Thursday, January 19, 2012

B.R.R.sday: Age 60

As Keri and I walk behind John Mumba holding hands—her talking to a boy in striped shorts and a faded Cincinnati Bengals shirt with cut-off sleeves, named Ford—I imagine a worm with angry eyes crawling just under the skin of the girl, Eleanor, we have just met. She was lying with one elbow bent under her glassy face, the long bird-tail eye-lashes folded on her forearm. I notice her shirt, frayed where it has been ripped, and stretched over her legs stacked and curved back, on top of a woven straw mat beside the water jug outside her house. John Mumba told us, in his British-educated Zambian accent, that her stepfather used her as “a good luck piece.” I chuckled, unaware, and said “she doesn’t look like she feels very lucky,” and he shook his head with the look of a veteran or an old surgeon.
“No, I would say no. Her step-father gave her to be raped (he said the word as if it rhymed with wept) to bring his family luck for the HIV and she got it.”
“It is a bloody sickness. It moves and hides in you like a bug.”
She was so beautiful and tiny and I could see a little pile of dirt beside her mat blow like a sand dune as she exhaled. I hear Keri ask Ford “how many brothers do you have?” and he shakes his head with his eyes closed and says, slowly, “one sister,” and I look at the watch that Liv gave me for my birthday—shiny in the sun—and want to throw it down and punch my heel into its glassy face.

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