Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 11


Olanna was sitting on Mohammed's veranda, drinking chilled rice milk, laughing at the delicious cold trickle down her throat, at the stickiness on her lips, when the'gateman appeared and asked to speak to Mohammed.

Mohammed left and came back moments later, holding what looked like a pamphlet. "They're rioting," he said.

"It's the students, isn't it?" Olanna asked.

"I think it's religious. You must leave right away." His eyes avoided hers.

"Mohammed, calm down."

"Sule said they are blocking the roads and searching for infidels. Come, come." He was already heading indoors. Olanna followed. He worried too much, did Mohammed. Muslim students were always demonstrating about one thing or the other, after all, and harassing people who were Western-dressed, but they always dispersed quickly enough.

Mohammed went into a room and came out with a long scarf. "Wear this, so you can blend in," he said.

Olanna placed it over her head and wound it round her neck. "I look like a proper Muslim woman," she joked.

But Mohammed barely smiled. "Let's go. I know a shortcut to the train station."

"Train station? Arize and I are not leaving until tomorrow, Mohammed," Olanna said. She almost ran to keep up with him. "I'm going back to my uncle's house in Sabon Gari."

"Olanna." Mohammed started the car; it jerked as he took off. "Sabon Gari is not safe."

"What do you mean?" She tugged at the scarf; the embroidery at the edges felt coarse and uncomfortable against her neck.

"Sule said they are well organized."

Olanna stared at him, suddenly frightened at how frightened he looked. "Mohammed?"

His voice was low. "He said Igbo bodies are lying on Airport Road."

Olanna realized, then, that this was not just another demonstration by religious students. Fear parched her throat. She clasped her hands together. "Please let us pick up my people first," she said. "Please."

Mohammed headed toward Sabon Gari. A bus drove past, dusty and yellow; it looked like one of those campaign buses that politicians used to tour rural areas and give out rice and cash to villagers. A man was hanging out of the door, a loudspeaker pressed to his mouth, his slow Hausa words resonating. "The Igbo must go. The infidels must go. The Igbo must go." Mohammed reached out and squeezed her hand and held on to it as they drove past a crowd of young men on the roadside, chanting, "Araba, araba!" He slowed down and blew the horn a few times in solidarity; they waved and he picked up speed again.

In Sabon Gari, the first street was empty. Olanna saw the smoke rising like tall gray shadows before she smelled the scent of burning.

"Stay here," Mohammed said, as he stopped the car outside Uncle Mbaezi's compound. She watched him run out. The street looked strange, unfamiliar; the compound gate was broken, the metal flattened on the ground. Then she noticed Aunty Ifeka's kiosk, or what remained of it: splinters of wood, packets of groundnuts lying in the dust. She opened the car door and climbed out. She paused for a moment because of how glaringly bright and hot it was, with flames billowing from the roof, with grit and ash floating in the air, before she began to run toward the house. She stopped when she saw the bodies. Uncle Mbaezi lay facedown in an ungainly twist, legs splayed. Something creamy-white oozed through the large gash on the back of his head. Aunty Ifeka lay on the veranda. The cuts on her naked body were smaller, dotting her arms and legs like slightly parted red lips.

Olanna felt a watery queasiness in her bowels before the numbness spread over her and stopped at her feet. Mohammed was dragging her, pulling her, his grasp hurting her arm. But she could not leave without Arize. Arize was due at anytime. Arize needed to be close to a doctor.

"Arize," she said. "Arize is down the road."

The smoke was thickening around her so that she was not sure if the crowd of men drifting into the yard were real or just plumes of smoke, until she saw the shiny metal blades of their axes and machetes, the bloodstained caftans that flapped around their legs.

Mohammed pushed her into the car and then went around and got in. "Keep your face down," he said.

"We finished the whole family. It was Allah's will!" one of the men called out in Hausa. The man was familiar. It was Abdulmalik. He nudged a body on the ground with his foot and Olanna noticed, then, how many bodies were lying there, like dolls made of cloth.

"Who are you?" another asked, standing in front of the car.

Mohammed opened his door, the car still on, and spoke in rapid, coaxing Hausa. The man stood aside. Olanna turned to look closely, to see if it really was Abdulmalik.

"Don't raise your face!" Mohammed said. He narrowly missed a kuka tree; one of the large pods had fallen down and Olanna heard the crunching squash as the car ran over it. She lowered her head. It was Abdulmalik. He had nudged another body, a woman's headless body, and stepped over it, placed one leg down and then the other, although there was enough room to step to the side.

"Allah does not allow this," Mohammed said. He was shaking; his entire body was shaking. "Allah will not forgive them. Allah will not forgive the people who have made them do this. Allah will never forgive this."

They drove in a frenzied silence, past policemen in blood-splattered uniforms, past vultures perched by the roadside, past boys carrying looted radios, until he parked at the train station and shoved her onto a crowded train.

Olanna sat on the floor of the train with her knees drawn up to her chest and the warm sweaty pressure of bodies around her. Outside the train, people were strapped to the coaches and some stood on the steps holding on to the railings. She had heard muted shouts when a man fell off. The train was a mass of loosely held metal, the ride unsteady as if the rails were crossed by speed bumps, and each time it jolted, Olanna was thrown against the woman next to her, against something on the woman's lap, a big bowl, a calabash. The woman's wrapper was dotted with splotchy stains that looked like blood, but Olanna was not sure. Her eyes burned. She felt as if there were a mixture of peppers and sand inside them, pricking and burning her lids. It was agony to blink, agony to keep them closed, agony to leave them open. She wanted to rip them out. She wet her fingers with saliva and rubbed her eyes. She sometimes did that to Baby when Baby got a minor scratch. "Mummy Ola!" Baby would wail, raising the offending arm or leg, and Olanna would stick a finger in her mouth and run it over Baby's injury. But the saliva only made her burning eyes worse.

A young man in front of her screamed and placed his hands on his head. The train swerved and Olanna bumped against the calabash again; she liked the firm feel of the wood. She edged her hand forward until it was gently caressing the carved lines that crisscrossed the calabash. She closed her eyes, because they burned less that way, and kept them closed for hours, her hand against the calabash, until somebody shouted in Igbo, "Anyi agafeela! We have crossed the River Niger! We have reached home!"

A liquid-urine-was spreading on the floor of the train. Olanna felt it coldly soaking into her dress. The woman with the calabash nudged her, then motioned to some other people close by. "Bianu, come," she said. "Come and take a look."

She opened the calabash.

"Take a look," she said again.

Olanna looked into the bowl. She saw the little girl's head with the ashy-gray skin and the braided hair and rolled-back eyes and open mouth. She stared at it for a while before she looked away. Somebody screamed.

The woman closed the calabash. "Do you know," she said, "it took me so long to plait this hair? She had such thick hair."

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