NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 152

Fishing, Friendship and Moonlight on Lake Tanganyika Using Beauty for Bait By CHARLES WARTTS, Jr. (For Akiba with love & gratitude) KWAME STARED DOWN at the bustling traf?c of Dar-es-Salaam, his eyes scanning the swarm of black, brown and yellow bodies swathed in variegated dress. 150 He looked on wistfully as two Catholic priests—one African, the other a blond-haired German—tramped through the crowd with a file of rainbow-hued adolescents in tow. He observed the Muslim men clad in white robes and white fezzes, their women dressed in loose, black, ankle-length buibuis that draped their heads and bodies, and most of their faces, even in the 98 degree heat. A muezzin’s chant caught him unaware, rippling him with chills as it winged its way above the din of the crowd, summoning Allah’s children to prayer. For a time-warped moment the cantor’s soulful vibrato swept Kwame back to the stirring sound of an organ pumping out gospel music, to the whitewashed Baptist church where he’d attended Sunday school back home in Chicago. BRN-FALL-2013.indb 150 He shook it off as his eyes slid over the shapely bodies of the office girls and store clerks dressed in bright, smartly tailored kitenge cloth outfits as they mingled with co-workers sporting mini skirts and platform walkers. A wry smile brushed Kwame’s lips. The textile factory had been his first big pr project. Thanks largely to his successful promotion it was now a growth industry. Kitenge cloth had become the city’s latest fashion craze and was fast spreading to rural villages across the country. The steady stream of foot traffic flowed without pause into the intersection jammed with Peugeots, Hondas and Volvos alongside bicycles and donkey carts loaded down with fruits, vegetables and fresh beef from upcountry, headed for market. Kwame’s gaze lingered on a white Mercedes, its driver gesticulating angrily at the horde of pedestrians as he weaved his way through the melee using his horn for brakes. The heat waves dancing above the heads of the crowd were starting to make him dizzy, and for an instant Kwame was seized by a wild impulse to leap out of the window, down into the simmering cauldron that seemed to dice time and space into a steaming gumbo. The thought struck without warning. I want to write life, goddammit! All of it! Not about textile factories, poultry farms and little kamikaze fish! He gripped the window frame with one hand while the other mopped his brow. He was sweating in an air-cooled office, a sure sign that his demon was at it again. It was past 10 o’clock and Kwame sat glaring at his typewriter. It was a steel-gray Remington desk model with green keys that leered back at him like he was a cup of sweet tea garnished with thick hand-sliced bread and a dollop of creamy butter. He force-fed another sheet of paper into its mouth and began again. Actually, the story he was working on was supposed to be a goddamn safari, a five-day junket tossed in his lap by a senior editor at Habari Maelezo, his old stomping ground just across the street and Dar-es-Salaam’s central news agency. He’d worked there as a feature writer for twenty-two months before being dubbed “Director of Training” just three months ago. 9/13/13 12:48 AM