Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 13
Susan was still in her bathrobe. She didn't look surprised to see him arrive unannounced. "You look exhausted," she said, touching his cheek. Her hair was dull and matted, loosely held back to reveal her reddened ears.
"I've just got in from London. Our flight stopped first in Kano," he said.
"Did it?" Susan said. "And how was Martin's wedding?"
Richard sat still on the sofa; he remembered nothing of what had happened in London. Susan didn't seem to notice that he had not spoken. "Small whisky with lots of water?" she asked, already pouring the drinks. " Kano is interesting, isn't it?"
"Yes," Richard said, although what he had wanted to tell her was how he had watched the hawkers and cars and buses on the crowded Lagos roads with bemusement, because life continued to hurtle on here in the normal way that it always had, as if nothing was happening in Kano.
"It's rather silly how the Northerners will pay foreigners twice more rather than hire a Southerner. But there's quite a bit of money to be made there. Nigel's just rung to tell me about his friend, John, a ghastly Scot. Anyway, John's a charter pilot and has made a small fortune flying Igbo people to safety these past few days. He said hundreds were killed in Zaria alone."
Richard felt as if his body was gearing up to do something, to shiver, to collapse. "You know what's happening there, then?"
"Of course I do. I just hope it doesn't spread to Lagos. One really can't predict these things." Susan downed her drink in a gulp. He noticed the ashen tone of her skin, the tiny beads of sweat above her lip. "There are lots and lots of Igbo people here-well, they are everywhere really, aren't they? Not that they didn't have it coming to them, when you think about it, with their being so clannish and uppity and controlling the markets. Very Jewish, really. And to think they are relatively uncivilized; one couldn't compare them to the Yoruba, for example, who have had contact with Europeans on the coast for years. I remember somebody telling me when I first came to be careful about hiring an Igbo houseboy because, before I knew it, he would own my house and the land it was built on. Another small whisky?"
Richard shook his head. Susan poured herself another drink and this time did not add any water. "You didn't see anything at the airport in Kano, did you?"
"No," Richard said.
"They wouldn't go to the airport, I suppose. It's quite extraordinary, isn't it, how these people can't control their hatred of each other. Of course, we all hate somebody, but it's about control. Civilization teaches you control."
Susan finished her drink and poured another. Her voice echoed as he went into the bathroom and worsened the splintering pain in his head. He turned the tap on. It shocked him, how unchanged he looked in the mirror, how the hair of his eyebrows still stuck out unrestrained and his eyes were still the same stained-glass blue. He should have been transfigured by what he had seen. His shame should have left red warts on his face. What he had felt when he saw Nnaemeka killed was not shock but a great relief that Kainene was not with him because he would have been helpless to protect her and they would have known she was Igbo and they would have shot her.
He could not have saved Nnaemeka, but he should have thought about him first, he should have been consumed by the young man's death. He stared at himself and wondered if it really had happened, if he really had seen men die, if the lingering smells from shattered liquor bottles and bloodied human bodies were only in his imagination. But he knew it had certainly happened and he questioned it only because he willed himself to. He lowered his head to the sink and began to cry. The water hissed as it gushed out of the tap.
He writes about Independence. The Second World War changed the world order: Empire was crumbling, and a vocal Nigerian elite, mostly from the South, had emerged.
The North was wary; it feared domination from the more educated South and had always wanted a country separate from the infidel South anyway. But the British had to preserve Nigeria as it was, their prized creation, their large market, their thorn in France 's eye. To propitiate the North, they fixed the pre-Independence elections in favor of the North and wrote a new constitution that gave the North control of the central government.
The South, too eager for independence, accepted this constitution. With the British gone, there would be good things for everyone: "white" salaries long denied Nigerians, promotions, top jobs. Nothing was done about the clamor of the minority groups, and the regions were already competing so fiercely that some wanted separate foreign embassies.
At Independence in 1960, Nigeria was a collection of fragments held in a fragile clasp.
Olanna's Dark Swoops began the day she came back from Kano, the day her legs failed. Her legs were fine when she climbed down from the train and she did not need to hold on to the blood-smeared railings; they were fine as she stood for the three-hour drive to Nsukka in a bus so crowded she could not reach out to scratch her itching back. But at the front door of Odenigbo's house, they failed. So did her bladder. There was the melting of her legs, and there was also the wetness of hot liquid running between her thighs. Baby discovered her. Baby had walked to the front door to look out, asking Ugwu when Mummy Ola would come back, and then cried out at the crumpled form on the stairs. Odenigbo carried her in, bathed her, and held Baby back from hugging her too tightly. After Baby fell asleep, Olanna told Odenigbo what she had seen. She described the vaguely familiar clothes on the headless bodies in the yard, the still-twitchy fingers on Uncle Mbaezi's hand, the rolled-back eyes of the child's head in the calabash and the odd skin tone-a flat, sallow gray, like a poorly wiped blackboard-of all the corpses that lay in the yard.
That night, she had the first Dark Swoop: A thick blanket descended from above and pressed itself over her face, firmly, while she struggled to breathe. Then, when it let go, freeing her to take in gulp after gulp of air, she saw burning owls at the window grinning and beckoning to her with charred feathers. She tried to describe these Dark Swoops to Odenigbo. She tried to tell him, also, how the pills tasted, the ones Dr. Patel brought, clammy like her tongue in the morning.
But Odenigbo always said, "Shush, nkem. You'll be fine." He spoke too softly to her. His voice sounded so silly, so unlike him. He even sang when he bathed her in the tub full of water scented with Baby's bath foam. She wanted to ask him to stop being ridiculous, but her lips were heavy. Speaking was a labor. When her parents and Kainene visited, she did not say much; it was Odenigbo who told them what she had seen.
At first, her mother sat next to her father and nodded as Odenigbo spoke in that silly-soft voice. Then her mother collapsed; she simply began to slide down as if her bones had liquefied until she half lay, half sat on the floor. It was the first time Olanna saw her mother without makeup, without gold clinging to her ears, and the first time Olanna saw Kainene cry since they were children. "You don't have to talk about it, you don't have to," Kainene said, sobbing, although Olanna had not even tried to talk about it.
Her father walked up and down the room. He asked Odenigbo over and over where exactly Patel had read medicine and how he could claim that Olanna's inability to walk was psychological. He talked about how frustrated they felt to have to drive all the way from Lagos because the federal government blockade meant Nigeria Airways was no longer flying to the southeast. "We wanted to come right away, right away," he said, so often that Olanna wondered if he really thought it would have made a difference when they came. But it did make a difference that they came, especially that Kainene came. It did not mean that Kainene had forgiven her, of course, but it meant something.