I sat down facing him. I wanted to look at him as he talked, trying to read his emotions. This was going to be one of the wonderful talks we would ever have. He had invited me to lunch.
Juma wore a long Ankara shirt with prints of Africa all over it. It had that homely welcome though we met at a restaurant in the city center. He had his favorite pair of black khaki trousers on with the safari boots. He always had the boots on when in a relaxed mood. Today seemed great.
The sun was slowly setting in the West and a faint silhouette image of the moon was appearing. There was a slight breeze which was appropriate after a sunny day. It was 16:57 in the evening, 3 minutes to five – a time those in private sectors were leaving their offices. It was such a great scene to see like the migration of the Serengeti. People were in large numbers going home only for them to await tomorrow for another migration to their jobs.
Juma looked at me and smiled. He was ready all I had to do was indicate my readiness. I had not seen him for over 2 years though he had maintained his physique. He crossed his arms lazily, disgruntled, and leaned in on the table.
Juma: 2 years huh. How are you holding up?
“Yes, though nothing much has changed. Why are we here? Anything, in particular, you want to address?”
Juma: Nothing really. Lately, I have been thinking, you know the real deal where you sit down by yourself and allow nothing to happen, where you let your mind to wander off into the fields, rivers, mountains, willows, and flowerbeds.
“What have you uncovered? What epiphany have you had?
Juma: I told you nothing. Nothing matters, nothing is good. Do you feel the paradox in that line ‘NOTHING IS GOOD?’ I only called you here to listen to you. I am incapable of thinking on my own. I want a spark. So what do you have in mind?
“Africa, I have drawn Africa in my mind: the feeling of its warm temperature, the richness of its soil, the wonder and awe of its wildlife. I mean Africa as we used to know it. Who ruined what we had?”
Juma: Africa ruined herself if we are to include her inhabitants. Her children slowly are killing her: environmentally, politically, socially and economically. Allow me to say this…
“Yes we did ruin her, but can the ruin be corrected? Can we really change the current state? Go on now.”
Juma: Yes we can but let me paint this picture for you. Africa was a mother whose children were young and had their own way of growing. Then her suitor came, the beloved. He seduced her, used her and dumped her. He was tall, with a brown complexion, he kept his hair long to complement his long nose. His language was strange though love is a universal language. In their relationship, Africa was convinced that her suitor knew everything, that her suitor had the best interest at heart. Oh, how poor was her judgment. He was only ready to take what he saw well in her while she was blindly falling for him. She was deeply in love with him that she could not see how her children were mistreated, how her body was injured daily in the name of love.
Meanwhile, he did what he had to do to get what he had to get and dumped her, by the time she realized the dumping was to happen, she fought back. She wanted him out of her sight and mind. Though his memories were deeply logged in her mind and body, she did her best to send him away.
“Huh, go on. I will get the whole idea once you are done.”
Juma: With him gone, he left her in shambles, not knowing what to believe in. Her traditions were corrupted, the way of life changed and in the wake of the moment, her children started defying her. She did not know how and when to get in touch with them. Each one of them had their own way of thinking. While she was busy nursing herself into health, her children kept the suitor’s traditions going. They hated what they knew growing up. They saw each and everything about their background as backward and unfit for the then society. Some of her children had been taken to the far away land that she could only dream of seeing them again and these children had children who hated her as their grandmother. They wanted nothing to do with her except when she was being praised of her uniqueness.
“Why do you think their hate grew?”
Juma: I am not done. Her suitor left her with bruises and he was not ready to pay for them, he also left her with a system in place to guide her children; a system so foreign that it was ruining, killing, maiming, creating chaos and confusing them. It was a system he had copied from his own land. He made it known that their own system was weak and unfit for them. With him gone, her history was slowly fading away and the only thing she could recall was the moments they had together, her surroundings were ruined, her body bruised from the battering and her mind tired from fighting the wabi-sabi wars. Years went by as she regained and started living on her own but from time to time her suitor will come back, check on the system, rattle her, then disappear. He made sure that he had opened her to other ladies around her and so her children started imitating as any growing children. Though her children copied everything in the weakness of learning from dressing, eating and anything they saw new.
“Still we haven’t gotten to the juicy part, have we?”
Juma: No, do you ever shut up. I am the one with the ideas now. Her suitor with his frequent visits managed to see her changed. She was glowing anew, she was shinning with a new flame which made him jealous. He wanted to see her suffer and so he hatched the plans. Knowing her weakness, her belief in humanity and her impaired sight in seeing the good in people, he crafted. He wanted to share her with another man and so when the right moment came along, Africa was in love again-this time with a short, well-built man. He was rich and ready to help Africa. Seeing his interest in helping her, she fell in love again and again. She loved the way he handled her, the way he talked to her, the way he would whisper in her ear in a deep but romantic voice. She wanted him all for herself. He was her dream man. The one.
“I know that feeling, I once fell in love and here we are.”
Juma: I know you did, but this right here was not love but a disease. Africa was sick, her love, her picture of love was tainted from the root of her family. His Asiatic accent did not bother her, his influence on her children was welcomed and seen as a step in the right direction. Sooner or the later the wedding bells will be heard, for Africa was getting hitched. She did not look into the man’s eyes deeply enough to see his hatred for her children, his enigmatic smile when she brought him food, his hearty laughter every time Africa wanted funds. Love blinded her, she saw the good in every bit of bad he had. She did not see her surroundings changing; all she saw was a new beginning. Doom befell her.
“Now you beginning to scare me too, we should have stuck to the love story, the heartwarming story.”
Juma: I say it as I see it, you can edit here and there to suit your feelings for now just let me be done with this. Sooner his demands started coming in, he wanted partnership in almost everything Africa owned, he wanted attendance to her business meetings, he wanted a share of her natural resources and he was insatiable. He wanted it all at once. It became overwhelming; his demands were more than those that could be met. Africa sunk in depression; she remembered the old days, the days of her single-motherhood. Those days, all she wanted was to take care of her children even in their death, the simple days, before men came crawling out of every hole that existed just to use her. She was done with the world, she was done with humans, all she wanted was to step into the darkness and let go of the control of her life.
She had been here for an eternity and life kept on worsening. This was her time to let loose of her reigns and just float around in the universe. She wanted to feel the scorching sun on her body, let the rain clean her dirt and still keep on surfing through the wind. She was tired and thus she released of every responsibility she had. She wanted to be free. In freedom, she swam through her children suffering. She was on her own with no cares of the world.
“Ah, do I have a chance to ask questions?”
Juma: No, you do not. Let’s go home. It was great seeing you, let’s do this in a year’s time.
Juma arose from his seat slowly like an engine revving to life, his bones crackled as he walked disappearing into the crowd. I looked at him as a tear rolled from my right eye. He was gone.