“The cicadas screamed.” That line appears in my first published novel, my only published novel when traveling around Africa with Yayuk, and here I am, some twenty-four years later, hearing those selfsame insects as part of this posthumous memoir—the sound and ear-splitting whine like catgut on a hot hacksaw blade. Needless to say, four of my five senses are now fully functional, without any of their corresponding organs left intact; eyes, nose, tongue, ears have all disappeared, mostly due to the gnashing of untold red-ant mandibles. If I listen—back on site—the wind sings a curious chant through my eye sockets, nasal cavity, and teeth. At night, that is. During daylight hours, the cicadas drown out almost every other noise.
    I confess to having quite lost track of time. I've been here for as long it takes to reduce a scrawny old man to his skeleton. Days? Weeks? Surely not months. Boredom has given way to a vague expectation. The longer I cool my heels, the more likely it appears that something will happen. Aside from my being put back in touch with his nibs; perish the thought! I do not want to relive dying, much less its aftermath... gnash, gnash, gnash.
    The aforementioned novel, incidentally, featured an albino, which I mention by way of segueing back to Mozambique, a country that may have the world's highest incidence of albinism. Yayuk and I saw white Blacks everywhere: a dozen in Maputo, three or four in Xai-Xai, as many in Inhambane and Maxixe, then another along the road en route to Vilanculos. Thick lips, broad noses, kinky hair—when paler than bean curd—tended to stand out.

    We had argued, Yayuk and I, on the bus to Vilanculos—I don't recall about what; I only remember issuing an ultimatum: "our relationship will end on January 5th."
    Ms. Kertenagara, bless her heart, had other ideas.

 

CHAPTER THREE

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