You took me to church. You let me swim in the coloured light swirling in through the tinted windows, let me stroke the golden cape of Their Lady (not ours, you said, we spend our money feeding the poor now rather than erecting statues of poor people who’s been dead two thousand years) and you told me the story of her bravery in the face of persecution and oppression. You showed me Jesus on the cross and you told me how painful it was, to be hung from ones arms, how it feels like they will fall off, and then you start wishing for them to fall of, but they dont, not even if you hang for days. You lifted me up to make me see better.
«If there was a God,» you said, «would He allow this?»
I shook my head. My hair had grown too long, it tickled my face.
«But why?» I asked, «Why do people think there is one?»
«It’s easy,» you answered, «they can blame God for everything. Religious people are like children refusing responsibility for the actions of their species.»
«I’m a child,» I protested, «I don’t refuse responsibility!»
«You were born old, Riot. Old and wise.»
Yours is the only voice I can remember saying my name. Had you not called it whenever you saw me, an invitation to run into your arms to be swung around, I would not know that Riot is who I once was. My father called me Comrade. My mother called me Honey, and then she changed my name.
Despite your efforts, I have become religious.
I believe that we are God.
One ever-lasting, infinite entity dividing itself into tiny specks of consciousness to gather experience.
I believe God has been starving itself, over-eating and throwing up, flogging its own back, cutting its own arms open with any sharp object at hand, crushing its fists against walls and boulders for hundreds of years now. Probably in an effort to feel something, anything but the loneliness of the void.
I wonder what you’d think of my theory.
I’ve tried to find out who you were, maybe you’re on Facebook, maybe I could ask.
Mom claims she doesn’t remember your last name. Or what organisation you were from. Or even what country. I remember that there were two posters on the wall above your desk. One said «Power for land, Power for work, Power for education – vote Patriotic Front». One said «Votela ZAPU!» Google tells me those were Zimbabwean. But there were FRELIMO and MPLA posters in your office as well, that’s Mosambique and Angola, and iconic pictures of Nelson Mandela, South Africa. Mom insists it is not possible for me to remember the words on the office wall. I argue that these are the first words I learned to read, and before I could understand them, I copied them over and over to pass time. Again, she disputes me, I learned to read in school, she says, in the yellow class room of miss Jones. I don’t believe miss Jones ever existed. I have not a single memory of going to school in London.
You were my teacher. You taught me that soil is worth more than gold and diamonds, you showed me how to plant mangoes and peaches in pots and make them grow. The fragile stems never became real trees, you explained it was because the soil was wrong, it should have been red, like in Africa.
You taught me my letters. A for Army, Africa, Angola, B for Boycott, C for Communist, Congress, a Congress is a meeting where comrades discuss and agree upon what is right, a communist is a comrade is a friend. D for Democracy, E for Exile, F for Front, a front is where you go to fight, exile is where you end up if you loose. G for gold, H for Hope, I for Independence, J for Join, K for Kalashnikov, a Kalashnikov is a rifle like the one hidden in the wall in the attic. L for Liberation, M for Movement, Mozambique, N for Nation, O for Organize, P for People, Pan, Q for Quest, R for Resistance, S for South-Africa, T for Turning Tables, U for Union, V for Vote, W for Women, X for Xhosa, Y for Youth, Z for Zimbabwe, Zambia.
ZAPU: Zimbabwe African’s Peoples Union.
PAC: Pan-African Congress.
MPLA: Mozambique People’s Liberation Army.
You taught me to sing. To the rhythm of your fingers hitting the keys on your typewriter, you sang bits of slow, beautiful melodies and then you made me repeat them until I knew them and could tie them together into a long song. Then you added a melody of your own and we sang in harmony again and again. You instructed me on how to pitch my voice, on how to practice to increase my vocal weight and strength, you taught me that my voice was a soprano, yours a barytone.
The words we sang made no sense to me at all.
Hallelujah. Hosannah. Piejesu.
I believed them to be African.