Amahle and I
by Isabell Serafin

It is nearly four a.m.

I sit cross-legged on the bed.

The Russian walks to the window.

His broad tall frame silhouetted in the early morning darkness.

If I have not told you before, the Russian is beautiful.

His is a beauty of lingering drinks in foreign cities.

A beauty of cross-continental flights and women much like me.

His back to me, at the window, he speaks of Africa.

I was in Zimbabwe fifteen years ago.

This was when Zimbabwe was a relatively safe place to be.

My father was in love with the country's art. He had a small export business out of Maputo. He used to send pieces back to Paris, to Moscow.

As for Africa, I had never seen such beauty.

I know you well know all the stories, the ways in which the Europeans romance the continent.

Well, it is true, Europeans have all these fantasies and I was not immune.

I befriended a girl there, a pale girl with freckles and hair the color of red wheat.

Her coloring, of course, was entirely inappropriate for the sun but she loved Africa, particularly the Southern regions.

She once told me she drove from Zimbabwe through Namibia and straight up the continent, alone.

She was a wild girl. Reckless.

She was American, pretty and whip-smart, ambitious, lip-biting, obsessive, so headstrong she was stupid. Her name was Kate.

Kate went to some elite prep school in Swaziland.

While there she fell in love with a rich black African from Zimbabwe whose parents were diplomats.

After prep school the two married. They spent most of their time on a sprawling estate near Bulaywo.

Kate was mad about him. He was a jerk. But he was smart, perhaps smarter than she. He was also a raging alcoholic.

At the window, the Russian shrugs.

It was always:

Amahle and I, Amahle and I, Amahle and I…

She was crazy about him.

She was treated badly in Zimbabwe.

She would walk along the streets and the whites would throw trash at her.

Because she was with Amahle they called her a prostitute.

Kate wore these broad straw brim hats.

She fancied herself a princess, out there in the middle of nowhere, in the heat and the amazing scent of lavender blossoms.

I remember that was all one smelled sometimes in the afternoon.

Amahle’s was one of the few black families that had one of those great rolling farms.

My father and I used to stay with them, those buying trips. Amahle always had some girl waiting for me.

I remember he brought an incredible Mozambican girl over for me and warned me before I slept with her.

You have to watch those Mozambican girls, he laughed; their pussies have teeth.

Kate and Amahle and I went off to a disco one night.

We were all drunk and everything was loud and bawdy and ridiculous, as everything is in those African bars.

The air was full of tension, everyone was fuelled by the heat, by drink. Everything was crazy, especially with the whites because as you well know, in Africa, they get away with anything.

It's white mischief.

You know the old myth.

Amahle was dancing with Kate.

He had gone for another whiskey when one of the women-one of those badly managed white African women who hated Kate-threw a drink in her face, called her a white trash whore.

Kate stood there for a moment, unfazed. Then she spat in the woman's face.

The boyfriend of the woman pulled out a gun and shot Kate full-on in the face.

I remember Amahle running across the bar.

The sound that came from him.

It was unreal.

If I had not been there, I would have sworn a cry like that could never have come from a human being.

The dance floor had emptied. There was so much blood.

He sat with her in his arms. She was dying.

The dying give a certain look.

It is the same look that wounded animals give right before their deaths.

People think it is not possible, that animals might have something we describe as feelings. But I saw it. That night I saw the same look in Kate's eyes that I have seen in the eyes of large game animals brought down in the bush, animals with bullets buried in their flesh.

I remember the music was still playing. Some song by Elton John.

That girl covered in blood, a hole in her face. Some things you do not forget.

Isabell Serafin received an MFA from Goddard College in 2008. The following year she moved to Vietnam where she served as the editor of East & West magazine. At present, she is writing her first novel, an excerpt of which was recently published in PANK magazine. Isabell lives in Northern Italy.

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