Chapter 11 – She Is Nothing
A month later, while Ayira was asleep late at night, screaming and laughing awakened her. Startled, she got up and peeked out of her teepee. Many of the villagers were dancing, smoking, and drinking around a bonfire. She stepped outside of the teepee with her blanket over her and sat down to watch them.
She noticed Tapiwa laughing at two Indian men trying to dance African. He fell to the ground laughing. She saw Imani sitting between Dogsun’s legs as he cradled her. They were both laughing at Tapiwa, who had gotten up again, and were mimicking the Indian’s dancing. Ayira looked disappointed when Imani and Dogsun kissed.
Then she noticed Red Sun walking behind Yellow Feather. Red Sun was trying to get him to look at her, but he kept walking away from her. Crying, she walked back around the bonfire and sat down. Ayira quickly got up and ran to her hut.
She panicked and started to cry. Shaking uncontrollably, she sat close to the fire and put her hands next to it to warm them. Then she rubbed her arms to warm them, but suddenly her crotch started to itch. She scratched her crotch and her inner thighs as frantically as if she had ants on her legs. Scared and nervous, she moved away from the fire but continued to scratch vigorously.
“What is happening to me?”
She sat on the ground, still scratching. She tried not to, but couldn’t stop. She noticed a rash on both of her inner thighs. The rash was infected, and she’d scratched some of it so much that it was raw and bloody.
Ayira was in pain and did not want to touch the rash, anymore but she kept scratching. When she saw that her hands were bloody, she started to scream, but she could not hear herself.
“What is happening to me?”
Suddenly, an Indian man walked in. He was bald except for a long braided tail on the back of his head, and he wore war paint on his face, half black and half red. She recognized the man from the forest and screamed again, but she still could not hear herself.
The Indian man threw a hatchet at her, and it landed on the ground between her legs. She looked back up and one of the villagers was standing over her. Confused, she crawled backward and then noticed the hatchet was gone.
“Why are you screaming?” asked the villager.
Ayira looked around and then noticed her legs now had no rash, though they still were red and irritated by her scratching. Speechless, she cradled her legs and cried. People began gathering at the entrance of her teepee. The villager covered Ayira with her blanket, but she was still scared and confused. Yellow Feather broke through the crowd and entered her teepee.
“What happened?” asked Yellow Feather.
“I think she had a bad dream,” said the man.
Another man yelled from the crowd, “She is crazy!”
Imani entered and said, “Someone heard screams.”
She realized Ayira was upset. Ayira glared at Imani angrily and then looked away. “Ayira what happened?”
A tear streamed down Ayira’s face. Imani asked Yellow Feather, “Can I speak to Ayira alone?” Yellow Feather nodded and told everyone to leave.
“What happened? You know you can tell me,” said Imani. Ayira stared at the fire.
“I talked with Zuberi before he left. He said he fought his brother that night. Is that true?”
“What do you think?”
“I did not think it would happen anymore – I thought it was the ship... You were very sick from the ship.”
Ayira took a deep breath.
“I have not slept well at night – since they attacked my village, and I have seen many things that I do not understand.”
“Like tonight? You were screaming? Did you see something?”
“I saw you with that Indian man.”
“Is that what you saw? What did you see?”
“I saw you kissing him.”
Imani looked confused, and Ayira continued, “I saw you at the feast.”
“Oh – yes. I was with Dogsun... We are in love.”
Imani smiled and said, “Yes.”
“How? He is Indian... You are not the same – you are not.”
“We are in love – it does not matter where we come from or who we are. We are both two lonely people who want to care for each other. That is enough.”
“That is not enough... You are both different. Your children would be.”
“Children? Ayira I am too old for children,” Imani laughed and continued, “I am surprised you do not have an answer for that. Unless that is what you saw tonight.
She laughed again and continued, “Ayira, you among all of us should know how it feels to be different... It does not matter as long as we are happy – that is enough... Ayira you are too serious; you must enjoy the time that you have – enjoy freedom.”
“It is still wrong.”
“How is it wrong?”
“It is I can feel it.”
“Ayira, let us be. Let us be – I have not been this happy in a very long time. He is a good lover.”
Disgusted, Ayira sadly said, “I want to be alone.”
Imani nodded and said, “All right.”
Disappointed, she left. Ayira sadly stared at the fire.
Later that night, as she was lying down staring up in her teepee, Imani entered and sat down next to the young woman.
“Ayira – Chief Coyote and the others would like to speak with you.” She did not respond.
“I told them about you – about what happened on the ship.” Ayira slowly looked at Imani angrily, then looked away.
“I told them so they can understand you.”
“Told them what?”
“About the voices, you heard, and Zuberi fighting his brother.”
Ayira looked back at Imani and yelled, “The voices? The voices?”
Imani nodded as Ayira continued, “What will they understand? That I am mad – like everyone said?”
“No, no-no. They said – they said you can stay.”
“What voices do you speak of?”
Imani looked confused as she said, “The man’s mother on the ship; the woman who died on the ship; the spirit that frightened you whenever you spoke to it or spoke of it.”
A worried look on her face, Ayira said, “I do not know what you speak of.”
“You know what I speak of.”
“That is why they think I am mad – because of lies you tell them.”
“You learn their language and then you tell them lies.”
“Why do you speak this way?”
“Why do you lie?”
“Ayira, do not do this, please. They finally understand what you are going through. Do not do this.”
“They will never understand what I go through, and I will never trust you.”
“They just want to speak with you. They want to help you.”
Ayira stared at the fire and said, “I don’t know what you speak of.”
“Ayira – do not do this. This is your chance.”
She hesitated, and Ayira said, “My chance for what?”
“To be a part of them.”
“A part of them – a part of them… I have my tribe... They are not a part of me and they will never be.”
Imani sounded frustrated and said, “You anger yourself for nothing. You separate yourself from them and from me. You cannot live like this forever. I think they can help you if you let them.”
Ayira shook her head no and Imani continued, “They just want to understand what you are going through.”
“What I go through – no one can understand... I do not understand.”
“Just speak with them please.”
“Speak of what?”
“I will help you no more... Live alone if you want. Hide – hide in here. You are missing so much."
"Your eyes are closed.”
“No – my eyes are open...”
“Do not worry about me coming back here. You want to be alone, then I will leave you alone.” Imani stood up. Ayira nodded slowly and looked away. Disgusted, Imani left the teepee.
She entered Great Eagle’s teepee, looking embarrassed, and said, “She does not want to speak to anyone.”
“Do you see? That woman does not want your help – she does not want to be a part of our tribe. Send her away,” said White Hawk.
Imani glared at him and asked, “Why do you want her sent away?”
“She is not needed here.”
“She does not bother anyone... She stays away and she does not ask for anything.”
“I don’t care – I would not care if you went away, too.”
Dogsun yelled, “Stop it!”
“White Hawk, you are making me very angry,” said Chief Coyote.
“Why, Father? Because I speak the truth?”
“That is not the truth – that is your truth,” said Chief Coyote.
“It was so much better when they were not here. They sleep with our women or worse,” said White Hawk as he stared at Imani and Dogsun.
Imani looked down, embarrassed, and Dogsun appeared angry.
“That is enough,” said Chief Coyote.
“Send them all away – they are no use to us.”
Chief Coyote quickly got up and started choking White Hawk. Startled, White Hawk struggled to get Chief Coyote’s hands off of him.
“Tell me – if you do not feel the same way I do.”
“No – no, I do not. You are not welcome here when we meet with the Africans.”
“So you send me away? Let go of me, Father.”
Chief Coyote released his grip and White Hawk said, “I understand... You are all blind to them. I see the worst happening to our tribe because of them.”
Imani was saddened, but White Hawk continued, “Do not worry, I will not come here again.” He stormed out. Chief Coyote looked down and then at Imani.
“I am sorry for what my son said – he has not been himself.” Imani sadly nodded.
White Hawk stormed into Ayira’s teepee, startling her as she was sitting down carving a stick of wood with her knife. She quickly stood up.
He grabbed her by her arms, and yelled, “I am sick of you!”
Ayira screamed, “What are you doing here? What are you doing?”
They started to struggle. White Hawk picked her up and carried her out of her teepee, but she jumped out of his arms. He caught her and picked her up again, then slung her over his right shoulder
“Let me go – let me go.”
He walked to the middle of the village and dropped her on the ground. Everyone outside stared at them, confused.
“What are you afraid of? You see all of us – we welcomed you into our village and you hide like a snake under a rock,” said White Hawk.
Ayira appeared embarrassed, but she stood up and started to walk back toward her teepee. White Hawk grabbed her arms from behind and turned her to face his people.
He said, “Now everyone can see the African woman who hides.” Everyone who was in Great Eagle’s teepee raced out, alarmed.
“Let her go,” said Chief Coyote.
“I thought you did not want to let her go.”
Yellow Feather stood next to Chief Coyote and they both stared at White Hawk angrily. Smirking, Red Sun watched curiously, but Tapiwa looked confused. He walked over to Imani.
White Hawk glared at Yellow Feather and asked, “What are you going to do?”
“You will see.”
Yellow Feather was about to walk toward White Hawk, but Chief Coyote put his arm out in front of him and stopped him.
Ayira looked at Imani and asked, “What did you tell them?” Imani appeared worried.
White Hawk said, “I am tired of this woman, who has everyone talking... She is mad, she is spiritual – she is nothing. I don’t care. I want them gone. I want everything the way it was.”
Imani started to walk toward Ayira, but Tapiwa stopped her.
White Hawk continued, “Have you not seen that things have changed since they got here?”
“Why do you do this?” asked Chief Coyote.
Red Sun anxiously looked on as White Hawk said, “Father, just send them away – we don’t need them here. They will bring us down, I can feel it.”
“Let her go,” said Chief Coyote.
Ayira was so scared that everyone noticed she had started to look sick. She tried to kneel down, but White Hawk held her up. Great Eagle walked up and looked into Ayira’s eyes. She tried to keep them open.
“There is something wrong with her,” said Yellow Feather. Imani looked worried again.
“Yes – there is something wrong with her. She is crazy,” said White Hawk.
“Let her go,” said Yellow Feather.
Red Sun watched in disgust as White Hawk said, “Or what?”
“Ayira – Ayira,” said Great Eagle as he looked into her eyes. She could hardly keep her eyes open.
He looked at White Hawk and said, “Lay her down.”
Imani walked over to Ayira and asked, “Ayira, are you all right?”
She let out a deep sigh, and Imani said, “I think it is happening again.”
White Hawk looked confused and said, “She looks sick.”
Imani nodded, and Yellow Feather said, “Let me take her.”
White Hawk ignored him and laid Ayira on the ground, angering Red Sun and disgusting Tapiwa. “Ayira – what is wrong?” asked Imani.
Ayira said weakly, “I do not know – I feel very tired, very sleepy.”
She held her left shoulder and suddenly screamed in pain. She looked straight at White Hawk, surprising him, and continued to scream. Finally, she stopped.
“What happened to you?”
Stunned and embarrassed, she sat up still holding her shoulder, and then quickly got up and ran to her teepee. Saddened, Yellow Feather walked away.
Great Eagle asked Imani, “What happened to her?”
“I – I do not know.”
White Hawk was speechless and thought quietly to himself. He sounded embarrassed when he finally said, “I don’t think she should leave.”
Everyone stared at him in disgust, but he continued, “When I was holding her, she trembled.” He seemed puzzled, but continued, “Her left arm trembled more than her whole body. I don’t understand.”
Concerned, Great Eagle asked Imani, “Will you go check on her?”
Imani hesitated and said, “No.”