Art & Lit

The Fireworks

She heard gunfire in the distance, maybe cannons too, for that whiz of high pitched ascent felt to her like the movement of metal through air, but how could she  really know, stuck as she was in her hot, orange room full of rippling smoke and perhaps surrounded by lapping flames, the walls a mere plane of caked dirt separating her from the people who ran through the streets outside, waving torn flags that didn’t belong to any country, who ran as their small village burned without complaint, the thatch roofs releasing centuries of stored energy into the atmosphere from which the wood was originally synthesized, who ran before her until her malarial mirage faded once more and she became awake in the orange room, more awake than she had been in days, or perhaps it had only been a few hours, for time was like the Nyabarango to her now, alternately rushing and stagnant, and so she held her head and took her hot hair in her hands, curled herself into a damp ball on the cot, and listened as the cannonballs from her dream went on firing outside, and while laying there she wondered about colonies and empire, about the Post War Era, about the meanings of freedom and annexation, and then, as the loudest explosion yet sounded, she realized with a shudder ofs fever that she didn’t fear death anymore, that she’d let her eyes adjust to the landscape of political instability and famine, to the risks of Britishness and the risks of womanhood in the country they called Darkness, although of course it was the mosquitos that got her in the end, as they had thousands of fair skinned soldiers before, and so as a woman with one foot already in the underworld, she made her way to the door with the broken hinges that so worried her—because she feared dying in a room without a door—and she looked out and saw the sky light up with blue and gold and silver, and she watched people cheering for the fireworks, and children running down the street with eyes like hallucinations, the dirt beneath their feet rising in plumes behind them, as if the earth itself had awoken and was swelling up in celebration of independence, independence that had arrived suddenly, violently, like an axe thrown down into fertile ground, or a grand house erected without a kitchen or a bedroom, an independence formidable and secretly broken, a promise made of foundation and brick but lacking in soul, and as she stood in the little doorway she found her hands upon her chest and did not remember putting them there, and her infected mind twisted the night into sharp shapes before her eyes, but this did not alarm her, not when the sky was already blue and silver and gold, not when her body had become a crumbling desire, a wish in a bottle that had cracked while still at sea.

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