By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:
When did I first know I was different? When was the first time I saw the distinction between myself and my peers? There is no specific point in my life I can point to. Ever since I have been cognisant of anything, I have been acutely aware of just how unlike anyone else I was. Standing out has given me identity, allowed me escape, if not for the pleasure of being an outcast, then for the self-expression that comes with being idiosyncratic. The inevitable result of my peculiarity is solitude. I savor this solitude; I need it for my function both within the pretentiousness of my everyday existence and for the release of my walks down the path of supposed darkness. Now, both my particularity and solitude are threatened. I must rise, or fall…I will rise.
Today my assistant is taking me to meet the Bonnie to his black-mailing Clyde. His girlfriend. His amour. The apparent mastermind behind his invasion of my realm. I must confess a certain curiosity. This woman of his recognized my pattern and she and her boyfriend both share my…tastes. I wonder how two people like me could have met, how the conversation concerning their pent up desires would have gone; just who is it who would have blurted out first that they enjoy killing people. I sense it is not my assistant. Despite he and I having similar outlets, all else is different. We are on different spectrums when it comes to the nuances of how we express ourselves. He is chaotic and cannibalistic, I am precise and civilized. One could even argue that I am humane. This is partly why I want to meet his girlfriend; my plan to escape my assistant's clutches hinges much on her appetites and how much, if at all, they can be swayed.
We leave work at around five thirty and drive downtown to an orphanage. He tells me to wait while he goes inside to fetch her. I stand outside and pass the time by looking around. Nothing catches my eye save for a grumpy looking man who leaves carrying what appears to be a baby. The look on his face is one of uncertainty and excitement. As I wonder what his story is, my assistant returns with his intended. Now, I've told you that I have never particularly cared for women whose services I did not pay for, but this one is…different. I am not any good with words of description, so I shall simply say that she was stunning in a way I never imagined was possible. She looks me straight in the eye as she walks toward me, almost daring me to continue looking. I couldn't look away even if I wanted to. As they near, a smile appears on her face and she spreads out her arms in readiness for an embrace. I oblige awkwardly she smells like baby powder and affection. My assistant beckons us both into the car and she chooses the front passenger seat rather than getting in the back with her boyfriend. I stare in front of me, unsure what to say or do. She turns to me and flashes that disarming smile again before turning to her boyfriend.
“Well, aren't you gonna introduce us,” she asks in a light, cheerful voice.
“No need,” my assistant says. “You know who he is, he knows who you are and I know who both of you are.”
There is a hint of a threat in his voice, I'm sure. Perhaps he has noticed my sudden affliction. The girl brushes him off.
“Never mind him,” she states. Her hand is extended as she tells me her name and intimates I do the same. I shake her hand clumsily and mumble my name. She giggles and turns back to her boyfriend.
“Have you told him our plans yet?”
“No, I thought it would be better if we simply showed him.”
She approves his idea with another giggle and he instructs me to drive to a location farther downtown. The neat buildings give way to more and more decrepit structures, until finally even these are replaced by wrought iron and cardboard shacks. I know this part of town, but I avoid it whenever I can. Whatever potential pleasures may bait me here, I am always repulsed by the perpetually lingering possibility of robbery or mugging. We drive deeper into the settlement than I've ever been and he instructs me to stop outside one of the innumerable make-shift homes. A young, emaciated woman is sitting on a three legged stool outside the low door of the shack. Dust swirls around her, but she either does not notice or does not care. My assistant and his girlfriend step out and I find myself staring after her as she sways towards the young woman whose face is almost expressionless. I cannot tell if she is a prostitute or not, but in this section it seems more likely than not. I am slightly perplexed by their choice, not least of all because the less your woman costs the greater the likelihood of disease and this is by far the least costly market. My two companions chat with the woman for a few minutes before they step inside the shack.
I close my eyes and breathe in deeply. This girl…is captivating. She is not what I expected. Not by leaps and bounds. I compose myself and remember that she is as much the enemy as my assistant is. She just happens to be more attractive. I catch myself: I have never thought of any woman in this way before. What does it mean? And whatever is stirring inside me, why would it choose someone who poses such a danger to my way of life as this girl?
I am stirred from my thoughts by two doors opening and the sound of three people shuffling into the car. I open my eyes and look in the rear-view mirror, expecting to see my assistant and the gaunt young woman in the back. Instead, I see him and a young child, not more than ten years old. I look outside the passenger window and see the young woman waving miserably at the little boy in my back seat…almost as if she never expects to see him again. I look at my assistant, but his eyes are turned in another direction. I turn to his girlfriend in my passenger seat and her eyes are wintry and malicious. My glance shifts back to the dirty child, back to what I am guessing is his mother saying goodbye to him and back at the siren in my passenger seat and my denial of this situation is washed away by a cold, sinking realisation of just what is happening here.
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