Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 12

The train had stopped with a rusty screech. Olanna got down and stood in the jostling crowd. A woman fainted. Motor boys were hitting the sides of lorries and chanting, "Owerri! Enugu! Nsukka!" She thought about the plaited hair resting in the calabash. She visualized the mother braiding it, her fingers oiling it with pomade before dividing it into sections with a wooden comb.


Richard was rereading Kainene's note when the plane touched down in Kano. He had only just found it while searching in his briefcase for a magazine. He wished he had known it was lying there the ten days he was in London, waiting to be read.

Is love this misguided need to have you beside me most of the time? Is love this safety I feel in our silences? Is it this belonging, this completeness?

He was smiling as he read; Kainene had never written anything like this to him before. He doubted that she had ever written him anything at all, except for the generic hove, Kainene, on his birthday cards. He read over and over, lingering on each I that was so elaborately curved it looked like a sterling sign. Suddenly he didn't mind that the flight had been delayed in London and that this stop at Kano to change planes before going on to Lagos would delay him even longer. An absurd lightness draped itself around him; all things were possible, all things were manageable. He got up and helped the woman seated next to him carry her bag down. Is love this safety I feel in our silences?

"You're so kind," the woman told him in an Irish accent. The flight was full of non-Nigerians. If Kainene were here, she would certainly say something mocking-There go the marauding Europeans. He shook hands with the stewardess at the foot of the ramp and walked quickly across the tarmac; the sun was intense, a piercing white hotness that made him imagine his body fluids evaporating, drying out, and he was relieved to get inside the cool building. He stood in the customs line and reread Kainene's note. Is love this misguided need to have you beside me most of the time? He would ask her to marry him when he returned to Port Harcourt. She would first say something like, "A white man and no money to speak of. My parents will be scandalized." But she would say yes. He knew she would say yes. It was something about her lately, a mellowing, a softening from which this note had come. He was not sure if she had forgiven him for the incident with Olanna-they had never talked about it-but this note, this new openness, meant that she was ready to move forward. He was smoothing the note on his palm, when a young very dark-skinned customs officer asked, "Anything to declare, sir?"

"No," Richard said, and handed over his passport. "I'm going on to Lagos."

"Okay, well done, sir! Welcome to Nigeria," the young man said. He had a large, chubby body that looked sloppy in his uniform.

"You work here?" Richard asked him.

"Yes, sir. I am in training. By December, I will be a full customs officer."

"Excellent," Richard said. "And where are you from?"

"I come from the Southeastern region, a town called Obosi."

" Onitsha 's little neighbor."

"You know the place, sir?"

"I work at Nsukka University and I have traveled throughout the Eastern region. I'm writing a book about the area. And my fiancee is from Umunnachi, not too far from you." He felt a flush of achievement, at how easily fiancee had slipped out of him, a sign of future uxorious bliss. He smiled, then realized that his smile threatened to grow into a giggle and that he might be slightly delirious. It was that note.

"Your fiancee, sir?" The young man looked disapproving.

"Yes. Her name is Kainene." Richard spoke slowly, making sure to drag out the second syllable fully.

"You speak Igbo, sir?" There was a slender respect in the man's eyes now.

"Nwanne di na mba," Richard said, enigmatically, hoping that he had not mixed things up and that the proverb meant that one's brother could come from a different land.

"Eh! You speak! / na-asu Igbo!" The young man took Richard's hand in his moist one and shook it warmly and started to talk about himself. His name was Nnaemeka.

"I know Umunnachi people well, they find too much trouble," he said. "My people warned my cousin not to marry an Umunnachi man, but she did not hear. Every day they beat her until she packed her things and returned to her father's house. But not everybody in Umunnachi is bad. My mother's people are from there. Have you not heard of my mother's mother? Nwayike Nkwelle? You should write about her in your book. She was a wonderful herbalist, and she had the best cure for malaria. If she had charged people big money, I will be studying medicine overseas now But my family cannot send me overseas, and the people in Lagos are giving scholarships to the children of the people who can bribe them. It is because of Nwayike Nkwelle that I want to learn how to be a doctor. But I am not saying that this my customs work is bad. After all, we have to take exam to get the job, and many people are jealous. By the time I become a full officer, life will be better and there will be less suffering…"

A voice, speaking English with an elegant Hausa accent, announced that the passengers from the London flight should proceed to board the flight for Lagos. Richard was relieved. "It has been nice talking to you, jisie ike" he said.

"Yes, sir. Greet Kainene."

Nnaemeka turned to go back to his desk. Richard picked up his briefcase. The side entrance burst open and three men ran in holding up long rifles. They were wearing green army uniforms, and Richard wondered why soldiers would make such a spectacle of themselves, dashing in like that, until he saw how red and wildly glassy their eyes were.

The first soldier waved his gun around. "Ina nyamiri! Where are the Igbo people? Who is Igbo here? Where are the infidels?"

A woman screamed.

"You are Igbo," the second soldier said to Nnaemeka.

"No, I come from Katsina! Katsina!"

The soldier walked over to him. "Say Allahu Akbar!"

The lounge was silent. Richard felt cold sweat weighing on his eyelashes.

"Say Allahu Akbar!" the soldier repeated.

Nnaemeka knelt down. Richard saw fear etched so deeply onto his face that it collapsed his cheeks and transfigured him into a mask that looked nothing like him. He would not say Allahu Akbar because his accent would give him away. Richard willed him to say the words, anyway, to try; he willed something, anything, to happen in the stifling silence and as if in answer to his thoughts, the rifle went off and Nnaemeka's chest blew open, a splattering red mass, and Richard dropped the note in his hand.

Passengers were crouched behind the chairs. Men got on their knees to lower their heads to the floor. Somebody was shouting in Igbo, "My mother, oh! My mother, oh! God has said no!" It was the bartender. One of the soldiers walked up close and shot him and then aimed at the bottles of liquor lined up behind and shot those. The room smelled of whisky and Campari and gin.

There were more soldiers now, more shots, more shouts of "Nyamiri!" and "Araba, araba!" The bartender was writhing on the floor and the gurgle that came from his mouth was guttural. The soldiers ran out to the tarmac and into the airplane and pulled out Igbo people who had already boarded and lined them up and shot them and left them lying there, their bright clothes splashes of color on the dusty black stretch. The security guards folded their arms across their uniforms and watched. Richard felt himself wet his trousers. There was a painful ringing in his ears. He almost missed his flight because, as the other passengers walked shakily to the plane, he stood aside, vomiting.

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