Beach number 2. Poetic in all but name. Floating several hundred metres off shore, letting the green mountains sink into my eyes. An elemental sexuality rises up from the currents below. Tournier comes to body and to mind. Treading water, the mist on the mountains ahead. The beach takes the word pristine and makes it really sparkle. White forms on the beach, making a Saturday of it. The water has a luxurious warmth. Banana Island is behind me, along with the sharks. Straight ahead, the dense green of the trees and of the forest against the mountain mist. The layer of leaves hides the truth in a smudge several shades darker than emerald. And then, the jewels beneath the red earth. Orange diamonds, then blue. The Kimberlite pipe scatters from out of glowing magma, and man scatters, and then everything scatters.
Memories without form are tangled up in the leaves and can’t seem to escape. Invisible events cut into being by steel. Ears, lips, throats, wrists, foetal bellies, all sliced open at the butcher's hand. Intestines looping out over leaves, the sculpture of the blade. Machete against mango tree, just a stump of bone and sinew in between. The queue of arms and anxiety stretches back. Women and girls pinned down and raped in formation by boys doped out wearing Tupac. Operation No Living Thing spared only the vultures. Their feet dangle still in a dance macabre, as flight ends by branch. Out of the water, I ask for a coconut. The machete swings again. The sap and the flesh cut open into the world.
Can knowledge help? Where on Lightfoot Boston was the City Hotel? Who was Lightfoot Boston? Which ethnic group is where? What did Fodey do before he had his RUF idea? Who did Taylor send to the border? When exactly was Viktor Bout’s game finally up? What is happening right now in The Hague? How different are Creoles from Americo Liberians? Does a sociology of the collective human impulse to generate class distinction, regardless of mission, help at all? Or should we turn to genetics to understand the Will to Power? The tribal function of the unempathetic amygdala in psychopaths as a scientific path into the forest of unreason? Or perhaps the answer begins in part with the extraordinary life of Cecil Rhodes and the artifice of value his company De Beers placed upon a relatively common rock a century ago.
The door to my room keeps opening itself without human hand. The ghost floats into the room and is upon me. Knowing is both essential and yet essentially useless. A shadow and a chill rest upon the room. I cannot think. I must think.
The do gooders throng the hotel in waves. Secular missionaries, onward to their stations and the meaning they gather into their lives. The inevitable Land Rovers with logos and uberantenna. A Prado would send the wrong kind of message. Clusters coming in on medical programmes into the jungle. In the afternoons, Americans play with their Ipads in front of the projection screen at the bar, not sure how much football to absorb, sliding their fingers over images of river and of tree.
On the way back from the beach, by the pipe carrying water into Freetown, animal cries enter into language. In a flash beyond the window, a man holds a head full of matted oozing blood. It is not clear what has happened or when. Just a few metres later, boredom in the posture of others. Auden’s Icarus, once again. The human lack of empathy can be unbounded. Then, some avocado pears neatly laid out on a table by some corn. Things will grow again. Brightly corrugated surfaces form shacks up on the hill. The Senegalese are building the road and it will gleam. Cars will fly by onto beaches beyond. Who knows, Liberia may be a motorway away in a century or less.
Sierra Leone. The Collierites, that new biblical tribe, consider the problem and then compute: failing or fragile? Traumatised more like. The Lion Mountain is silent (its throat was ripped out ten years ago). I return to my reading while the Why lies buried alongside the darkened carats, its mouth full of earth.