A man in colorful cotton walks making animated hand gestures next to a woman in colorful cotton. Beads of sweat on their faces, the sun.
Under the shade of a coca-cola parasol five or six young men sit, lay, legs apart, as if at some point the inexistant breeze would start up and cool them. But if you stay very very still and exert absolutely no motion whatsoever, you practically, you almost don’t sweat at all.
Three business men walk, almost sill, followed by a near existent shadow. At one in the afternoon, the equatorial sun is directly above everyone’s head, melting everything, even the shadows, into sweaty balls of nothing. So the only thing you see of anyone walking is really stubby shrunk legs and a bobby-pin head that swings around a scrunched mid-section, their shadow a round thing, probably forty centimeters long.
The man and the woman in colorful cottons are now covered in the hot dust of a speeding forest-green SUV, driven by a white man who really doesn’t need to be driving that fast and whose eyes we’re going to borrow, since we can look through them as he drives to places we can’t walk to.
As he passes a couple he doesn’t notice, he cuts through the Post Office where huge and small colorful paintings of Africana art hang leaving little spaces for PO Box holders to pass through with their tiny golden keys and retrieve their sweaty mail. Not easy to find original art here, but it is colorful, and it doesn’t melt. Two good things.
The Pathfinder barely slows as the man in the shades waves the pass around his neck to the military in his green uniform, with the red bloodshot eyes under his black beret who thinks to himself he’ll have to wait for another a slower car to come in with windows down to ask for cold beer money.
Right and left of the entrance to the industrial port of Pointe-Noire, a dozen fluorescent-orange figures barely lean over their brooms and sweep mounds of yellow sand from the long flat avenue that the cars busily speed down towards their millions in transit on the docks.
A section of the forest lies, branch-less, leaf-less and tagged, on its way to China or some other faraway place where no one there either will care that an acre of the Congolese forest is bald. Huge, gigantic trunks and skinny smaller ones lie, branded, painted, sorted by size in a large area before you see the boats.
Thirty small rusty fishing boats with strange names are docked, crunched together before the important, valuable, monstrous transit ships lined up one after the other, after the other, over miles and miles of docks. Workers pee against the boats into the water, pee against the containers, lie in the shade, again, legs splayed, resting between the loadings.
Two black Mercedes cars are lifted above the green SUV, still speeding, towards a point we’re not going to get to, because we’ll have gotten the point by then and moved on to think about something else, and borrowing another pair of eyes to do our seeing through.
The American boat from George Town is being maintained by busy Americans in white hardhats and navy-blue mechanic uniforms who don’t look at anything. They could be anywhere, really, and if they don’t look at anything, maybe they’re not really in the hell-hole they can’t believe they’re in, that smells of rotting fish and smoked fish and grinding flour and forest wood. Ports are usually not beautiful places.
The Chinese boat has opened its huge storage gut and millions of tons of rice in its Chinese bags, yellow with red logos and writing, are piled on the ground of the dock, with workers laying on top of them. One wooden crate gives in to the humidity which has been rotting it from the inside for the past two months and breaks, and a hundred rice bags spill from the crate and fall on the dock, in a quiet mess you can’t hear inside the air-conditioned car.
The last boat is loading tree carcasses into its cavern and the site of this hecatomb is too much so we leave the driver to his business and retreat into thinking about a world where the rainforests aren’t depleted.
We’ve seen enough for one drive.