Academic journal article Chicago Review

Tukkikat

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Tukkikat

Article excerpt

I can only remember one time in my life when the sun had as much power over me as it did in Senegal. I was four. We were sitting on our porch in Decatur, Indiana, my sister, myself, two neighbor kids, and my dad. It was Sunday. My father had brought a cardboard box out of the garage and placed it in the middle of our front yard. With his pocket knife he had punched holes in the box. Then he leaned it on a baseball bat so that it faced the sun. He explained to us with his two fists circling around each other, calling one the sun and the other the moon, that one could get in front of the other and make it disappear. This was called an eclipse. And we believed him.

That day of the eclipse he told us the story of a boy who had been blinded because he had looked up at the sun while it was being blocked by the moon. All that day, I remember, I walked with my head down, terrified that I might forget and accidentally blind myself.

The sun in Senegal was not the sun that I remember seeing in America. I can't say what it was that made it seem different, but it was. Sometimes, as I was walking at sunset, out of the corner of my eye I would see it ballooning on the horizon above the trees, and something about its size or surreal color would then seize me. Then this thought would pass through my mind, everything that I had ever clone or could ever do would never measure up to what was there before me.

Everything in Senegal revolved around the sun. There was no escape from it, except for a couple of weeks during the rainy season when it hid behind the bruise-colored rain clouds. For the rest of the year the sun sucked the living dry. From noon to four o'clock a void settled over the village. Time slowed. Speech faded into nonsense. People slept or told old stories that everyone knew. Nothing of consequence was required of anyone. Animals, dumbstruck, collapsed in piles under trees or stood stock still and would not move unless rocks were thrown at them. Birds disappeared altogether. Boys who didn't know any better went out into the bush to catch the lizards mating in the trees.

Only idiots or demons or those like me, unwilling to surrender, came out when the sun was so white with heat that it became invisible to the naked eye. …

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