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My ancestors are spirits - so is my cousin but unlike them he did not leave a legacy or a growing generation. He knew not of arched bones, anguished joints, and memory loss or declining eyesight I think that is why he was able to write me this email and without a network server to link us, deliver it himself.
His black, frizzy hair shone under the silvery moonlight and the scar on his right cheek stretched as he smiled exposing the set of strong white teeth, a common family feature. It had been over seven years but he had not changed a bit, not even a strand of eyelash had straightened out of his all-time curly bunch. The sparkle of innocence peeped from the depth of his brown eyes, glowing more than ever making his serious face ‘touch and go’ attitude look like a disastrous attempt at role play.
“SubhanALLAH! Dika you are back finally…they told me you went…you have no idea…”
Silence.
“You have no idea how much…”
Despite my ostensible anxiety to fill him in on Guyo’s wedding, Dhabo’s baby, and my own life’s detours, he seemed so indifferent, so very distant. He looked at my face as if tracing out the shadow my head made on the wall behind me. I was fooled by how real he appeared truth was, he was not my beloved cousin anymore; he had changed
In the few minutes I stood in his presence, my mind was fogged with questions and with each stumbling over the other, I was rendered dumb. Apathetic to my emotional confusion, he shoved a bunch of crumbled papers into my still hands stretched out to him and vanished.
“No...Wait…”
Finally my tongue could move and my voice was alive but all too late. He was gone again. Hot tears swelled up in my eyes as the final desperate groping into space for my dear cousin proved to be a total fiasco. He really had left again without answering my questions leaving all my hope at the mercy of some awkwardly folded papers.
“This is my story.”Were the four words that popped up adjacent to the subject. This rejuvenated my faith in the possibility that the blurry skeleton report of Dika’s death that tormented my childhood would soon be a clear truth.I felt around for my sandals, gathered them into a heap and sat down to read Dika’s letter.

“Sialo’s dusty summer and its arid temperatures are intolerable, coupled with solitude it is nothing short of excruciating. I yearned to
hang out with my buddies but my parents brushed off my constant mumbling about being of age to make independent decisions as sheer rebellion and consequently grounded me. This was to evade what they termed as imminent danger of being entangled into a portentous web of peer pressure and being swept away by the wave of 21st century hype. I was given two options, either to stay home and preview for my degree in International Business management or travel across my ancestral home stretching northwards to patch onto the fabric of my origin. Naturally as a fresh out of high school teenager I preferred anything to premature thrust back into syllabus based education and I figured if I can’t be with my pals, I would rather have an adventurous story to tell at the next get-together.
For two days, I went around visiting each and every of my kinfolk residing in Sialo. Africa is known for its hospitality and warmth towards guests and for one who had more or less been assimilated into another form of culture where nice spelt out a negative attribute, I was taken aback. Even those I had never met before treated me as if they had known me all their lives each claiming to have changed my diapers and expressing shock at how fast I had grown into a young man. No prizes for guessing just how many times I wondered why my own parents did not awe at my old age. In our family which as I was told stemmed from my great grandfather mostly, it is very important to be able to remember each person’s visage, his title of respect and in so doing be in a position to comfortably hold a “how is x?”“how is y?” and “whose cattle are yours flocking with” kind of conversation. Saying I was hopeless at my mother tongue is an understatement not because I flunked a certain borana grammar class but because I just never had to speak it beyond one word vocabulary thrust into a fluent ‘sheng’ sentence mostly for humor purposes.
I had a very difficult time communicating with these nice people that all wanted to know where my dad was and whether they could come and see him. I must be good at very few things since even my secretarial skills were really wanting having set up an appointment with dad for every household that asked for it regardless of whether the times clashed. I barely understood their requests anyway but dad’s their chief, their “guy in power” so I just joined up dots on assumption.

It is on the lovely Friday morning of July 25th 2004 that I began my trip to the parched land whose belly held the bones of my ancestors and whose surface boasted of grandmother’s trail of shufflingfootprints. Mum tagged along under the pretext that I needed somewhat of a tour guide cum translator but I was sure she was just being overprotective as always. I was hoping dad would let me use the classy Prado but he just gave me the keys to the old Land rover, which I can best describe as a collage of scrap metal. Ok, am exaggerating just a little.
White fluffy clouds stretched across the clear blue sky towards the farthest ends as if seeking a hiding place from the scorching arid sun. As far as the eye could go stood red soil coated acacia trees and tuff scrubs relaxing in their hollow shadows. The people who had hitched the ride chattered away at the back of the vehicle occasionally coughing in unison as they got engulfed by the thick cloud of dust that rose with rage as if challenging me to a race.
“M...mh Dika dearie don’t drive that fast.” Mum gave me THE look.
“I know, I know mum, only 120 on a deserted road like this... It’s not even fast enough.” I said feeling like the lead character in the movie speed
“This is not a highway honey, “she chuckled.
Sure enough, we soon descended into a series of dry river valleysfilled with thick sand with the depression that served as a road telling of the struggle that drivers had to face to cross in the rainy season.
“ppow!”
The sudden deafening noise was followed by shouts and screams from the back. It sounded a lot like a tire burst and that was quite expected since the hot weather and the rough road was just the recipe for disaster.
“ppow!”
A second tire burst.
I lost control of the vehicle as a sharp pain numbed my foot.The timeworn land rover came to a violent halt as it hit a massive tree at the bottom of the valley. The still air of the deserted arid was disrupted by the loud bang and the stench of exhaust smoke that rose above the thicket darkening the atmosphere. Everyone was in a frantic hurry to run for their dear lives but Mum tightened grip on my hand. She glanced at my foot, awkwardly leaning on the accelerator, denim jeans soaked in thick blood. She held my head upon her chest wiping away tears from my eyes full of fear and agony. I was confused.
She closed her eyes to ignore the cries of people calling her to run away, warning her that the enemies were getting closer; all she wanted to do was make her little boy feel safe. In her eyes I could see the first cry I let out when she cuddled me on the hospital bed, my first word, myfirst day at kindergarten, my days in Islamic school and my high school graduation..I figured this is what Ahmad Bukhatir meant by “as my life flashes before my eyes”.As the tears dropped out of her eyes I knew that was it.
I thought of how radiant her smile was and how it always made the injections at hospital hurt lessbut for some reason it just was not working with the bullet jammed in my foot. I tried to move my legs but to no avail, I then began urging ma to escape...she looked into my eyes and I stared into hers but all I saw was complete darkness clouded by the huge balls of tears that kept drowning her expressive almond eyes. I really did have her eyes.
“ppow!”
The sound of another gunshot reverberated across the scrubs and all that were on their heels stopped for a moment. Mum ran off towards them with blood dripping from her hand. In an attempt to jump over a twig that lay across her path, she tripped over the hem of her long dress and fell. Two young men ran over and dragged her away. I raked my neck towards the window to see the last of my mum’s colorful deerah (long borana traditional dress) whose pattern I could clearly envision.
Suddenly darkness engulfed the transparent window I was looking through. I stretched further to witness the premature dusk; this really was turning out to be a strange dream.With a little straining I was able to see a burly man glaring from my window, he was the reason the sun’s light could not penetrate into the vehicle. The man had an ape-like fury holding onto his gun as if he had waited his whole life to punish me. Ijust lay there wondering what I must have done so wrong to make the guy so livid. Three other men fuming and shouting in a strange language joined in and together they hauled me out of the driver’s seat onto the hot, coarse sand. As I hit the ground with a thud, I remembered scenes from the horror movie Ihad watched the previous day. Just when the bad guy gang was about to take out the innocent fellow, the FBI appeared and shot each and every one of them. I rolled my eyes to identify where my saviors would appear from but there were no alley walls, no peculiar black cars just the body of my turn boy lying lifeless with a twisted neck beside the wheel he had changed numerous times. This was no movie either.
They kept mentioning my great grandfather’s name as they dragged me away from the vehicle. Isupposed they had a really bad disagreement with my family members (for this was our family name) or dad (for it was his common name), or just had a great hatred for my clan (which was so obvious because of dad’s political career.
Whichever it was, I felt an urge to plead innocent and introduce myself as a recent high school graduate with dreams of becoming a very successfulinternationally renowned CEO and invest a lot on our barren lands but my efforts at politely shouting “excuse me” were met by a gunshot in my thighs.
I groaned in pain.
“What is wrong with these people?”
“I am sorry for whatever it is that you are so worked up about I’ am very sorry…“
I felt tears cascade down my face wetting the dust that had collected on it forming thick lines of mud. I was desperate to hold onto the life I had imagined a lot more for, the places I still had to visit and the important people…
My dad...his face just popped up and for some reason I cried harder.
He was the guy who could make it happen for many, just this once I wished he would for me too.
Soon a gang of about five men stood around me all holding guns, pointed at me.
“lailahailallahMuhammad an rasullulah “ I heaved.
All I remember is they must have shot me beyond recognition because that is what I had most people saying at my funeral. They were crying but I did not cry because I was gone but because real soon, I would be forgotten and no one would bother to find out why they were so angry at me.at my family name.
I write this to you, dear cousin because we share a family name and I hope you will remind the world that somewhere lies an unsolved mystery,a pending issue that if not solved might just be your demise as well :that ghost lurking on the road back home.
Regards.”

I woke up sobbing.

Impressum

Texte: chaltu jarso
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 02.10.2012

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Widmung:
My dad Jarso Guyo Mokku My mum Halima salesa for raising me to believe in my abilities, my friends Fatoumata and Ian and family Abdullahi,Halkano,Guyo and Hadija for editing and giving me feedback and Bookrix for publishing.

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