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Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction 8.1 (2006) 93-107

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(I wanted to say that the rocks of Yaylim are almost soft to the touch.

I wanted to say, I want to see my baby.

I wanted to say, I would like to see my father again before I die.

I wanted to say . . .)

July 17, 2003, Cambridge, England. I knew the man at my door.

The night before, when I was out on the street, he walked up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder.

"Pardon me," he said without taking his hand off me. He flashed a brilliant smile. He had been casually well-dressed, his skin dark, his hand soft, his accent unrecognizable to me.

"I have just arrived in Cambridge." He gestured toward King's College. "I do not know much about this building, but it is quite amazing. Could you tell me about it?"

He had been demure, elegant.

I smiled back. "Certainly."

"My name is Zayyanna Shashu, I am from Nigeria. I study at Birmingham University."

"My name is Kristen Cosby. I am studying here at Cambridge for the summer." I gave him my hand. He squeezed it instead of shaking.

"Kristen . . . that is an interesting name. How do you spell that?"

He asked questions about Cambridge, about me. We talked for half an hour or so. It was almost one in the morning. He escorted me back to Gonville and Caius, the college of Cambridge University where I lived and studied. "It has been a pleasure meeting you," he said at the gate. "Perhaps we shall see each other again." [End Page 93]

I walked through the porter's lodge and said good night to the guard. When I glanced up at the security camera's TV screen, Zayyanna was already gone.

Now he was standing in my doorway. I lived in the Tower Room. Nobody came up the extra set of stairs by accident. I stood up from my desk. It was a Saturday; my classmates had gone on an outing to York. The buildings were empty.

"Hello, Kristen," he said and stepped into my room.

Excerpted from BBC World News, January 7, 2003, and June 3, 2003.

Thousands of people have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims following the introduction of Sharia punishments in northern Nigerian states over the past three years. . . . A young woman, Amina Lawal, has been sentenced to death after she was found guilty of having extra marital sex.

Lawal has had her appeal adjourned until August 27 as she seeks to overturn a conviction for adultery. She has been sentenced to die by stoning.

Kaduna, Nigeria. Amina knew the man at the door. Yahay was a distant cousin of her first husband. Their 12-year marriage had fallen apart two years ago. The children lived with him. She had married a second time; it lasted only ten months. Amina was back in her village, living with her mother, stepfather, his son, and the son's wife. Their three-room home was crowded. Like the rest of the village, they had no electricity or plumbing. She was old, almost 28, well past marriageable age. But Yahay had been paying attention to her. He had begun to speak of marriage. Their families were against the match, but Amina and Yahay continued to meet each other.

Yahay came to the door of her stepfather's house. He had a motorbike with him that morning. He wanted to take her to meet his parents.

A few miles outside of the village, he pulled over to the side of the road. They were deep in the bush. He told her the bike had broken down; they needed to get off so he could fix it. He began to work on the bike. Then he told her that he was hot. Like most men in Kaduna, he wore three layers of clothing. He took off his outer robe.

He was still hot, he told her. He took off a second layer.

She thought of screaming when he forced her to the...


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pp. 93-107
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