It was a little after three in the morning when Heriberto Ebula shut off the engine in his old Toyota Corolla. They’d found the perfect spot to carry out the verbal agreement they’d reached, all hot and bothered, at a private table in Morena’s pub, or paff as they’re called in Malabo. Their agreement was none other than to find a dark, isolated place and have sex, once and for all, as they should have done since forever. Heriberto suggested this place because, according to him and his drinking buddies, it was the darkest and least traveled spot in the neighborhood of Elá Nguema, a witness to this story. Clearly, this was the best way to keep out of the sight line of prying eyes in a place where congosá, that malicious, hyperbolic form of gossip, had come of age, where it had learned to smoke and snort.
His headlights off for several meters already, Heriberto parked halfway between the María Auxiliadora school run by Salesian nuns and the Elá Nguema municipal cemetery. In that sinister spot, avoided by children and skittish adults alike, the night was dark as the armpits of a man dressed in a suit coat, and christened with sprinkles of bass that blared from countless loudspeakers in the distance, and the honking of solitary cars rolling along the asphalt on Calle José Sí Esono, perpendicular to where he’d parked.
It was December, when the customary tolerance for noise was more conspicuous than during any other month of the year. Music played everywhere, at all hours of the day and night, including, obviously, the outer edges of the capital city’s graveyard, whose inhabitants had to put up with both the joy of the living and night-time visits from guys like Heriberto, disrespecting the souls of the faithful departed.
Heriberto was pure poetry, an excellent cabbie who liked to hit the bottle to dilute his outrage and then pontificate, calling into question how the Republic’s government and its cronies were being managed, which, thanks to his own hybrid experience, he considered collateral damage, byproducts of poor Spanish management and its brutish, excessive colonization. Someone had to pay the piper. His Guinea wasn’t a country, it was a project, an ‘aborted’ project, like all the other projects started here. According to Heriberto, every initiative in his native land ended up aborted. That was why the roads were never finished, or the building projects, or the benevolent work, the decrees in support of the most vulnerable layers of society, the cinemas, the Nzalang national football team, educational programs, laws of inclusion, the arcades and recreation centers for kids and teenagers (though there were a considerable number for adults), not even agreements with companies, embassies and countries, to give just a few examples. All of these, each and every one, had been halted for reasons that defied logic. Some initiatives never even got off the ground. Money flows like manna, but always in the wrong direction. Instead of falling from the heavens, it burbles up from the ground in the form of crude oil, yet another incentive to disrupt, slightly more, the nation-building project, especially when all involved were looking to line their pockets.
Heriberto blamed Spain. He always did. There was no way to make him budge on that. Stubborn as a royal mule. It didn’t matter that Spain had been his refuge when members of the MAIB, the Bioko Island independence movement, were forced to flee via Cameroon, thanks to the persecution of that government ‘project’. His father had been a hyper-proactive member of that organization for self-determination, known in those days as the ‘group of rebels’. More than twenty years in Spain had taught Heriberto to hate the Spaniards as much as the Fang people, despite the fact that he had several Fang friends who weren’t like those other Fang, and he always told them this, because they didn’t do Fang-like things. More than twenty years in Spain getting shaken up and down by people intolerant of tolerance; by racists, supremacists, xenophobes and all sorts of individuals with ‘problems’ acquired in childhood, who had free rein. Spanish institutions themselves belonged to the ranks of those who exploded with mental orgasms when recalling how the sun used to never set on their country. Delusions of grandeur. Ignorance of the laws of physics, especially the ones governing the rotation of Mother Earth.
Heri came back to Malabo when he was twenty-seven, and despite having two degrees it took him a thousand and one nights to find work. The old-boy network also worked in reverse. Instead of opening up doors for him, they were all slammed in his face. That’s normal in a country so small that everybody knows one another. And his father’s shadow stretched long in the sun. A year after moving in with his older sister, he managed to land a somewhat decent job. Being banned from entering Spain for his association with the ‘rebels’ finally started to weigh less on him. But as they say, ‘Happiness is fleeting in a rebel’s house.’ He was fired for requesting a pay rise, and for relentlessly putting bugs in his coworkers’ ears about ‘bad practices’ like striking, demanding contracts, seniority and ‘suchlike things’, of which the bosses in his hometown were not the least bit fond.
Heriberto never beat around the bush about things, never backed down, saw things through to the end. That was the legacy his father had left him, and he was willing, if need be, to abandon this bleak, inequitable world the same way his father had. But let’s not forget our saying: ‘Happiness is fleeting in a rebel’s house.’
Heriberto was already pleasantly lit that 27 December, and so was she. Maite, she of the nice ass that had slayed him forever, well-shaped and bouncy. Their sexual tension had remained unresolved since they’d met in high school, in Fuenlabrada outside of Madrid. About ten years had passed since they’d last seen each other. Being the only black guy in class had given him a clear advantage with her, but in those days he was a tangle of raging, rebellious hormones.
Hurriedly they reclined Heriberto’s seat and resumed the kissing and petting they’d started in Morena’s paff. For a while now his erection had been in a constant state of charged tension.
Regrettably, neither of them had anticipated this encounter, so they had a struggle of coordination while removing her ripped jeans and his camouflage Bermuda shorts. If that weren’t enough, Maite had been living in Bata for a while now, so Heriberto had to endure, in her every movement, every lick, the unmistakable aroma of a woman from the continental capital. That briny smell of the sea that bathes the coastline and a kind of corporal dankness, the result of Bata’s unbearable sun. It put a little pressure on his mind, though he didn’t complain the way he might have years ago.