h2>Dating : Letter to Francesca
I have just came back home after the Great Ceremony. Beyond the curtain of the front door (do you remember? The one that Moudi gave us in a vain attempt to protect our home, you, from the frenzied flies) I still hear the bells, the whistles and the old people clapping their hands on the joyful words of the Griot.
Getting away was hard: the whole community still wanted to take me to the dusty litter that the women of the village had carefully prepared for the occasion, to allow even those who supervised the hills to be able to participate in that moment that we all had been waiting for years.
I managed to get away from Isobel’s lovable and shapely clutches only by promising her that after a brief stop at the latrine I would immediately return to all of them, but her black eyes certainly did not investigate the route that I actually took, because I came back here about twenty minutes ago and nobody came looking for me yet.
It’s just that I felt the compelling need to write to you, to speak to you, to tell you what happened.
A few hours ago, when we unveiled the work to the population — we had covered it with all the residual material of the yard: timber, some unfinished terracotta heaps, the tarpaulins that for months hosted the brief rests of the workers — I … I felt excruciating pain.
An inhuman scream choked on my chest, while copious tears blurred the sight of the moment I waited for almost all my life.
It was as if the devil who used to grip my throat from countless moons had suddenly decided to loosen his infernal grip. I heard my vocal cords untangling and stretching again, sore and rusty, and air and dust rushed from my mouth to my lungs, from my nose to my lungs.
Suddenly, everything I fought fiercely for these 14 years stood there in front of me. The population of these places, my brothers, will have fresh water in the coming days and here around the dry mouth of the vegetation can be dipped again in the source of life, rehydrated, reconstituted. All thanks to the sweat of infinite days.
I thought (how many times I had done it before!) that I had to be happy, it could not be otherwise. And in that release of throat and lungs I then long sought that happiness I was sure would come.
I looked for it in the sound modulations of that scream in which I believed I would sooner or later see the joy, in the tears that crossed my face; I looked for it by digging trenches of connection with the thirty-year-old I was in, when I traveled around the world in search of money that would allow me to restore hope to those who had lost it forever.
But the more minutes passed, the more I realized that that happiness would never come. Hands touched me everywhere, my brain slowly registered the whiteness of the smiles amid stretches of skin burnt by the sun as I was lifted and hoisted up on the litter between the shouts of joy.
Then, suddenly, you appeared to me.
You were beautiful as always, of course, only a few new wrinkles furrowed your face, caressing the mole on the right cheek you’ve always tried to cover with too much makeup, when we were still in Europe. You didn’t have a frown, but the signs under your eyes were valleys of desolation and bitterness.
Your black curls had barely moved as you uttered a phrase I had forgotten, buried under years of hard work, of inhuman commitment, of nagging concerns:
“You live for Africa, but Africa does not live for you. You believe Africa will give you life, but Africa will kill you in the end.”
At the time, I thought you were referring to the diseases that I would have continued to contract, to the hardships that I would certainly have suffered and I thought you were an endless egoist. You had decided to give up the construction project, although at the beginning you were one of the most ardent supporters, and you expected me to return to Europe with you “to make a life together and share it with our African brothers”. Brothers … for me it was intolerable that you thought of considering them as such, since you had decided that you would come to lend a hand once a month instead of staying to fight with all of us, for us.
And yet, at the very moment of the unveiling of our work and after years in which I didn’t think of you at all and how it would have gone if I had listened to you (too much pride, too many things to do), your words have crept into me and took the place of the dream that weighed on my heart up to that moment.
So I thought for the first time about that child we never had and I felt such nostalgia that it was as if in reality I had known that child, embraced him in my arms and then lost him. I thought of us, of the love with which today I could have removed from you with the palm of my rough hand the umpteenth fly that would have bothered you once again.
In that moment, just when I would have had to participate more madly than ever in my brothers’ wild songs and dances — which I also shared with them for months — I felt that the only thing I wanted to do would be to stand aside with you to look at those movements that in reality will never be mine.
Instead I am here, to write to you after 14 long years a letter that I will never send to you.
Me, a foreigner for my homeland, for which I am now a barbarian; stranger in this place where I lived for years, but that is not my home.
I find myself thinking that only in your heart would I have found my homeland, the place to retire when all this was over and I am assailed by an infinite sadness.
My mission here is over and with it the dream that I transformed into the purpose of my existence goes out …
Africa kills me, Francesca, and I love you like I’ve never done before.