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Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 5

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"Get into the car," Master said again, reaching across the front seat to make sure the door was unlocked.

"But, sah. I thought you are going to see my madam."

"Get in, you ignoramus!"

Ugwu opened the door and climbed in, and Master drove back to Odim Street.


Olanna looked at Odenigbo through the glass for a while before she opened the door. She closed her eyes as he walked in, as if doing so would deny her the pleasure that the scent of his Old Spice always brought. He was dressed for tennis in the white shorts she had often teased him were too tight around his buttocks.

"I was talking to my mother or I would have come earlier," he said. He pressed his lips to hers and gestured to the old boubou she was wearing. "Aren't you coming to the club?"

"I was cooking."

"Ugwu told me what happened. I'm so sorry my mother acted that way."

"I just had to leave… your house." Olanna faltered. She had wanted to say our house.

"You didn't have to, nkem. You should have ignored her, really." He placed a copy of Drum magazine down on the table and began pacing the room. "I've decided to talk to Dr. Okoro about the Labor Strike. It's unacceptable that Balewa and his cronies should completely reject their demands. Just unacceptable. We have to show support. We can't allow ourselves to become disconnected."

"Your mother made a scene."

"You're angry" Odenigbo looked puzzled. He sat down in the armchair, and for the first time she noticed how much space there was between the furniture, how sparse her flat was, how unlived in. Her things were in his house; her favorite books were in the shelves in his study. "Nkem, I didn't know you'd take this so seriously. You can see that my mother doesn't know what she's doing. She's just a village woman. She's trying to make her way in a new world with skills that are better suited for the old one." Odenigbo got up and moved closer to take her in his arms, but Olanna turned and walked into the kitchen.

"You never talk about your mother," she said. "You've never asked me to come to Abba with you to visit her."

"Oh, stop it, nkem. It's not as if I go that often to see her, and I did ask you the last time but you were going to Lagos."

She walked over to the stove and ran a sponge on the warm surface, over and over, her back to Odenigbo. She felt as if she had somehow failed him and herself by allowing his mother's behavior to upset her. She should be above it; she should shrug it off as the ranting of a village woman; she should not keep thinking of all the retorts she could have made instead of just standing mutely in that kitchen. But she was upset, and made even more so by Odenigbo's expression, as if he could not believe she was not quite as high-minded as he had thought. He was making her feel small and absurdly petulant and, worse yet, she suspected he was right. She always suspected he was right. For a brief irrational moment, she wished she could walk away from him. Then she wished, more rationally, that she could love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying; need was the choicelessness she often felt around him.

"What did you cook?" Odenigbo asked.

"Rice." She rinsed the sponge and put it away. "Aren't you going to play tennis?"

"I thought you would come."

"I don't feel up to it." Olanna turned around. "Why is your mother's behavior acceptable because she's a village woman? I know village women who do not behave this way."

"Nkem, my mother's entire life is in Abba. Do you know what a small bush village that is? Of course she will feel threatened by an educated woman living with her son. Of course you have to be a witch. That is the only way she can understand it. The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world."

"Did you talk to her about this?"

"I didn't see the point. Look, I want to catch Dr. Okoro at the club. Let's discuss this when I get back. I'll stay here tonight."

She paused as she washed her hands. She wanted him to ask her to come back with him to the house, wanted him to say he would tell his mother off in front of her, for her. But here he was deciding to stay at her flat, like a frightened little boy hiding from his mother.

"No," she said.


"I said no." She walked into the living room without drying her hands. The flat seemed too small.

"What is wrong with you, Olanna?"

She shook her head. She would not let him make her feel that there was something wrong with her. It was her right to be upset, her right to choose not to brush her humiliation aside in the name of an overexalted intellectualism, and she would claim that right. "Go." She gestured toward the door. "Go and play your tennis and don't come back here."

She watched him get up and leave. He banged the door. They had never had a quarrel; he had never been impatient with dissent from her as he was with others. Or it may simply be that he humored her and did not think much of her opinions in the first place. She felt dizzy. She sat alone at her bare dining table-even her table mats were in his house-and ate the rice. It tasted bland, nothing like Ugwu's. She turned the radio on. She thought she heard rustles in the ceiling. She got up to go visit her neighbor Edna Whaler; she had always wanted to get to know the pretty black American woman who sometimes brought her cloth-covered plates of American biscuits. But she changed her mind at the door and didn't step out. After she left the half-eaten rice in the kitchen, she walked around the flat, picking up old newspapers and then putting them down. Finally, she went to the phone and waited for the operator.

"Give me the number quick, I have other things to do," the lazy nasal voice said.

Olanna was used to unprofessional and inept operators, but this was the rudest she had experienced.

"Haba, I will cut this line if you keep wasting my time," the operator said.

Olanna sighed and slowly recited Kainene's number.

Kainene sounded sleepy when she picked up the phone. "Olanna? Did something happen?"

Olanna felt a rush of melancholy; her twin sister thought something had to have happened for her to call. "Nothing happened. I just wanted to say kedu, to find out how you are."

"How shocking." Kainene yawned. "How's Nsukka? How's your revolutionary lover?"

"Odenigbo is fine. Nsukka is fine."

"Richard seems taken by it. He even seems taken by your revolutionary."

"You should come and visit."

"Richard and I prefer to meet here in Port Harcourt. That tiny box they gave him for a house is not exactly suitable."

Olanna wanted to tell Kainene that she meant visit her, her and Odenigbo. But of course Kainene understood what she meant and had simply chosen to misunderstand.

"I'm going to London next month," she said instead. "Maybe we could go together."

"I have too much to do here. No holiday for me yet."

"Why don't we talk anymore, Kainene?"

"What a question." Kainene sounded amused and Olanna imagined that mocking smile pulling up one side of her mouth.

"I just want to know why we don't talk anymore," Olanna said. Kainene did not respond. A static whining came over the telephone line. They were silent for so long that Olanna felt she had to apologize. "I shouldn't keep you," she said.

"Are you coming to Daddy's dinner party next week?" Kainene asked.


"I should have guessed. Too opulent for your abstemious revolutionary and yourself, I take it?"

"I shouldn't keep you," Olanna repeated, and placed the phone down. She picked it up again, and was about to give the operator her mother's number before she dropped it back. She wished there was somebody she could lean against; then she wished she was different, the sort of person who did not need to lean on others, like Kainene. She pulled at the phone wire to untangle it. Her parents had insisted on installing a phone in her flat, as if they did not hear her say that she would practically be living with Odenigbo. She had protested, but only mildly, the same limp no with which she greeted the frequent deposits to her bank account and the new Impala with the soft upholstery.

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