Strokes of Memories – Abukutsa Moses
I thought it was love and so I never thought it would be mud, rain and a broken bottle of some whisky lying beside me in a ditch. I am in a ditch. Could I have been here all the time before today? Today I familiarly strode home from the school where I tutor, some one kilometre away. When I got to the house I found Lucy, our dog, with her tongue out and her ears drooping over her, eyes whining. Her food bowl was empty beside her.
The front door had its key in the lock and I needn’t use mine. I pushed the door to let myself into the house. You know, when I got into the house nothing shook my nerves more than the emptiness. I mean everything was gone. The wind swung the windows on their hinges and they groaned in some kind of protest. I collapsed on my haunches on the dirty floor as a wave of despair filled the emptiness. Around me, scraps of papers and leaves were flung in the wind blowing through the door. A man can only gasp and stand up on wobbly feet and some remnants of courage. I mustered these and knocked onto my three neighbours’ doors.
“It was a maroon truck.”
“And inside there was a man in a yellow t shirt smoking.”
“How did he look like?”
“He had a chequered skull cap.”
“I mean and his face.”
“There were two other younger men.”
And the story mutated into minor details at the next door.
“Three young men.”
“I think I have seen them before.”
“Where? And the man?”
“Both, I mean all the three.”
“Tell me about the man?”
“He was in a skull cap that looked like the shirt with boxes criss-crossing.”
“He looked happy.”
Then on the next door I am hit by thunder. Let me confess my other two neighbours are nice men and my agemates who have been smuggling radio batteries, milk and other contrabands from across the Ugandan border close to our township. I enjoy some mutual cordiality in our neighbourhood with them the few times they are around, otherwise they are never much around. If they are saying anything true only their wives can corroborate. But their beloved wives are coincidentally not around. Now, this third neighbour is a widow and my wife’s best friend. She has one child and runs a beauty shop in town. I rap at her door. She comes out and is a ballistic missile in my face.
“She is gone.”
“With my children?”
“You are such a disgrace to men. Beating your wife? You deserve worse.”
And she explodes the door in a slam, shutting my repugnant face from her peace and quiet.
There in, Lucy wagging her tail, in my wobbly step, in the slamming echo of that door and in ‘she is gone’. I drift. From the ground into the unknown.
The unknown is a ditch. My entire body is drenched. She has taken everything from me. Even modesty. Perhaps I am paying for my sins. I forgive her, but who will forgive me? I know, somehow, that she is gone like the breath of a dying man.
I’m in a ditch. It has been a while, enough time though to let the rain slap my face in its torrents. My legs are feeble, my trouser is drenched and my shirt couldn’t escape all this drama. It’s wet like fish. I have been whipped and lashed by my own thoughts waiting for the unsavoury end that is not coming forth. Maybe the chosen day has not come for this wasteful flesh? But the pain has not left my chest just as my mind has been wrung out of ideas by grim thoughts. Rain has never washed such a cocktail of sickening thoughts over the head of a man. I envy the lifeless whisky bottle.
Let me first confess I never thought it would heighten to this twisting of guts. This is me, with a family of five children and a beautiful wife gone. Well, that is me in a ditch. Now I don’t know what is going to happen. If anything is to happen, I have to see my children. If Rocena is to disappear into the world, she must remember that she has my children.
I am saying marriages are not picnics or night clubs where you dance your troubles and let them waft away in music. We who are married know this wisdom. But some things bump out of the distant galaxy and smash into our lives. I have never touched alcohol and that goes down three generations before me. But look at me lying in a ditch. I am here, my shoes filled with mud and squelching. The sound of love. My first drinking experience. And I thought it would do the job of permanently retiring my troubles. But here I am. Maybe I just might have a bruise on my left ankle or right ankle, a few damaged documents in my wallet and future colds for my respiratory system. As for now I am thinking of the next move. But I can hardly move.
Yet, last Saturday afternoon was such a great time for me, seeing my children play games and their mother arbitrate in their conflicts.
They played bricks for buses and themselves drivers. Two parallel toy roads on which the bricks ran in the dust formed a double circle. The drivers, five of them, took turns to speed the buses round the circles. Each did a skilful turn and flaunted some skill. The little of the five drivers did a trick. She drove the bus on its right side wheels at an angle. She was thrilled by her manoeuvre. The other drivers applauded her trick. But the fun did not send her screeching in excitement as much as it had done before. She stared at the circles of the two roads and the dust on everyone’s hands. It was fun, alright but not as much. Dust was all over their clothes, their faces and feet. They looked like clowns ready for a circus. The game of buses was their favourite. Four brothers and their sister.
“I don’t want this game,” she was bored.
“You never liked it all the time.”
I was overhearing them from under a mango tree where I was reading a newspaper as I entertained a colleague from school, our cups of tea steaming on a stool that served as a table.
“No, Tim that’s unfair.”
“Tim is right.”
“No, that’s unfair.”
“Yes, Tim, Jemo, Simo and I we are right.”
“Peter you are doing it again. You are ganging leaving me out to look like the spoiler that I’m not.”
“But you are always spoiling.”
And the girl started to cry and ran away into the house where their mother was. The boys were left preparing for what would follow. And it came quick. Their mother came and pinched their ears.
“Let your sister play.”
I sipped from my tea cup.
“But mum she doesn’t want our game.”
“Just let Precious play or find another game where she plays comfortably. Four against one, don’t you see she’s alone. She is a girl and you are boys. Good boys treat girls well. You hear me.”
My visitor sipped from his tea cup.
The boys got the correction.
After this unanimous chorus, Precious grinned triumphantly. They all settled on a new game. I grinned at the tactical move my daughter had made.
“Mum said papa will buy me a new dress.”
“Tim, he will buy us sneakers.”
Tim nodded. They were now playing marbles.
“But papa will buy me a dress first before he buys sneakers. Papa you will buy me a dress?”
“I will buy something for all of you.”
“You are selfish. Tim, Precious is selfish.”
“I’m not selfish. Tim I’m I selfish?”
All that now in this ditch. Going down the culvert in my thoughts. The rain has stopped, only flashes of lightning cross the sky and thunder tears into my ears. It is dark around me. Over my head I hear sounds of rushing cars honking. When I try to turn my head it hurts but I get a glimpse of some car lights a few yards up from the road down into the ditch where I fell close to a culvert.
Then I hear voices rushing towards me, feet thudding like my heart beat.
“He is alive.”
About three pairs of strong hands hook me up from the ditch and climb up to the road. They lay me on a wooden handcart like a sack of potatoes. Two men push as one man steers the handcart. I close my eyes and fall into a deep sleep.