Why? Chapter I – Cécile

Naked, facing one another for the last time, in front of everyone: if it happens again, if the eyes of one sees the body of the other the earth will sicken, the trees will wither, the children will die, the village will disappear, the Spirit will leave the wind and dust will cover the sun, the cows will no longer give milk, famine will shrivel them down to carcasses, the hyenas will devour them, sacrilegious and indecent, and all the tiny creatures, the worms and the parasites that feed on death will grow fat on our death.

We are in a village in the province of Kasaï, in the Belgian Congo, it is the summer of 1954, she is fourteen, her breasts, small and pointed like two banana fruits, tremble and her heart is ready to burst. What has she done? Why is she there, naked, in front of the whole family? – a circle of embers, sparks among the ashes, impassive faces, eyes that light up with fire, a fire that goes out beneath the eyelids, that burns hotter in the black pupils that reflect those small, helpless breasts. He is beside her: he feels the danger of the curse, he no longer looks at her, the moment of madness has passed, his skin is as cold as the sand of the night desert, as the coils of a snake. But sweat pours off his brow: the son of a Bantu king, he has his crown of thorns. Christian missionaries brought the suffering of their Christ to this village and in the mingling of religions and of the spirits of the air the purification ritual evokes the humiliation of the flagellated Christ. She, too, is the daughter of a king. And the cousin of her lover who now stands here, naked. They force her to look at him – but these are no longer stolen caresses, born like nocturnal plants, this is no longer play that makes the senses quiver and hands that intertwine and fruits hanging from the same branch, covered by the same leaf, born from a single flower, never picked for months and years – torn from the tree in the ruinous frenzy of incest.The men cut the cows’ throats, the blood falls at the feet of the two young people, old and wise hands draw exorcisms on their backs, on the hips that never managed to join together: their refound purity, like beneficial and restorative rainfall, runs from those slender limbs onto the whole family, onto the village, and drives disorder and the forbidden into the dark earth, the profound heart of the world. The sacrilegious, clothed again in the law of the family, accept the roasted meat from the cows sacrificed for the great celebration. The boy eats hungrily: out of fear, guilt, danger, the certainty of death and of love. His cousin is unable to eat, and looks around herself slowly: everyone has seen her naked, but what does it matter? Everyone knows: and they believe that the blessings or curses of the whole community depend on her desires. She is the blood of the slaughtered beasts: her senses will make her always a victim and guilt will pursue her even when her hips join together with the hips of a stranger. She is Cécile.

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