disease and aren’t you glad it doesn’t exist in your country? I could have
blown it all away, all of this town, this Ghana, this Africa, all of the West
with its simpering condescension, its conviction that no place in Africa
could ever solve its own problems. Yes, blown it away. All of it. Everything. An explosion as big as the cosmos.
“There is nothing to be done,” Boris murmured, thinking to console.
I rounded on him like a Fury. “I’m fucked if I’ll let that girl die.” I
spat it into his face. “I’m fucked if I will. I’m fucked if I’ll let her die. Fuck
you. Fuck this place. Fuck your whole fucking system. Fuck everything!”
Never had Boris heard me speak like this. He backed away.
I turned and stormed out of the hospital grounds. Ran home in a
corkscrewing funnel of rage and grief.
Jamilla’s life was worth nothing. She was childless, orphaned, unmarried, and dependent. She was an inconvenience. She was so totally
She was female.
This was hardly an outlook confined to Wa.
I asked my landlady, N Ma, where the Cuban doctors lived. Following
her directions, I cycled out to a concrete bungalow with peeling paint,
submerged in a half acre of elephant grass. An unforgivably young doctor met me at the door. Round-faced and cheerful, he offered me “beer,
frio.” His English was atrocious. “Fridge. Now is working,” he confided.
“Very long, hot.” He grinned as if goodwill could make up for his lack
I tried to inquire about Jamilla. The doctor struggled with sentences
of more than two words.
“Boris Jamilla. Bad childbirth,” I began.
Cuban doctor: “Sí.”
He wrinkled his brow. “Maybe.”
“You treat her. How?”
He raised his hands and shook his head.
I tried again. “Two weeks. Very sick. No get better.”
“Not me. Other doctor.”
“Other doctor is where?”
“Where is he now?”