“The winds carried the songs we sang. They carried our laughter. They carried all the good things. They also carried away our innocence.”
“Why are you here? Why do you want blood in your hands at this age?” The man on my left asks.
“I met a girl once. I was thirteen, lanky, barefoot and bald. With torn shorts and a shirt that had seen better days. I met her in the evening, just when I was gathering the goats to lead them home. It was as if meeting her was a rushed thing, you know. The sun was hurrying home too. The dust had settled but the earth was still warm. I think the god of time had not meant us to meet then, yet we did. It was a single moment squeezed in time. Something you create space for. The memories are too hazy now. Where do I even begin? Let me see…The voice! Yes, the voice. The crispy voice of a scared little girl. She had these eyes, beautiful but defiant eyes. The eyes I stared into when I first made love. She was lost. She said she could not remember the way back home. She had been going in circles for hours.
“It’s easy to get lost here.” I said.
“I come from Yakat,” she said, “would you please show me the way back home?”
Yakat was a camp for refugees, set up by the U.N about five miles from my home, for people who were evading from famine in neighboring Anyika. Anyika was a country that had known nothing but war and famine since its independence. The earth was always hungry and thirsty than the people of Anyika. Every little rain that came, it took all of it. Every drop of blood shed during a war, it took all of it.
‘You are very far from home, it’s getting dark, you won’t make it home this late. Come, my mother will know what to do. Let’s go to my home.’
She later did admit that she was doubtful, but she threw all caution to the winds and came with me. So, there we were, me at the front guiding the goats, and shepherding the stray ones back to the herd. Whistling as we walked. Her carrying my bag and the old Sanyo radio my brother gave me when he bought another better one.
‘What’s your name?’ I asked.
‘Chuna? Never heard of such a name. You are a rare one.’
‘Ever heard of Tama? I am Chuna Tama’
‘Never heard of that one either. I am Samuel Rakik.”
‘What’s funny is that where I come from ‘rakik’ means dung.’
Her sense of humor was impeccable. At times, she made me laugh to tears.
See, how life changes. One day you are a boy. A boy who stares at stars at night. A boy who reads the Moses series by Barbara Kimenye at night. A boy who fails at math because he only reads novels. A boy who has held a shepherd’s stick longer than he has held a pencil or a pen. Then you meet a girl. A girl who tells you your name also means ‘dung’ in another lingo. She’s like fire this girl. She melts the hearts of everyone she meets. When you first take her home your sisters like her, your mother likes her even more. She’s a talker. The first day everyone at home stays up so late listening to stories about Anyika. She’s bright this girl. Her mother was a teacher, you later find out. Your friendship grows, most evenings find you together. Your hearts swell with something unfamiliar.
At fifteen, she started growing breasts. Small things they were. Then me being me, I asked whether she felt any pain, and she called me a motherfucker. This being a word we had recently learned, from some hippie radio station I’d switched to after Tama said that I listen to rubbish. Rubbish being the vernacular radio stations. So, every time one of us did something offensive, the word motherfucker was used. Once Tama let out one long fart while we were laughing over something I can’t remember and I used the word. I called her a motherfucker again when she poured water on me, just to rouse me from my siesta. We stopped using the word when my mother smacked me so hard after I called my younger sister a motherfucker in her presence.
At 16 I started writing. In my first story, children had one eye each and adults had two. It rained every day where they lived. There was no war and there was no famine. When I showed it to her, she said it was good and kissed me on the left cheek. It was the left cheek yes. It’s one thing I can’t forget. So, I went home and wrote another story. One where there was no gravity. Where there no goats to be looked after. Where there were houses with plenty of books. Everyone could fly. Where people could teleport. When I showed it to her, she said she liked it but the first one was better. But she kissed me on the lips this time. My first kiss. I almost suffocated, though. I manned up, wore a sombre face, looked right into the defiant eyes and told her I love her, just like they did in the books I read. Then she smiled and said nothing.
“What does it feel like? This love.”She asked.
“I have no words for it, Tama. All this is new. But then I know it’s the reason we are here now. I want you to know one thing. I am no longer the same little boy whose name you made fun of. You changed me. Now i tread this earth a happy man. When i walk i kick the small stones by the roadside.There’s life in me.You tell me why almost every evening finds us together. Then you tell me what else this could be.”
“Then I love you Rakik. Like a motherfucker” She made fun of me all the way home. That was Tama. She held this world in handfuls. She made every moment count. She lived life the way she wanted. She never forgot the collateral beauty despite her situation.
At 18 I, had gotten better. I could write amazing stories. We had a spot under a tree where I used to read them to her. So, one day, after I was done reading another story to her. I asked her whether she had ever done it.
“Done what?” She asked.
“I thought you’d never ask. Just promised me I’ll be your only one. You will never betray me for another.”
“I swear Tama. I never will.”
I did it like they did it in the books. It was brief. Both of us had been virgins. When we were done, we gazed at the stars in silence. Something had changed. We held hands as we shivered in the dark. Then we realized that we’d freeze if we stayed naked. As we dressed she said her feet felt so light. I told her mine felt the same just to be on the same page with her. We walked home, having just lost our innocence. I wish we’d stayed there longer because what happened next is the reason am here right now. It’s the reason I am going to kill.
Home. We found everything in flames. Babies screaming. Mother’s weeping. Men lay dead. One of my brothers lay there on the ground, breathing his last. Tears in his eyes, a Simi lay on the ground next to him. I left Tama and went to help my brother. As soon I got to my brother, gunshots rented the air. Then I heard her scream. She screamed again. And I ran towards her as she fell on the ground. The two shots had hit her badly. One on the stomach and one ripped through her neck and tore an artery. Just a few hours had passed since I’d held her warm body in my arms. Now here I was drenched with her blood, holding her lifeless form. Everything happened so fast. At first, tears didn’t flow. Then they came, I cried so much that my head hurt. I cried so much and wished that they’d taken me instead. Then I passed out.”
“You tell me why they killed her? These people only came to steal our goats and cows. Why take a life? Why? Tama of all people. What had she ever done to them? So, someone has a gun and they just fire just like that. You give me a plausible reason for that and maybe I’ll consider shooting fewer of them.”
Since then I’ve been lost. I see her in my dreams at times. My nights are full of tears. Every morning I wake up torn and every evening I go back to the place where we made love. I sit there and wait for the sun to go home so that I can go home too. And the wind just blows, like a stranger passing by, incognizant of what it took from us.