THAT I’VE RESEARCHED the efficiency of suicide by Aspirin evokes a cry for help, probably professional. And it’s just my fortune that a British diplomat’s wife promotes her counseling services in Kinshasa’s weekly expat newsletter. If you ever need to browse mug shots boasting the services of chauffeurs who grin and maids who cook and do wonders with the kids; Carly from the American embassy dispatches an electronic marketplace. Congo Bongo has columns of entries for your convenience: Landcruiser at 15,000 USD, Zumba classes just for her, tickets to the Marine Ball, which I’m not buying.
But I buy the merits of psychotherapy, and you can too, for 50 dollars a session, adjusted to the local cost of living, more than triple of what I overheard a woman in the nightclub bathroom say it cost to let a man—I missed the rest when she flushed.
And I’m flushing away the nightmares, the paralyses, the unsuppressed tears at fancy dress parties. Here, the roar of the speakers drowns our collective neurosis. Could Papa Wemba songs purge Mommy issues? Then again, a dirty uncle figure once told me that “In the west, they suffer from chronic depression, while we (he meant ‘they’) suffer from economic depression.”
I took his truism for granted, as much I do the street kids and grown-ups approaching Independence, that is, the boulevard that intersects Justice Avenue. My waiting room cum parking lot confines affable security guards who ask about my weight while leathery Belgians in cream and bone steer the teeniest poodle you've ever seen.
Relief abounds in this bougainvillea compound, where my English rose of a therapist hails me with mineral water and breathing exercises. Oh, soon, I’ll master the art of breathing, a skill of value.
For a price, I’m scoring help.
Valérie Bah is a freelance writer who lives in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of her essays appeared in Out Proud: Stories of Pride, Courage, and Social Justice (Breakwater Books).