Celebrating East African Writing!
I walked towards our gate in anger. My mind had stopped functioning. What remained above my neck was a mass of flesh and bowl like bone in the name of my head. The world around me seemed like it no longer existed and as I neared the gate I could only hear echoes of my sad heavy feet half thumping and half dragging on the ground. They sounded so distant, like they were sounds from another world. It did not help one bit that the darkness was slowly falling from the wings of the night. The grey evening sky had swiftly and violently turned dark and uncharacteristically uncertain as if it understood what was happening at our home.
My heart was hammering my chest wall and for some unknown reason I wanted it to break open. I wanted my heart to get flushed out and fall at my feet. I wanted my heart to be free; if that was the freedom it wanted. I wanted to see how red it was, how sad it was. I wanted to see the madness on the face of my heart. Did I really have a reason to be angry? Of course I did. I had all the reasons to be rhinoscerously mad at my father.
Crossing our gate the only place I could think of was the nearest plot of land that when we were young acted as our toilet. The moment our mothers opened the doors to our huts, we would run half naked with an ugly torn T-shits on and head to the place where all the six of us would defecate looking at one another and marveling at how dark, brown, big, small or even long our pieces of fickle matter were. It had since grown thorn trees and long grass therefore people rarely used it unless for grazing the cattle. I was not afraid of anything that I would meet in there. I wanted a place to sit and think of one reason, just one. One reason why I had to stay alive and in my home.
A dark quiet night is like the devil himself, but I dared it to come as the night enveloped me and drew me in to its evil heart. A leaf hustled here, a stick crackled there and the branches whispered to one another, soft whispers of malice and wickedness that I couldfeel. My body was strangely calm and a peculiar serenity had gathered up inside my heart like a pool of mountainside water. I could see the ghost of the night dancing, inviting me to join in their song and dance of lost souls. I sat down not caring whether a thorn was going to prick my buttocks or not, placed my head gently between my well cupped hands and closed my eyes.
So I had broken the rule. The rule that no one before me had ever dared to break. The rule that my father had sternly imposed on us even as we grew to become adults. The sun should never set while you are out of the home. Not even at grandmothers’ place. Being the last born, no one expected me to go against what everyone before me had not disputed. So when I came home at seven in the evening walking comfortably right into the hands of my father, there was a silent prayer in the home. ‘Let there be no blood oh Lord.’ That was the prayer of my step mother, whatever my mother asked for my not be clear to me now.
Being one whose eyes are constantly the setting of an African sun, there was fire burning in the eyes of my father. I could see it even in the darkness. His breathing was laborious and his hands trembled like veins on the neck of a rabid dog closing in on a prey. He did not talk but grabbed me by my shirt collar. I didn’t feel like saying anything, inside me, there was a vicious and mad rush of anger. It was gushing wildly and swirling within the vessels in me. Before he could land a blow or whatever weapon its was he planned to use on me, my grandmother cleared her voice just two steps away and ordered him to let me go.
“Obange is no longer a child, Seeing twenty two Decembers is not a child’s play. Why do you want to keep him chained like some pet dog of yours? He is a man now and men have needs. He has to meet his friends.”
She admonished him with unexplained courage and energy. See, my father was one of those men who were true sons of the black African soil. Men whose word was the word and everyone let it be. Men who ruled their homes together with everyone in it including chicken. He was hot pepper. When he did not let me go my grandmother reminded him that he had the warmth of his two wives, what did he want me to have in the cold of the night? That is what saved the situation. And I walked out of home immediately.
Sitting amidst those ghostly thorn bushes, I knew I had done no mistake. That is why grandmother had come. She came to get cobwebs out of my father’s eyes. She had come to make him see. I had to get where to sleep for I could only go back home the next day. Now it will be light. It is in the brightness of the sun that I planned to tell my father, if he could listen, that I am no longer a child. And there was no need for me to have thoughts of the devil running in my mind. I opened my eyes and could mark out the trees and bushes. The night had cleared, the storm had passed and it was becoming a clear night but it was still the night.
© Peter Oduor 2009
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