Love in the time of malaria

Remember that morning when I woke up and stopped loving you? Remember how we made love the night before and that I kissed you goodnight and I told you that I love you. And I meant it. Then we slept, and something happened.

That night, I had a dream. I was a little boy clinging to the tip of my sick mother’s dress. My older brothers moved the bed outside in the backyard because it was one of those unbearable hot summer evenings. The branches of the trees looked colourless and didn’t move, as if some artist drew them in a hurry on that reddish sky background then ran away from the heat. The smell of a sandstorm was still hanging in the air, as usual. The whole scene was usual except that my mother wouldn’t tell me the story of beautiful Fatma before sleeping, and that my brothers were gathering on the side with a look on their eyes that I was too young to identify as sadness.

That night, you also had a dream. You were a dress, a beautiful dress with all the vibrant soulful African colours. And you were worn by this beautiful lady who immersed you and her children and everyone around with love. A love that defeated the sandstorms and the malaria. You liked being the dress, you liked how you could bend the rules to make your lady look feminine and seductive. You liked how you got so hot under the cruel sun and how that got the blood boiling in your veins, how it made you feel free.

But dreams are tricky. Especially children’s dreams. My mother kept telling us beautiful Fatma’s story, the girl who had a dream, chased it and fulfilled it. For most of us though, dreams are just scribblings on the margin of a life, not important and often better ignored. But no one tells us, so we waste years chasing those childhood dreams, until we realise that beautiful Fatma is just fantasy, that moms do lie and that we – children of the malaria time – we don’t live for our dreams, we live despite of them.

In my dream, I was still clinging to my mother’s dress, and the malaria was making her sweat and shiver. I slept by her side, hoping I have another dream and that she has one, and in that magical moment where the paths of our dreams intertwine as they always do, in that moment, I would hug her and kiss her. Then I would smile one last time with my beautiful innocent eyes before they learn to become sad like my brothers’.

In your dream, you were still the dress around my mother’s body. And as the heat of her body went up, you started to agitate, you realised that this wasn’t the same heat from the sun, it didn’t give freedom, it suffocated it. You tried to let yourself free from her body, to abandon her, and when that magical moment happened and our dreams intertwined, I tried to  hold stronger to the tip of the dress, to you, I begged you not to abandon my mother, not to abandon me. But you already made your mind, you wanted your freedom and the malaria was too much to bear.

We then woke up at the same moment, struggling for breath. I was happy to find you by my side, to find out it was just a dream, I kissed you and I think we made love again. Then we slept.

This time when I slept, I had more dreams but my mother was no longer there, my brothers were far away and I was a man. There were beautiful fields, beautiful women and even some butterflies, you know, just normal boring dream … stuff .

This time when you slept, well.. you probably had dreams too. But they were yours, they didn’t cross paths with mine because we were no longer children, we were grownups, and grownups’ dreams do not cross paths and people don’t magically transform into dresses.

We were back to normal.

Still, when we woke up, something changed and I stopped loving you, and you stopped loving me.

* * * * *

Remember that morning when I woke up and stopped loving you? Remember how we both dreamt that we made love the night before, how we both dreamt that we kissed goodnight and said that we love each other. And we meant it. Then we woke up, and we realised that love was still forbidden in the time and land of malaria. Remember?

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