I will not warn you about this post. Not its length. Certainly not it’s feeble attempts at humor. I will not tell you if it’s a true story or not. I will tell you though, how long it’s taken me to write it, which shouldn’t cajole you into thinking it’s any good. Because, man, writing is hard! Writing is a mean old woman who keeps a grudge if you don’t visit her often. A few weeks without writing and you can literally feel the craft slip through the palm of your hands like a lathered piece of soap.
But approximately 2 years ago, a lot of Biko Zulu, A A Gill and several Huffington Posts later I have a cut I don’t exactly like. But hey, Biko says I’ve got to get the work in – keep writing even if it doesn’t make sense to me, it might make sense to you guys. Maybe one day it will make sense to both of us. So I apologize if this bores you. Bear with me because I don’t plan to always suck.
Biko says keep writing even if it reads like toasted cow shit and tastes like kindergarten gibberish. Just write on! So here goes 2 years of nothing! I promise not to argue with you if you think something of it. Pinky swear!
Burying A Hajji Part 1
The vibration in my bed was not an earthquake growling with seismic activity. It was not Tamale Mirundi trying to ridicule his audience on TV. His sausage fingers poking his head, his mouth warped in a pout formation while his head oscillated from the north of his neck to the south. Nope it wasn’t him!
My eyes were glued lid to lid, but in my mind I knew I had heard this sound before. I was certain it wasn’t my alarm going off. My alarm doesn’t vibrate. It shares in Ofwono Opondo’s arrogance so it always sticks to screaming its head empty. But you see that couldn’t be either. It was a Sunday, ergo; the alarm doesn’t go off at all.
The world could be ending but there would still be no alarm sound emanating from my phone. The ground could be shifting from beneath my bed and the phone would rather be touching itself than go off on a Sunday morning. That’s how it knows to behave on a Sunday such as this very one!
But here I was, browsing the ends of my bed for it. Who could be calling me before the morning takes off its diaper? Who in their right state of mind would be calling an awarded drunkard, the morning after a bender. It’s Sunday morning, the logical assumption is that everyone must be nursing a massive headache from a night of unbridled debauchery. Because that’s what anyone with a sober head on their shoulders would be doing. But not this guy! Fine, maybe not everybody subscribes to the same school of drunkards but at least everybody I know should.
When I finally located the phone, the caller ID had a very close friend of mine on it. (For the sake of keeping his identity unknown we shall call him Seka) Someone with whom I had spent the darker part of the night, and in fact, only parted a few hours before. I remember that night being particularly euphoric with ripe venomous girls, rubber stamped with two words – “Take away.”
We had also been through a cascade of Johnnie Walker bottles laced with an assortment of beers. Beers that looked like porridge, beers so finely brewed and beers for those Ugandans who always pass on the bill when it comes.
We didn’t care, premium or not, you name it and I will tell you the shape of its neck, mouth and bottom. I will regale you with witty tales of how its slender long hips fill the firm grasp of a nearly imbibed man.
They say that any news that comes in the wee hours of the morning can’t be good news. But when I answered the call, I hoped to hear news that a truck carrying Tusker lite beer had fallen just outside my apartment. Or that a dear public holiday had fallen on this Sunday and the call was an invitation to a group grief therapy session to mourn this unfortunate event.
“Why is Seka calling me at this time?” My mind quickly turned itself inside out in search of a trivial reason for the call but it came up blank. One could argue that i owed this to the cocktail of whisky and beer that I had just wolfed down. But have you ever known the kettle to call the pot black? All the time, right? But I will tell you it never gets to that point when I drink. To which you will respond and say “That’s what every drunkard says.” To which I will retort, face earthward riveted, “guilty.” But let’s save this conversation about my drinking problem or the lack of one for another day. I will bring the whisky. Let’s focus on Seka.
I always answer when Seka calls. I could be in the middle of a number two or on the brink of an orgasm but I will stop just to pick Seka’s call. That’s the kind of friend I am. I’ve always imagined that Seka would do the same thing for me. Except when he has gone for Swalah. I know not to interrupt a Seka’s swalah. Interrupting Swalah is bad luck. I’ve always imagined interrupting Seka’s Swalah would make him miss out on the promised 72 virgins in Janah. I know how much Seka loves his mellower spieces, there is no way I will be the reason he doesn’t get what he is promised.
When I finally spoke to Seka, he skidded right to the reason he was calling. This was very unlike Seka. So, unlike him that he called me “man.” Seka always calls me Seka. That is our thing. I knew there was something wrong. The writing was in his voice.
His voice was cold and broken. We didn’t have 4G sim cards back then but I could hear the weight of loss through the phone. Seka was the strongest most self-assured man but I could tell with every word coming out of his mouth that he was edging closer to a total melt down.
“Man…… mzeyi…… atulesewo,” he said while fighting tears.
How do normal respond to those words? If there are proper words that should be said in response, they should be put in the academic syllabi, all the way from Primary school to University. They should be added to the National Anthem and made examinable at major institutes. They should be annexed to all staff manuals and KPIs. Billboards of them erected at major roundabouts. Songs should be written in their memory. Because when you need these words, they need to be on your lips. You can not speak with silence. You must open your mouth and it has to be the right words that come out.
When grief stricken Seka told me of his father’s passing, even with my unofficial capacity as Copywriter, “Fuck” was all the words I could muster. I remember saying it until it disappeared into the fickleness of mutter. In that moment I was feeling unusually naked. Words had abandoned me, along with them they had taken my inherited duvet and the hangover. I was as awake as any sunny afternoon in July.
I asked Seka “Oliwa?” to which he said, “I am home.” I told him I was on my way to him. Before he hung up, he asked me to tell everybody else. That was the shortest and coldest phone call I had ever had with Seka. It was shorter the phone calls we have when plotting where to hangout on Friday night. It was shorter than a phone call asking for a girl’s number. Even much shorter than when he calls to tell me to check my Whatsapp. It was short call relaying a death that occurred on short notice.
News of the death of a hajji spreads faster than a sex tape in a country of only men, with free WIFI.
In the chore of trying to get ready to leave my rat hole, my phone was being accosted again. This time with the incessance of a taxi tout trying to get someone heading to Ntinda to board a taxi going to Muyenga. First it was all the guys from the night before. Their speech was still slurry so they were saying “Ith it thrue that Seka has lotht hith old man?” What they really meant to ask was, “Is it true that Seka has lost his old man?” I answered both questions with the same response.
Their breath was still a lethal permeation of Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Shisha and wanton girls. But their hearts were aching. Aching like the hearts of naïve young girls who just found out that love hurts. We were hurting, because of the hangovers but also because of death.
We were feeling robbed. Death had reached into the heart of our brotherhood and plucked Seka’s dad. It had come as the morning took off its wet diaper, stole from us and then run off into the laziness of a Sunday Morning. Its face was ripe with strife, its long limbs carried it like the winds carry foul smells. Its teeth red, with the taste of blood fresh in its mouth. There was a bounce its step and misery reflected in the corner of its eyes, as it looked back with a hellish stare.
“Death was here,” was the headline that morning.
To Be Continued…