Snippets from my short stories
The day Mr Obama was elected President of the United States was the very same day that Ndi went to jail. I don’t know what significance I wanted this to hold for me, but at the time I convinced myself that it did, that these two unrelated but monumental events were proof of bigger things, proof that Ndi was destined for greatness. In sort of the same way Africa had convinced herself that this first black president of the great U S of A would be her saviour.
I wanted to convince myself of this, because Ndi had convinced himself of this. To help him deal with his fear, you see. He was holding my hand tight, in that little stinking room in that prison. Like he knew he was drowning. Holding on like I could save him. And I was biting my lower lip, trying so hard not to cry, to be strong for us both. His face was swollen, you see. Real ugly like, one eye was buried deep in the bruises, so that I didn’t know if it was puss or tears coming out of that swollen face. I hope no-one ever has to see somebody they love in that state.
He kept talking, and I kept nodding, even though I couldn’t make out what was coming out of those swollen lips. I kept rubbing his hand, kissing it, telling him it was going to be all right, even though I had no idea how. Ndi is the type of person who hates that ‘mindless type of hope’, as he calls it. He always used to say that, whenever anyone would say, ‘We must have hope, things are going to be all right, our country is going to be all right again.’
‘How?’ he would demand. ‘How is it going to be all right wena Mo? How will it be all right with you sitting here all day with your calabash? Will that make it all right?’
And on and on the shouting would go. And when things would get heated, a little too political, people would begin to disperse, mumbling that they loved life too much to die young, and Ndi would be left there, shouting like a mad man, those very things that one who loves life too much to die young must not shout.
It’s this character of his that got him into prison.
He was arrested for ‘inciting the public into violence’. He was caught distributing fliers that read ‘We are tired of government abuse, we are tired of suffering, we are tired of joblessness, of being lied to, of being bullied… we shall take to the streets!’
He wrote and printed the fliers himself, in one of his feverish states when he deems himself some sort of hero and says he is tired of being oppressed in his own country. And I begged him, did I not plead with him? To please not to do this. And he did it and now he’s in prison, and he has no-one.
So I stroked his hand and told him, ‘Everything will be all right.’
And he didn’t ask how it would be all right, instead he nodded, nodded over and over. And he mumbled something about being arrested on the very same day that Mr Obama was elected president and how it must be a sign of his greatness and remember Steve Biko was arrested too? And wasn’t Mandela arrested too? I agreed and didn’t point out that Steve Biko was shot and Mandela spent twenty seven precious years in prison and I wanted him all to myself and was too selfish to condone his heroism if it meant I could not be with him.
I hope no-one ever has to see somebody they love in that state.