There were words that disappeared. I contemplated whether it was better to forget them in any case, at this moment. In place of words, handshakes were greeted with smiles, flags were waved joyously. A scoreless draw of an association football game, with fans in fiesta mood, did not reflect the volatility of the nation states involved. There was no mention of boko haram, Isis, Shi’a or Sunni as Hajsafi, Hosseini, Moses and Musa ran lengths of the shining Arena da Baixada, in the Água Verde neighbourhood of the plateau city of Curitiba, Brazil, near where the Araucaria forests are dying.
It was meant to be a different story but the call came late, at 21:51. Fifty-nine children had been shot or burned to death by a terrorist group in Nigeria. The words on the wire… bodies… ashes… discovered… bullet wounds… students… more than 300 this month.
In Venice it was carnival. In New York photographers clamoured for a shot of a new smartphone. Manchester United were trounced. Some couple discovered a stash of gold coins. We drank wine.
By morning the Nigerian report had dropped to the bottom of the page. The story was slept on. Some of us woke.
Traffic is terrible in the market square. Marie Claire goes there to buy vegetables in bulk. There are no fake tomatoes, she says, but so much fake all around. She goes out of town to get her quality cheap goods. Out of town, out of country, out of continent. She eats KFC and flies to London, fills a freezer bag with 50kg of steak, buys Apple electronics, Zara clothes. She stuffs underwear and vest tops in her hand luggage, wears a duffle coat, its deep pockets brimming, struggles to carry a microwave oven, through security, back to Lagos, to sell.
There was a flickering on the screen: a small dot heading towards the mainland. Intelligence said the dot came from Africa, but intelligence wasn’t everything. The dot was uncontactable – recognised signals were not received. Codes failed. Some said it was coming as part of a deal, a contra agreement with certain military or government agencies. Its looming shadow headed for the heart of the countryside. Grey warplanes shot through East Anglian skies – a deathly escort. But all was safe – the dot Nigerian and allied.
For the rest of the world, the buzz of rolling news, channels upon channels of silence.