Paradise Found


For a long ti­me I thought hea­ven was blue. That was my lon­ge­st li­fe – blue. I was stran­ded on a ship for a thou­sand days, alo­ne on the ocean be­fo­re dro­w­ning in it. Yel­low was my shor­te­st li­fe. I pe­ri­shed as a tee­na­ge in­fan­try sol­dier in the Sa­ha­ra De­sert the ve­ry mor­ning I was pa­ra­chu­ted in, right whe­re Egypt rubs up again­st Li­bya. Black was my fir­st li­fe. I was for­ced to sta­re at a dead Tv screen for for­ty-two years in a psy­chia­tric ho­spi­tal in Wi­chi­ta, Kan­sas – or was I ac­tual­ly floa­ting in deep spa­ce all along? By the ti­me I li­ved red (I dan­ced for Em­pe­ror Shun­zi) I caught on­to the ga­me. Li­fe by li­fe, I was fal­ling th­rou­gh the colors, mo­ving, as the old say­ing goes, out of the dar­k­ness and in­to the light. The la­st sta­ge is whi­te. Whi­te li­ke mo­ving vans, li­ke Car­re­ra mar­ble un­der cen­tu­ries of gyp­sum and soot. Whi­te li­ke flags of sur­ren­der or do­ves of pea­ce. I am thir­teen and li­ve wi­th my fa­mi­ly on the Ca­pe Coa­st in Gha­na. The walls in our apart­ment are egg­shell-whi­te no mat­ter how hard my bro­thers and I scrub the wa­ter stains (my mo­ther swears long be­fo­re she had us, the walls glea­med li­ke pearls). The Atlan­tic surf bub­bles spit whi­te as it cra­shes again­st the rocks, and, on over­ca­st mor­nings, the san­dy stret­ch of bea­ch is a dull pi­geon-crap whi­te that black hor­ses ra­ce do­wn. I know my fan­ta­sies are un­rea­li­stic con­si­de­ring my en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions. All I want in the world is a whi­te ski jac­ket wi­th a hood ma­de out of whi­te fox fur. I see it in the shop win­dow whi­le lug­ging gro­ce­ries wi­th my mo­ther from the mar­ket. The shop ca­ters main­ly to We­stern va­ca­tio­ners and ri­ch lo­cals from Ac­cra, whi­ch means it’s too ex­pen­si­ve for me. But it’s al­so a swim­wear shop, and a win­ter coat has no bu­si­ness being in the shop win­dow. My mom said it’s been on that man­ne­quin for years. “It’s a jo­ke, Spo­ke!” she tells me. “I’ve ne­ver seen one sno­w­fla­ke my li­fe, whi­ch means nei­ther ha­ve you!” I’m so skin­ny they call me Spo­ke. My ol­der bro­ther, the mean one, says my arm is so thin it could fit in the gap bet­ween my front tee­th. I know even if I sa­ved up the mo­ney, the coat would be ten si­zes too big. But it’s all I want, what I pic­tu­re wea­ring as I go to bed and the fir­st thing I put on in my head when I wa­ke up in the mor­ning. The coat is whi­te li­ke a fre­sh pie­ce of pa­per, whi­te li­ke tee­th that ha­ven’t bit­ten in­to red frui­ts yet. The sound of whi­te is the roar of the sea at night, ru­shing un­der the moon. Whi­te is my fu­tu­re: Spo­ke wea­ring that coat wi­th the fox-fur hood, on a sled pul­led by whi­te hu­skies, di­sap­pea­ring over the snow. • ori­gi­nal text pa­ge 124

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