My matchmaker is a man. A man in a crisp, white shirt and trousers. ‘Shouldn’t you be an old lady?’ I ask. He bridles. ‘That’s kind of a cliché.’ I’m two weeks into my first trip to China. As a kid living in pre-Handover Hong Kong, China was a terrifying, monolithic presence. Now, it is a place I long to understand.
The taking of the birds was something that none of us had seen coming. As far as political allegiance went, there was a time when it would hardly have occurred to us to wonder which side the birds were on, but if it had, or if we had been asked, the answer would have been obvious. What did we know in those days?
Every morning, as my ancient machine grunted into action, my reaction to that hourglass was the same: with each of its rotations, a sense of unease ratcheted up a notch or bloomed new petals or did whatever anxiety does with its horrible metaphors. The pinch-waisted graphic popped up in the centre of my desktop, cartwheeling, and with it, that same sick feeling.
The devil was already inside Amenze when she walked past Goodies on Awolowo Road. At first, it was squatting inside her small stomach, leaning against the walls and eating ground up groundnut from the day before. Then she felt it becoming a fuller presence from her waist, expanding through the width of her chest.
The war seemed almost over when Red 1 began faking al-Qaedas. Not just one or two, either – whole cells of sham terror, jihadis fabricated out of magic desert air for captains and colonels to freak over. And freak they did. White people turn pink when they get angry, so there were many meetings of important, pink-faced men screaming at each other; trying to figure out how, and what, and why.
This place is mapped on the inside of her skin. The archway, the hole that tumbles down, driven into the earth as if some great creature had dug and dug—the stone sides like the walls of a mausoleum. 30 metres down the tunnel cuts to the side and there is a second archway lifting towards the light.
Talk was vain and Jac took little pleasure in it. The tanned man driving the taxi from the airport out into the flat expanse of country had attempted it from behind his handlebar moustache. She had taken ever longer pauses between responses until, finally, he ceased.
We buy the dog, the puppy, whose name in this story is Maggie, though really it is Sylvie. We might have considered calling the dog (as opposed to the fiction) Maggie, but some friends called their baby Maggie, removing it from our list of possibilities.
They met without ‘preconceived ideas’ about their world. They meant the world they would make for one another. When apart, they were often ‘in pain’. This was their truest ‘commonality’. They used such words. The source of pain mattered little.
He stands in front of the mirror, both hands clutching the side of the sink, nose grazing the toothpaste-splattered mirror. He ignores the razors and multiple bottles of aftershave crammed on the ledge. He ignores the soggy mat beneath his feet. He looks deep into his dark brown eyes and reaffirms his right to get the things he wants in life.