After New Orleans, I had planned to spend seven weeks traversing Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia. This was my plan until a stranger walked into my life at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, as I was getting ready to board the plane to attend the annual Mardi Gras festival.
It was late January, in the dead of Minnesota winter. Minnesota winters are legendary. This is a place were temperatures randomly fall 10-30 degrees below zero. Celsius or Fahrenheit, it really doesn’t matter. It is cold in winter, brutally cold. Winters here can be bone chilling, nasty and unforgiving. The uninitiated have been known to suffer frostbites, lose their minds or their lives. Night hours are especially dreadful; and not a few have claimed to see apparition in the thick of the night or at the very early hours of the morning, when the wind-chill toys with ones head and mind.
This was my seventh consecutive trip to New Orleans. There is something about the decadence and sinful pleasures of Mardi Gras that soothes a man’s soul. During the festivities, my mind takes flight and I wonder about all the things I am usually afraid to wonder about; I indulge in perversion African societies would generally frown upon.
But there was a twist to my last trip.
A day after the formal festivities ended, I flew to Rio de Janeiro to attend the most delicious, most sumptuous, and the most profane and the most irreligious of all parties: the Rio Carnival, the world’s largest party. Rio of course is home to some of the greatest soccer teams in the world and is also famous for her hotel-lined tourist beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana. This is the place where you want to spend the last days of your life.
A few feet from the boarding gate at the Minneapolis airport stood Marie Margaux. I thought I saw an apparition. I wasn’t sure. But it was one of those life-altering moments, a moment when it seems as though the face of God was revealed. And so began an odyssey.
For a while I wasn’t sure who and what she was: was she White or Black or Mixed or Middle Eastern? I wonder. I wondered because there were times — depending on the time of day, in bed after sex or while giving her full-body massage — when she looked White. Mixed. Even Brown.
Marie has seen all the movies and theatrical plays nominated for the Academy and Tony awards in the last ten years. She has read most of the books critiqued by the Washington Post in the last two years. She has been to twelve North American countries, nineteen European and seventeen African countries and eight Asian and Pacific Rim countries. And she speaks six languages, including Fulani. She plays soccer, too.
She tells me she likes me. That she loves me. That I make her laugh. She likes it when I sponge and towel her. She tells me I reside in her soul, that she dream of me at night and daydream about me in her waking moments. I send her roses and kiss her all over and make her quiver. There are so many little things she does that make me happy and teary-eye; there are so many big things she does that make my world delightful. I love her spongy mind, and her perspective about things. She is playful, benevolent, strong-willed, and sophisticated. And faithful. And I love her, a lot!
It’s been two years since we met, two years of constant self-discovery. Two years of feeling as though we only met yesterday. Two years of burning fire and glowing flames. And after two years and two weeks of happiness, she made a startling confession — a confession I am yet to recover from. How could I? It burns. It itches. And confounds!
How could she have kept such a secret? How could she? How could she not have told? Was it that she never completely trusted me? As it turned out, she never told any of her friends — friends she has known for fifteen or more years, friends she had known from the very week she arrived in the United States. Is it that she never trusted any one?
Marie’s father is the president of one of Africa’s island nations. Her mother is French, a lawyer and an economist who was trained at Cambridge, Sorbonne, and at Yale. Her grandparents were friends and contemporaries of Emile Durkheim, Jean Jaurès, Henri Bergson, Bustave Belot, Edmond Goblot, Felix Rauh, Maurice Blondel, Pierre Janet, Camille Jullian, and Lucien Gallois. They were titans whose ideas, teachings and philosophies influenced Europe’s culture and intellectual life. Photographs and other mementoes of these greats adorn her homes in Bethesda, Maryland, and in the Georgetown district of Washington DC. Marie herself had followed in her mother’s footsteps. But for her, it was Yale, then the Sorbonne, before Cambridge.
Marie, I suspect, has had great friends some of whom were cruel to her. And I suspect too that she has had great lovers who taught her the high art of lovemaking. There is a mystery to the way she looks at me, touch me, kiss and hold hands — as though saying, “Hope you will never ever leave me.” It is as though there is a burning hunger for love and affection and forever, like she hungers to be held in an embrace for eternity. And in bed she hates endings. When it ends she wants another beginning. And another.
I spend most of my weekends in either of the homes she shares with her mother. But on this Sunday morning — while naked under one of my T-shirts and sitting astride my groin areas and with my hands cupping her mango-sized breasts — she seems a bit tense and faraway. Suddenly, there were tears cascading down her checks. She wasn’t wailing, no, just tears strolling down her face. In a low slushy tone she recited a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.”
But of course I love her, too. I told her so and then gingerly squeezed her nipples, kissed them and told her how much I love her and that she will never lose me. The tears stopped and she started on her confessions.
How and why she kept her past away from me bothered me a lot. But perhaps, love was not enough; perhaps, love was not enough for her to tell it all, to bare it all.
How could someone be this brilliant, this compassionate, tender, selfless, and benevolent be the daughter of a brutish dictator? How? It simply doesn’t make sense. She volunteers her time and gives financially to the homeless shelter and several other noble causes. And she takes her civic responsibilities very seriously. She is a noted and well-regarded social activist in Washington DC and New York.
Yet, she comes of a father who is despised at home and abroad? He is the maximum leader of his country. He has been married four times and has eleven children. Marie is the only daughter and she is the only child in whom he has absolute trust. But unfortunately, his country is not ready for a female heir.
Well, I don’t know how I feel about him now that I know his identity; but before I knew whom he was, I liked him. We have spoken a couple of times over the phone. He calls mostly during the early hours of the morning when we are still in bed. I found him to be charming and bright and fatherly — a soft-spoken man who engages me in petty talks about US foreign policy towards Africa and the Middle East and about movies and books.
The last time we spoke, he wanted to know whether I was open to the possibility of living in his country. Yes, I was open to such possibility; and I told him so. And I had asked him what he does for a living. He was about to respond to my question when Marie gently put me in her mouth, and I lost all connection to the phone and to reality.
Before Marie, my life and my world were predictable and certain. It is no longer so. To love this much, to want this much, and to adore this much brings both fear and joy to my heart. This is after all the only daughter of an African dictator. How could I be a part of his family…My eyes swell with tears of joy and sorrow every time I think of her. I am afraid to lose her, but…
· Disclaimer: This is a fictional account. Therefore, all semblance to a living or dead character is deeply regretted.