that soothed her jittery heart. Their love had come a long way since they were students at an all-girls boarding school. There, Aisha learned that Fati could elicit a throb in her heart with a single smile. It gladdened her anytime Fati happened to be around, but Abu, her boyfriend, if she could call him that, left her cold with his nerve-racking habit of touching her without her permission. Whereas, with Fati it was always welcome; she could have the whole of her and wear her around her skin like a shirt. She wished she could be the fragrance that lingered in the air anytime Fati passed by; all she ever wanted was to feel Fati’s naked skin on hers and let their lips cuddle into each other. And taste her on her tongue.
Theirs was a tongueless love, but it has endured many trials in that even when Aisha had to marry a man only because her family asked her for the hundredth time, her heart had always belonged to Fati. She got married and hated her first day in her husband’s house. She imagined it was Fati touching her when she felt her husband’s coarse hands rubbing her breast and trying to make way through her groin. That night she lay still as she watched him feed his lust on her skin. She saw Fati in him, kissing her and rubbing her nape until she giggled in the most beautiful way.
She remembered clearly the way he glided over her and collapsed on the bed. The next thing she heard was the jerky rumbling snore of a fat slob she has had to learn to live with and start calling husband. Her head rattled with the horror of the idea. She cried through the night while trying to find her place in a world that is numb to desires.
So when she met Fati again, she felt the smoldering embers of her life reviving with each smile and each kiss. It was like the splitting open of a gigantic dark rock. It was as if all her life the sky had been immersed in thick, dark clouds and almost quickly they’d broken up to let a huge, bedazzling ball of sunshine seep through to get to her. It was as if the happiness that her unhappy marriage and trauma had smothered away from her life had been waiting behind a door which had suddenly opened, letting it explode all at once to drench her in ripples of happiness and love.
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