Red Bruise

I did not like Kebbi as a town. I suspect it to be one of those places that are liked without any strong will, not for more than the ordinary fact that one had been born and now understood themselves through this place, its domestic cultures and habits; its narrow roads and sensible buildings. The day I arrived, a Wednesday, the middle of my back was damp from sitting through the hour long drive from the airport. There was minimal interaction between the driver and I. Even the air took after this, refusing to move, dampening my back. There was nothing of this town for which he could sell to me anyway. Occasionally, we drove past camels. The earth was as red as a bruise. I would let my wrist out the window and feel the weight of the breeze push against my fingers. It was something I realized I hadn’t done since childhood. I thought of sharing this with the driver. On both sides leading north into the village where camp was situated were giant green plantations, and I imagined that when a strong wind came, they could reach across and touch each other. In the taxi man’s silence, I felt the details of this place adhering to my suspicions, like some weird, necessary emulsion. 

It is one of the first things you notice anyway, the narrow roads, which gives you an idea that the people living here do not desire much- that they are more than content with whatever is handed over to them. But Kebbi gave me a way of thinking of myself, of reconfiguring certain things that appeared to me with a white, sharp clarity. It offered brilliant sunsets and sunrises; birthing that solemn recognition of being cared for by the universe. For around me were young men and women chattering in their white uniforms. Military men scattering their taut limbs across the fields, the market, their hands and whistles idle in their pockets. The air was always soaked with a kind of disorderliness. Yet it seemed like I was the only one who was still, singled out to feel an inexplicable withdrawal from everything that was present. I still remember the texture of this particular evening, standing on the parade ground just about to make this image, feeling my knees buckle from longing for the promise of elsewhere.

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