The hot air, swollen with moisture, fills my lungs. It is dense and heavy. It is like swallowing water knowing that you are drowning.Around is the dark. Black as the blackest night. Like the first night of the world, still orphan of dawn. I realize that heaven and earth have not yet divorced and are staying there, lying on a grassy bed in such a sensual embrace that I look away fearing that I will be indiscreet.I slide the zip of my sleeping bag and pop out. Shorts and T-shirts. I give my bare feet a few more hours of freedom. No shoes as long as I can do without it.
The field is immersed in sleep. Serenade of crickets to mark its regular breath. A crumpled shadow next to the colors of embers in agony seems to peer at me.I approach. “Baba, what are you doing still up, shouldn’t you rest at least a little?” I ask in a low voice, crouching beside him. I look at him and travel the thousand subtle roads that mark his face like a detailed road map. His life is drawn on his face, under his eyes, around his mouth, in the center of his forehead. Deerskin left to dry under the African sun.
He doesn’t answer me. Then he gets up and brings a finger to his lips asking for silence. The fire is going out in soft ash gray. I am forcing myself to respect the absence of movements and noise imposed on me by the old Baba with a liquid look.Then a nod. Follow me.
I start by measuring my step, as he taught me: the feet must gently adhere to the ground and not offend it violently. In this way, she, Mut, the mother of everything, will not have to defend herself. We spent hours studying the big cats, the wind, the savannah, the sky, the stars, the smells, the voices of the dark. We spent whole nights looking for us like wild animals, holding our breath so as not to betray us. We spent days trying to figure out how to change skin. That inside.”Kidogo Moto”. My African name. Baba assigned it to me because I am always by the fire, like a guardian of the past.
The danger of freedom
We arrive at a clearing without fences. Free spaces and danger. The danger of freedom. I look around and trying to force my eyes into that dark blanket I get distracted a few seconds too long and I don’t feel the muffled steps that are slowly approaching.
Suddenly, cold, slightly damp hands on the skin. They are slippery like pasty clay and touch me in a ritual that I do not understand. I am looking for Baba and I find him a few steps away from me. I chain my gaze to hers by asking for silent explanations. He stares at me, his eyes look like small flames flickering in the dark. I turn my head and I realize that I am wearing an ocher yellow tint, tending towards reddish. A woman motions me to undress. I look for Baba’s face again. A voice says: “Trust me. Do what they ask of you. ” In exchange they offer me a white leather thong, decorated with beads and small colored feathers, a necklace made of feathers, goat bones and braids of red and yellow wool is placed on my shoulders and around the neck, going down to the waist. Then two small hands push me to the center of the clearing, where five men sit in a circle. Sixth place is empty and it’s for me. The figures immersed in the darkness sing a nursery rhyme. A woman carries half coconuts with a thick liquid inside. He offers them to all of us. Last to me: mine is empty. Each man pours a portion of his drink into my bowl until it is filled. Then reading their expectation-filled faces I understand that they want something from me.
The figures immersed in the darkness sing a nursery rhyme. A woman carries half coconuts with a thick liquid inside. He offers them to all of us. Last to me: mine is empty. Each man pours a portion of his drink into my bowl until it is filled. Then reading their expectation-filled faces I understand that they want something from me. I don’t know what to offer in return. I have nothing but my painted skin. Then I understand. They want me to drink first.
Slowly I bring the half coconut close to my lips as a thought tries to appear in my mind: “what are you doing …”. Immediately I drive him to the back, far away from me.
And with a dry gesture I swallow that viscous and bitter liquid. A very strong stomach cramp warns me that he will try to get me back on the decision to drink more. I ignore it and write down the rest.
My guests nodded satisfied and I glad I didn’t disappoint them, I look around, finally managing to see some faces, a little less black than the air around. The atmosphere has become more relaxed, chatter mingles with the crackle of the fire that is being attempted to light in the center of the clearing. Imagining that the rite is over, I put my hands on the ground and stand up.
I can not reach the upright position that a very strong vertigo grabs my head forcing me to lean forward. I stand still for a few seconds and stand up straight, handsome straight.
All the other men are hanging from the sky, upside down. Or maybe it’s me hanging upside down. Then everything turns again. Loud, louder, louder and louder, until you recognize nothing, until you distinguish nothing, until you hear nothing but the sound of this mad vortex that screams inside me and rumbles and bounces and chases inside me in an infinite series of circles, echoes and reflections
Faster and faster
Distorted sounds and voices that plummet into nothingness getting lost in the deafening silence of my head … And it is emptiness. And from the void an incredible, majestic, enormous wave, salt, salt, salt, up, ever higher, higher and higher, and it approaches and grows and increases and swells, black and slimy and runs towards me with the its white foam of the moon, dispersing in this air made of nothing, of black faces, of white teeth, of red eyes, of hands that move in a thousand silent speeches.
I, walls of flesh and boundaries of skin, vomit the whole world that poisoned my soul. And I collapse on the ground with my eyes closed and cataracts open. Polluted rivers with which I feed this land that generated me.
And the ground starts to vibrate. First floor and then faster and faster.
And drums fill the air, the night, the sky. They fill the whole world. They fill my body, my mind, which moved by someone who does not bear my name, marry the wild rhythm of that moment out of time, from any logic, from any place. And flickering, shiny and shiny black flesh of a thousand sweat stars draws me into a dance as old as the world.
And slowly, slowly, slowly, I feel life flowing in me again, and it has another flavor. It is light and sparkling. It tastes good.I am still lying, skin against skin with my mother. And I let myself be pampered like a child after a cry of pain. On the cheeks, in the mouth, in the nose, smell of grass. Taste of greenery and sun. And coal. I look at my burning hand.
A cut lets two swollen drops of blood slide out, I watch them walk on the palm. Then I put it close to my mouth, I rest my lips on the wound and suck the red liquid. Sweet salty taste, metallic aftertaste. No more bitter. A lion launches a dull roar that melts into a distant rumbling. I spit on the ground and smile at Baba.