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.
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