1/16/2004

Dirty Love

When I was in Sierra Leone a while ago, deep in rebel territory, I met a girl. She was dirty, wearing a single uncut cloth about her body, and holding a bucket. She was standing at a river, watching us approaching in our Toyota Land Cruisers, hardly moving. She just looked.

I didn't notice her. She was just another spectator, one of the hundreds of villagers we had driven by, just another two of the hundreds of eyes that had watched our heavy cars roll by, and just another face that would be dirtied by the dust kicked up as our cars rolled through.

But the car ahead of mine stopped, and someone poked his head out of the window to ask her some question. Somebody else decided he needed to swell the river a bit with his water, and the stop-for-directions became a general stretching of legs event, with about 20 armed men either shooting streams of water or creaking as they stretched their limbs.

I walked up to the girl, and as I approached, I saw that she wasn't normal. She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Her body was lithe and strong, her carriage tall, graceful and strong, her body muscles accentuated in a way only physical hard work can create. She was like Grace Jones in the James Bond film, but her face was as beautiful as her body.

Her eyes were soft and gentle, yet burning with a fiery sort of rage. She looked like she would kill to protect her land, the land we were driving through.
A bit astonished, I tapped her shoulder, perhaps wanting to know that I could be as irressitable to a simple village girl I was to the women back in Paris, and started to ask her her name. Two words had hardly escaped my lips when she flung her head back and swung around in a quick motion, and hit me in the middle of my stomach. I saw the glint of metal, and looked down in astonishment to see a knife buried through my body armour. I felt a small pinch as the tip of the knife touched and scratched my stomach.

The man beside me dragged her from me, pushed her away, aimed his sub-machine gun at her, and squeezed the trigger. She screamed as the bullet hit her, and fell to the ground thrashing. I shouted that the shooter should stop, and luckily he did. She lay on the ground, shouting and yelling words in a language I could not understand.

I bent over her, and examined the gunshot. It had passed through the right side of her stomach, near the edge, and would not be a fatal gunshot. Would not be, if there were a hospital around here. But there was no hospital here. Out here, people either were alive or they were dead, there were no dying people.

On my directions, the men picked her up, a doctor bandaged her up, and she entered my car, and we drove on. I said we would drop her by in the next town we got to.

We sat in silence in the car, the smell of perspiration and agitation in the air-conditioned air.

I started talking to her in English. After an initial period of silence, she started replying in mono-syllables. To my suprise, she spoke english with a british accent. She had problems understanding a bit of my strong south african accent.

A few hours into the trip, we were conversing like old friends. She had been born in England, and lived there till she was ten, when her Sierra Leonan born father came back. He was a doctor, and had dropped her in his village, where he believed her to be safe. Then he had left, to go doctor the wounded in the battlefields, and he had never come back.

She lived with some old people in the village, most of the youth either having left it in fear of death, or left it because they were not afraid of death, and wanted to fight.

We talked, and chattered, and gossiped. She was one of those rare people who can talk to me without any self-consiousness, who can simply say what they think with thought to etiquette, or social status. She looked like a wild cat from the bush, and spoke like something wild, but brought up in a zoo.

I unconsiously slipped into the charm-mode, grabbing her hand, stroking her arm, doling out compliments. She reacted like a normal girl talking with a normal boy would react, flirting a bit, teasing me.

The situation was surreal, a girl with a bulletwound, drugged on painkillers, being driving hundreds of kilometers away from her home, and flirting with one of the mercenaries of the group that had just shot her.

The green foilage slipped by the dusty windows, changing to brown savannah, merging with red hills. The dust path became grey tar, the grey tar changed to a deep red as the sun fell. We stopped at a small town, and searched for a hotel.

I asked if she preferred to sleep with the group of the other men,or if she would stay in my room. I mentioned that the men slept 6 per room, but I slept alone in my room. She looked up sharply, then looked away towards the horizon. She looked down at the ground, and said she would stay with me. I took her hand, and it squeezed mine. I felt her racing pulse, and felt the damp sweat on her palm.

I left her sitting in the front seat of the Land Cruiser, and went to my room, undressed, and lay myself in bed. Several hours passed, and I drifted between wake and sleep, but still mostly awake. Then the door opened with hardly a sound, and I heard her prepare to sleep. I was now awake, and felt her enter the other side of the bed.

I stayed silent for a while, before slowly reaching over to touch her. My touches became bolder, and I felt her body respond. But she stayed silent, and stayed on her side of the bed. I continued, till at a point, she was pulled up again me, and asked me if I loved her. I said yes. She said she loved me also. She was 17 years old.

I climbed over her, pulled the sheets over us, and switched off the light. Soon, she started to sigh, then those sighs became soft squeels of pain. She panted, and I could tell that she was feeling pain, and not pleasure. But at that point, I could not stop.

After 15 minutes, I rolled back to my side of the bed, and dozed off.

Early in the morning, the drivers of the cars tooted 3 times, and the men struggled into their clothes, and appeared one by one, and seated themselves in the car. I also woke up as the horns sounded, and picked up and pulled on my clothes.

As I turned to look at the girl, I saw that the bed was covered in blood. Bullethole blood. It was not the fresh red of a clean wound, it was not the dried crust of a long-dead man. It was a dirty dirty brown, ugly blood, the blood itself witness and victim of a night of lust, pain, weakeness and hate.

She lay there, breathing deeply, a deep but dry wound in her tummy. Her face was grotesque, twisted in remembered agony, yet peaceful and content at the same time.

I turned away, burning with fear and self-hate, and wanting to get away from the room and the stink of sperm and blood. I ran into the car, and shouted for the men to enter the car, that we had to be somewhere. The men quickly filled up the car, and as we left, I gave the gateman a small bundle of money, and told him to get a doctor for the girl in the room. He looked at me, and slowly winked.

As my car drove out of the gates, I turned and saw a pair for dirty brown eyes looking at me through the protective grills of the room I had slept in. I saw it again in those eyes, that same old dirty dirty love.