I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

The face of grief_Michael Thang’wah

images_Africa Teller 2003.


The banging of doors and the cocking of the guns all of a sudden

stirred the cool air of the sleeping night. The entire room was sprayed

with bullets leaving my dad in a pool of blood – dead, and my already

blind mother wreathing in pain: the pain of a traumatized and crippled

spirit; the pain of an uncertain future; the pain of delayed justice –

justice denied.

She had gone through thick and thin in her life. In her tender age, she

had told me, she often fell a victim of incest in the hands of my uncle.

In school, the head teacher would summon her to his office in the

name of giving her small tokens as a compliment to her success in

class and a superb performance in extra – curriculum activities. She

really was the perfect lady, but whatever used to go on in that office

left my mother feeling dirty, useless and misused.

Despite her qualifications, she could not get a job. She went from

office to office but the demands were the same: her certificates and a

bribe. She turned out to be on the ‘advantaged side’, because she

happened to be a woman, to quote the would be employer. She had to

meet his needs to win the favours and acquire the job she desperately

needed. To qualify, she had to pass a bed interview and satisfy his

lust. This she underwent, with frustrations and humiliations.

Life with its twists and turn knocked on my mother’s door after

becoming pregnant and the ditching by the boss. She was left to rot

alone in the land of oblivion. No one wanted to associate with her,

and this left her living hand to mouth; at least to maintain the

pregnancy. Everything turned out to be a dark tunnel with no spark to

quench the traumatizing darkness.

Life became unbearable to her as she gave birth to me. The world

welcomed me with its cruelty and hostility. In her desperate search

for a better living, she gave in to a marriage proposal to become a

second wife. At first, life became promising and enjoyable.

Nevertheless, things started to turn upside down. It became a cat and

mouse chase with my mum and dad busy hedging their bets by

supping with the devil, forgetting that to do so, they must use a very

long spoon indeed. Quarrels with the first wife, a non-supporting and

hostile husband, and mockeries; all this she persevered for my sake.

Am I a child of a lesser god? A destitute? Life at home was

characterized by poverty, with my parents ever in a ring – fighting

over a life gone sour and as a way of releasing economic stress. It is

in one of these fights that the eyes of my mother were gorged out by

my drunken father.

I bet life is cruel. After escaping my mother’s poisoning ordeal, I

have to deal with a life of loneliness. I could not stomach the pain,

yes, the pain registered on the swollen faces of my dead brothers.

Little did I know that a gang had been hired by my mother to make

sure that the soul of my father knocks at the door of hell; never to

come back.

No sooner had the murderers left than the sirens were heard three ridges

away. My heart started shivering, weakening with every beat. I could

not wait to see my mother being hurled into the police vehicle. The

instinct in me told me to flee, and off I left to an unknown destination.

Who need remember the day I was born? Why was I conceived in the

first place – to suffer? Why was I not a stillborn? Now I should be

resting in peace!

I wish I were dead and join the celestial world. There, the wicked rule

no more; the weary find rest. No more shouts of the oppressor are

heard. No class division, no status, no suffering.

What this world really my home? My only food is sighs and my

groans pour like water. Whatever I fear come true; whatever I dread

befalls me. My torments banish rest. The very things that my appetite

revolts at are now my diet in sickness. Like a slave sighing for the

shade, I have months of futility assigned to me; nights of suffering to

be my lot. If I say that my bed will comfort me; my couch will lighten

my complaints, I am frightened by insecurity and terrified with threats.

If I decide to stifle my complaining and wear a smiling face, fear

seizes me at the thought of my woes. If I wash myself in dusty sweat,

the world plunge me into the dung – hijacking and enjoying my

sweat. In pain I am left to toil. Is my life of a doomed destiny? Who

really need remember the day I was born?

The cloud is so thick and dark,

That nothing seems to work.

It is a thorn in the flesh,

A heart thrown into the trash.

Every cloud adorning a silver lining?

Why the cover the outer ring?

Leaving my eyes so blind,

That my vision is banished.

The pill is too bitter to swallow,

Rejection penetrates to the marrow.

The pill of insecure domain,

In pain I call to alert the nation.

Dirty and tatty,

I am no longer valued.

Tears have made my cheeks swampy,

Sorrow being my food.

Is it really my fault;

That I have to roast in the furnace?

My life remains a very long night,

Not even with a spark to quench the darkness.

Diseases to fight,

Poverty to erase.

At full of spite,

Bad governance to compromise?

The law of the jungle to embrace?

Each face turns to gaze,

With murmurs filling the air.

Fingers pointing with craze,

Yet no one seems to care.

Hauling me in a booze,

Stripping my heart bare.

Life is unfair. While I live hand to mouth, in abject poverty, with tears

ever wetting my cheeks; others wine and dine, soaking themselves

with tears of joy: affording a three piece meal for their pet dogs, with

frequent snacks to keep them going. But I, their house help, sleep in

the store and on a mat; eating of the remains of their plate, if any. I

overworked to earn peanuts. I bet life is unfair. Why do I have to toil

and my sweat benefits another. I fear to rise and speak, because

though crippled by poverty, I want to live, for my heart is strong.

Is it by fate that we live? Now I am in the streets with nothing to

survive on. People are all over but no one to look at me – they see me

as a threat. I stare with sharp eyes; eyes that are in need of love. But

no one seems to care. All I get suspicious stares, pretending that I am

not talking to them; and the pace is the same, quicker and quicker,

they pass by me.

I sit by the pillar, in haunting loneliness, in that busy street, with

much hopes and wishes. I look forward to be given a love look;

accompanied by an invitation, “will you mind sharing a meal with us

tonight?” Gracious heavens, such invitations are rare, if any.

My dreams are shattered.

New wounds are opened.

No one to give me a smile.

No one to go with me the second mile.

All they can offer me is a frown,

Causing my spirit to groan.

I wait at the traffic lights,

But what do I get?

Serious men and women,

Hooting for the lights to turn green,

So that they may speed off,

And avoid dirty idiots,

That is what they call me.

I swallow that bitterest pill,

Cursing the day I was born.

They only see the tears,

But do not feel the pain in my heart.

I stretch my sticky and dirty hands – begging,

With high hopes of getting a coin from the passersby.

But no single coin,

No dropped morsel in the rubbish bins.

All I see are speeding Benzes,

Yes, all types of models.

No one seems to notice my presence.

A shadow has been cast on my bright hopes.

I am growing up unloved and despised!

The nights in the streets are a menace. This is the time that the animal

instinct in men pricks their ego with so much force that they can do

anything to satisfy it. I dread the sight of men. To me, all men are

beasts. What can you call a rapist? He maimed and deformed my

innocence; like a hot iron that burns any surface, he defiled my eight

years old innocence. Under his strong and bearded chest. I was

hopeless and helpless, putting up with the rough surfaced floor.

A choked yelling won me a hard slap; a hard sobbing could not move

him. He gulped and gasped for breath as if he was out for an

adventurous horse ride, not minding my tiny-ness. He was busy

defiling me to the core with no shred of shame, nor grain of mercy.

I was left there on the floor with a deformed womanhood. This

awakened in me the bitter memory of my tender days; the rejection I

received while in my mother’s womb and the emptiness of not having

had a father figure. Time did not bring healing despite the later

marriage of my mother to an alcoholic husband. I hate to whisper, ‘he

used to rape me, with threats.’ Fifteen years later, I am still

traumatized, living with it like yesterday’s.

Fate forced me to venture into a life of vanity. It shortened the

memory of my experience in the hands of men and I found myself

back in the streets; this time earning good cash on my own account. It

became a life of pleasure and pressure. I could have it hot or cold,

with anyone or anything – just for money. So many a foetuses went

down the rubbish pits in efforts of sustaining and retaining my

attractive figure. With thrills and fantasying pleasure, I earned a

living; but not without AIDS. Now my living is unpredictable. With a

skinny body that looks like that of a mal-fed chameleon, with no

vigour and no hips to swing; with a defaced womanhood and death so

violently peering – life is no longer the same.

It takes time to heal the yesterday’s, and much patience to wait for what

tomorrow will offer. With shelved dreams and frustrated hopes, I fear

to keep mum; I dread to rise and speak. Why is nature so cruel? Lying

in bed I wonder “when will it be day?” No sooner up than “when will

evening come?” This thought tortures me, living me in silent rotting.

Is this why I ever lived? To lie here helplessly waiting for death to

curl me back to the soil? Too near to the people, yet too far from their

acceptance; no iota of humanity is shown.

I wish I could rewind my teenage years! I would work tirelessly to

reconstruct my life. I wish you would heed my call! It is now, lest you

fall in a ditch to be alone without love, helpless, and desperate – in

silent rotting.

The old dustbins are smelly, the underground water turning bitter. The

pillars are loose, how will the building stand? The spilling of the trash

sweeps me to an endless pit, leaving me breathless and in suffocation.

Never wish to share in the cup of pleasure; it is too thrilling to call it

quit, it nonetheless spits venom into your entire being escorting you

to the grave.

Dewy morning with ‘blood’ all over,

Cry blood of a deserted spirit.

Vested in black the grief to cover,

Mourning a life gone to waste.

Fare well our dear sister,

A wound you left no one to heal.

You never merited dying in flatter,

Fare well, meting again we will.

“We shall overcome,

Yes, we shall overcome some day.

When the human race will swim in the balm,

To heal the history and live in the day”.

Is there a Lord who reigns beyond history?

Such is the one we should seek!

He is the Healer of our folly,

The mover of our lost luck.

This is the wailing in so many hearts. All are looking forward for a

ready and willing heart; a heart that can offer solace and meaning in

life, a heart ready to go out of its way for the sake of another. Who

will cure the world of this cancer of corruption? Who will curb and

arrest this dreaded disease, AIDS. Who will heal the brutality in the

families? Is there a solution to all this defects of life? The answer is in

our hearts.