Challenge: Reply to Ken Saro Wiwa’s “Africa kills her sun”

Zaynah McAdam

AFTER SUNSET

Dear Bana,

It is sad that you wouldn’t get this. But I wouldn’t live with myself if I didn’t reply to your letter. Yes, I received it, and my uttermost shock of getting a letter from you almost matched the intensity of the sadness I felt after reading it. The more the reason I had to reply it. My bestfriend Bella thinks I’m nuts! Sitting here writing to someone who isn’t in our world, instead of enjoying the romantic thriller movie over popcorn like she is, especially since it’s our day off from work. However for me, this letter is a chance for me to bid you farewell, an act of friendship and fondness,  that of which we never got to explore to our fullest. I remember vividly the love and companionship that we shared. Happy moments they were, and I am glad I got to experience it all with you. That is why I have NOT forgotten you. I have always waited for the day we would meet again.

Just like you were sure the prison guard would get the letter to me, somewhere deep down within me I know you will view the content of this letter. I wonder if you will read it as many times as I read yours. I felt pain in my heart every time I did. An atrocious end to such a wonderful man. You were right; Billy was quite shocked when you shouted out your plea to him. As a High court judge, he was used to difficult cases, with long and no doubt dramatic court proceedings. Plus I had promised him a run for his seat. You wonder how I was involved? When you packed your bags and left for the Navy- your dad never stopped pushing you to join it until you did even though it broke your mama’s heart- I joined the school of law at UoN, University of Nigeria. Five years later I started practicing and it took me three years to start my own firm, Zole and Advocates. Billy envied my success in the Private Law world since he had joined the government courts. He was a class ahead of us in primary school, you don’t remember him, neither did I until we met in Law school.

I had no knowledge of where you were or how you were fairing until I got a call from Billy gloating over how he was going to be the judge in your case. That was when I appointed the best of us to represent you in court. I could not myself since I would have been emotionally involved with the client, you. Nevertheless, I brought everything I had to the table. I researched thoroughly, interviewed everyone I could and prepared all there was to use in court. I had planned to save your life and freedom if it was the last thing I did. So yes, Billy was shocked, but it was more from the fact that you gave up easily without a fight rather than what you had shouted boldly at court. I hadn’t planned to let you see me before lest I jeopardize the strong case we had built for you, but after your plea of death to Billy, I had to see you! That‘s when he chose to use his powers against me. He issued strict orders that you should receive no visitors nor food and water till the next day.

So no, I dint find out about your story on the copy of Guardian of 19th September that had Senator Okubo accused of stealing seven million naira, but way before that. I was completely stupefied to find what choice of ‘work’ you had turned to. Who would have thought, in a million years, that Bana Igodegbo of Adaora village would become an armed robber. What happened with Monica must have hit you hard. You were the most thoughtful and kind.. How do I know about Monica, you ask? After I opened my firm, I came across your name during a case which involved the Ministry of Defense. I asked around and was directed to your place. That’s where I met Monica, who was your fiancée. She wasn’t a good chap, that girl. Saw me as a threat and told me things I wouldn’t want to repeat. She then warned me to stay away from you. I dint want to break no family so I did. But during the investigation on your case, I found out that you weren’t happily married with kids, that she had broken off the engagement, aborted your child and ran away with the chief’s son. I would throttle her if I saw her.

What you dint know is that Monica had one brother, dismissed as Sergeant for looting one of the neighboring camps. Yes, Sazan was Monica’s brother. He must have taken pity on you for what his sister did and convinced you to join his gang. You were most vulnerable then; you had lost your job, your fiancée, and your child.

I agree theft and squandering of riches has been done by many, still is and will be for a long time; on different professions in every facet of our lives. But joining them and claiming that you are doing nothing different from the rest doesn’t help the situation. And guess what; Black is also the colour of the precious Obsidian and Tourmaline gems, the colour of the people of Africa the most fertile continent, and the colour of the sky at night, to let us see the sparkling stars and the bold moon.

I held my composure quite well, but teared up after everyone left at your funeral. Yes you had a funeral, that I made sure. After your death I claimed your body. Your pretty sculpture lies comfortably on your tombstone, right above your boldly imprinted epitaph, just like you wanted. Dear, the world isn’t bad, the people in it are. Tell Jimba I did shed a tear to honor him, in fact two.

Well my time is almost up. I have to rush to get this letter to the post office before they close up. Only thirty minutes left to… oh no, I don’t have any address, and you are no more. But I will keep it. Show it to my children and grandchildren; as we go on with this arbitrary battle. We will beat them, or die trying.

Goodbye my dear friend.

With Love,

Zole.

 Aris Anaenda Bungoma Alirudi

DARK SUN

Dear Bana,
Pictures of lifeless bodies with their heads covered in black gunny sacks laying on the dusty stadium graced the front pages of the local dailies. YOU LIVE BY THE GUN YOU LEAVE BY THE GUN was the headline that caught my eye and as read the story beneath thinking it was just another execution. Your name made my heart beat faster, my knees weak and butterflies in my stomach; the same feeling I had when we first met. I could vividly remember that day; it was supposed to be our special night when we could consummate our love. Dinner got cold as the candles burnt out; the rose petals wrinkled and the perfume scent only made me cry out more for you. Days turned to weeks then months then years but still every knock on my door turned out not to be you. The letters I wrote I went to Santa Claus I guess as I never got my wish and had been a good girl all along.
After weeks of agony emanating from your death I got a rather strange invitation that is your mothers. She had chased me away a day after your death. I wanted to mourn with her but she had given strict order to the guards to your palatial home not to let me in. she never liked me, that was obvious from the day you introduced me as your girl but that never stopped us from building our relationship as you always defended me with lots of jealousy a thing that made me love you even more. I half heartedly obliged to go and see her and that is when she showed me the letter you had jotted to me. Nostalgia over came me, of the college days and how we wrote countless letters to each other and professing mostly our lust then later on our undying love ,dreams and aspirations. But this time your words hit me hard and I couldn’t believe the once God fearing, intelligent, composed gentleman knew had turned into a notorious criminal. i got hysterical there afterwards nothing anyone could say would have consoled me. The thought that you copulated with a prostitute yet I had remained a virgin all this time thinking you would come back to me. I argued and fought with your ghost all day and night, you haunted me. Bana, in such an uneducated country where the level of illiteracy is sky high and ignorance is the order of the day, who will understand your actions. Only script writers and movie directors will tell your story not for the understanding of the societal ills but for entertainment and most importantly their box office ratings. Best seller novels will be written “in your honor” but that will be only a preserve of the scholars who will be dissecting your thoughts rather than empowering the populous. You always said that if you had to say something don’t beat around the bush, then why did you have to use metaphors and dramatic actions yet on one reads in between the lines but what is on it. Your bold and brave decisions needed an army of sorts to but you went onto war alone thus losing battle in the end. The position of power you were in was the best place to start, you were and intelligent person you would have found a way of maneuvering the system. I guess the anger in you led to your in poor decision making as error is to man.
I engaged the services of a local sculptor as per your request to make the stature of you to be put by your grave and it’s coming out beautiful. The three piece suit looks good on you; I had opted for you not to have a tie since you said it was manifestation colonialism: from the chains on our feet to nooses on our necks but then it was needed to complete the look. I also decided to change the text to be put inscribed on the tombstone as your epitaph to the dark sun because of the eclipse you brought to our lives. Why? Why would you want all this done when you are alive? Yes I do know you are hidden somewhere those tropical islands, maybe you even had your identity changed and have picked up some fancy accent to fool others but mainly yourself. Your dear mother couldn’t see me loose my mind I had reached the breaking point so she confided in me that you were alive, that despite of the brave face you had portrayed in the letter you were scared to death, crying for mummy’s help. So she bought your freedom at the expense of the boys in your gang; the ones you purported to help. You wasted lives incarnate bastard. Standing on a moral high ground with the holier than thou attitude yet you were shining a dark light on all of us. You were once the sun, we could see your good deeds but then you brought an eclipse and destroying our sight and yours in the process and now who will help the other cross the road? Africa kills her sun, then a dark sun it is.

I got voodoo doll of you which I used stick a pin every hour, to make you feel the pain you had caused me, that’s what the witch doctor said. But I stopped, so as to give myself a chance to gather the pieces of the life you shattered,Disappointed
Zole

Edwin thedivinebandit Mukabi

OUR SONS KILL AFRICA

Dear Bana,

There is no justice in this world as proven by how late I received your missive.
This happened almost 10 years later and I am not being defensive.
The greed in the society we lived in had proven divisive.
I tried to look for you Bana, when they came to question me, I was ever evasive.
I tried to find connections that you had on the Merchant Navy but they proved elusive.
Even the report I got from the prostitute from St Pauli was inconclusive.
I never heard of your stint as a clerk in the Ministry of Defense.
Thank God I did not because I would have seriously taken offence.
I knew the kind of person you were and you always spoke your two cents.
Your rage at the impunity in our government would never condense.
I would have enjoyed every moment while waiting for the battle of wits to commence.
As I laughed hysterically as your words built wisdom walls around them at their expense.

I find it amusing that you referred to yourself as a robber, a bandit or anything else you deemed fit.
I always considered you my own kind of Robin Hood, stealing knowledge from those who didn’t have use for it, my own Divine Bandit.
It was always scary for me. When I heard of your experiences with the police, I prayed that you don’t get hit.
I asked for help from the White Jesus and with my faith wavering I also turned to our fore fathers and for them an altar lit.
It’s a shame that considering how far I travelled on the run from the police that we never did meet.
And tears well up in my eyes as by your graveside, I hunch my back and there sit.
I grieve for the fact that you thought that you had to pay a price.
You never hurt no one and being too idealistic would have been your only vice.
They never knew that you and your friends were no richer than church mice.
And your only plan for the national cake was to make sure that everyone got a slice.
We were not horses to be content with imported or rather donated brown rice.
We had lost the game long before it started as they had fixed the dice.

You must remember how we used to laze about, but with the whole police force after me, I have grown limber.
After five years trying to be the game changer, I moved to the lovable country where they call the brave lion, Simba.
They did try to follow me there but they were a hospitable people and I will never stop wishing this was the same for you, Sazan and Jimba.
No one will ever sing songs of praise for the three of you as they will never find the right timbre.
On golden oaks they crucified their heroes without considering the price of timber.
Clearly the journey to the top of Mount Everest remains unbeknownst to no one else but the climber.
We live in a continent where almost everyone is dark skinned if not charcoal black.
Yet as you pointed out, we still associate everything bad with the color which shows that in wisdom we surely do lack.
I could easily see how all these combined could be the damned molting straw that broke the camel’s back.
And despite the childishness of this statement, we really do suck!!
Bana, my tears flow thicker than blood as the fact sinks in that your epitaph will only be immortalized in your letter but never as a graveside plaque.
I was deemed an enemy of the state and even in this foreign country, of me they still keep track.

I would love to have you smile from the other side of the grave, but Bana I have no children.
This was my own choice so please my dear do not label me a villain.
I looked at our continent, how our sons slit the throats of our daughters and mothers like chicken.
In their eyes full of anger and malice, I saw a true evil hidden.
I on my own had tried to talk to the few who would dare listen.
But as their evil brothers scrambled for their attention, I, being ignored was a given.
Do not be surprised when I tell you that what I speak of now has nothing to with our country.
It has become evident that our country folk are not the only ones who are hungry.
The hunger for justice has crossed borders to the rest of the African colony.
However, their definition of justice has filled the rivers with blood and as a punishment the Almighty has unleashed global warming and now our continent has become painfully sultry.
At the altar of their sacrifice, the political elite have thrown in their jibes, hooliganism, all and sundry.
My knees buckle at this but on my feet I have to die for the human community.

Bana, forgive me for the scenes that I have recounted.
I know you loved me despite the fact that you left me for all these moons and harvests that I have counted.
There comes a time…..you used to say……wait……..that was someone else on whose charred memory this phrase is mounted.
Nevertheless, I do believe that for all I have accounted.
I hope I am not a disappointment for what I have amounted.
In all this pain, hurt, stupidity, black self hate, the word LOVE has surmounted.
Four days after I got this letter.
I vowed to make a life better.
Notwithstanding my own, so I went to a children’s shelter.
I adopted the most adorable twins who make me smile as they stutter.
I could not change the world so I changed the person I had put on a tether.
In this world or the next, Bana, we will always be together.
Our sons, our leaders kill Africa.

Forever loving you,

Zole.

Jonathan Paul

A NATION BETRAYED

Dear Bana,
I have to admit that you caused me much pain and hurt for the best part of my life; forgive me, but honesty over-powered emotion nay, relief. The joy and reward of any woman is to enjoy life, surrounded by her children, and her children’s children…but I gave up that luxury in your pursuit. You were destined to be a great man when you left our slum, when you put our village of rusty tin houses in your past. We were both jubilant and fearful… the great city had robbed us of another; the navy ship sailing out, buoyed by the hopes of boys, soon to be hardened into men. Ah, the irony of life, the merchant navy kept you both alive and at risk of death.
I had to keep my promise; a promise to find you. So I searched everywhere, relentlessly. I knew you had not been back home since you left, and there were rumors in the drinking den that you had left the merchant navy, yet still, I searched. Even though I was frail and sickly, I made arrangements and travelled to the town to try and find you, news about you, anything. The city is a wild beast, untamed, it glared with such daunt at me, a poor shabby woman on a lifelong mission. I was never intimidated; I spent several weeks in the town, moving from the market place, to the bar, from the bar to an office trying to find any news about you. When the sun would fall, I would find a comfortable corner, by a building, and as the wall let out the heat trapped during the day, I would fall asleep, dreading the cold morning when I would sit by the roadside, begging for food before I continued with my quest.
My health was deteriorating and I had to return to the slum. I was sad that I could not find you, and the disappointment that I could not keep my promise, overbearing. But Bana, in our saddest of times, fate intervenes and sets a new course in front of us. After I got back, I went back to selling water by the road side, and in the heat of the day, a small boy gave me a newspaper to shield myself from the sun. At the end of the day, I carried it home and I was about to use it to light a fire when I saw your face in it.
It had been many years since I saw your face, but a woman never forgets…especially a woman who is scorned. Yes, for a while, I swore vengeance on you, you robbed me of the most intimate and precious part of my life…but life is comical, I had promised to find you and this quest had humbled an old bitter heart.
After seeing your face, I shouted with relief, tears welled up within me and my emotions overcame me. I shouted and wailed. Life in the slums, you know is a communal action; we know who steals, who sleeps with who and when. But most important, we know! My wails brought about a lot of people wanting to know…they crowded in my hut and after I was composed, I showed them the newspaper. I could not read, but the shopkeeper’s son who works for the newspaper in town was around and he read to us.
I was shocked after learning that you were in prison, that you were going to be executed in a day’s time. I prepared myself for another journey to the town….this time; I would not be intimidated by the town. By the first light, I was in the stadium, waiting patiently, hoping to see you, but praying that it had been put off. And when the three of you were marched to the stadium, a hush mood enveloped us. It was a rare sight as we watched, Sazan was it? Smoke away amidst an animated chat with you. It filled my heart with a sense of pride to hear you scream to the priest at the top of your lungs ‘Go to hell, you hypocrite, fornicator and adulterer.’ It filled my heart to see you looking at me, at the crazy old woman wailing her heart out as the shot rang out and echoed, masking the thud as your limp body hit the ground.
Bana, I have to say that seeing you once more gave me a sense of pride that I have not felt in a long while. The anger that I had reserved for you left my body through my tears as I had your letter read out to me…
Many years ago, I brought to this life a daughter…I have no idea who her father is, but she was the pride of my life, the joy of my womanhood and the hope for my future. I guarded her and provided for her as best as I knew. I took her to school and one day, she came home and told me that she had met a boy whom she loved. That is every parent’s fear, I was afraid that she had known the ways of the world and that I had forever lost my precious. She assured me that she had not, but she loved him very much. It killed me to watch her go through a heart ache since the boy left, but I was relieved that she could be mine again, that she could guard herself against men and their cruelty. Indeed, she did, she refused to acknowledge men for a very long time, but her heart had gone with that boy. One day, she beseeched me to let her go and find the love of her life, in great pains; I obliged and gave her all the money that I had saved up. Two days later, the sister at the clinic came to my house and told me that Zoe was knocked by a motorist and had been seriously hurt. She had not even left the slum.

At the clinic, with tubes running through her mouth, my daughter struggled to talk and said, ‘I am sorry Mother, please find Bana and tell him that I love him’ then she breathed her last. I swore to look for you, to find you and to make you pay for what you did to my daughter. But the journey of life is different; it tests you then teaches you. I came to see love in a new way…the love that you two shared and never knew it…I came to understand you two, to love you two as my own; to take pride in both of you. I refused to die till I found you…

I know that Zoe is waiting for you, I can feel it in my feeble crippled bones…I will die a woman who has felt love and undergone a transformation… I am now ready to die and meet both of you. Bana, you may find pleasure in knowing that your letter was printed in a new independent newspaper, everyone is talking about it. You may also find joy in that I was able to have your statue made, It stands high at the cemetery, right next to the statue of a woman seated, as if waiting for her man. Both statues are joined by a plaque that reads: Africa Kills her Sun.
Yours,
Mama Zoe
Morris Kiruga
GO TELL THE SPARTANS

Dear Bana,
I was pleasantly surprised, no doubt, to receive the letter. I received it ten years after your death, brought to me by an old frail man who told me he was your prison guard and had sworn to deliver the letter before he died. I must write you this letter, my flower, as a final act of surrender. Consummated love my Bana, is nothing more than a scar for which I would rather have healed than this pain of losing the only person for whom I felt palpitations. Heartache.
I must begin by confessing that I never made you the epitaph for I thought it did not befit you. I loved you Bana, but you fell, fell to the very whims of the system you sort to fought. You claim to have sworn to never kill, but stealing from a man in this economy is worse than to pull the trigger and drive a bullet through his heart. You sacrificed your lives that others might live, if only for so long. You bore ultimate responsibility and for that I must say you three were honorable men. Still, a man who chooses to take from another that which does not rightly belong to him wrongs this pitiful life and all that is right in it.
Must we die, Bana? Must we die like stray dogs?
Whether one dies by the hands of the police or his fellow men does not matter much now. Yesterday a mob set upon a man for the sins of his wife. The poor man, unknowing of his crime, wailed and begged for help but his neighbors turned a vicious mob would have none of it. He lived, but no thanks to the police who watched like crocodiles that have eaten to their fill. It is a precarious world this one, Bana, where a man and his wife becoming one becomes more than just about sharing a bed.
We are now akin to a mother whose son is the village rapist. She rests easy, even with the knowledge that he might turn on her one day and commit the indescribable. We look and shake our heads. Gaze as the grave slowly swallows the caskets of those lucky enough to have one. Can you imagine, Bana, even coffins are now a luxury? On second thought, I figure the government never bothered to bury you in one. Or a suit. We are happy fools now. Reluctant. Noisy. Greedy. Aloof. Apathy. Who cares really? Who cares that everyone loots? The few that do not are content with the knowledge that when the deities separate the wheat from the chaff, they shall remain as the few worthy grains. Must one be content with heaven if there be such a place? Is preservation of a soul more important than the dignity of life and your fellow man? Apathy, our disease, but we could not care less.
Where the king goes now, the hounds follow closely behind. Dressed in suits. London shirts, Hong Kong blazers, American belts, Cuban cigars. We exchanged one ruler for another, one master for his replacement. We are sold. Not to the highest bidder, as it were, but to the one who can sell us anything for the cheapest price and not ask questions about whether we eat our children and roast our dogs. We exchanged the devil who would hold sticks and carrots on one hand, for one whose only stick is to eat to his own fill, and to the many millions that must be fed. Is any better than the other, Bana? Is the master who feeds his servant on morsels from the high table any better than the one who lets his slave eat with the guests?
We pay the master, we pay the hounds, we pay their girlfriends, their sauna sessions, their trips abroad. With a smile we remit our taxes to the exchequer, heads bowed in awe. We walk around knowing that although our children sleep hungry and in pain, our leaders, voices of our freedom and sovereignty, are well furnished and supplied. What more could a good citizen ask for but the ability to make sure his leader is well-fed? Does not a well-fed master sleep easy? Does not a well dressed mistress allow her slave to sneak into her marital bed? Is not happiness the ham between the buns of life and love?
Religion? They have trampled on that one too my Bana. They always have anyway. Our grandfathers used to shake their heads every time they narrated how their first attempt at prayer had ended with the loss of their freedom. Now the middle-class citizen is shackled to a religion for which he or she worships nothing but the so-called messengers of deities. Whether it is the priest who lies on women as he casts away her demons, or the other one who looks to the red light districts to buy actors for his miracles, religion is a mere mockery now. The prostitute of St. Pauli, sage as she sounds to have been, would have made the extra shilling by making a testimony to reinforce our belief in Jehovah Rapha. Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses but now it has become more, it has become the leech upon their lives. The promise of heaven, a place where we shall walk on gold as angels make music from all kinds of organs. Glorious, divine, pure, the quintessential paradise for the wealth oriented man. All we have to do now is buy the Lord’s messenger a car, a plane ticket, a house, a gun, a wife, children, mistresses, servants, pets and a bible. All to allow him to go out and spread the message. For heaven Bana.
Where three brave men with stories and justifications fell by the bullet not stands two posts marking the rugby goal posts. To make a ‘try’, men have to place an oval ball between where you and Sazan died, directly above where Jimba refused to fall to the ground even after they riddled his body with bullets. How befitting for three brave souls, I always think, that men should run and chase after each other and an oval ball as thousands scream insults and praises where freedom died.
The Chief Justice died years after he condemned you and Sazan and Jimba. He died seated on his throne, delivering justice to a young mother who had dared kill a policeman who tried to rape her. He just stopped there in the middle of delivering justice and sat like a rock. Unfeeling. Eyes popped. He fell. The newspapers said no one moved for ten minutes. Eerie silence it must have been. As if everyone feared to be in contempt of a court whose judge had been killed by years of bribes, a blind eye to a vocation and bloody skeletons in every closet he dared look upon. His big stomach finally drove his heart to the beach where he had sent so many souls. Death is the great equalizer Bana. I am sure that if there is an afterlife, and you three have met the man, then you must know the story.
Sympathy my Bana, you would never get from me, nor pity or unconditional love. When we met by the stream so many nights in our youth, we promised to always be honest, even when it hurt. I will be honest Bana, I planted a tree, I went to the park and planted a tree, three trees, one for you, one for Sazan and one for Jimba. I thought it was befitting too because no one should live forever. I did not immortalize the Black Maria or the Dark Continent, I do not believe in the pain of death. Africa Kills Her Sun, Steels her Daughters, they now say. I once read an epigram by Simonides of Ceos, the Greek lyric poet in honour of fallen soldiers during The Battle of Thermopylae:

Go tell the Spartans, stranger Passing by that here, obedient to their law, we lie.”

I had it inscribed on the plaques next to the trees, but changed it to read

‘Go tell the Hounds, Stranger passing that here, obedient to their laws and greed, we lie.”

The hounds, they bay for my blood, for my money, for my sweat, my loyalty in times of war, my apathy in times of peace, turmoil and scandal. Death. Blood. Hounds. Ropes. I must stop writing now and push the table from my feet, the knot must be wondering what is keeping me for so long.

Your love, Always
Zole.

Rayhab Potentash Gachango

LOVE WON’T LET THE AFRICAN SUN DIE

Dear Bana,
I write this with tears in my eyes.  I got your letter today and it broke my heart at how you meet your end. You may be surprised to find out I got this letter two years after your execution.  Apparently it was found in your mother’s belongings when she died two months ago of a heart attack.  Apparently the letter was sent to the last address you had of me but I had moved.  So it was sent to the return address which was your mother’s address. Knowing your mother I am not shocked that she didn’t sent it to me.  She hated me from the beginning.  She didn’t like me.  She had plans for you and they did not involve getting married to a village girl, the daughter of the village drunkard.
I am sitting at my home watching my son Kevin play with my husband outside.  They are playing chess.  They both play with passion.  I think soon Kevin will give my husband a run for his money.  He is very sharp like you were at that age. My daughters I have two, Angela and Rachel are playing house near where I am seated.  I feel blessed to have a man who loves me and adores me and three beautiful daughters.  I didn’t always feel this lucky at one time I felt I was cursed with a streak of bad luck.
I can’t even imagine how it must have been.  Execution by gunshot.  I hope it didn’t hurt my darling.  I can’t believe that you, Bana the hope of the village died like a common thief.  I am trying to understand how that boy from the village became so hardened and decided to become a criminal. I find it hard but Bana, I too have done things that made me feel ashamed.  So I cannot judge.  We all do what we can to survive.
As I said I got your letter from your mother’s belongings.  Your older brother sent it to me.  It had been opened already.  Your brother said your mum had opened the letter and read it.  She then became very bitter that you wrote a final letter to me but you couldn’t send one to her.  She said that I would never get the letter as long as she was alive.  Your mother never liked me.  She looked down on me.  She thought I was a no good girl trying to trap her son.  I know you would defend her and say no she would never think that.  Thing is Bana I heard her one day when I came to see you.  She had venom in her voice as she said bad things about me.  But that wasn’t as bad as the things she said about me when I came looking for your address a few months after you left for the navy.  I needed to talk to you urgently and she refused to give me your address.  I have a feeling that the letters you and I wrote to each other through your family’s post box were never delivered.  Your letter to me proves it.
You remember the night before you left we went down to the river.  To that spot where we could see the river but there was a shelter of trees.  We used to go there and you would hold me.  We would tell each other our dreams and hopes.  We would talk about getting married when you left the navy, because you would have enough money to build me a modern house.  I was going to finish teacher’s training college and come teach the children in the village.  I would redeem our family name.  No longer would my family be the laughing stock of the village.  It hurt you know, being called the daughter of the village drunkard.
It started innocently.  Us kissing and caressing.  It was great to feel your body next to mine.  My heart would beat so fast and my palms would get so sweaty.  I liked, no loved your touch. I liked having your hands, rough from the work on the farm running over my arms, and thighs.  I always wore short skirts when I was going to meet you.  I remember how you used to love my legs and full African figure.  We would touch and kiss each time going a little further.  But I remember how I was ready to be yours totally but you said we should wait.  You didn’t want me to shame my family any further.
In your letter you said we never consummated our love.  Bana we did.  That last night when you carried some locally made palm wine and food for us to enjoy.  We danced and drank wine and danced some more.  Then we started kissing and making out.  Bana I wish I could say that I remember what happened that special night but I don’t.  I think we got too drunk and got carried away.  The next day I was sore when we awoke but I thought nothing about it. We said our passionate goodbyes and parted ways.
Three months later I was in teaching college and I started feeling nausea.  I thought nothing about it.  I thought it was something I ate.  I took some medicine for my stomach but I kept feeling sick.  Finally I went to the dispensary.  When the nurse attending asked me as I filled in my form when my last period was I couldn’t remember.  My periods hadn’t always been regular and I was depressed over you going.  When I said that it had been awhile she wrote me down for a pregnancy test.  I wasn’t worried.  I knew it would be negative.  So imagine the shock when I received the results and I was pregnant!  Pregnant,  How by immaculate conception!
Bana I was so shocked.  I cried for three days and didn’t attend class.  I wondered how this had happened.  I had never slept with any man including you. I was a virgin. You were the only man who I had let anywhere near me.  I could not understand it.  I prayed for God to give me answers but he was silent.  In those days if you were found to be pregnant and not married you couldn’t stay in college you had to leave.  It’s like they thought you had a contagious disease and would infect others.  So they kicked me out.  I felt broken.  But I had hope.  I knew that if I explained it to you, you would understand and come back we sort things out.  You knew I was a good girl.  I would not have told you that you were the father if you weren’t.
So me, naive girl that I was went to see your mother.  I told her that I needed to send you a letter.  That I was in the family way and you were the father.  Your mother screamed at me that I was a slut.  That I was only trying to trap you.  She said that I probably got pregnant by one of those college boys and that I wanted to frame you for the crime.  She called me a prostitute and other names.  She said I would never never see you.  That I should go to the village midwife and get myself rid of that burden.  She actually took a broom and hit me, pushing me out of your compound.
I went home, my head hung in shame.  My mother cried but she accepted my pregnancy.  My father wanted to throw me out but mother stood her ground.  That was the first time I ever saw my dad listen to my mother.  When I had the baby, I was in labor for 13 hours.  My baby was born and he was 4.8 pounds.  A strong boy.  And he looked like you.
After six months of looking after my son an auntie of mine got me a job as an untrained teacher.  I wasn’t paid much but it was enough to survive and take care of our basics. After two years the school forwarded my name for training in a government institution.  I had to leave my son behind with my parents but I used to come home over weekends and holidays.  It was hard leaving my son but I had to.  I had tried looking for a way to get in touch with you but your mother had warned your family against helping me so no one would give an address to find you at.  I finally gave up.  You have to understand that I wanted you to know but there was no way to get in touch with you.  It’s not like nowadays when everybody has a mobile one and more people have post office boxes.
In my final year I met Ken.  He was teaching at the college and carrying out research among the students.  He had a degree in education and he was doing his masters.  He tried to talk to me but I wasn’t interested.  You have no idea Bana how single mothers are treated.  It’s like there is evidence that you have tasted forbidden fruit and you got caught.  Many students and teachers had tried to approach me for an affair but I wasn’t interested.  I had my eyes on the prize.  I was going to finish my education and go back and get a great teaching job.  My son’s future depended on me.
Ken kept on pursuing me.  He wrote me letters.  I tore them up. He tried to buy me lunch and I refused.  Finally he told me that he wasn’t going to give up.  He had found someone that he liked and he wasn’t going to give up.  I only went out with him to get rid of him.  But he was fun and intelligent so I went out with him again.  He had traveled.  He had been to many different places.  His family was rich but he wanted to make his own way in the world.  And he never pressured me to have sex even though he knew I was a single mother.  We talked about our lives, where we had come from, and where we were planning to go.
Soon I was finished.  I went back to the village.  But Ken kept writing to me.  One day he turned up in the village.  In his car no less.  He found out where we lived and he came there.  He told me to enter the car we go for a drive.  He asked our son to go with us.  We had fun that day and he bonded with my son.  When we went back he asked me to remain in the car so that we could talk.  He asked me to marry him.  He was willing to raise my son as his own.
So now here I am at our house outside are Ken and Kevin playing a game.  Yes Kevin is your son.  He reminds me so much of you.  The way he laughs, his facial features and how he articulates himself.  But he has also gotten other characteristics from his adopted father.  He doesn’t know that Ken is not his father.  We haven’t told him.  I know I will have to one day but let him reach at least 18 years of age.  Besides which if he asks me if I told him right now that you’re his father and he asks to see you how do I tell him you were executed as a common criminal mastermind.
Ken is a great man.  He paid for me to go to university when we went to the USA for him to do his PHD.  I am currently doing my masters.  It was one of my dreams remember.  But nothing is as fulfilling as being the mother of these three beautiful children that I have.  I love them so much.  I love Ken as well.  It’s not the love that I felt for you as my first love but it’s a great enduring love as well.  He makes me happy. Our marriage is what I had hoped ours would be Bana when you came back from overseas.
I wonder what your mother said when you asked about me.  Whatever she said it must not have made you hate me.  The letter you wrote to me is evidence.  I think your mother was angry that even as you headed for the grave your love for me was still strong. That’s real love it cannot be destroyed by distance or time.  I loved you at one time with all my heart and I am heartbroken that you exited the world in such an undignified way.
I will honor your wishes about a statue and gravestone.  Both for me and for your son who I will one day give a copy of this letter so that he may understand that you were not a bad man.  I will put your epitaph as well “Africa kills her sun.”  My darling I hope you are now in a better place.  I hope you made your peace with God before you died.  I will say a prayer for you tonight.  Sleep well my first love. I hope the next world brought you better tidings then this one.
I must go.  My daughters want to go out and play with their dad and brother.  They say I have taken a long time writing my letter.  But how do you say goodbye to a ghost of the past?  I don’t know.  Maybe one day we will meet again as souls in heaven.  Life didn’t turn out the way we planned Bana. But I know I am still grateful that I have another day to see, another sunrise to meet, another sunrise to say goodbye to.  I weep for you but I rejoice for the blessing that is your son.  Africa kills her sun, but tomorrow at dawn another will arise in his place.
Yours in love,
Zole.
Magaria Gragory Nyauchi
AFRICA KILLS HER SONS, STEELS HER DAUGHTERS
Dear Bana,
I have thought of you too, often and long. On dark nights when hope was nothing but a memory, a fling I once had with a faceless stranger who moved on to the true love of his life leaving me down in the dregs. I am not the girl who you wrote this letter to, life is too cruel and strange to allow any of us to continue untested and untried all that’s left to us humans is to remain forever untrue.
A few years after we met I became a prostitute; I thought I could be amoral and divorce the act from the emotion demanded by it. Once a young man came up to me, he was obviously lost and he sat there as we finished and his face was blank. He asked me my name and I told him one. He tried to talk to me and I could tell he was one of those people who believe that sex leads to truth, that the conversation had after is the only true time of fish in golden ponds. It hurt me that I couldn’t give him this; it hurt me that I couldn’t give it to myself. It’s not that some people choose to be prostitutes it’s that life chooses some people.This is why I can’t judge your life doesn’t give us all choices. Not here, not anywhere. When we knew each other I had such high hopes for you, I prayed the war wouldn’t kill you but it seems like life did or Africa did long before the bullets cut you down.

This letter seems pointless even more an exercise in futility than the one I got from you but I always said I would reply if you wrote me. Happiness is found more in memories than in actual moments. It touches me that you would remember me at what may be the most important time in your life as the clock ticks slowly and more surely than it ever has before. As time approaches clad in the black, dusty shoes death can gift it. It makes me sad but it makes me happy in a way that I can’t explain. It’s as if with all the misery surrounding me now life only means something when am morose, it’s morbid but it’s all I have.

Before me stands the picture you asked of me. I can see the sculpture in my mind’s eye. He is as I had imagined you would be. Bent over his stick clutching to it as word clutches to truth, sure that faith ingrained in its fibres will be enough to lead it anywhere. I can see how the sculpture stands now and I added some details to your description. I can see a pond and fish playing at your feet, I can see you surrounded by golden rays of sun as another day arrives to say hello to the Dark Continent. It can be as you would have wanted it.

The thing that makes me saddest is that I could keep a promise to your friends but not to you. I cried for Jimba and Sazan and you. I read the newspaper the day after you died. They reported your shouting at the priest, a sensation, a scandal, a soul to hell they said when it was just that all the words you had spoken rang so true. I saw your friends beside you and I cried the tears of a young woman, tears born of a young love.

Your sculpture can be as the girl you wrote the letter would have had it but that is not me anymore. It is not only her sons that Africa slays and it is not only in the eternal night that we can lose ourselves. I am glad that you turned to me as a shelter from a world that I couldn’t shelter myself from. I am weathered, withered and grey. A bitter old woman before her time and bitter old women cannot give way to sentimentality, not in a world this hard not in a place this harsh. I am sure you would understand for what is my taking of the money except just another bank robbery? It’s not that I have to explain it to you but there is some taste of the bitterness of life in why I needed the money, the day I received your letter was also the day I received the news that I was pregnant. As I wrestled with that Sazan’s words rang through me. And this is what I need the money for I will not give this world another son or daughter who turns into you or me. A life lost before it is lived, I will not.

I read about the official who stole 7 million. As you lay asleep, eternally a-slumber it came to light that he had stolen a lot more. Our electricity grid, the beacon of hope in all this desolation was a myth. It has disappeared as so many things do into the gloom. Africa kills her Sun but leaves it so much harder, colder and darker for the rest us. And the worst thing is that even the best of us are still the worst of us.

Your epitaph you will get. That much I can give. I am sorry for the rest but while Africa kills her sons she steels her daughters.

Yours, Zole.

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