We walk in silence, four abreast along the road that leads from W’s house into town. It is quiet, and the trees – Africa trees, E. calls them, gnarly and leafless – stand regal against the moonlight. Our moon shadows (a novelty still – even home in cowtown there is too much ambient light) slip softly along behind us. The air is warm against our skin.
It had been an evening of story telling. W had invited us for dinner, and we sat for hours in his brightly lit living room, dizzied by electricity and internet, watching Christian rock music videos on television. Over chapati and mugs of spicy African tea, we thumbed through albums of yellowed wedding photos bearing the grinning faces of men we’d never meet, who once sat, like us, on wooden benches draped with lace doilies. And always, stories. Stories of W’s religious transformation, his health and the laying of hands, of his youth, of his work in Malaba, his father. W’s is a voice filled with laughter – I carry it with me still.
We walk. W breaks the silence. In the days of Idi Amin, he says, we could not have travelled this road by moonlight. No. We would have sat in fear behind closed doors. In the days of Idi Amin, he says, there was much fear. And the people – the people would disappear from their homes, from their places of work, never to be seen again.
The people would disappear. Suddenly, I am cold. I have heard that phrase before, and it hangs before me, menacing. The beauty has vanished from the evening and I realize – with true horror – that though the names are different, the music one hears on the radio, the language spoken in the streets is different, the story – the story is the same. In 1970, far from Tororo, my parents did not walk home along La Peatonal by moonlight. They, too, sat in fear behind closed doors. They, too, would have disappeared had they not left Argentina.
The people would disappear. Amin died unpunished, of old age, in Saudi Arabia. Jorge Videla, who engineered La Guerra Suicia, was convicted of human rights abuses but has yet to be taken to trail, and sits under house arrest in Buenos Aires. He is but one of many implicated in La Junta, and most will survive unchallenged.
It is dark, but even in the dark I can see the laughter is gone from W’s eyes.
An evening of story telling.
–by the lovely Clara, who visited Jan ‘08