Rwanda Suite: Equateur Eyes

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Said they’d tell you all, all about what could happen, so that you could go up that hot river of your own accord, d’accord?

Said once at post, anything’s possible. Could be black mamba crawls up at night, up under the mosquito net, and you startle, and the bastard clamps down your left wrist and squirt squirt. But maybe you’re lucky; some Swiss chimper shoots you up with her anti venom.

She’s in the right place at the right time, alright, and you fly to Kisangani and back to Kinshasa with the pilot who just landed her, and you do get to Frankfurt (where the damaged goods go), and you just barely do live, but after re rehabilitation, you use your left hand only poorly. Could happen.

Or grudges do for you. Maybe you’d tangle with the local sorcier, the shaman, probably something to do with a cow, and that malaria isn’t you forgetting your chloroquine again, it’s witch doctor business… walla walla bing bang on your ass. And don’t swim in the water… schistosomiasis, snail fever, you know, but get you a cat for the rats and name him Bill Harzia.

Stay away from the regional Big Man’s educated-at-the-convent-in-Le Puy-18-going-on-30-year-old-crazy-for-muzungu-ass-long-long-legged-bad-bad-mojo-sweet-sweet fille. Don’t ride in Daddy’s Mercedes with her, Jim, and don’t go the weekend to Mbandaka, or Kinshasa, or Abijan. You’ll wind up strapped to an ant hill or otherwise Lamumba-ed.

You know all about french letters, rubbers, condoms; use ‘em, and don’t even go with those femme libres if you can help it. Les femmes libres? Why these are hot Congo girls, not exactly prostitutes, not exactly not… They’re party girls, sweet kids, kids who don’t fit anywhere else… just like you now. They hang at the bars and clubs and swish slow in tight dutch wax pagnes to Franco’s lazy lazy lead, OK Jazz, the Congo Rhumba King. But attention cityoen! You don’t want no mixey mixey mocha Yankee Congo babies on your conscience.

Besides you could end up like poor Cisco, one of the stage trainers… bastard goes clap clap clapped up two, three times a year, more, and a couple from that same lively free girl, that sassy one, could be a wank mag sensation in the West, that Priska you see en ville on Friday nights at training. Doc Duval Sainte says Cisco’s trying to exhaust the penicillin in Afrique Centrale… un épuisement. Maybe Cisco should bring in Priska for a shot instead, and why why why can’t he stay away from that child anyway?

Of course, the one thing they didn’t, did not, mention at training, at stage, is the way out posting… way far the fuck out where an afternoon’s fun is rolling a mango back and forth over a dirt pack floor. Up there in Equateur, en brousse, not the jungle but not the savannah either… far far the fuck out, you’d sleep and sleep, but it’s too hot, and the dead boring day and the night never ever change length because you’re on the equator Jack; don’t look back.

Up on that equa equa equator, of course they don’t speak French; they don’t even know Lingala, and you don’t know what the fuck these people do talk, and the only other mazunga ten klicks away, is an ancient Belge nun half dead and all drunk most of the time and forever crazy raging at the Pope in Rome and Jesus in Christ, but only in Flemish because she hates Waloons most, and you speak no Dutch, and she is no fun for drinking. You tried.

So how the fuck you can do anybody any good out here including yourself because there’s no school, no math, which is what they sent you to do… no algebra no calculus no reason to be. You read too much Faulkner and Malcom Lowry left behind by the last volunteer furloughed out… out of this bum fuck hamlet not even Businga but a village 20 klicks away from Businga… to Germany. You wonder why the fuck why, and now you’re smoking too too much weed that you buy off the Pygmy who sells ceramic pots and pot, and you drift and drift, just like that ship out on the sea, and you guess by now you know what happened to that last Johnny Volunteer.

And finally when they send for you from Kin Kin Kinshasa for whatever excuse to have a look see… be sure you’re not too ready for the Frankfurter Bughouse, you just stare stare stare without blinking and rarely do speak because you don’t talk now because you done been en brousse way far too long and have contracted a pow powerful case of the Equateur eyes like you’ve seen on volunteers you thought just beaucoup too loaded and were surely beaucoup too loaded but in fact been contracted them Binga blinders, them Equateur eyeballs too.

When they ask you do you want the doc, want to see the médecin, Doc Duval Sainte, and he asks you do you feel ok, are you ok now? Well, you know, you wait a long time, a long long time until the echo stops in your head, and you say yes, you guess so, can could be you do feel fine.

Because you got to get back up the Fleuve Zaire, up river to Mbandaka and Makanza and on up the Mangala, to those Pygmy boys and the Flemish nun. You got to be moving and moving along… back up Equateur way.

That is what you say, and by your own accord, you add. And of course they want you to go on back. So they send you back; they let you go.

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