Hey y’all Kings and Queens 👑
Welcome to this new segment about everything and nothing and finding in the in-between, something real…someone, a tribe, a purpose, a sense of belonging, those soulful ties and the ultimate conviction that there is so much more to life than just living…
This is a work inspired by true events, certain aspects have been slightly fictionalized and some names as well as identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
This first part is for everyone who has lost a loved one or is dealing with some kind of pain, hurt, frustration, anxiety….for everyone in need of a friend or feeling alone and lonely, lost even, without a place to belong, with no one to hold, it’s for the wanderer searching for their tribe, for everyone facing a crisis of faith and for our mothers who remain anchors in the face of a storm.
This one is more about life, than it is about death.
Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.
His lively, smiling middle-aged face would not leave her mind however hard she tried to shake it off. Stiff and her knees weak with shock, she froze, disoriented and unable to process the words that had just been spoken to her.
‘D- did I hear you right? He’s…’
‘He’s no longer with us. We just heard.’
Just then a warm feeling of gratitude engulfed her chest, thankful that she heard it not from the news or from a different source, but from a voice that already knew and understood the language of her heart. A voice that spoke gently, quietly. A voice that was an anchor. A voice that remained strong (even though she could sense that she’d been crying.)
Silence rang loud for a few more seconds, then the next few minutes. An ashen look plastered her tired face – which she hoped wouldn’t show under the quick make up routine she’d found necessary else the dark eye bags and her drooping face would call for her isolation as the first (probably the first) known zombie.Restlessly, she started pacing, hovering on the sidewalk of the busy street feeling invisible, like a ghost. The streets didn’t stop for her or allow for the gravity of the news to sink in. Her heart didn’t break any quieter. In fact, it seemed to break louder these days. The already shattered pieces broke harder. And still her heart broke in deafening silence – only she could hear her own screams.
Better the pain than nothing at all, right? Better to feel than to be numb.
Her face burned up with nostalgia, the corner of her mouth twitching ruefully. An overwhelming knot tightened in her throat and her chest clumped, making breathing difficult. her heart responded in the affirmative. Thud! Thud! Thud! Better to feel…better to feel..
But in her mind she knew. She knew there was nothing good about feeling because always meant you could be broken. There was some good in it, just nothing good about it. She longed to feel good and she was weary of the long wait. She could have sworn that her channel was blocked because her prayers weren’t getting through, and now she mostly wondered who she was even praying to.
It was all ugly. And a broken heart was always the perfect recipe for a broken, damaged soul. It was no surprise that most human systems in the world were equally broken. She was resigned to the fact that there was little that she could do to change the world…even just around her. She wanted to, wished she had the power to – a magic wand that would undo all the hurt, plant love in people’s hearts; plant more trees, gardens, flowers and reap the fruits of kindness and peace, patience and goodness.
Of importance was that in her own ways, she tried. Her goal was to leave a mark, to be remembered for something good in a crazy world. It was where all the broken hearts went. Not home into loving arms, but back into a crazy, broken world.
Everything was loud. The day itself seemed to be growing louder and clearer as the first sunbeams finally tore through the dark clouds, quarter to 3 p.m. The money was growing bigger, moving from accounts, pockets, phones, machines and into new ones. Property gained new possession, the wheels kept turning, the engines kept roaring and churning. The streets went on, hustling and bustling – free enterprise at it’s peak. It was business as usual. So much that her country could actually be considered an entire transaction.
And yet around her, just where she stood on the sidewalk of a dusty, littered street, the air grew quiet and awfully stale with the stink of death. Like a blanket that was extremely warm and uncomfortable, rough and scratchy, it overshadowed the usually strong and appealing scent of the delicious fresh fried fish and chips from Mathe’s place, she could taste it on her chipped matte lipstick.
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She – Mathe – was the warmest and the oldest vendor in her section of the town. The heart of the market. She smiled often, ever so warmly with pure bliss glinting in her eyes it made a person believe in everlasting world peace. A world where there was justice. Proper health care. Free education. Equality. Unity. Equity. Love. Freedom. Friendship. She made a person believe it could all happen. That, was Mathe’s smile. Hers was a smile so pure, loving, gentle and kind; so profound, it could melt hearts that were as hard as rocks and break off the cold chains imprisoning souls devoid of love. Even though she was the most powerful and influential tycoon, she remained humble, said thank you almost in a curtsey and welcomed strangers into her home and work of place; gave work, food and shelter to countless young men and women who were desperate and hungry.
She barely spoke. Only ever used her words when she had to, normally, to impart sense.
‘You can’t remain a beggar in this life. Utakufa hoi. No one unwilling to work in this life finds anything to eat. Lazima ule jasho lako my fren. Na kama vijana, mtu asibague job. Kazi ni kazi. If you can work, I can pay.’ There was always food in plenty.
Only after Kristopher the town clerk limped past her did she step back from the darkness and into the light, back to life, into her reality, where she could still feel the stiffness in the air. She noticed first in Kristophers hand, a fresh chapo (steaming in the banned plastic bags) because she’d barely eaten all day. Her stomach grumbled as though to remind her it had in fact, been a few days since she’d last fed it a proper meal. Her eating habits were deteriorating and so were her hips which could barely hold the jeans that a month ago were way too tight she was starting to wonder how she’d sustain the cost of a new wardrobe. Not that her state of mind was any better then. Her case was that she either ate too much she looked pregnant with an entire generation, or ate way too little, when her mind took a dark turn.
Next, she noticed the three women on the bench. She craved what they had. She missed her own friends – her real old flames. While she was sure they were all happy, sensibly minding their own business because it’s 2019, but also, they were all looking her direction. It didn’t mean anything but suddenly she was aware. She moved, smiling briefly past them, feeling happy and at the same time sad. Their smiles back made her think that maybe by now her old flames had turned into ashes, way too cold and gone with the wind. Some bridges once burnt, could never be rebuilt. That was simply how life was structured.
Was it time to ready and till the barren fields for new growth? Was this her season to redefine, restart? Could she invest, cultivate in them?
She thought, maybe. Time would tell.
She thought about Letti. Again, her heart broke.
‘I gotta go Ma, I’m already late.’ The harder she tried not to think about it, the more vividly it came to her. His smiling face, wrinkly eyes, perfect teeth. His sermons way before power and politics breached the church, his heart and mind, replacing his rich theology with theatrics. She had left the church. Still, she could not forget his neat Afro and his open dislike for dreadlocks.
Life was like a magic trick, or a game of peek-a-boo. One minute you’re here, thriving, at your peak, next it’s boom! And you’re gone. Peak-a-boom!
And who knows what happened next? Did one wake up in another life? Did one sleep in the soil for eons, or for just a few hours, minutes, seconds…only to be woken up the Night King?
A cold sweat broke on her face and a deep sigh rose and presenting itself painfully to her mother on the other side of the line.
‘I know my dear. It’s heavy on all of us. Take it easy. Get back to work, absorb it and I’ll check on you later. Tia bidii.’
Silence. The line didn’t cut off. More dark thoughts…then a glimmer of hope. She realized then just how short life was. No one really knew anything. Not the hour or the day or the place or the how. Oblivion.
She wondered about him some more, laying stiff, alone, unmoving, cold and lifeless on the office floor. In a freezing chamber. In an instant human life could be reduced to a tag. She shivered. His smiling face again. Her mind kept rejecting the idea that he was gone. What had he felt, seen or thought about in his final moments as he went down, as he hit the cold concrete? Had he thought about his faith, religion, the church, the betrayal, Judas’ kiss on the cheek, the serpents? Had he the thought about his own deeds on earth? Had he thought about crucifixion, was that his own? Perhaps he’d thought about his wife, or the tithe.. Maybe all there was, is a prayer on his smiling face. Maybe he found peace.
No one was in control, it became more obvious. It didn’t matter that you were a high ranking clergy man with what most believed was a direct line to the Big Man. Priest or a terrorist, the most wicked man or a politician; the wealthiest and most popular, stinking of money and fame or the poorest….it didn’t matter in the end. Yote huwa ni vanity.
His smiling face.
‘I – siamini. Yani just like that?’
‘Just like that my dear. We all go that way. It’s nature. Just like the sun rises every morning and sets in the evening. There’s time to live and there’s time to leave.’
She didn’t want to think it, she fought hard not to, but still she lost to her thoughts as they came flooding. Something that was happening more often. She didn’t want her to leave. Not yet. She knew it was inevitable, she’d thought about the deaths of everyone around her, even her own. She didn’t want to die either, but it wasn’t optional. The prior knowledge of it didn’t mean anyone was ready for it.
Please, she prayed, still not knowing to whom or what she was praying. She chose to address the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (*of men) since He was the one her mother worshipped. Keep her safe.
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