Dear Life, Dear Death… (2)
Life and Death
I want to write to Life. I couldn’t find the address to write to Life; neither did I know who else to write this letter to, that’s why the letter doesn’t even have a physical address. In my darkest moments, before I had muscled courage to decide to write to Life, I asked around where Life lived.
“Where can I find Life, does he have an address?” Life then laughed at me, he cackled in sardonic humour.
“Are you crazy? I don’t have an address. Maybe you should write to Jamaal. I am in you, Jamaal, remember that! That’s the only way you might reach me.” Life replied me, and I couldn’t help asking myself how I could write to myself. How could I hear myself? I needed someone to hear me out, so I came to an understanding that Life was doing that usual thing of his, deflecting things off of his body. Because, between Life and Death, the two should know to whom this letter called. So, anyway, I decided to write to Life.
Some time ago, I was dealt a heavy hand. I know I would rest only when I have played all my hands out. I was twenty-five, Jamaal Mukonomushava is my name and, I have been such a wreck for some time. My life has been a mess. It got messed up; it is now almost three years ago.
I was born with this heavy hand; I was born in a family of an apostolic sect, Johanne Africa apostolic church. My father and my grandfather were of this sect, so I had to be of this sect. In my little village of Chibvuri, my clan people, the Mukonomushava people, the bulk of which, were of this sect of Johanne Africa apostolic church. It was as simple as that! The only problem was we were not allowed to access medicines, or even a hospital when we were ill. Which was another heavy hand?
“I could only use my pen to play my hands.” It’s the point I am getting at in this letter.
“Like that adage that the hammer only knows one thing?” Life enthused loudly. Striking the nail in and, everything else is a nail to a hammer, that’s what life is trying to say to me.
I only hope that Life gets this letter. I needed to write this letter because there is something that’s been a terrible torture in my heart and mind. It means, all these three years I have just existed, and people can exist on all sorts of levels. Breathing is not even the base for existence. I have existed this way; breathing, tortured peripatetic breathing, all over the landscape kind of existence. It’s now either I have to say it out loud or continue being weighed down by its corrosive hurts until God knows when? So, I start with the seemingly premeditated conversation with Life…
“Life…, you know that, not so long ago, she was here with me.” And, he replied to me, funnily enough, agreeing with me as if he really means it.
“I haven’t forgotten?”
“What haven’t you forgotten, Life?” I couldn’t ask Life that question, though. I needed to be sure we were on the same page, so I asked him about Dora, again.
“Have you forgotten her sweet chastity and warmth, Life?”
“I haven’t forgotten. How could I?”
I see Dora again in a vision, it’s a broad daylight vision I am having. She is sited under the baobab tree, in a floral creamy dress, light brownish pushovers, that gives some sense of gentle contrast to the fields. Unladylike, she is straddling on top of the huge baobab tree’s root, eating the baobab fruits. Dora is a sweet girl. I had known that; that she was a beautiful girl and for years, I have been lacking in courage to talk to her, but this day I find the courage as I sit beside her and talk to her. I am thinking of this day as I ask Life.
“Then, how could you do that if you haven’t forgotten her, Life. Why would you do that? What you did was cruel, Life?” I am not actually saying this aloud. Out loud, I could only ask him another premeditated question, again. I still wanted to know, why?
“Have you forgotten the true light she shed on my otherwise darkened life; the faithful and trusty shield that I leaned on in my times of troubles, Life?”
Those were the things that I liked…, loved a lot in her, more than anything else; they were the things I could have had if I had to choose. Back then, I didn’t have to choose. As if it was written in the stars, we were there for the other straight away. In no time we were in love. The next moment we were married. I was very happy as she got pregnant with our first tries. It was always happy times to be with her all through her pregnancy. Without preamble, the nine months of the pregnancy period came to pass but the child refused to leave her body. She became huge and huge like an elephant as the baby girl overstayed inside her body.
“I know you are going to talk about her body, her face? I haven’t forgotten that too, fool?” Life intruded into my musings. Such cruelty was in his reply!
“Bastard!” I exploded. I couldn’t help exploding, and then I continued, now softened a bit by this explosion,
“I want to talk of her sensitivity, her inspiring and understanding help, her hopeful disposition, as newer and truer as the spring’s sprouting lovely greens!” I softened a little bit more as I continued, “Her form, her face, these are just fleeting things, Life. So, I won’t obsess about them. It’s her true nature I have alluded to above that matters to me, Life and, It’s you Life who used to let me have all that.”
“No, it’s not me.” He blatantly disagrees with me. “It’s you who would have them, Jamaal. It’s you who lost them.”
“It’s you, Life…, you betrayed me!” I pushed it all the more.
“No, it’s Death who betrayed you.” He deflects pressure off of him, again. “You should have taken her to the hospital in time, not to believe that nonsense of your church, Jamaal.” I ignored the second part of that statement.
I was born into this church. It was not my job to create rules of worship in this church. I had to respect and follow my elder’s guidance. We were told going to school was a waste of time and resources, so I didn’t go past grade seven. After all, any higher would have been too tricky to reach. I couldn’t have known the importance of medicines, hospitals, doctors, etc… I had to help at home, too. Girls should be married before even grade seven, and to an old church elder, especially prophets so I was lucky to get Dora. The prophets also told us going to the hospital was against God’s teachings. I had also accepted that. After all, we were not allowed to read the bible, so we wouldn’t know what God says about it all. It’s only the prophets who would tell us what God wants us to do in the church. But, I couldn’t make all that a case against Death. I could only ask Life a pointed question this time.
“Do you mean the death’s thoughts that transferred into you, Life?” I queried him.
“No, Death himself.” He refuses to bow down to my accusations.
“She is the one who died, not death himself. She died, Life. Dora died!”
“People always die! Especially in your church, Jamaal; you must now be used to that yourself.”
“They all died, Life!”
“Why did you let Death take them away?”
“Let, I didn’t let anything, ask Death. I don’t let anything.”
“What? You mean I should ask Death why he took them away.”
“Yes, since you are so good at finding who to blame, why not?” I couldn’t accept that I had to blame myself, so I had to blame Death, as Life had encouraged me to do.
Dora really had to give birth unaided for the other woman in our church were doing that. Only by prayers, that’s what I had been taught, so I left her with the Midwives of our church to give birth. It was the eleventh month of her pregnancy when the baby girl now wanted to get out. Unfortunately, she was so small down there. Dora couldn’t force the girl out through the natural way. She groaned and whined with pain for three days without pushing the elephant girl baby out. I prayed and prayed. I begged and begged God to let my wife give birth, to release her from the pain, to have the opportunity to be a father to my daughter, but on the fourth day, she couldn’t see that day out. The baby girl came out as bits and pieces, like bones, as smelly decaying pieces, like clotted blood throughout that afternoon. Dora died in the evenings. They let me know about that the night of that fourth day; that Death had taken them away from me.
So, what Life is saying, is that I have to ask Death why he did that to me.
“Death, I haven’t forgotten the smile I would love to see again; lightening and electrifying.” I started tamely, not to put him off my case. I have to weave into it nicely, I told myself, after failing to get headway with Life. I had to change from the confrontational attitude that I took with Life.
“No, you haven’t forgotten, the arms, hey…” So exuding with sarcasm was Death, and I couldn’t help boiling, just a bit. “The arms, what arms?”
“Her arms, of-course Dora’s arms, Jamaal?”
“You must know I want to be enclosed in Dora’s arms and her hands all over my body, Death”
“… assuring, calming, soothing touches, hey?” I could have beaten this nonsense down Death’s spine. He was such an insufferable pig, but I didn’t want to be in his brood, yet. I needed answers first, so I tried to be reasonable, even though I bristled a bit, in my reply.
“You are making fun at me!”
“No, I am not. I am only acknowledging your truth.”
Your truth! As if there were many truths. I am the one who lost them, not many other people, or truths…, so my truth must be the truth to talk about here. After losing her I left this church and haven’t been to any church. I discovered they were a lot other truths in this church that I now found so naïve and stupid. This apostolic sect has, and it still has them, strange beliefs. They believed in polygamy. My younger brothers and cousins now have at least 4 wives each, and I am still alone. After Dora, I can’t think of anyone else. It’s crazy, maybe both ways. Like matrixes of the blind who always seek eternal forms; they also believe that even those problems that were not solved after praying, in their minds they are considered solved, like if someone dies, it was, just-meant-to-be-solution, or thinking. And, it was a belief that was as rich as sin itself.
This church would have its annual Pasika at Macheke, in the Mashonaland east province. We would go there, big families to spend a month out there meditating, or not really doing that. It was also an opportunity for the old prophetic men to parade their new acquisitions, new wives, and to drink lots of tea and battered bread, singing.
“Chingwa china majarini kuna baba.” ( buttered bread for the father.)
And the men will join in.
“Tinoda tii hobvu.” ( we want heavily milked tea.)
Altogether they will chorus.
“Wanzai chingwa kuna baba.” (Give lots of bread to father.)
“Nokuti ndivo vanotenga.” (Because he is the one who buys.)
“Vane ndebvu dzakachena.” (He’s got white beards.)
“Kunenge mupunga wakaoma” (Like dried rice grains.)
And their musical instruments will be their mouths, and they will create a sound into the wind like…
“Tururu, tururu, tururu, tururu, Tururu, tururu, tururu, tururu…” Trick voices to the wind, to wind up the minds of initiate members of this church.
After singing for some time, the sun hazy hot, a sun blast on our bald heads, and tail-like beads. And, I still have old boy’s beards, with worry of the past two months; it has become a little scruffy and unkempt. My towel-like-garment is slicking wet with sweat, bunched around my loins like a little kid in pampers, the legs sticking out from these pampered garments like matchsticks. I am so thirst from the heat of mid October. I am disturbed, in this October midmorning; the midwives have told me that Dora has entered into labour.
They told me not to worry, but her pregnancy for the last two months has been a worrisome thing to me, so I can’t sing well and enjoy the songs this day. But, I have no business to excuse myself to attend to my wife in labour. It is the job of midwives, so I stay with other men. Whilst singing the songs we are jibing the air up and down with our Tsvimbos (rods), slippery from the sweating. After singing, heartfelt, in the afternoons we recline in our shrubby shelters and drink so more tea. In this day, whilst other men were making love to their new wives, creating more babies, it is another of their crazy beliefs. They have to make lots and lots of babies from their lots and lots of wives. Their God told them to do so; they are helping the world, populating it. They are certainly making Pioneer seed, a growing concern.
I am left with worry to deal with, in our shrubby shelter. I know Dora is battling for her life now. She should have given birth by now, but nothing is forthcoming. Nobody is telling me what is happening. I have to wait. It is God’s commandment! These are the truths that I had to deal with in my time of suffering, so what other truth did Death mean now?
“Just that, my truth, hey?” I asked him, I was still trying to be reasonable with Death.
“Yes, and I haven’t forgotten her lovely face, the shapely form; sweet and shy as you circled them. All this was your truth again, Jamaal.”
It became too obvious I wasn’t getting headway with Death. Maybe, I had to face him head-on, and ask him the actual question, I meant all along to ask him.
“So, why did you take them away?”
“Your Eve, I didn’t take your Eve, man.”
“Yes, you did.” I pushed it.
“And you were Adam to her.” He transgressed, intentionally trying to push me, off the case, I suppose.
“Yes, you took them away.” I stilled.
“I didn’t create that Eden. I am not to blame for your beliefs.”
“Who did that, then?”
“You should know!”
“You, Death, must have known how much I loved those two people?”
“Of course, I know.”
“You know that; even though I never came to know much about the other one, because of what you did.”
“It’s not because of me, and yes, I know.”
“I used to see my unborn daughter whenever I looked at Dora, Death. She was a beautiful girl like her mother, Dora.”
“What if she was a boy, Jamaal?”
I couldn’t answer Death that; that I knew instantly that she was a girl. I was looking forward to pouring all my loving affections on that daughter of mine. Dora and I both loved our daughter even though we never carried her in our arms.
“Killing them was as natural to you, Death; as if slaughtering fattened cows. You accomplished that in the most heartless swoop, or was that the most economical way, Death? All in one swift move- all in one gulp- all that I had loved; all that during childbirth, Death!”
“I didn’t do that, I told you so already” Death bristles.
“And, I asked you who did that to me?”
“Jamaal, I think you should know!”
“I am not listening to that stupidity, how could he do that to me?”
“He did, and it’s not my problem that you always have hope, man.”
“Hope, hope for what?”
“For the best, in him.”
“You mean its Hope that did that to me.”
“I am saying it’s more than that, and you should know that, Jamaal.”
I should know that, what? That I had to spend four days hoping that she was going to be fine, that she was going to give birth to our girl. That, I was devastated on the fourth day to hear she died, that they died. No gentle transition, just an end of occupation. Is this the hope Death was talking of. Maybe I should ask Hope herself.
“Why did you let me have hope, why?”
It was easier to start with Hope, than with what Death was really suggesting. Everyone always wants to have a lame duck.
“Why did you let me look forward to a wife and a child, only for you to dash that hope at the last moment?” I countered her silence with this emphasis on what she did, invoking her to reply to me, lamely.
“I don’t know what you are trying to say?” She has a sweetened voice, confused; it trills sweetly into my ears, full of sweet thefts in its sweetness.
“Hope, you swallowed them in one gulp, all that I had hoped for.”
“No, I didn’t. You must know I am too soft to do something like that to someone. I suppose you are at the wrong door.”
“Were you satisfied, were you satisfied, Hope?”
“No, I didn’t.” She repeated her denials like the stupid thing that I have realised she was. She was just one of those untouchables, nebulous things created, recreated, and re-recreated to soften things.
“If not, why didn’t you swallow me, too?”
“I didn’t, please!” I liked the whine in her pathetic statement. It makes me feel a bit powerful. It’s always easier to deal with Hope than with real things like Death and Life. It gives me a bit more courage to be rude to Hope.
“Why don’t you just shut your bloody mouth and stop lying about having hope.”
“I didn’t say that.” She was so contrite.
“You are saying; you are denying such an obvious truth.” She just shrugs her shoulders, obviously defeated, and deflated; losing her bloody hope in me.
“Please don’t just shrug your shoulders as if you haven’t heard me. Why didn’t you say ‘No’ when they were being lowered in your yawning but beautiful mouth, Hope?”
“No, but ‘No’ to what, Jamaal?” She has found her voice, once again, but it is a small voice, a girl’s voice, Dora’s voice.
“Do what? I didn’t swallow them, it’s the…” I liked the captured voice I could feel in her protests, but didn’t like the path she was beginning to tread with her statement, so I cut her off.
“No, please stop that! Don’t even think of saying it; that it was the grave that swallowed them.”
“You are the one who buried them into the grave, Jamaal.” I am surprised by such strength, but I could only question her…
“Me! No! You are the one who did that, and you only did that hope thing of yours when they were safely inside you, and when you knew they would never leave you.”
“What hope thing?”
“Stop mouthing the obvious.”
“What hope thing?” She is closer to tears.
“That thing you are doing right now.” I am closer to tears too. I have to find strength, to staunch off the tears.
“What am I doing?” She is now sneezing quietly to herself. It seems it’s me who’s sneezing.
“The hope thing!?”
“What?” I can barely hear her.
“Prove me if I am wrong, Hope. Puke them out! Just do it! Puke them out for me, Hope!” I am angry with myself, with the tears.
“Ask the grave you lowered them into to do that for you. You are stupid!” Such strength is coming after the tears, so amazing!
“You wouldn’t dare, Hope!” But, I had to leave her be. I wasn’t getting any headway with Hope. I didn’t like tears anymore; I didn’t like seeing that kind of water flowing down my cheeks, again. I had cried enough. I didn’t have a lot of time to waste on excuses of things like Hope. I had to time things with Time, himself: Time; as an internal presence, in which experience is embedded in the material vestiges of our lives.
“You Time, you started assuring me and telling me that it was not your fault, neither the fault of Death, Hope, and Life.”
This didn’t seem enough to go with Time. He started treading that well worn path I didn’t want him to tread, yet. He said to me.”It was God’s fault.” There, the bolt was out on the open. Then, he refracted from it, he said, talking as of something else, but using his time script.
“Their time here was up.” And, I couldn’t help boil.
“Shame on you…! Shame on you, Time!”
Why would he do a thing and then, pass the buck on someone else? What time was he talking of. He is a lie, Time is! He is a big fat liar, Time is!
“It was God’s fault,” and then in another parallel he is saying, “Their time here was up.”
He is such a liar!
The God I know couldn’t have done such a thing, a thing that makes me so sad, because he loves me. HE started lying to me about time changing all that in a long run. Shame on you! That-: HE just couldn’t help blazing into a rage like a hummingbird, slamming into a clean and well washed window? How could Time, Hope, Death, and Life have helped me when they were in this with HIM from the beginning? It is three years now, and what have they done to the pain, God?
Pain, and his godhood clustering of sorrow and depressive moods are still there, so poignantly and so profoundly felt. Pain is still crimson bright in me, wrecking havoc every day, killing me slowly, pushing me towards damnation. Tears flow unimpeded whenever I am alone. Dora left a deep yawning void in my heart. All these tears that I have shed don’t seem to be filling it up. Instead, it seems like every drop of tear that I have shed has fallen into this void, not filling it up. They say it will change, when and how about now? How about the suffering and the eating away now?
When I think of them, the memory brings so much pain and sorrow in my heart. I get hurt again and again.
“It will improve. The memories will be better, some day.”
Someone among that bunch of liars says that to me. (S)he doesn’t even realise that this bruise inside me is now like a stem of an unknown flower, smelling of acid burning in my heart and soul. I now survive by resisting the abrasive bitter-taste of the thoughts of her, which are like an amour-plated catfish swimming through my head, leaving behind painful scales and barbells, like decaying teeth that aches and gets all the worse as long as nothing is done to remove them. Every night, I think of them, I would lie wide awake into the small hours of morning.
All this is nothing to the uncaring you Life, Memories, Death, Life, Hope, and to you, God.
“But we understand.” They chorus, inanely.
“If you did care for me you couldn’t have done what you did, Death, had you cared, just a little bit…”
“I didn’t do anything!” Death, the sole ruler-supreme, he didn’t do anything?!
“Just a little bit of time is what I needed, Time.”
“You have all the time in the world to find your path again.” He times his replies. He is talking of having dreams, a new life, and new direction. Dreams- things like interpretations, false trails- the ill-fitting labels of standard definitions, making dreams. He must know it’s the mind alone that’s equipped to create dreams, to do dreaming…
“Bring her back, God?”
“What has happened has happened. I took what belonged to me. You belong to me, too.” Such omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence primal awareness!
“Bring them back to me if you care a little bit about my memories.”
“If I bring them back to you, you won’t have those memories.”
“It’s Ok to lose them, I want her hope!” It was better to turn into an informal life, or informal surviving, or even informal existence…, a life without memories, just to have her back with me.
“You have her hopes.” Hope tries to sweeten the pill, as usual.
“I need her love!”
“You will find others to love.” Memories cusses.
“I love her, you, Life!”
“You will love others.” Life copies Memories’ adage.
“Oh, how I miss her, oh my God!”
“Man always misses what he can’t have anymore!” And, that’s G.O.D
I really do miss her so very, very much! And, I only hope that the bunch of you would give outmost attention to my request.
Jamaal A. Mukonomushava
There shouldn’t be that polemical debate among you to engage in, on how to calculate the value of life, or a nebulous take-on at forgetting or precisely its sainted better-half-: forgiveness, but just a deeply felt demand for you to bring her back to me.