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I

IlH]DGES

A

GAME

OF HEARTS

David Aronson

tonic plates. On maps, the lakes appear as a line of slender blue streaks tracing the cleft of the continent from Ethiopia to Mozambique. Lake Kivu is distinguished among these only by its high methane content, which kills all but the smallest fish.
The town, a provincial small soccer stadium, facturing Mobutu, from dent round earth. proliferate. wearing Beyond nails, flip-flops, capital, and contains cement. strip, a bottling factories Along the plant, a manuAvenue and bars 11 ills stu'lives here, their as do the Zairian on strtps
011

T

he town of Bukavu lies on the southern edge of Lake Kivu, in the foothills of eastern Zaire. Lake Kivu is one of a series of lakes that pool in the recesses of the Great Rift Valley-the result, geologically speaking, of diverging tec-

elite. Outside sleep which

the steel gates and sharpen

or

and a few scattered shops

homes,

of cardboard, stones, is carted squatter thousand children. and daub water des Martyrs

the night watchalso serve as pilbut is known it contains thouhundred

men. The night watchmen thcir machetes

wear tattered

clothes

the main In

commercial

seU everything Hotels Green of' the presi-

flat granite of town

Korean

electronics thick,

to silk underwear. glasses. arc dark

lows,
The other anywhere sand gated section Kadutu to three si rnply as to cite. A makeshift from settlement,

everyone hangs
black-rimmed plots farmers'

a jowly picture

the town;

rectangles

of

red

a hundred
of waule Avenue

limit" ltes an abandoned tourist center, its window sockets vacant, spears of grass shooting through the crumbling Floor; Bukavu was thought or in the
the city colonial known The sections like pani era as the Switzerland

people,

11<t11' them or

Most live in one-room and rooted or electricity. in the enure hillside, turn with corruAside from there The it rains perquarter;

huts constructed the aptly named arc no streets, houses sprawl and Many the winding Luu+ncs vades. number

or

lin. Few have running

Africa, and even ripen

today is are

de Ia Bcvolutjon, and when

rot' its strawberries,
residential separated part

which

in April. They

paved or otherwise, up the surrounding footpaths open people between are on wander sewers

tiny and delicious. of town is composed reaching Each lined into the water-s is arrayed with with bougainvillea of two distinct live palmby a hill. The first. comprises

them about

slick and muddy. a fecal odor A surprising husks. The dysentery

standard:

canopied peninsulas
crooked blue bushes. fingers. cottages powder

or Lake Kivu
pastel and pink or rrangiAmeri-

in rags. and

of them

arc drunk

five-cent shots or the moonCO I'll

shine local brewers young prefer Occasionally,

distill ont of manioc

The expatriate Belgian

community-including

hemp-they an outbreak

say it. dulls tile ache in their bellies.

can missionaries,

officials,

and Greek businessmen-

or cholera

or measles

01'

56

DOUBLETAKE

WINTER

1997

01'

bronchitis reason person"

er-upts, und scores

of children deeply shout

die. Sometimes enough into the
01'

children parent "white

die of star vu Lion, and sometimes at all. If you venture children will no longer

they die for no ap"mzungu"

shantytown,

at you, but will instead to Bologna

call you "pape''

It is

one of tile few charms inn priest who retired I lived in Bukavu fellowship, to gather

of the place to be mistaken ten years before in 19S6 and T hoped

for an ItalI arr-ived. 1987, and someit.

viewed,

O

ne

Monday months There for a loan.

morning IUs baby asking routinely

in early was

J\.Jarch, three

01'

foul' me

into my stay, my friend was nothing unusual sought

Num bi asked

Sick, needed in his

medicine.

request. people
The lolks I interwhere I studied watchI'd

were always
1"01'

me for money. At the school

instance,

a little gift once the inand night

terviews Swahili, listen a mark

were concluded. a succession

rot' eleven months was there histories. oral

or groundskeepers the classroom about leaky

was called "pa pe" onenI tiling about poverty rare my departure paton with a glamorous bureaucrats. Diseases cholera, quinine, I suppose, 1 arrived . stances had worked respectfully cations acutely rectify. In fact, dur-ing disol;iented perience-at tytown beggars they will example. adult come

on a posumdergrnduate to learn about Be-

men loitered outside to their cost of school book paper small-five veloped that

to beg me for loans. have them

srortes=stortes
uniforms-and

roofs or the high put their notewere up. It making bolder

in Africa; 1 w-anted to write From the Slates I'd been my fellowship rrom and gold seal: an amulet vaccines

solemnly

given a check, letter meddlesome lor Tropical yellow

on the Iffl.Is I'd copy out on the quadrille-lined I used dollars a reputation insist lor Illy vocabulary here, len dollars lists. The there-but. They loans added were

the back, and-from

comm iltee+a against against hepatitis;

I'd also received, typhoid,

the Center

Look the better part or a month of less than twenty I wouldn't pursued children though tonished,
01' to

for me to realize touch. and knew "Mzungu,

that I had dethan I did

at l\1cGill Un iversity, typhus, chlot'iquine,

fever, and

as an easy a month,

rabies,

a packet

dollars

better

and Fansidar

to ward

off malaria;

on repayment. almost

On the slreet,

an assortment

of pills, capsules, in Bukavu

and suppositct'Ies+amulets, ignorant. of the circumof mine she urged with

me, shouting,

nipe cinq zaires"-

of a different order. not entirely myself be getting into. A professor

they sounded

I think, if this Numbi a slight

bored, and would have been asmzungu had ever given them the five for . it is only in retrospect face. But I hadn't him a Friend. type-Ulat that I of even More travelat the Numbi in his manner', cheerful a girlfriend, I considered a suggestion for that meuer-.

T would

ten cents they clamored l turned

in the area several of the president. and i nutguc, oJ
11

years before:

me

down. Perhaps hesitation

keep a low profile, of danger conscious

to trust no one I met in bars, and to speak Her warnings, had secretly innocence, their iruplime. I felt that quickly thrtltcd

remember regret known

across

his normally betrayed:

that he had a child-or

certain

and imagined

and I felt vaguely

this was a deficiency

of character

that Africa would I became there

than that, I'd practically

saved his life. at all the worst where fairly often. A student he was called to the linguist's,

.vumbt was ora type-not
my Lime in Bukavu Though consciousness increasingly of my exAfrica the and disheartened. dusk, were moments local teacher because did, training college,

ers to Lhe third world encounter his first name

Chomsky

when I felt an acute

of the wonder were the days

"vas similar

a cerratn slant oflight
I could scarcely outside courteous;

gave even the shanI haled Consider

an incandescence-there
Vi'110

in fact, have a flair fat" .languages. As a high school student in u village too small to appear on any map, he'd
fluent English dipped by hangi ng out with Peace Corps volwore jeans, below were stitched nothing pack a T-shirt, together' and sneakers. with dental if eighty, he'd-don a jean jacket floss. him happier complete to me in the I walk like him

with an intensity

understand. they smile thickly

learned

congregate

Marchc Xc-thc local groobsequiously; arm, for limbs ghastly
011

u rucers. He invariably
the temperature whose than I sometimes uniform. Frayed seams thought

cery. They are painfully

compete, quietly, to open the glass door for you.
muscled Their other result limbs are shr-unkun-dnfunt arc enclosed if that

Some of them have only one limb-a bodies-the Their toward

would have made and a walkman-fhc
IIp

to own a Jansport The first time

or polio or some other is the word,

tropiThey

I met him, he sidled
himself. Then

cal disease.

pelvises

in sackcloth.

street and asked, one, apparently. on his English. "vas risible. the Boss's music.

in English, He introduced

if I was an American:

you walking,

like tripods. they are bewhether you you

1 complimented he asked

They drag their abdomens side you and waving you're rumble going to give them in your pockets, tragedy

in the dust. And when anything. and The
III'S\.

He complimented was a pause.

me on my S-wahil,i-which me in knew ... at him closely. slun-.» color A carryA boy polish.

their arms,

you have to decide

There

few limes as though

feel obscurely horror;

This W('ISon the main He had Africans barefoot passed down, seemed pretend
11

boulevard. call

J looked

have failed some test or character, some squalid shocked. beggars wanted what outstretched 01' routine After a while, palms
1'1'0111 1.0

BuL every clay you witness it. ls hard to remain walk past Lknew to learn and the J than I could to them

round

face, short

hail', and very black kiwi, after walked down

disparagingly old peasant
LIS

the shoe

I discovered a patch

woman a scruffy eye

the street

and pay no more attention were to learn

if' their pale,

ing on her back a load of firewood dangling its yellow blinked
to

the size or a dresser. slowly. Bruce

of sunflowers. I wanted

red chicken

by its feet. UpsideSpringsteen

Africa, but what

Af'rica had

teach me were as distant. From each other olthc city.

as far away as one could imagine. and I got be friends. we'd go out 10 bars and we talked-he was innor to notice who "vas paying.

as the two quarters

Still, Numbi

BRIDGES

57

I

I
KATHY WALTZES WITH MR. NAKAMURA defatigably Mr. Nakamura and smells is dean-shaven soap. as we all do curious-about fondness in him-he everything: believed politics, sex, divorce for example, had all laws, the American of the village practiced tory while in ours, gazing floor through at a star on the polished his round eyeglasses. stroke, tile bones Gradually, Springsteen, Growing tures ten year's after the first, how it has left him unsure which way his feet will go among and heltconra ceived and was adamant for beef He still had something in sorcery, a few of the colonialists skinny, clipper ofhospital He sits in his wheelchair, that at least cannibalism. Once I came upon him in his dormiHe was remarkably like an uurigged ship. he was dressing. and S1ne\VS; he looked but the idea as I came to know him, 1 understood of Springsteen, village, gazing up in a remote in monthly that it wasn't at the picreout of beyond distant. and disHe has told me about his second that Numb i loved. for hours the volunteers had fabricated, of the world

in the complimental'yNewsl(xelrs batches, Numbi stills,,(in for things there were didn't image

glossy ads and celebrity his village-a sometimes And if his enthusiasm' grating, couraged and homesick, one day Numbi waiting from a Zairian else-and was about Numbt's

the anthuriurns

'world as alluring

as it was 'impossibly American plenty show of times

was naive, when,

of his Hilo nursery. a just-opening

He fears crushing or breaking a stem.

1 found it deeply gratifying. up for a get-together yellow room and then two, as Prince his sila knock. stopped was in for him in the mildewed family, I read a chapter, more and more

blossom

Then I leased of

And I have told him about

the accident,

we'd planned.

war

and Peace-a book I'd selected
grew pistols,

for its bulk as much impatient. packed I heard had

the airbag

that blew the lens

anything Andrei It was

from my right eye the way wind takes a seed

to leave for the front-he'd and saber+when Kayego. roommate, Police

from ~s podme fractured wrist and knee.
None of us wants to be

ver plate, Turkish Numbi

two day'S ago. There be conscripted,

had been a fuss: Numhi

chosen by Physical Therapy,
Kathy pulls to his

jail. He might

sent to SOHle far-off post. Per-

but it is Mr, Nakamura his blue seersucker

feet,

haps J could help?

bathrobe

roped

and knotted

at his waist.

I see this with my good len: eye. Pulls him to his feet

cottages their own reflections,

I

had

imagined

that. fortress

the

prison

would

be

something with J when on a substucco particuin an arthe faith I in wor-n fa-

frigluful-.a discovered urban

whose

watchlf",.,ers stucco

bristled

gnns, a miasma

of rats and dark corridors-so cottage the lake, 1 felt relieved: was nothing

that it was a white

street overlooking

I could handle.

Kayego walked

me to 'itand vanished about the mis-

into the crowd. T would go alone. There and swishes one-two-three him off across and one-two-three, leg-twist, arm-crook, sionaries who'd been strip-searched

larly brave about this plan: T hadn't: yet: heard rest and left all day in a neck-high had in my skin color was as certain I approached tigues sat on the porch. A single

for interfering vat of sewage: soldier button bare:

a waltz that lifts them,

as it was unmerited. held his shirt a pair of black that be "That can't

the front door. An angular green his navel. His feet were

past stair-climb Mr. Nakamura's like the patches

and balance pajama

ball, white

legs flashing

closed he was right:'

around buffing

on the secondary

flight feathers

shoes stood beside

the screen

door. I had the impression and T thought, pink manicure had crossed

his toenails, shoes. thigh,

But in fact it was. A plastic The soldier

kit lay by his left foot his

of a nearly

extinct

forest bird of sky-

the mud-crusted over his right nails toward does. his utmost

not easily seen even on a background my injured eye sensing the movement

and with toes in hand, such an aggrieved

was giving

attention.

when finally he swung his gaze
ail' I almost

me he did so with He couldn't narrow face, and

apologized. of heaven as the blind world always a pinched, the telltale

have been more than twenty, He had the whites of his eyes were a eggs-which is me to the soldiers color of scrambled

Sickly cast ofyellow-t:he

-Joan Swift

sign of hepatitis. under

With a nod he directed

rear of the bungalow. In the backyard, an odabe lree, a half-dozen

58

DOUBlETAKE

WINTER

1997

MARIA

ANGELUCCI

sat on a rough wen' shook older hands than all their laps

wooden or leaned

bench, against

drinking Their tile bench

palm rilles

wine.

They I

She laughs just popping

before

the

word

OCellI'S

to her,

the one out front.

lay carelessly squeeze. They'd

at odd angles. Zairian vacant.

in her brain, from

she says, like popcorn. ago,

all around-the were subdued,

son one-pump their- expressions sure, requires

ViUage words

fort')' years giving

Tho soldiers probably

lip from steerage,

her the at

giggles.
and friends. "Goat?'

been drinking out what

a11 day. T wasn't

all of a sudden, ol'indit'ecarc likely to

Al first, only a few came, but then Useless they brought ones overtake

intervals,
families

what to do next. Local etiquette Lion. YOLI blurt take offense. The soldiers of them asked. Ali rope-a-doped capital stood warm of Zaire, up and to Africa, I kicked mulled at the grass

a degree

you want and people
and gazed

their

at. the lnke. "Nice one the

her, "Ashtray:'

view," I volunteered. that over. "Are you an American?" for seven rounds It is said thankful in Kinshasa, thai The topic of Muhammad Foreman and in the eighth did the Ali shuffle. that he went knocked home Ali CRITIe lip. In 1973, him out. A soldier Ali did not rot' the slave wise to reItkc a

One day a plumber explaining into such the names See what learning what correct

gave her a

look when,

broke, she erupted, grinning,
Italian from that she stopped, her other life. the years I spent

of things I mean, English,

she said, what

happens? Down the drain.
Lady, if you don't mind.

ships, but that was not the kind or del ail 1 thought port. Instead, then When Tyson shuffle c'estlorr, just I translated Ihe Ali tbeme-vltoat talked about and sling like a bcc=-nnd beginning the the inevitable is black, pumped Ie sang Mike Tyson,

butterfly
who was lilies. the Ali him down

The plumber

waited.

to accumulate question soldier arose, who'd

his heavyweight demonstratod

-w S. Di Piero

and I answer-ed thai yes, "'1\1 vois cornme the stair's, and the door swung gently shut. guided The his head under the doorrmrnc. ment. and sound had Numb! disappeared on metal into the gloom bolt made or the basethe scraping had not

his fist. in the ail' and said, d'Afrique"

The cottage itself was situated
floor, but

on a plot or land thut sloped
onto the first
11

towar-d the lake. The Front of the COllage opened

in the rear three
while. in swung
10

steps led down to
a dark basement. Nurnbi appeared

bolted mom

steel
and with

of metal his nutional

as it closed. Numbi slopped the soldier'S hiJ11-

door painted the door cemeut way,

One OfUlC soldiers reveal and than and a tiny double-barred

slid the bolt open window. tertihly him.
L\'VO

Ncgorlnuons lasted most of the afternoon,
lD on him when a criminal

slab walls blil;king

The soldiscourHe

dlcr mumbled aged-and stood

something even, to see

in the door-

offense. As to his hand-they rcgrcued it had proven necessary to restrain him, and hoped it wouldn't hapPerhaps, I suggested, That really there wouldn't then, and was some be staring line I could

in Ihe sunlight.

He looked 1 remembered guns-which, -Numbt's

pen again. Mostly boule tually, standing Later jubllant; thing Thai and the Numbi tiling, adventure, had and more in

slighter,

was

pny on his behalf. the soldiers came I left. some

possible, they said.
at the grass. The Evenwith the underhad let I look a swig.

not ill all surprised by and Fiddled kept. slipping he said, baseball whipped
CI'S

me. Though their

or the soldiers alarmingly, EngJish allowed a day,

and 1 sat around, money with speak

with

my way now and

00· their

shoutders

the soldiers, to their

us to talk freely, as were glove, him, the basement.

I-Ie was being

beaten

up on ce or rwtce

thut they would that day, Numbt l hadn't been evening

captain. me. They but l fell anyof tile clay's requested, interim, out if anyin

most or the dozen and trembled were in

or so OUlCl' prisoners the sunlight. They their

carne by to thank conliclent

He held out his left hand;
1.00.

it 'was the size of a had feces the Ali his perforhow I'd conmyself about as

him out as soon as I'd left .. Numbt at all. That

was still subdued,

that I'd accomplished
a version Num!» bucks before child. policy. I ever spent:' In the I was,

There

welts on his back. The prison-

I wrote home "Best. twelve weeks

were

let out once a day, and then only to carry -I glanced around. over at the soldiers. The guy who'd his way and moment demonstrated repealed

concluding, nil been him, I had the

to the bushes.
ing Hie bottle shuffle mance, pathetic tinued People asked out. Time
to

They were pass-

three loan

I denied issues:

for' his foreign

noticed me looking grinning.

returned to our sex,

old habits,

thrashing equivocal

cannibalism, In my mind, and me

It is odd, but unt.il that and despite tho intrepid with Numbl they were the pedicurist. imagine some journalist. doing it
1'01'

I hadn't

understood soldiers, with grand

generous w-ith the beer money.Jess
the events I imagined for a loan, it was by there Perhaps day, before, when lhat Numbi surprising

all thls was. I'd come

prepared

to storm

the Bastille,

my opinions. us closer So when

of that day had brought felt the same. me with in whutl
llC"VS

and the drunken dramatic encounter, was nothing up people reason than

together, he asked

But there no better

it. 1

that. he had that I turned derstood was lying, all. And more of the

a daughter,
him down:
OUI'

a logic peculiarly American
had unhe at like Ihal. Perhaps have a daughter his request, to him. to listen

guns were beating
how

without gUllS, and
that they cou Id. He just wanted led

was no space he didn't

friendship

for surprises

r could

help. He shrugged.

J told myself following than

he repealed even

was called.

A soldier

took Numbj by the elbow,

diffidently

T refused

BRIDGES

59

I
A FEAST IN ,JEHUSALElVI Once clear as ivory, There is jolted, themselves around note-the are moments and when the projector blur-moments as though and came of ten dollars. out with of one's existence that later replay zaire I

Blue like milk to the depths, This face among the twelve, A Face like the others'
But now oxidized black,

the frames

in the mind equivalent

on a light loop. I fished a thousand "will that be enough?" And here the reel begins is thanking me"Merci, patron. has prostrated In fact, stop

in my pockets

asked Nu mbi. "Do you need more?" to clog in the machine. his voice is garbled, Mcrci, mcrci'' himself embarassed reminded

In one frame, Numbi

A shade among the guests, Seems the face of the one
Who betrays whose burden and fulfills, is the blame.

but I can heal' the words that Numbi

In the next, I realize and angry,

in the dirt by my feet, and J, too, am speaking. I am shouting. lapel, yanking

"Get up, Numbi,

it! Gel up!" I pull on Numbi's on the rough blue texture children

him up, and am focuses

of how slight: he is. nut even as the camera

of his iacket and the yellow sprinof his neck, even as it pans back to in khaki uniforms are lined feeling are on their way like a ripples up in the distance of pleasure

kling of dust on the nape Unstable Burned Marks (he pigment, to its opposite, this oue haloed head the street, where to school gallery through of horrors, me. and the beggars

a sick, sweet

As the guilty party,
Although all lean away

In disbelief and guilt.
Given the evidence, we cannot help but judge, Although the Judge sits there

town, down a labyrinth Numbi fence, When had a right given at a leaky a third soccer

T

hatafternOOJ.II deci(:ed mitory or in the bars the horne friend-the)' The house where

to visit Numbi-notin h.iS dorwhere vee usually met but at his girlfriend in the heart (or ex-girlof the shantyup) lived \\,'1Ih her family. I Followed the directions left past: a bamboo was thoroughly where of balled-up lost I children

Anna,

were splitting was located me that of footpaths. spigot-nntill

morning-a

I arrived,

time, at a clearing

were playing And does not look to them Or the one we accuse, surrendered to help about

with a bunch a pair

newspaper, fastened

to the guidance

ofa small boy who volunteered of baggy gray shorts and he had intelligent or had to step over a to it. I guessed to

me. He wore square came

But into our eyes. -Eric Pankey

his waist with a piece of' twine,
Vi'C

eyes and perfect Every time puddle, learn he'd

white teeth. His name was Pole Polc. call my attention

to an open gutter

solicitously

from his size that: he was six years that he was nine. He led me down houses. No one was going to take me for a chump. cent anymore. On Thursday morning I ran into Numbi downtown. I'd 1 wasn't so innowhich hood. faded woman her thick guessed wrapped I asked a narrow

old and was dismayed between

we walked

corridor

two rows or in back of painted through. cradling I was face and demeanor, a A

bandy-legged

along the lips of a concrete house-for brick hadn't from the neighborwalls

ditch running

with sewage

and came to a clearing,

stood a better-than-average It had a cement green, infant. arms. and This in a striped she'd a tin roof that red blouse was Anna, and

11001', chipped

gone to one of the cafes, as Tsometimes did, to get eggs and toast with a slice of baked tomato. I have no idea what he "vas
doing. Perhaps hollows would seemed him. daughter It "vas eight under strike o'clock, and he was miles around. which jacket, from school. were he'd been up all night, walking his eyes. His jean even so Americanized hung aged defeated, limply stricken. sure There

rusted her

stood in the doorway, me. She had around She greeted

been expecting

he usually as Numbi as He his his

Her blouse

had holes if she spoke

in it and her infant that language

kept so crisp and neat (the counterculture incomprehensible), to have
WHS

ideal or the scruffy his shoulders. him how

in gray linen blankets. her in French

me shyly. when she said, me up a

an African from

"Viens," and with a movement con ple of stairs lay asleep where the house on the wooden

of her hand beckoned

in the two days since I asked

I had last seen

and past a room where bulb flickered. There

a man in a black suit to an alcove in were no windows

He looked

slats of a sofa frame,

and he let out his breath she would

very slowly. She was live. He dosed

an electric

sick, he said. He wasn't eyes and rocked

and even with the bulb on, i l was stirling and dark. split seal: spilled yeJ-

back and forth on his heels.

I sat down on a black vinyl chair whose

60

DOUBLETAKE

WINTER

1997

low foam and waited, while Anna went out into the sunlight.

"But isn't there "Ahh!" Marlo

a Belgian

doctor

on this side of town?" She spread her cards joke

I on

The walls were bare except for a few black-and-white
tographs that were pinned Anna returned below a plastic figure The man stirred Presently

pho-

asked. "She may even need to be medevac'ed" cried. "J'ai gegne!' pattern. 1 said. It was a standing the complex operation that it was chess or go of putting be this clinic. and the table in a tailfeather "Com me d'habitude," fish, alJ while the children woman:' But I wanted And the more Marlo became, more than directions to somc Jocat Stephen 1 insisted, the more discomfited overseeing Stephen

of Jesus. who intro-

while she was gone, but did not wake up. with another as Celestine. woman Celestine was a lighl hair shades beside clasp

duced herself in French ofyellow

Marlo won every game we played, whether to bed.

hrown color and she had dyed her straightened and tan, like a leopard me on a rickety stool and every my thigh as she talked. alcove still cradling the infirmary bronchitis earlier her infant.
11m\'

skin. She sat down and then would against

"I don't know,"

said. "Your best bet might

Anna leaned

the arch of the the child to up-that a

They had taken
1:0

that day. The nurse

said the baby had 1 was shown of tetracyof choice outside be sure

and had urged them

keep her bundled in blankets. capsules the drug

until, finally, T was ushered

out into the night.

was the reason she was swaddled plastic bottle containing dine. I would not have thought for bronchitis, baby wrapped was ninety in blankets

The next morning pocket shacks no sooner

T awoke early and set ofI I had in my
to the clinic. Once again I to help me this

red and white tetr-acycline when

Sixty donal'S and directions

strayed from the main road into the thicket of mud not to ask. After an hour of wan1 came to the narr-ow corI skirted along the rim of my feet, but 1 heard the the beneath

than 1 got lost. No child volunteered

nor 'would 1 have imagined On the other procedures, leaned my arms, hand,

it wise to keep a T couldn't

time, and T was deter-mined

the temperature

dering I was about to give up when ridor Pole Pole had led me down. the concrete even before singing. The funeral details and wake lasted ditch, the sewage T came

degrees.

Uwt.t.hese were incorrect see the child. 'whose name
T

either. 1 asked if 1 could the infantin the black out. the man

gushing

As Anna

over and lined

to the end of the corridor,

was Isa-into

suit woke up, rubbed was glad 1 wouldn't than bronchitis.

a hand over his face, and staggered for my presence that she suffered she looked there.

all day, and in my mind notes.

pr-etty sure he hadn't seen me and for some reason was
have to account from more like the pictypiwith each

are a series

of disconnected

The men sat outinside, seat-the on the black for 1 1 had once I was chap-

side on straw mats; the women eronedinto hours. come, Numbi he said. the house sat beside and

wer-e grouped
the best

As soon as 1 saw Isa I knew

uncush ioned sofa and floor. As the white visitor, given vinyl chair with the split seams. The women

She was starving:

lures one sees on TV or in magazines. cally evoke pity; holding heartbeat as though that an unspeakable the child's blankets following morning struck violence

But photographs

sang hymns Just

Isa, her body shuddering by a hammer,

me, ashen.

He "vas grateful bedroom.

I had the feeling

Anna "vas off in the the sound

had been com mitted. :r closed Anna that 1 would return the

heard from within a carpenter functioned that afternoon.

of a muffled

soh. At some point, coffin he brought. in that

and gave her back to her mother. and take Isa to the best clinic in town. Isa the one bit of good T did in Africa.

came and HUed a pinewood My cash helped as the neighborhood hearse.

It was getting late; 1 promised would be my project,

pay for the cattle truck

best sense of the word, and a receptive audience usually a source game or cards-we them seemed about. Isa,

I

t as .mYhabit 01.1 Thursdays to have dinner with friends w of mine, a couple named Stephen and Marlo. He was an American scholar' and former educator
T

Peace Corps Christians dinners

voluninstrucin the were

teer: she, a Rwandan

and language people,

tor. They are compassionate

children. hands

O

ne

final note. As I climbed that day, 1 tripped coated moment
to

the hill on my way home my hands were out the my I had and

and [ell in the mud. A thick sheet my backside; with happened a couple the heavy clay. At that

of the stuff covered my wrists the schools

to be letting of boys noticed

As I staggered

to the top of the hill, wiping

imagined

that Lhey would prove to vent some of the and anger. Over a of all things-I that might told have

on the front of my pants, They were joined

for me. Our Thursday a chance sadness, hearts, details perhaps Stephen tending frustration, were playing

fallen and were so amused companions. shirts, soon a parade-the

by this that they called out to their by still more pants and white children, and stiff wh ite must. have been

of consolation,

week's accumulated

boys in their khaki

the girls in blue skirts

blouses-funnelled

omitting

those

down the street behind scores of them=swung to alert onlookers I'd like laughed, to report too, at the

me. The kids-there their satchels that spectacle.

incriminating.

Perhaps

Isa was just one more of too they understood the vanan and told me about malnourished too, they sensed

in the air, and cried out with grace, that. I My eduhave

many stories ity that grew American a nurse diarrhetic Primus

that they had heard; in me that night.

to the passing

that it was too late to help; perhaps, woman children.

1 responded

mzungu with the humanitarian
1 was furious. last longer

zeal and

''1.'110 lived and worked

in the shantytown,

the mud all over his ass. But 1 didn't: cation. such as it 'vas, would imagined. _

with years of experience beer.

than I could

"1\ real saint," he said, lifting his bottle of

BRIDGES

61