By Korto Williams
In August 1990, I stood at a checkpoint somewhere in Liberia, not ready to die. I was 20. Checkpoints were sad, brutal, dehumanising. This was not the first checkpoint we had navigated, my siblings and I, carrying our paralysed mother in a wheelbarrow. We had walked from one of the neighbourhoods close to a low-cost housing estate built by President Tolbert, who was killed in the military coup in 1990. At the first checkpoint, stories informed by euphoric ignorance about the rebels were shattered. We were heading — in our heads — to a place called safety. At the sight of the fighters and out of fear, I felt my lappa drop to the ground. I had used the lappa to hide the curves of my body, as I was in transition to womanhood; somehow, I sensed that my body would be both an attraction and a menace in ways that would harm my person. The soldiers yelled at me and I pretended not to feel a personal threat. This was not the case fifty checkpoints later, from Dry Rice Market to Johnsonville.
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