“Insignificant gestures” is a short story written in 2007 by Jo Cannon.
The short story is about a main character who is also the narrator, who is looking back at his time as a district health officer in Africa. He was 28 years old at that time, and he worked under unpleasant circumstances and had no pleasure in his job. The only joy in his life in Africa was Celia Dimba, who was his housekeeper. He thinks she is about 16-18 years old. She sat next to him every evening and draw with him. One night at the hospital, Celia becomes his patient. A woman says that Celia has been beaten up by her boyfriend. He tries to save her, but there is nothing he can do, so he sends her to another hospital.
Six weeks later he discovers that Celia died from meningitis, so that he could have saved her with some penicillin. He feels a lot of guilt and he tries to explain the situation to the police – also to save the innocent boyfriend.
When he comes home from Africa, he meets an African nurse, and is suddenly overwhelmed by all his memories from Africa and tells her about it.
The short story is written in a first-person perspective, where we hear the thoughts of the narrator/the main character. The story starts in the present time, where he tells about him returning from Africa, chocked after the death of Celia. Then he goes back in time, to his time in Africa. The story ends in the present time, where he is talking with an African nurse on his job, telling her about his life.
A lot of the main character’s feeling are expressed in the story, for instance: “Then I would spring from the bed and smash them with a shoe, disgusted as much by my violence as by the white sticky glue that oozed from the splattered bodies” (p. 2, l. 59-61). The author describes adjectives and adverbs like: “black shadows”, “strange buzzing hum” (p. l. 46-47). He also takes use of figurative language: “But I would take anything not to wake at three in the morning with my...