Although they covered vast territory, the truthful pieces all said the same thing: see me. See me. So, I tried. I saw bits of myself in some of them, and I saw lots of what I am not and have no ownership of, stories that cover great multitudes of experience that isn’t published, that isn’t relayed, and that isn’t recognisable or even present in our media. I took bits away. I learned.
In their second year of marriage, she became a spider. Her reasons for the metamorphosis varied depending on who was asking. She told her employer she needed more artistic growth and development; she told her mother she was compensating for gymnastic failures as a child; she told Michael she felt they had been growing apart and that she could now bind them together again. Literally.
Diego always used to tell me that his mother died because her dreams were too big for the life she was destined.
‘It’ll kill a person,’ Diego would say, ‘wanting to be more than you are made for.’ He says it today and shrugs dispassionately, spitting his gum onto the dry grass, where it rests beside a flattened beer can.
‘I’ve been dreaming about the kid,’ I tell him, and he spits again even though there is no gum left.
Rumours of Abacha’s death spread through Lokoja as if carried by birds in the air to every part of the city, to Yusufu, where he stood at his office window looking out in awe of the blazing sun. He had heard it before but dismissed it, as he did now, as nothing but a pub story peddled by idle drunks like the news bearer Caleb, who came to work reeking of alcohol, lunched on schnapps, and afterwards converged with his ilk under the mango tree to barter tales from their imaginations, fable for fable.
These unusual circumstances reflect the difficulty our political system still has in adjusting to mixed proportional representation – a difficulty echoed by today’s Australian headline ‘NZ shock: losers take power’. We are a full 21 years and eight elections into the current constitutional arrangements, but the thought that the party with the second highest vote might be better placed to form the government still baffles some.