Sunday, July 17, 2011

Night, As Told by the Colors She BringsNight, As Told by the Colors She Brings

There are thousands of screaming football fans streaming past my house and clustered in the stadium outback. By "thousands" I mean probably a hundred people, and by "stadium" I mean the washed out dry patch of grass in the field behind me, whose goal posts are rusty, dump-salvaged pipes and whose sport is actually called "soccer." But it's all the same to me. I just got up from a hefty afternoon nap to groggily make lunch and putz around in my less-than-fashionable, in fact entirely embarassing by American standards, but-oh-so-comfy second-hand clothing. The game just ended but the cheering and whistle-blowing has not. I shuffle out to my front porch in my un-showered casual prowess eating cold green beans from the very pot in which they were steamed. Juice runs down my chin as a robust pod bursts in my mouth while players clad in flourescent orange jerseys and dirty tube socks return home for what I assume will be a consolation dinner. The orange team did not win, but at least they can take solace in knowing that their uniforms are so bright they could get a job at the airport landing planes. The sun is setting quickly on the baobab and palm tree-dotted horizon, with shades of fuscia, orange and yellow that I never knew existed before. In a few minutes the sun will be nothing more than a memory taken for granted, disappearing from here only to search for gratitude from lands on the other side of the world. In a few minutes the sun will be down and the darkness will come, but the excitement doesn't end there. The winning team just sped by, crammed into the back of someone's flatbed truck, chanting victoriously, and in the purple blur left behind, I realized that their red and blue striped outfits could not, in fact, land planes. In their hasty departure, the exhilarating sensory storybook of an always frenetic and supernatural Mozambican evening takes hold. Four dogs bark ferociously behind a flimsy bamboo gate as a gang of kids throw rocks, growl and provoke them. The local shopkeeper makes his routine evening trek from his house-presumably the one with the dogs-to his store in trademark short shorts and shortwave radio held up to his ear. The breeze is strong tonight, and the shade-bearing cashew, acacia and guava trees of my daytime life take on a conspiratorial edge this evening, trumped only by that outlying coconut tree, whose fronds stab mercilously at the now grey-blue sky. A cat creeps around my veranda, not knowing what to make of me and my glowing rectangle; tiny frogs the size of a quarter hop past the cat's apprehensive stance, landing in the weeds below my front step. Oh, feline friend, if you only knew, in your mistaken mind, that I fear you more than you should ever be worried about me. I can hear the beats of a drum corps, the participants sending off messages to ancestors and otherworldly spirits into the night air along with fire, smoke and lyrics to songs I'll never know. The drums are close, seemingly just beyond the path of the shopkeeper, and I happen to know that this cat, this furry familiar, is not who she appears to be. She's gone now, most likely to report no news-worthy information to her master about the unkempt white girl on her porch. Along with her exit, the drums have gone, too. Now the harmonious sound of an un-rehearsed hodge podge of wind instruments is doing the talking, and it's saying that some boys are ready to become men. Crammed into a house for thirty days, the boys spend their time engaging in what sounds like a chorous of people blowing into empty glass bottles, though sometimes I like to picture a heavenly meadow just over yonder in which centaurs frolick among narcissus flowers while playing the pan-flute. But alas, I know little of this ceremony and never will, because it's not for women to see nor is it for foreigners to judge. The mosquitoes are biting badly, and while I try to bat them away, I wind up only slapping my legs, arms and face in the process. I attempt to grasp them in mid-air, but now the sky is pitch black, the ceremony has ended, and while malaria seems eminent, the most frightening thing about tonight is the Cher song being blasted next door on repeat.

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