Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 28

There was a manic vibrancy about her, about the way she left for the refugee camp each day, about the exhaustion that shadowed her eyes when she returned in the evenings. She no longer spoke of Ikejide. Instead, she spoke about twenty people living in a space meant for one and about the little boys who played War and the women who nursed babies and the selfless Holy Ghost priests Father Marcel and Father Jude. But it was Inatimi she spoke about the most. He was in the Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters, had lost his entire family in the massacres, and often infiltrated enemy camps. He came by to educate the refugees.

"He thinks it's important for our people to know that our cause is just and to understand why this is true. I've told him not to bother teaching them about federalism and the Aburi accord and whatnot. They will never grasp it. Some of them didn't even go to primary school. But he just ignores me and goes on spending time with little groups of people." Kainene sounded admiring, as if his ignoring her was further proof of his heroism. Richard resented Inatimi. In his mind, Inatimi became perfect, brave and bracing, made intrepid and sensitive by loss. When he finally met Inatimi he nearly laughed in the face of this small pimpled man with a bulb of a nose. But he could see, right away, that Inatimi's god was Biafra. His was a fervent faith in the cause.

"When I lost my whole family, every single one, it was as if I had been born all over again," Inatimi told Richard in his quiet way. "I was a new person because I no longer had family to remind me of what I had been."

The priests, too, were nothing like Richard had expected. He was surprised by their quiet cheer. When they told him, "We are amazed at the good work God is doing here," Richard wanted to ask why God had allowed the war to happen in the first place. Yet their faith moved him. If God could make them care so genuinely, God was a worthy concept.

Richard was talking to Father Marcel about God on the morning the doctor arrived. Her dusty Morris Minor had red cross painted on it in red. Even before she said "I'm Dr. Inyang," with an easy handshake, Richard knew she was from one of the minority tribes. He prided himself on his ability to recognize an Igbo person. It was nothing to do with how they looked; it was, instead, a fellow feeling.

Kainene led Dr. Inyang straight to the sickroom, the classroom at the end of the block. Richard followed; he watched while Kainene talked about the refugees lying on bamboo pallets. A pregnant young woman sat up and held her chest and began to cough, unending chesty coughing that was painful to hear.

Dr. Inyang bent over her with a stethoscope and said, in gentle Pidgin English, "How are you? How you dey?"

First the pregnant young woman recoiled and then she spat with a vicious intensity that wrinkled her forehead. The watery smear of saliva landed on Dr. Inyang's chin.

"Saboteur!" the pregnant woman said. "It is you non-Igbo who are showing the enemy the way! Hapu ml It is you people that showed them the way to my hometown!"

Dr. Inyang's hand rested on her chin, too stunned to wipe the saliva off. The silence was thickened by uncertainty. Kainene walked over briskly and slapped the pregnant woman, two hard smacks in quick succession on her cheek.

"We are all Biafrans! Anyincha bu Biafra!" Kainene said. "Do you understand me? We are all Biafrans!"

The pregnant woman fell back on her bed.

Richard was startled by Kainene's violence. There was something brittle about her, and he feared she would snap apart at the slightest touch; she had thrown herself so fiercely into this, the erasing of memory, that it would destroy her.


Olanna had a happy dream. She did not remember what it was about but she remembered that it had been happy, and so she woke up warming herself with the thought that she could still have a happy dream. She wished Odenigbo had not gone to work so she could tell him about it and trace his gently indulgent smile as he listened, the smile that said he did not need to agree with her to believe her. But she had not seen that smile since his mother died, since he tried to go to Abba and came back clutching a shadow, since he began to leave for work too early and to stop at Tanzania Bar on his way home. If only he had not tried to cross the occupied roads, he would not be so gaunt and withdrawn now; his grief would not be burdened by failure. She should never have let him go. But his determination had been quietly hostile, as though he felt she had no right to stop him. His words-"I have to bury what the vultures left behind"-dug a gully between them that she had not known how to bridge. Before he climbed into the car and drove off, she had told him, "Somebody must have buried her."

And later, as she sat on the veranda waiting for him, she loathed herself for not finding better words. Somebody must have buried her. It sounded so trivial. What she meant was that surely his cousin Anie-kwena buried her. Aniekwena's message, sent through a soldier on leave, was brief: Abba was occupied and he had sneaked back to try and evacuate some property and found Mama lying dead from gunshot wounds near the compound wall. He had said nothing more, but Olanna assumed he must have dug a grave. He could not have left her lying there, decaying.

Olanna no longer remembered the hours of waiting for Odenigbo to come back, but she did remember the sensation of blindness, of cold sheaths being drawn over her eyes. She had worried from time to time about Baby and Kainene and Ugwu dying, vaguely acknowledged the possibilities of future grief, but she had never conceived of Odenigbo's death. Never. He was her life's constant. When he came back, long after midnight, with his shoes covered in mud, she knew he would not be the same again. He asked Ugwu for a glass of water and told her in a calm voice, "They kept asking me to go back, so I parked the car and hid it and began to walk. Finally, one Biafran officer cocked his gun and said he would shoot and save the vandals the trouble if I didn't turn around."

She held him close to her and sobbed. Her relief was stained with desolation.

"I'm fine, nkem," he said. But he no longer went into the interior with the Agitator Corps, no longer returned with lit-up eyes. Instead, he went to Tanzania Bar every day and came back with a taciturn set to his mouth. When he did talk, he spoke of his unpublished research papers left behind in Nsukka, how they were almost enough to make him a full professor, and heaven knew what the vandals would do with them. She wanted him to truly talk to her, help her to help him grieve, but each time she told him, he said, "It's too late, nkem." She was not sure what he meant. She sensed the layers of his grief-he would never know how Mama had died and would always struggle with old resentments-but she did not feel connected to his mourning. Sometimes she wondered if this was her own failure rather than his, if perhaps she lacked a certain strength that would compel him to include her in his pain.

Okeoma visited to pay condolences.

"I heard what happened," he said, when Olanna opened the door. She hugged him and looked at the jagged, swollen scar that ran from his chin to his neck and thought how quickly it spread, news of death.

"He has not really spoken to me," she said. "What he says to me makes no sense."

"Odenigbo has never known how to be weak. Be patient with him." Okeoma spoke in a near whisper because Odenigbo had come out. After they hugged and thumped each other's backs, Okeoma looked at him.

"Ndo," he said. "Sorry."

"I think she must have been surprised when they shot her," Odenigbo said. "Mama never understood that we were really at war and that her life was in danger."

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