By John Oryem Ernest Loguca (Sudan)
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slipped into my house again that night, popping sweet gum as if she was chewing
an old buffalo's meat.
on from my bathroom, I could slightly hear a blacksmith knock through that
small opening in my bathroom door. "That should be she!"
is only trying to trap me with a woman inside.” I thought to myself. Moving
confused and out of place, I saw uneasiness in
am sorry, I came without notifying you earlier.” she apologized, remaining
still with a face of a cow being milked; stressing the ‘sorry’ several times. I
nodded and said only once; “It is fine, is it not your house anyway?” This was
do you always distant your cell phone when I am around?"
"You always press your mobile 'silent' as soon are together."
"What for?" I smiled pretentiously with a question.
"Why are your girlfriends not calling you whenever am with you? Why is your phone always busy when I call?"
don't have girlfriends beside you!
me check your phonebook then if you are not."
"What for? What will you find in it?" I melted into the kitchen.
relaxed at the high table surfing and piping in between some articles in a
magazine. My mind was imagining how
"Over you! And who else?"
"Are you crazy?"
made me crazy
"I will be out of your way…."
which girl is this? Or, no…. not my business…"
all my female relatives my wi-i-i-ves
"Did I say something wrong? You are free." she turned to me, flinging her hands like a sugarcane cutter.
away from her assaults while picking my slippers,
think you have to solve this problem once and for all,”
"What problem?" I inquired.
insincerity ... I mean your infidelity to me."
“I will!” I assured her.
“Do you still love her?”
the girl you transferred money to this morning. I know she is studying in
“I will tell you all.”
when? You know nothing about her."
"I told you all, I don’t……."
I was not prepared for
Tombe my neighbor arrived to say 'hallo' as always, I was still being tormented
a girl in my neighborhood whom I was trying to woo once told me; "
“Can we go…..to ehhh my house?” I proposed instantly.
"Your house? To do what?"
"No, I meant maybe we are now tired."
tonight. Leave it for another day."
will people say tomorrow? Where did
"Let's go" I persuaded her. "Why do you behave like our grandmothers of the 60s who wouldn’t ….?"
soon disappeared in the winter cold; by the time we reached my house, our noses
were dried up.
The morning cold castrated the usual 10 o'clock sunrays.
"Breakfast is ready my queen Alice! Let's go, wake up." I invited her. "Please begin to eat. My water is cooling." I was off to the bathroom. Moments later I was back with towel wrapped down my waist.
is wrong?" I found
"Hi what happened?"
"Did you eat?"
"I am going, but be careful, these girls of yours…..these women, God will not be unjust to me!"
will harm and kill any girl I find here."
"Phone me immediately if you reach," I urged.
"I will, you know me."
Even before the arrival of the end of the month, he was always in debt. Local women flocked to his house after 4pm; the time he was expected back from office. Some of those women who maintained a healthy relationship with his wife never bothered spoiling his name;
“I will never give him my beer any more!” some would swear by lightening, others by heaven, even others by the Almighty. “I will leave mine to God.” Others said. “I will do something.” Some, yet threatening to go to the witch doctors or the police.
One thing remained mysterious for him; all his beer clients could not understand what was in his tongue. Their testimony seemed unified; “He is very kind and so innocent like a lamb when he comes to beg for beer.” After he had drunk their beer, not only once; then the women would understand, they had erred.
“Ah, the 30th is near. Why aren’t you a believer?” he would go from one house to the next negotiating. If the debts were more, and every woman in the area owned part of his salary, he transferred to neighboring families. For new ones, he would pay in cash, to soften his ground; to easy things out for him. His wife had long surrendered to the attitude of her husband. At the beginning, she would gather her brothers-in law to tell the mistakes of their brother.
“We do not want to hear anything again. This woman must be looked after.” “You have to be responsible.” “One day you will die with a glass of beer on your hands like…” The litany was long. He began disliking some of his relatives because of that. His wife had always said; “For me I don’t care about him anymore.”
If he never returned home by 11pm, she will not even bother searching for him. If he arrived late, he would jump over the fence, only he would possess enough strength that night. Most of the time he would retire calmly in the kitchen. His wife would notice only by the noises of the chickens avoiding his feet. His six children had a different image of their father. The four grown up ones would only see their father on the weekend. As for the last two, their father would leave them still sleeping in the morning while he went to office; finding them sleeping after drinking, if he was ever coming.
“Baba is busy in office, doing hard work.” The woman told her inquisitive children.
“Woman you cannot stop me from drinking!” He often told his caring wife.
“But see how you are scandalizing the family. I wish you shamed only yourself.” She remarked.
“You woman, I told you even if my mother and father are to come back from their graves, I will not, I will not quit drinking.” He spoke boldly to his wife.
He was praised by his bosses; even received gifts for his diligence and efficiency in the workplace. One time, he was voted the Employee of the Month in his department. He celebrated the event with his companions (drinking team members) in a modest Nile Kings Restaurant. An occasion that made him rub shoulders with affluent members of the city.
One day after arriving office early, he found all his colleagues were boarding the company’s bus to a funeral place. One of his colleague’s brothers had passed away. “Climb, get in.” said a colleague. “Where to?” he inquired. “We are going to pay condolence to the deputy CEO; his brother passed away last night. The boss is with us.”
“Oh death!” The man wondered, his lips drier from the incident of the night before.
He got in the bus. On board, all were affected by the event of death. One asked the cause of the death of the deceased. None could guess. Others expressed in lips and shoulders to show lack of knowledge. The bus driver concentrated on his steering wheel till funeral home.
Wailing, crying and self-throwing by women scared the man at the funeral home. He got an occasion of sitting near other funeral attendants who were there before him. They greeted him and the rest warmly. Tea and water were offered quickly as the custom was in their town. Being curious to know what had killed the deceased, he asked one man next to him; the man was acting as if he was one of the brothers in the house.
“Sorry for the death eh.” He commented.
“Yeah, God gives and take.” The man said.
“What happened?” He asked.
“His liver got burned up by Seiko. He drank it too much…since. Now these orphans?” The man proceeded, as if he knew him before. “Sorry.”
He wanted to cut the investigation but it wouldn’t be fair since he had opened the door for it. He was silent, turning his face away from the man.
The man turned to him and said; “He was drinking to hell.” “Let’s go.” Ordered their boss. They got into their bus and left. The working day was short that day. He reflected on the mystery of death for the first time in many years.
“I never wept for my parents; but…” He thought to himself. Many questions rolled through his head.
When he reached home that day, he found all his drinking friends had assembled in his house. As soon as he dropped his office bag down and changed his clothes, one of his friends told him; “We waited for too long, let us go.” He gazed at the roof of his house and simply said; “My body is not fine today.” His friends left amidst blames and quarrels. On their way to the usual bar without him, they said all sort of things about him; “He wasted our time.” “I told you the man’s not OK any longer.” “He is getting proud these days.”
That evening, he felt for the first time that home was home. His wife gave him fresh food and a warm bath accompanied everything. He watched TV with his children for the first time in many months. He sat silent in the sofa while his children taught him the names of the actors and actresses in the TV series commonly screened for families. “Baba that is…yesterday he was beaten by…” He only nodded to his second last child. “Baba, Baba, Baba.” She continued disturbing her father. At last she slept in his lap. He carried her to the bedroom where his wife was busy with her handiwork. Her eyes were in the wool and needle.“Why are you not watching TV with the children?” he asked his wife.
“When my heart is settled, one day I will watch.”
“Woman, take life easy.” “It is my fate. God knows!” His children entered abruptly in the bedroom, stopping their dialogue. Each child looking for bed-sheet and mattress.
The following day, immediately after he had arrived home, his chidden brought him lots of complaints; “Baba I want a new uniform.”
“My exercise books are finished.” Said another.
“The head teacher told me to go with my guardian tomorrow Baba.” They went on disturbing their father till he couldn’t answer them any longer. Their mother, however, kept a distance in her kitchen, knowing what exactly was going on between her children and their father. They did the same to her after all for all the years in the past. The whole week went by without much trouble.
He accompanied his friends only twice. He cleared his dirty compound during the weekend holidays. He carried all the beds in the house in the sun. For the first time, he felt the bedbug bites in his skin. “These insects are many!” he remarked to his wife. She never responded.
His children helped in smashing the bedbugs overpowered by sun heat. “Baba see, see, this one is very fat?” one of his children told him. He shared all weekend meals with them. It was his first time to be sprinkled with soup by his children. “Baba why do you eat lots of red pepper?” one of them asked him.
“It is good.” He lied. He was learning to eat again.
Overcoming the boredom of the week after was a hurdle of his life since subscribing to the drinking team for quiet awhile. He worked out ways of spending the days properly. No answer came his way. Strong appetite ensued. Taking his usual paths, he thought of going to his companions to say ‘hallo’ only and proceed ahead greeting other neighbors. Soon he met them.
“Lost one, come in.” One of them said. They welcomed him warmly but he received more blame than praise for his week’s absence. “You are spoilt!” His friend continued. “Only lots of work at the office. We have a new boss who is very strict.”
He was diverting and finding an answer for each question asked.
“Take something, you should be thirsty.” His friend said.
He just offered pretentious smiles. They brought him stronger Seiko from special customer. He cut the relationship-building journey he had intended that evening. His colleagues were happy to see him among them again. He was their little boss in the team because of his education, which earned him lots of respect. Until 11:45pm he was still in the bar.
The week he had spent at home provided him with horse’s strengths for beer. Several bottles got emptied. Though strongly seated, he was too weak to go home. All his friends escaped one after another.
“Bring me one.” He told the woman who owned the bar.
“You have been lost.” Said the woman.
“Yes” He replied with confirmation.
The woman brought him light supper. When the woman came to take the empty plate, she brought along a dusty mat. “If you are leaving later, pull the door along. The gate will be open.” The woman warned.
“OK” Some chicks were jumping allover his body; scratching his arms and belly. When he opened his eyes, he turned slowly and he realized he had slept in the bar. He was still lying down on the mat when the bar owner passed by. Before she could reach a shelter, she knelt down and placed a bowl between her legs. He kept on watching her closely, making sure she would never knew he was awake. About a minute later, she woke up and lifted the bowl with her right hand; she hurried and poured her urine in a barrel. The substance inside the barrel was the very beer for the day. Part of it was to be distilled to Seiko.
When the woman had left, he quickly got up and knocked hardened mud away from the chicks’ feet. Slowly, he got out of the compound and rushed home. He was trying to steal himself in his house; unfortunately his foot knocked an aluminum cup that woke his wife. She got him carrying bathing water from the kitchen pot. She shook her head and only asked; “You have elapsed back?”
He never opened his lips. He threw his trousers on top of a growing tree behind the bathroom. He dressed up smartly and took off for work as usual. The scene of the woman, urine, and barrel in the bar never left his mind in the office. At a certain moment he dreamt a long dream; “I shall go home today and bring a bottle of Seiko and break it as an oath in front of my wife. I shall swear by my dead parents. I shall quit forever. If it were not …of beer.”
The Receptionist who knocked several times at his door disturbed him; “Some women are outside,” he was told.
“I am coming,” he said.
“Sick today? You aren’t fine.”
“It’s OK.” He replied. The women were at the reception room waiting for him. He was brief with them, holding a ball-pen and white pay-sheet at his hand. He knew what they were coming for.
“I will be there this afternoon.” He dismissed them. One of the women repeated twice in a high tone; “Do not forget to come!” He nodded vigorously.
He accepted a lift from his boss that afternoon. He dropped him by his gate. All his children ran to grab his office bag. His wife followed him while changing office clothes. She entered their bedroom with tears running down her cheeks.
He turned and saw her; “What is it?” He inquired.
She gathered her force and slapped him with double force.
He staggered to the bedside. The blow affected him. The guests who were in the kitchen with her approached them and separated the fight. “Stop, stop,” one of the women shouted. He never knew why his wife was violent with him. He was surprised to see the bar owner in his house.
“How can you do that?”
She went on crying. The bar owner had narrated the whole story to his wife in his absence.
As compensation, the bar owner had intended to share the information secretly with his wife. She wanted the thing not to leak to many ears. However, his wife’s cries invited a few men in the compound. In their tradition, things had to be sought out urgently between couples. There were eight people in the room.
“Sit, sit down.” The most senior of them invited them.
Women sat on a mat. The bar owner had anticipated the talks before men.
“I am sorry to be the cause of this unfortunate fight,” she apologized to them. “I came here to share with you what had happened in my house last night.” She went on.
One of the men stopped her. “Please wait! What is it?” He asked.
“Let me continue, you men are always in hurry.” The bar owner said.
She was set free to make her statement; “Our brother, the owner of this house, was in my house last night; drinking with his friends, beer overcame him…I even offered him a place to sleep. He…” The woman murmured with tears dropping from her eyes.
All were amazed at what the man had done. Every mind in the house went wondering; rape? Theft? Incest? Pedophilia? Silence had to be broken;
“Wait.” One of the men urged. “Woman, what happened in your house?” He asked. She wiped her face with her gown. She was silent. When she discovered her silence was serving nothing, she uttered her word;
“As I told you, when I woke in the morning and entered the room where he slept, I was met with a stench smell. I looked around and there in front of me, a heap of excrement was in the middle of the room.”
Everyone was shocked. “He would have done it outside, you know…” she continued.
“OK, OK woman.” Said the old man among them. “Son, is it true?” He asked him.
“I was there last night…” He answered in short. The old man, experienced as he is, knew the remedy of the crime.
The old man cleared his voice and said; “Sons and daughters, let this thing be between us who are in this house only. We shall swear to keep everything secret. My son has to bring a lamb or a he-goat to purify the house of his sister. Let it be immediate, to cool the crime instantly.”
The man was asked if he had something to say.
He simply responded; “No.” Just as they were preparing to leave his house, he stopped them; “Elders, brothers and sisters, I am promising in front of you today; I have to become a man again. As long as I live, I shall not drink any more in my life.”
One man interrupted him; “Do not swear, just change your life.”
“I have decided!” He said. A fine charged on him concluded the meeting. It came in beer form, Seiko included. Everyone tasted except him.
His wife escorted all the women. When she returned to her home, she went and picked her husband’s trousers from where they had been baking in the sun since morning. She saw the trace of what remained in the trousers. She shook her head, soaking it in a basin.