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Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 32

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"I'm worried that they have not bombed us in a while," Olanna said. "I wonder what they are planning."

"Perhaps an atomic bomb," Kainene said.

They heard the car drive in then and Kainene stood up. "Who is visiting in this kind of weather at night?"

She opened the door and Dr. Nwala came in, water dripping down his face. Olanna recalled how he had extended his hand to help her up after the air raid on her wedding day, how he had said that her dress would get dirty-as though it were not already dirty from lying on the ground. He was thinner and lankier than she remembered and looked as though he would break in two if he sat down abruptly. He did not sit down. He did not waste time with greetings. He had raised his loose shirt away from his body, was rapidly flipping it to get the water off when he said, "Okeoma has gone, ojebego. They were on a mission to retake Umuahia when it happened. I saw him last month, and he told me he was writing some poems and Olanna was his muse, and if anything happened to him I should make sure the poems went to her. But I can't find them. The people who brought the message said that they never saw him writing anything. So I said I would come and tell you he has gone but I did not find the poems."

Olanna was nodding without quite understanding because Dr. Nwala was saying too many words too quickly. Then she stopped. He meant that Okeoma was dead. It was raining in harmattan and Okeoma was dead.

"Okeoma?" Odenigbo spoke in a cracked whisper. "Onye? Are you talking about Okeoma?"

Olanna reached out and grasped Odenigbo's arm and the screams came out of her, screeching, piercing screams, because something in her head was stretched taut. Because she felt attacked, relentlessly clobbered, by loss. She did not let go of his arm until Dr. Nwala stumbled back into the rain, until they climbed silently onto their mattress on the floor. When he slid into her, she thought how different he felt, lighter and narrower, on top of her. He was still, so still she thrashed around and pulled at his hips. But he did not move. Then he began to thrust and her pleasure multiplied, sharpened on stone so that each tiny spark became a pleasure all its own. She heard herself crying, her sobbing louder and louder until Baby stirred and he placed his palm against her mouth. He was crying too; she felt the tears drop on her body before she saw them on his face.

Later, he propped himself on his elbow and watched her. "You're so strong, nkem."

Those were words she had never heard from him. He looked old; there was a wetness in his eyes, a crumpled defeat in his face, that made him look older. She wanted to ask him why he had said that, what he meant, but she didn't and she was not sure who fell asleep first. The next morning, she woke up too early, smelling her own bad breath and feeling a sad and unsettling peace.


Ugwu wanted to die, at first. It was not because of the hot tingle in his head or the stickiness of blood on his back or the pain in his buttocks or the way he gasped for air, but because of his thirst. His throat was scorched. The infantrymen carrying him were talking about how rescuing him had given them a reason to run away, how their bullets had finished and they had sent for reinforcements and nothing was forthcoming and the vandals were advancing. But Ugwu's thirst clogged his ears and muffled their words. He was on their shoulders, bandaged with their shirts, the pain shooting all over his body as they walked. He gulped for air, gasped, and sucked but somehow he could not get enough. His thirst nauseated him.

"Water, please," he croaked. They would not give him any; if he had the energy, he would invoke all the curses he knew on them. If he had a gun he would have shot them all and then shot himself.

Now, in the hospital where they had left him, he no longer wanted to die, but he feared he would; there were so many bodies littered around him, on mats, on mattresses, on the bare floor. There was so much blood everywhere. He heard the sharp screams of men when the doctor examined them and knew that his was not the worst case, even as he felt his own blood seeping out, first warm and then clammy cold against his side. The blood took his will; he was too exhausted to do anything about it and when the nurses hurried past him and left his bandaging unchanged, he did not call out to them. He said nothing, either, when they came and pushed him to his side and gave him quick unceremonious injections. In his delirious moments, he saw Eberechi wearing her tight skirt and making gestures to him that he could not understand. And in his lucid moments, death occupied him. He tried to visualize a heaven, a God seated on a throne, but could not. Yet the alternative vision, that death was nothing but an endless silence, seemed unlikely. There was a part of him that dreamed, and he was not sure if that part could ever retreat into an interminable silence. Death would be a complete knowingness, but what frightened him was this: not knowing beforehand what it was he would know.

In the evenings, in the dim half-light, the people from Caritas came, a priest and two helpers carrying kerosene lanterns, giving out milk and sugar to the soldiers, asking their names and where they had come from.

"Nsukka," Ugwu said, when he was asked. He thought the priest's voice was vaguely familiar, but then everything was vaguely familiar here: The blood of the man next to him smelled like his, the nurse who placed a bowl of thin akamu next to him smiled like Eberechi.

"Nsukka? What is your name?" the priest asked.

Ugwu struggled to focus on the rounded face, the glasses, the browned collar. It was Father Damian. "I am Ugwu. I used to come with my madam Olanna to St. Vincent de Paul."

"Ah!" Father Damian squeezed his hand and Ugwu winced. "You fought for the cause? Where were you wounded? What have they done for you?"

Ugwu shook his head. One part of his buttocks was wrapped in fiery red pain; it consumed him. Father Damian spooned some powdered milk into his mouth and then placed a bag of sugar and milk next to him.

"I know Odenigbo is with Manpower. I will send word to them," Father Damian said. Before he left, he slipped a wooden rosary onto Ugwu's wrist.

The rosary was there, a cold pressure against his skin, when Mr. Richard came some days later.

"Ugwu, Ugwu." The fair hair and the strange-colored eyes swam above him, and Ugwu was not sure who it was.

"Can you hear me, Ugwu? I've come to take you." It was the same voice that had asked Ugwu questions about his village festival years ago. Ugwu knew then who it was. Mr. Richard tried to help him get up and the pain shot up from his side and buttock to his head and eyes. Ugwu cried out, then clenched his teeth and bit his lip and sucked his own blood.

"Easy now, easy now," Mr. Richard said.

The bumpy ride lying in the backseat of the Peugeot 404 and the fierce sun that sparkled the windscreen made Ugwu wonder if he had died and this was what happened at death: an unending journey in a car. Finally, they stopped at a hospital that smelled not of blood but of disinfectant. Only when Ugwu lay in a real bed did he think that perhaps he was not going to die after all.

"This place has been bombed quite a bit in the past week, and we will have to leave right after the doctor sees you. He's really not a doctor-he was in his fourth year in university when the war started-but he's done very well," Mr. Richard said. "Olanna and Odenigbo and Baby have been with us in Orlu since Umuahia fell, and of course Harrison is there too. Kainene needs help at the refugee camp, so you better hurry up and be well."

Ugwu sensed that Mr. Richard was talking too much, for his benefit, perhaps to keep him awake until the doctor came. But he was grateful for Mr. Richard's laughter, the normality of it, the way it came back with a force of memory and made him inhabit the time when Mr. Richard wrote his answers in a leather-covered book.

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