By Anna Deavere Smith
Watching—the men from the township strip bark. Twisting, turning, diagnosing the disease all over "Grace," the Grandame tree on his father's farm.
Thinking—about that hot time. J-Burg. Mandela released from prison. Dancing the toi toi in the street.
He gasped when he saw her.
"Hey!" The toi toi wave seized her.
"Who are you?" he yelled. The crowd wrapped him.
Arm of her ripped bomber jacket. Hand. Her camera.
"Where do I send this?" she hollered.
Picture travels. His father's house. His own desk in Geneva. Postmark: Chicago.
"She's American!" He laughed, and showed the pic to his chemist.
"Wheresshe? Thass you." The chemist said.
Told her two things about his childhood
—Surviving polio. Straight strong legs now. ( "You da rich white boy. No shots?" she jived.)
—Going to the mines.
He knew diamonds.
"She's black! And splendid" he whispered to his twin sister, the dancer. (Wine, hunky bread, fish, Gauloises, seaside—Essaouira, Morocco.)
He nicknamed the American "Chicago."
They did the nasty and the magic for 16 years.
Sudden: "Gotta ditch xmas, going 2 afganistn. BTW, think Mandela's release = birth of G-zus? Joyful noise, etc.," Chicago Blackberried.
She changed lenses. Snapshotting terrorism rather than stark raving racism.
"Where ahhh yoooo?" his twin calls, long legs pounding the hardwood floor. Sister's cheek-kiss cracks heart open like a surgeon's hammer. "She'll be back," she singsongs.
He descends. To the decked halls. Flesh, blood, sibs, babies.
"The hell they doing ta that tree?" father growls, "Circumcising it? "
Next: Read Dawn Raffel's Near Taurus
We Hear You!