Naivasha was somewhere I went a long time ago and looked on the dreamy sight of a lake alive with pink flamingos. Now people there are killing each other, wielding machetes and burning houses. Of course it isn’t more tragic if it’s somewhere you’ve been, or if it’s happening somewhere beautiful. But it certainly brings the shock and tragedy of violence home to you.
What if that 4:00 a.m. knock on your door doesn’t come from some plainclothes agent of a sinister government, as we’ve always been told to expect, but from the folks down the street, whose kids are in the scout troop with your kids? And what if there isn’t even a knock? They burst into your bedroom and stand wavering, as if trying to decide whether the sight of you naked and violated is worth all the mess and bother. They’ve armed themselves with simple but effective weapons that might have been disguised, up until now, as spading forks, or hedge clippers, or aluminum bats for a pick-up game of softball down at the park. Oh, and their leader cradles a 12-gauge shotgun, or some other efficient guarantor of a polite society. You must leave — now, he announces with a melodramatic solemnity which in other circumstances you might find laughable. The Martinezes started an argument about it, and they’re dead. That would account for the blood and the heavy breathing, the flushed excitement on their faces. Honey, get the kids in the minivan. Tell them we’re going to see Abuela. And for once, the kids listen. At daybreak, creeping through the subdivision with your headlights off so as not to attract attention from the roving bands of local teenagers, you catch an odd movement from behind a backyard grill: sudden wings, a flash of pink. Then another, and another: one by one, the flamingos are abandoning their calm green lake. A silent V slices through the dawn sky.