kalash my love

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By MARILIA PACHECO FIORILLO*

Excerpt chosen by the author of the newly released book

“Bang, bang, Lord God, nobody counts the shots, man! \ Bang, bang, let's go \ Nobody the fuck way, man! \ Go for it, let's make fun of it, it's right now \ No plumbing, it's cleaning, let's dig each other out \ Get scolded, since nobody around here \ Wow, man, a brand new Kalash” (Excerpt from Kalašnjikov song, from the album Underground, 2000, by Bosnian Serb pop singer Goran Bregović).

About girls and girls

September 15 of any year – Common Era, São Paulo, Brazil.

My 13 year old niece was in tears yesterday. I thought she'd had a fight with her boyfriend, or her backpack had been stolen, or that she'd rolled a bullying; her school is very expensive, but today you can see everything. Worse: had she been robbed? It's frightening what can happen to our children, this country is in chaos, an assault, politics, no one can stand so much insecurity anymore.

But it was none of those things. It was a heartbreaking thing.

She was sobbing loudly, at first she couldn't even speak, she was just shaking all over, swinging her earrings like crazy and banging her wrists on the table, but she was beating so hard she was going to break the bracelets I had given her for her last birthday, they were genuine. , with a certificate and everything, oh, a desperation that was pitiful, but it was pitiful. When she calmed down a bit and managed to tell the story I understood why. She had received the news that Flora was dead. By whatsapp, like this, dry.

Flora is the baby elephant from Somalia that my niece adopted from an NGO last year, so cute, I mean my niece is so cute, not that Flora isn't, despite her floppy ears, but it's so cute for her to hug these humanitarian causes being so young, she was always special, a different girl. A month ago, he had shown me a photo of Flora, a cute, chubby girl, but an elephant is always fat, isn't it? A sweetie, Flora, was protected by a certain Wildlife Help, one of those humanitarian programs, you know? That young people love, age things, not that I don't like it, I also think it's great, it's so simple and easy, so humane, they charge a monthly fee for you to adopt a pet, I think there might be dolphins, could it? I preferred dolphins, but I am in favor of all these humanitarian efforts to preserve nature.

The poor little girl had just received a whats do Wildlife communicating that the bodies of Flora and her entire family, my God, there were eleven little animals, one cutie, one beauty, all of them had been found in a ditch, dead, last Sunday, in Tsavo National Park.

The little elephants, my God in Heaven, imagine, had their tusks pulled out by hunters – hunters? These heartless killers are nothing but animals. At the whats it said like this: that they had been shot down with Kalashnikov rifles, and thrown on the riverbank. The rivers there must smell bad, right?

Even I, who am not into this NGO business, was heartbroken. I almost started to cry too. I remembered Flora's trunk and protruding ears, an ugly but innocent creature, what harm had she done to deserve this nastiness?

But I held back, because we know that what matters is taking care of the family, right? The rest is the rest. She said: “Girl, go take a shower, put on new clothes, drink some sugar water. You have to accept it, what happened, happened, and if you keep banging on the table like that, you end up losing an earring or breaking the ivory bracelet, real ivory, oh what a disaster, that's right, her friends are dying of envy, nobody in the school has no true ivory, and it won't bring Flora back. My niece, so kind, obeyed. She came back from the shower more excited, with some jeans she had just bought. And the whole bracelets. Good thing they had cost me a fortune!

The girl who flew through the skies

Same day of any year – Common Era, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The first time Beah had a nightmare was when she was 13. It happened on the second night he was sleeping at the UNICEF recovery center in Freetown. She woke up struggling, dazed and sweaty, in that seamless region that separates unconsciousness from waking. She was terrified: she was lying on a bed, there was a blanket, pillows and a small table beside it, with a half-empty glass of water. She propped herself up on her elbow and looked around: a row of other beds and strangers, mostly people her age.

Before, there were only splendid dreams. And, until she was 10, she never had to dream. Then, from 10 to 13, the dreams came, every night. Magnificent images began to flood her sleep. They appeared and repeated themselves without fail, day after day, a gift of exultant sensations, the pleasure radiating through the body, clean and pure explosion of power and contentment. Power and relief. Relief and power. The wonder dreams began the week she was kidnapped by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary United Front, when the RUF invaded her village and captured her to make her a girl soldier on the border of Sierra Leone.

Dreaming was the best way to live. The reverse of the day. The nights dissolved everything that had happened hours before. The nights swallowed the memory and covered it all, for the dreams were more vivid and avid than anything she had done or could have done during the day. They gave him extraordinary pleasure. More, even, than the dizzying hallucination that came after she was forced to smoke kush. Ritually smoking kush belonged to the days, like rapes by commanders, or long walks barefoot, her new life, that of a girl soldier. Besides, of course, the great devotion: the art of handling a Kalash, not with expertise – because the weapon does not ask for, nor does it need, experts. Handle it with care, loyalty, solemnity, even love and reverence. It was her Kalash.

He slept hugging her. Maybe it was she, the AK-47, that triggered the dreams of fullness. Beah would close her eyelids, and no matter how many hours, not even if she was woken half an hour later, not even if she was kicked in the side minutes later, Beah would wake up swollen with radiance, in pure bliss, as the seconds of unconsciousness had given her back the previous day, but in reverse. The day before, meticulously, same places and walks, same trees and orders, though it came as a fast, raucous day, and in colors so bright it was dazzling to hurt.

The Beah who replayed the day in her dreams was neither tired nor hungry, nor weak or shy. She was vigorous and impenetrable, a double of the awakened Beah, the one who marched miles indifferent to thirst, participated in the rites, and felt neither fear nor hunger.

Since the kidnapping she had been like this: forgetful of the day, immune to what would be called suffering, but radiant at night. And never, even if she tried, could she remember that there had been a past before the RUF. Just yesterday. A yesterday that faded into today, a perpetuated today.

No memory of life in the village, whether of her house leaning from roof to floor, of neighbors or friends or games, or the shiver she must have felt when her hair was braided, or even how scary it was to climb high on the swings. Or the brothers, the father, the mother.

A void so insurmountable that, after a few months, the new Beah soldier, she gave up the useless effort of memory, as the last months in the jungle with the RUF were enough for her. If the days were lived like an automaton, the Beah of dreams was another, exultant, acute, she felt everything. In her dreams, she first appeared disembodied, like a voice, a song, a whispered prayer that grew louder: the refrain that the commander had made her repeat since she was kidnapped: “Now you are a fighter, the Kalash is your father, the Kalash is your mother”.

 When the prayer grew and became deafening, as leaves and trees and ground also joined in the singing, repeating the chorus, when the prayer of the Kalash became inaudible because it was so strident and took over everything, in that exact moment of apex, all the sounds they retreated until they disappeared in a monotonous groan, a sigh, a silence. It was there, slowly, that silence transmuted into form, and gave Beah a body. Body identical to hers, thin, small and awkward.

But slightly altered. The girl-soldier's new, identical body wore fancy sandals instead of the dirty boots she'd craved in the day, and her hair was braided meticulously interspersed with ribbons. There was a scarf of all colors around her waist, over the yellow skirt that is only worn on feast days. That Beah was light and graceful, and she was clean and smelled like fennel. Beautiful and propitious. Ready to celebrate when the party started, on the prowl: watching, attentive, behind a bush of the dream and equipped with ribbons, braids and her Kalash, watching over the diamond mine that the commander coveted.

She lay back sweetly until the shooting started, hugging her Kalash: hers, only hers, the one she had been baptized with the day the RUF invaded the village, that deadly comma they handed her the day they sent her choose between shooting your father or your mother. She shot her father, joined the line of captured children, and was reborn.

The Kalash that landed in the dream's lap weighed no more than a grain of sand, soft and redolent of fennel like herself, and she herself, Beah, no longer had any weight, she was a bird, she was air, she was steam, she floated in the air. her new sandals and golden skirt, spraying golden grains every time she moved. Incandescent glitter spilled with her every gesture.

But, and it was just as the commander had said, suddenly and out of nowhere, their paradise was invaded by hordes of demons, government soldiers, tens, hundreds, thousands of them, specters coming from every direction. They came to take the glitter drops from her, humiliate her, step on her and cut her to pieces. The intruders came to take away the source of life, the manna of the earth, the bright manna that sowed and flourished in his dream, so coveted by RUF commanders.

It was a disfigured, terrifying crowd, armed with machetes, shovels, rifles and even Kalashes. Beah, who had seen them before everyone else, for she was no longer leaning against a tree, but in a dream she was hovering higher than the branches with the birds, quickly abandoned the company of the birds and sank to the ground. Her and her, her and her Kalash. At that moment the splendor reached its climax. She ran frantically towards the center of the hill, like a suicide target. Without any hesitation, just abrasive heat radiating from her belly.

She didn't know how far away the enemies were, but they certainly saw her, small and slender, a metal tree-girl alone at the top of the hill. Defiant, she displayed herself and urged them on in all languages ​​and by all names, she impatiently offered herself to the demons: "come, come". And she started shooting.

He fired tens, hundreds, thousands of shots, his Kalash that owned the world, a whirlwind in all directions, fired, in a second, 600 times 600, fired forward, backward, left and right. Beah, in agile pirouettes whirling death to the cadence of prayer music, fired blindly and fired laughing, Beah and her Kalash unharmed. She and she, both one.

Never had to reload or aim. Just spinning, the two of them screaming their own sound and killing in unison, the blood in her temple throbbing louder, now, than the prayer. The Kalash was her body, her body was the rifle, and Beah knew her body would never leave her. Both trembled in anticipation of victory, inviolable, invincible, protected from demons. Invulnerable.

Beah levitated, singing and shooting aimlessly, her body closed, vaporous, translucent. To the rhythmic sound of the prayer – “Kalash, my father, Kalash, my mother” – was joined an explosion of all colors and shapes and curves, tumult resounding over the apathy of the dead, never sated, the indifference of the slaughtered bodies.

And, as at the beginning of the dream, everything receded into sound again. Her throat echo became the only sound in the world, the warble of the Kalash. And his thin body, now gigantic, victorious, surpassed the birds and flew over the universe in an impossible cloud, covered the four directions of this world and the others, “over the dead and the living I reign and will reign” and, forever and ever, Beah caressing his Kalash with the tips of his fingers, caressing his own body now consubstantiated in the weapon, full communion. Beah, the lady of the winds, Beah, the lioness of God.

That was before Beah was captured again, this time by the Peacekeepers, who took her to the Freetown bunker. It was then, just then, that the poison seeped into sleep and tainted dreams. They turned from being majestic into nightmares: she dreamed that she was trying to snuggle up to her Kalash, hugging the charger's comma with her knee, the head of the gun on her pubis, a metallic protrusion on her chin, but wherever she felt it, no found her.

He remembered. Dripping with fever, delirious, in that strange bed. With a closed heart, as if the previous night had been a distortion of the days, unbearable. She was tiny and emaciated again, dirty, her chest crushed and her breath caught, barefoot and naked despite the nightgown they'd put on her, her legs wobbly, her arms limp.

It had come back in half, amputated. Helpless, defenseless, powerless. Beah without Beah. He lacked his integrity, his Kalash.

Her waking body felt heavy and ached, unable to move, she was nauseated, still groping, between the covers, hoping to find herself again, united to the metal comma. But there were only strangers in other beds. Still barely out of the nightmare, Beah did what one should never, never do, as this is the first lesson a combatant must learn, otherwise he will be beaten or killed.

Beah cried. At first, the crying came out quietly and profusely. Then high and dry. Like a river that generates its own banks, crying brought old, lost memory. In a flash, in a fright, she remembered the house and the village. From a lap of withered breasts where her head rested, the mother. In the afternoon, wash the body. In the morning, work at the mill. Running excitedly to the seesaw that always broke. Kikusho, her best friend. Komana, her sister. And her father. The father's body on the ground, killed by his shot.

The nurse opened the bedroom door, and Beah – no longer the lioness of God, but an old, mangy, cornered dog – roared with rage.

Another demon, in white. Devourer of Dreams. The most powerful of enemies, who suddenly made him feel pain for the first time, marches, beatings, rapes. As long as Beah stayed there, the pain would remain forever, day and night. In waking and dreaming.

He broke the glass off the table and lunged at the nurse with a shard. It hit deep into the woman's neck. The unprepared nurse was bleeding.

Beah ran, ran away fast. In search of home, back to the RUF, to the music of gunfire, to the dreams of him soaring with the birds. She fled quickly, appeased in her eagerness to find her Kalash again, and merge with her again. And so it once followed others, and will follow many.

“What was will be again, what was done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

*Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo is a retired professor at the USP School of Communications and Arts (ECA-USP). Author, among other books, of The exiled God: brief history of a heresy (Brazilian civilization).

Reference


Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo. Kalash my love: The infamous weapon and other delicacies. Rio de Janeiro, Editora Gryphus, 2023, 140 pages (https://amzn.to/3qnJWhX).


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