Thursday, 16 July 2015

Into darkness - from "Turquoise Moon"

Alberta is taken away. They place her in the back-seat of  a car, squeezed  between two men smelling of starch and sweat and rancid tobacco. They drive her away from the beach and the sea, down the squared streets, with the nightmarishly pretty houses, to the Swakopmond police station.

She is placed in a holding cell on her own. Early the next day two more men come. Men in suits and ties, they handcuff her and take her away. Again, a car; unmarked this time. She sits alone in the back, clutching me in her hand. The men didn't speak, they just drove. They drove and the golden Namib unreels before her, endless miles of slanting dunes, sudden accusing fingers of stubborn rock stabbing at the sky, then more sand, and blasted fields of shattered rock. She stares until it is dark, too dark to see, and she sleeps.

She awakens to rough hands shaking her. She is in the narrow confines of a fenced in precinct, the lights blind her, she is pushed through doorways, and into a small room with a table and two chairs. They sit her with her back to the door and leave. She sits for hours alone. Although it is summer, the room is heated; as hot as an oven. The door opens behind her, a man walks in. He is not what she was expecting. He is young, slim, with an open boyish face. He carries a folder in his hand. He pulls the chair back and sits opposite her, facing the door.

He smiles at her, he seems kind:  "Alberta Ngige?"


"Alberta, I'm Officer Semper. You seem to have gotten yourself into some trouble here..." he opens his file and peruses it. "A lot of trouble. You got yourself mixed up in politics..."

"Politics? No, no...I'm a dancer. Ballet."

"That's right! You are!" his smile broadens, "So lets see what we can do to get you out of here so you can get right back on your toes...All I need is for you to answer a few questions, Alberta, OK?"

"Yes, yes, of course."

"Please state your name and date of birth?"

"Alberta Victoria Ngige, I was born on the 17th of April 1962"

"Very good..." he pauses and looks down at the file again. "Filiation? Mother and father..."

Alberta smiles with a hint of hauteur: "I know what that means! My mother's name is Queen Mary Ngige."

Semper smiles back his eyes wide and blue, sparkling with laughter. "That's right, of couse you do! You are an educated girl! Queen Mary...I like that! But it says here..." Semper pauses. "Father unknown...There's a picture of her her, you mother. She's really black, isn't she?"

Alberta takes a deep breath and tilts up her chin. "Please, what do you want from me?"

"I want to help you Alberta, Okay? I want to make this all go away. You look tired...and thirsty." he gets up and goes to the door, speaks to someone outside, comes back and sits down opposite Alberta again.. "It was a long ride, wasn't it?

Alberta nods gratefully "Yes it was! I'd love some water, please."

A man in a sand-coloured uniform comes in with a large jug of water and a glass and places it on the table betweeen them.

"Here," Semper pours her a large glass of water and hands it to her, "Drink up. I don't want you dehidrated."  Again that boyish smile, "We've got to look out for human rights!"

Alberta drains the glass thirstily, and Semper pours her more water. "There you go...Nice and spent a lot of time in that car. Such a long ride! So now...You were living in an interesting house, Alberta, tell me about it."

Alberta frowns "There's not much to tell, really. I shared a room with a friend, we are all into the arts. I'm a dancer, Martha is a painter, and the boys who own the house..."

Semper cosults his file, taps it with a finger,"Samuel Davo, and Frederick Tambinda. Tell me about THEM."

Alberta smiles: "Oh! Samuel is a poet! Frederick plays music..."

"So you got a regular artist's commune going there, Alberta...Sounds like fun. Which one were you fucking? Samuel or Frederick? Or was it both of them?"

Alberta recoils from him, pushes back her chair. "Officer Semper, I want this interview to end, please. I want to speak to your supervisor, and I want to go to a toilet."

"What did you say?"

" I said-"

Semper slams his fist onto the desk and leans forward threateningly. All the laughter and the blue seems to have washed out of his eyes. They are gun-metal grey, almost silver, like something dead. "You fucking uppity coloured bitch! You WANT? You think you have wants here? You've got nothing..."

" I have the right to lodge a complaint..."

"You were living with terrorists, Alberta, we found guns and explosives under the house. You got no rights. You are going to tell me what they had planned, you are going to give the contacts of the rest of the cell, you are going to sing your little heart out, you stupid bitch!"

"NO! There were no guns! Nothing like that!"

"You think I'm stupid, Alberta? You sit there with your fancy private school education and you think you are as good as white? Or better? Better than ME? You think I'm stupid?"

"Officer Semper..."

"SIR! You black bitch, you call me SIR. " he springs up and paces around the table to stand deliberately behind Alberta. "Tell me about Tambinda: who did he talk to, where did he go, what was he planning?"

Alberta cries out at his proximity, at the heat of his breath, the smell of him. "I don't know! Ask him!"

"He's gone Alberta, they are all gone. So all I have is you...And I am going to squeeze you, and you will tell me everything. Everything!"

"But I don't know anything, please. You are making a mistake!"

"If you know nothing why did you run?" he leans forward, his head next to hers, cheek pressed to hers, "Why. Did. You. Run."

"Someone...told me..."

Semper whispers in her ear, his breath stirs a strand of her damp hair. "Who? Who told you?"

Alberta is silent, trembling. She turns her cheek away.

"Little bird, someone told you to run and you run even though you "know nothing"?"

Her voice is as soft as a whsper "Yes."

Semper screams in her ear "YES SIR!"

Alberta finds herself sobbing "Yes, Sir, Officer Semper..."

Semper twines his fingers in her long hair and pulls her head back. Her long graceful dancer's neck is taut. "Are you mocking me, Alberta?"


Semper whispers, intimate as a lover "No, Sir..."

"No, Sir...Please..."

"Please what?"

"Please may I go to the toilette? Sir."

"Well, you see Alberta, this is a facility for Whites. We don't have toilettes for you. So I tell you what: you tell me what I want to know? And you go over to the next wing and we let you go to "the loo"." He grins as he mocks her refined accent.

"But I don't know anything, don't you see..."

"You are lying, you little black bastard bitch..." He twists her hair around his fist, "Now tell me about Samuel Davo, and Frederick Tambinda." Alberta cries out in fear and pain, tears start running down her face while the urine gushes out and trickles down her legs.

"Did you just piss yourself? Little Miss Almost White Uppity Coloured? Did you piss yourself?"

He presses his cheek against hers, runs his finger down her cheek, catches the tears on his finger tips, sucks them dry.

"You crying Alberta? Don't cry...You're much too pretty too cry. When I saw you come in, I thought to myself "why there is a piece I'd like to fuck if it wasn't against the law", but looking at you now...I'm a bit disgusted. Look at yourself Alberta. You stink...Think that white boy would want you now?"

Alberta whispers his name, to herself, to me, no one else - so low even Semper doesnt hear her. "Michael..."
She escapes into the sound of his name, the vision of his face on that windswept beach even as Semper's hands drive into her shoulders, as the second man walks in and back-slaps her off the chair.

She falls on the floor, they fall on her and I tumble from her hand.

She isn't there, she is rising on her toes, dancing the “Rose” on the wet sand, with a flashing rainbow in her hand.

Later, much later they throw what is left of Alberta Ngige into a cell.
She curls up on the mat on the stone floor, the sweet place between her thighs that had been Michael's welcome-home is now a wound, oozing pain and blood and the salt-sour stench of another crime.

From "Turquoise Moon"

Manuela Cardiga

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