[above: J.S.W’s preferred orbital ride]
Only a few days later, back in Luceria, hoovering her neighborhood alleys for disposed of crates needed at the food co-op J. “Snow” White is delighted to chance upon a poster announcing “Writing in light of blackness”. Princess White runs chores for the “Emerald Squash” barked at her by bug-eyed Heyman Hungrey. She reluctantly works on her yayo habit during evening sessions at a municipal N.A branch, to which she keeps coming back and also carefully peddles to fellow models on the side, hoping not to be detected by F. Konman or any of her father’s out-of-city informants. Room and board is provided courtesy of her seven little friends but for the rest J.S.W has to provide for out of her own shallow pockets: an all-around acceptable arrangement.
The thing is that she cannot face any type of parental music at present. So while Joelle dearly misses her father, the young Princess dares not return after all that has happened: his furious outburst when he had discovered her addiction, the glum détente that had followed and the ascendancy of the evil influence of bitch stepqueen Henriette Trefoil.
Now and then J. “Snow” White has this quantumdiodically clear dream in which she wanders through a dark, big forest, threatening branches brushing her long hair, thick roots attempting to snarl her feet and after long flight through gloaming comes upon the shore of a lake: placid, familiar, faintly crimson. Thrashing through the knee-deep waters lightness befalls Joelle and she begins to rise, then flies up high over the lake, higher and higher, one lake becoming two set next to each other, until at last she realizes, stratospherically, that these are the lugubrious eyes of her fater, Nicholas King White. A great, seismic fault line opens in the earth below the twin lakes but remains silent.
Then finally comes the great night of contemp African literature in that homely, butter-lighted bookstore packed with intellectual-looking people from all walks of life, some flossing their academic credentials unsubtly by wearing ellbow-padded tweed jackets, horn-rimmed glasses and clamping ravaged leather briefcases under their arms so that they may not be mistaken for common folk. Professor Christiane Dialo looking old, withered and almost exaggeratedly Senegalese holds forth at greath length not just on today’s relevance of Mda, Achebe, and Soyinka but also shows how they tie in meaningfully with the political/intellectual work of Biko, Fanon, Nkrumah and other greats from the liberation struggle…. More encouragingly even, she talks about writing as a true process of revelation and emancipation that needs all members fully involved: writer, reader, activist, publicist, etc.
The young Princess in exile loves the lecture and it makes her think about how snow has become her own personal darkness, the struggle against which has left burgundy marks on her forearm. J.S.W. hopes these point in the direction of her future victory over the inner beast.
And so then anyway, after the event Joelle has to absolutely go up and get in a few words with Professor Dialo to let her know how much she appreciates her coming here to this tiny location, taking time off from a certainly crushing academic schedule. As the lovely Princess approaches the dais observing the elderly literatus bent over like hunchback and scribbling signatures suddenly she is struck by an unwelcome sense of familiarity that stops her for a second. But as it turns out, the wizened Christian Dialo and Joelle hit it off extremely well, so good in fact that the Africanist scholar suggests they go out for a quick drink before she needs to get on that orbital shuttle back to Dakar.
Shortly they find themselves seated in a tucked away, velvet nook of the Pace Aeternum, which is a hidden chess joint/enoteca on the outer rim of downtown. Dialo’s face turns into a huge sparkling diamond nearly floating up and away, as she expatiates on many a great author. The evening wears on, carafes pass upon the table like glassy camels whose humps need to be emptied. At some point they strike upon the topic of creativity and the faux Prof. C. Dialo asks J. “Snow” White
In Senegal we have this time-honored substance used by griots and medicine men called MaleMale! Surely you’ve heard of this Joelle, no?
Uhm, actually I’m afraid no. Which is a bit strange as I am familiar with a plethora of psychoactive substances….. uhm, naturally, given my training in biochemistry.
The disguised Henriette Trefoil extracts from her huge purse a zip-bag filled with brownish powder. This takes J.S.W. aback as it goes against the healthy conversational thrust that has been building all evening long. The stuff reminds Joelle of her worst tendencies, feelings of ants and unreality that lead to the immediate activation of internalized N.A slogans. The one by Sheehan comes to mind first: “We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely…. change is due to want power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.” Joelle trembles, she wants to remain her new self. West Africanly costumed stepqueen Trefoil, seeing fear etched into the Princess’ face, quickly appeases her.