WHO BORN SOLDIER

     He could eliminate the distraction but he was certain to give up his desire to win, since it had been rather too long now since he came to it. He detested the idea that he would have to succumb to the whims of his captors.

   But it was all over. The former chief executive of the country sat 
at the mercy of his captors, and he looked at the world with eyes unable 
to understand the trick that fate had played on him. Any sense of eagerness
 he had entertained faded from his eyes, leaving them cold as a winter sky 
after sunset.

     They wanted him to resign and he refused. As the last moment of his life went on, and pains searing through his head as blood oozed out of where his ears had once been, Samuel Doe could only bend his head in anguish.

  He did not want his captors to see his eyes, though he felt humiliated, and he could only bend his head to avoid the shame. It became apparent to him that his captors could not let him live, and so as one by one, they poured questions at him, wanting to know what had happened to the country’s money and then the economy, he could only hung his head, and insist that he wanted to talk but he needed to be released.

    He said, “I am in lot of pain.”

   They ignored him.

   The man, who had taunted him since he was brought at the INPFL Caldwell Base, said, “Where are you keeping the Liberian people’s money?” He ignored him, and hung his head. He knew barely a miracle could anyone rescue him.

  But, who would rescue him? He remembered the massacre that had happened when the Field Marshal (Prince Johnson) and his forces had forcibly entered the Freeport of Monrovia, and had, without warning, launched violent attacks on his unarmed men.

   Given the chance he could take his captors on. But when the Field Marshal and his soldiers invaded the Freeport of Monrovia, and when he found out he was without his weapon, and none of his men had any weapon, he realized that he had fallen into a trap of no return.

   But then they were supposed to be peacekeepers from other West African nations, and in fact he had come to meet with Gen. Arnold Quanoo, but where was he when he needed him most? Truth be told, the field commander and his forces that could help him had all bolted, due to the intensity of the Field Marshal’s fire-power.

   Doe regained the sense of reality when someone from behind him grabbed his head and pulled it backward exposing his swollen face.

   “Doe talk,” a voice said.

   He said, “I want to talk but release my hands because I am in a lot of pain.”

   “I can release your elbow,” the soldier said, “but not your hands.” He knew he still held some power over them, despite the truth that he had been captured, when he had no chance to challenge them, on one to one. He saw the unfair advantage that his captors had over him.

   Samuel Doe sat there, not believing what was happening to him. The pain on his face reminded him of the physical assault he had received from his captors. They wanted him dead, but why was death coming so late? Dying as a soldier was part of his duty. He had heard many soldiers said one bullet one man, and hence in all probability he was not afraid of death. As the war raged and many called for his resignation, he had declared to fight till the last soldier was dead.

   John Yormie said, “You said Nimba County would be wiped out from the face of Liberia…”

    Doe, like he was in a court of law, defended himself.

    “No, I never said that.”

    He knew they would not believe him, and it was less of his concern now. He lowered his head and gazed shockingly at his legs, as his captors had tied them together, after several shots hammered them. He felt no power in them and he believed even if he survived the ordeal; he would have less use for them.

   As he waited, his mind went to the tragic scene that led to his capture. How could he allow anyone, much less one of the leaders who had planned to murder him, come over and engage him into any discussion, as he did with Prince Johnson? Why at all did he believe him? It was a question that though at such a late hour, tortured him.

   Until his capture he had been able to manipulate his enemies and the cat and mouse game had frustrated them so much that he was convinced to insist whatever happened, and particularly to his capture, was influenced by the hand of God.

  He said, “What’s happened was ordained by God.” He could not make any sense of his eventual capture and now he was being tortured, he could only wait in vain.

   Behind him, a young soldier held a blood-soaked knife that they had used to forcibly slice his two ears off. Then he felt water being poured on him, and someone saying, “I’m doing you a lot of good, Doe.” He did not provide any answer, and hung his head, waiting for the end.

   Though he needed medical attention, it was evidently clear he would not have any.

   Looking at Yormie, he told him: “I’m in a lot of pain,” with his eyes as wide and dried as ever. Though he was in pain, Doe did not want them to think that they had broken him; he knew a soldier was born to defend and even if it need be, sacrifice his life. He was also aware that a soldier was to fight gallantly, but what had happened was far from the marks of a true soldier. When Prince Johnson and his forces stormed at the Freeport of Monrovia, none of his soldiers had a weapon. And for starters, Johnson had visited him at the Barclay Training Center some days earlier, and had indicated his willingness to join his forces so that they could fight their common enemy.

   It was clear to him when, before Johnson ordered a rebel soldier to cut off his ears, said, “Doe I fooled you.” It was a mark of deceit, for a soldier, he knew was the one who would stand up to his true calling. He wanted to fight and engage his opponents, one by one.  He remembered when he told Johnson about the lack of sincerity among Liberians.

   “Prince,” he had said during the visit, “you must be sincere with me.” Remembering his admonition to the man who turned out to be the cause of his current humiliation was too much to bear.

    Someone, whether he was a journalist or not, Doe could not determine, sitting across from him told him, “Say I Samuel Kanyon Doe,” the vanquished president repeated after him, for it was clear that the end had come.

  In the end he said, “I said my government has been overthrown by Field Marshal Prince Johnson, and it is time we rebuild our country.” Despite the physical demolition as well as human destruction, Samuel Doe felt the need to re-echo the urgency to rebuild the country that was weeping to be saved.

   Again, he felt cold water pouring over him, and the pain increased.

  He shook his head to the right and then to the left, to ease the pain that was building in there. His puffed up face, as a result of the physical assault he had received from his captors, stunned him and rendered him speechless.

   Doe then remembered the dawn of April 14, 1980, many years ago, when he made his first announcement that the soldiers had struck, and the True Whig Party was no more. He could still hear in his mind’s eye, the dancing and rejoicing by majority of the people.

    He was not too sure, but he could hear on the national radio, ELBC, the shrill voice of the singer:

   “Who born soldier ooo mama?”

  “Who born soldier ooo papa?”

  “Country woman na born soldier…”

  “From 1847 to 1980…”

  Yes, those were the days he was hailed as the redeemer of the people. Now all had changed, and he could recount events up to that time. With Liberia in tatters and thousands having lost their lives, Doe saw his end as the culmination of what fate had stored for Liberia in general, and for him in particular. In fact he had warned Liberians that a town trap was not for rats alone, but they did not heed his advice. He had also warned them that when two elephants fight, the grass would suffer, and they also did not heed his advice. He wanted to scream and ask: Are there no wise men in Liberia? And so in the end he felt that Liberia’s suffering was its own. He wanted Liberia to be rebuilt, which as he looked at his current situation, did not think too much about.

   Doe knew the war was lost, and he also knew it would need the committed effort and sacrifice to get the country back to its feet. In his heart, he begged the old man above to restore Liberia to sanity, after he was gone. He would be gone by then, which was not too much of a problem for him. But all things considered he knew he would be remembered, for all he did and did not do. Due to the soldiers’ failure to redeem Liberia, he told Liberians in his heart to forgive him. He wanted to rebuild Liberia and not to destroy it.

   He could not bother himself with what others might think about him. He wanted to hold his young children, and tell them how much he loved them, but knew it was rather too late.

    In his situation he needed medical assistance, but as the young rebel soldiers, disorganized and shouting at each other, with no apparent leadership structure, moved back and forth. And with those considered leaders determination to humiliate him, asking childish questions, he knew only death would release him from his suffering. He would die, and go, and rest for eternity, which would also be at the whim of his captors. That’s how the man died.

The End

THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES TAYLOR

By Omari Jackson

     The announcement that he would be concealed from the eyes of mortal men for almost a century did not come as a surprise to him. What concerned the former Liberian president were the intrigues that characterized the entire charade. So while he received the news about his concealment with a sense of foreboding, his mind was afar, hunting the experience he had gone through in The Hague.

    Though he must count his days, Taylor could only stare blankly at the prison walls, and beads of perspiration formed on his forehead, despite the humming air-condition, with its attendant mild temperature. But in examining the road he traveled so far, Taylor could sense that he should have had a premonition of his eventual fall into the hands of his enemies, especially the day he predicted that he would return, if God willed it. In his temporary prison cell, he knew the die was cast. He had come so far to cross the Rubicon, and yet, the Rubicon was so far away. That his chances of gaining freedom were gone, was nothing much to worry about.

   All said and done, he had fought a good fight. What else could a mortal do? Now that he had been condemned and presently caged like a violent animal, he willed himself away to God.
   He thought of his final days in Liberia, and particularly after he was assured of maximum protection by his presidential peers. That day was unlike any other day. It was after much consultation and self-examination before he reached the road of no return. He could see the day of all days. He was dressed in his lovely all-white attire and to the observers, from representatives of the United States to anyone interested in the history making epoch, he appeared well collected in his thoughts and in high spirit.
   But before he came to deliver his last farewell and departure message to the Liberian people, he had had the time to shed sincere tears at his residence. He could not understand why life was haunting him. Well, by every account he had reached the end of it. And it was either he remained stubborn and died like Samuel Doe, or he learned from history and preserved his life. He had chosen the latter and here he was on his way to deliver a message, clearly explaining the major reason he was about to give up the throne and not only that but also leave Liberia, at least, he believed, for a while. After the initial salutations, Charles Taylor appeared emotionally overpowered. His voice was somber, reflecting the days he had wept for the decision he knew he must make.
   In a voice indicating a man who had lost any hope he had for redemption, Charles Taylor justified the actions of the war. “The people’s revolution had been justified as former President Samuel Doe’s administration was corrupt and responsible for numerous atrocities and human rights abuses.” He knew too much was at stake, but the soon to be forgotten president was prepared to claim self-righteousness for the destruction of Liberia. He told of the beginning of the LURD rebels and pointed accusing fingers at the United States.
    “Our friend and ally the United States refused to acknowledge the existence of war,” Taylor said, with reference to the LURD rebels. In the beginning, many entertained the belief that there was nothing like the LURD rebels and that Taylor was creating imaginary enemies to perpetrate himself into power. “The international community, led by the United States and Britain, had denied Liberians the right to defend themselves by imposing arms embargo,” he said. Since he had lost all shades of trust, the international community realized that it was too dangerous to allow the government to make arm purchases for the war.
   So now that he was being sent away, Taylor went on, “A UN travel ban prevented government officials from visiting Western nations to defend our cause and timber sanctions starved our country of revenue.”
   “[The United States] caused this war… but we appreciate their presence. They can call off their dogs now,” Taylor said bitterly. After a lengthy diatribe against the United States, Taylor said, “I’ve decided to make the ultimate sacrifice, and be the “sacrificial lamb”, the “whipping boy”. That was the crust of the matter. Presently, Taylor recognized that he was day-dreaming and doing a lot of thinking. Why did he forget his own prophetic message that he was a sacrificial lamb? Now he was seeing the writing clearly on the wall. The only difference was that he was seeing it on the prison walls. Long before he agreed to go into exile and spared Liberia of bloodshed, he failed to note that he was a doomed figure of little or no consequence. And whatever anger he had against the United States and Great Britain, he realized that he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. His disappointment was the extreme power that other countries wielded over others.
   But he considered the ultimate sacrifice, which hung over him like the sword of Damocles: “I must stop fighting now.” But was Taylor making the decision out of fear? No, that could not be. He said, “I do not stop out of fear of the fight. I stop now out of love for you. For me it is no longer important that I fight. What is important is that you live and there is peace.” Like a dream, Taylor remembered his parting words to a stunned nation. It was a period of tears, anger and frustration.

   “”I’m stepping down from office of my own volition,” Taylor declared. “No one can take credit for asking me to step down.” But at the same breath, he contradicted himself, for leaving Liberia was too hard for him. “I did not want to leave this country,” Taylor said, choked with emotion, “I can say I am being forced into exile.” But now he was concerned about the suffering in Liberia. He said: “I can no longer see you suffer, the suffering is enough.” All along Taylor was fighting back tears while the women wept for him. The parting was unbearable!  But in his characteristic manner, Taylor prophesized: “God willing,” he said, “I will be back.” Remembering these thoughts ignited the sentiments of sorrow and regret that had buried deep in his heart. He wanted to return as a triumphant leader and not as a fugitive in shackles. Taylor saw it as the end of the world.

    For all his troubles in this world, Charles Taylor believed he was a good man. Though the world considered him otherwise, he had always believed that there was much humanity in him. The fact that he had been condemned for events he was far away from fitted his conclusion that he was like a sacrificial lamb, being disposed off for others. Yes, he made the ultimate sacrifice and willingly allowed himself to be sent into, what he had thought, would have been a brief exile, where he could have returned home to the loving arms of his people.
   For the last couple of hours, Taylor had been reviewing the road he had traveled so far and the people who had all contributed, and ganged up against him. Questions that kept coming back to him were: was my sacrifice, since the epoch year of 1989 invasion of Liberia, worth it? What did he achieve so far that now that he would spend eighty years sitting in jail, he could look back on as his legacy?  His heart beat faster and the thought that he was a failure or had been a failure because of the involvement and manipulations of powerful nations frustrated him. For the last fourteen years, whatever he thought he was determined to achieve for Liberia and its people failed miserably. But was he really a failure?
   Even if he was, he reasoned it was due to the involvement of powerful nations who had some stakes in the matter. “It was a system of divide and rule as usual,” he said to himself. “And the African just went for it, swallowing it without asking any question.”
   Then his mind went on the period when the revolution was launched. With hundreds and even thousands of volunteer soldiers, his forces swarmed across the entire land mass of Liberia. While his forces made significant gains, thousands of the young soldiers died, or were cut down by the enemy.
    As he reflected in German, “Heute rot, morgen tot,” in which by the rough understanding, meant, “Today red, tomorrow dead. Here today, gone tomorrow.” He was bitter that many thousands of his teenage soldiers in arms were gone.
   Taylor believed that his teenage soldiers who died for the revolution were the real heroes of the Liberian war. In pain, the former president reflected in Latin, “Heu, vitam perdidi, operose nihil agendo,” in which it is translated, “Alas, I have wasted my life, industriously doing nothing.”
   He could argue against that opinion since he succeeded in removing the despot whom at the time all Liberians, with some exception, wanted to be removed from the throne. Perhaps, Taylor realized that the lessons of the Liberian war could mean that at least one should not base his hopes in adventures that may eventually call into question the real motive. Like Ovid, (in Metamorphoses, 1, 190), Taylor could say, “Immedicable vulnus ense recidendum est ne pars sincera trahatur,” meaning, “An incurable wound must be cut out lest the sound part be infected.” This was the principle he had applied when he launched the ill-fated war. And still, it is what his enemies would want him to experience. He was highly convinced that he was on the right side of history. His captors provided a pseudo “Onus probandi” that is to say, “the burden of proof,” for the crimes (lies) he was accused of. At least he had shown to the world that he was a man who stood up against a tyrant and won. So now that he was being sent away for good, he could say, in a manner of consolation that, “Here The Man.” He looked at the temporary prison walls, and by calculation, he knew he had been up for the last four hours, unable to sleep, since he heard the number of years he would be put away. Even he realized that nature had denied him repose.

   It is the beginning of a long and a tortuous road that would eventually destroy him. Ghankay knew, and had been aware that the world had already condemned him. But, whether the condemnation would lead to his death, he did not care. In those days where he was king in what he described as Greater Liberia, he remembered how the youths had sung his praises.
“Anybody say no more Taylor we’ll kill you like a dog…”
“Ghankay?”
“Our leader.”
“Looting?”
“Our pay.”
   Those were the days that had passed like a dream. He heard a voice from afar and the former Liberian chief executive stretched his head to see what it was. The time was far spent. He felt his body sagging and he leisurely lowered his head; his eyes shining as he thought about the end of his adventures.

The End

IN THE SLAMMER

By Omari Jackson

         He sat there waiting for it. No, he had long known that it would come to this. And now Ghankay’s eyes lowered below his chest, unconcerned, as the verdict was read to a roomful of spectators.

    “The court,” the judge said, “finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the tragedy in Sierra Leone.” That was the conclusion, and he felt insulted about it.

    The judge went on: “In a few days time from now, you’ll be sentenced to serve your time, and may God’s kindness descent on your soul.”

    Looking suddenly aged, Ghankay Taylor could not hide his emotions, but he would not give in to them.

   “It will give them a chance to deride me,” was his thought.

So it happened that after six years of back and forth trial, the misfortunes of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor came to an end.

   Ghankay bowed his head and what appeared like painful smile came across his face. Was he surprised at what had happened to him? Did he not inform the court, when the trial was in the second year, that he would not have justice? Now that the result of his being guilty had been pronounced, what was the difference he had expected?

   None.

   Now they would throw him into the slammer, and maybe forget about him, leaving him to rot and die like the others.

Ghankay’s heartbeat increased as his mind centered on those unfortunate ones that had gone before him.

Saddam Hussein of Iraq, he read the report was hunted down and hang like a dog in his own country.

    Muamar Gaddafi, who had then transformed his country to work against violent groups, was also brought down and his body dismembered in his home in Libya: both Hussein and Gaddafi’s children becoming victims in the course of their tragedies.

   Then tears filled his eyes, for he was aware of the tragic end of his son, Chucky, who was also hunted down and now residing in a prison somewhere in the United States.

   For 99 years, he heard when he was still being mortgaged to be packaged into prison, as they had done.

   Though his chances of freedom he had known was long gone, he could not fail to laugh when he heard that his guilty verdict would serve as a strong message against such behavior in the future.

    “What behavior?” he had asked in his own defense, at the prosecutor, “is there any of the witnesses who could tell if they saw me doing those falsehoods they claimed I was responsible?” Like a defense counsel, Ghankay had moved back and forth, his eyes directly at the judge.

   The roomful of spectators remained silent.

   His defense, seated at the far corner in the room, waited for a response. Ghankay told them he was a president of a sovereign nation.

“We declared independence when much of Africa was still under the yoke of colonialism,” he said, “and we spearheaded the formation of the OAU.”

The room was silent.

“After over one hundred years,” he said, walking back and forth, “our country was,” his voice broke; choked with emotion, “Liberia was like a village and my people were torn asunder by a despot,” that part was drowned by the judge’s banging gavel.

Referring to what he described as pack of lies, Ghankay said, “My downfall is the end of Africa’s right to choose or die.” Lifting his right hand, he mobbed his face with a white handkerchief, and resumed his summation of what he considered as the plot by evil men against him.

   “Today,” he said in sadness, “I’m a doomed man of no consequence, and like the Christ I am being sacrificed for my people, but at the whim of my enemies.” Ghankay’s eyes were red in color, and not wanting to give the impression that the tragic consequence of his struggle to reclaim Liberia from the throes of a madman, is something he would regret, he swiftly turned around, and pointing at the judge, said, “This is the end.”

   With dramatic effect, Ghankay folded his hands behind his back, and marched across to the defense table and with a remarkable dexterity, lifted and shuffled a number of papers.

   Across from him, directly to the right of the prosecution’s table, sat relatives and friends who had traveled from Liberia and the United States to give him moral support.

   He wanted to look them in the face and encourage them, but the time was different, as he was being prepared for his doom.

    Ghankay remembered back in Africa, in particular in Liberia when it became necessary that he resigned his post as the legitimate president of Liberia where he proceeded into exile in Nigeria, he told his countrymen:

   “I’m not leaving because I’m afraid to fight,” he said, “I’m leaving so that the killings will end, so that you will live.”

Those words presently came to his assistance, and began to haunt him.

   “I’m being sacrificed,” Ghankay said, “I’m like a lamb for the slaughter.”

That day, more than six years ago, he had watched as many Liberians wept for him, and it was then that he realized how his people loved him.

Though he had indicated at the time: “One day,” he said, amid thunderous cheers, “I’ll be back,” that prophecy would not be fulfilled. In the end, Ghankay could not bring himself to believe that the world had been overshadowed by evil men, who had no delight for the plight of the suffering.

Presently, as the bailiff told him to go and not look back, he could feel perspiration forming on his forehead. There was so much a man could take. All he had done was leading a revolution to remove a despot, but now he was being sent to his doom for another’s crime.

“Where is justice,” he said, eyes lowered below his chest.

He did not deny his relations with Foday Sankoh and his marauding soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front, but that he aided and abetted their actions, was far from the truth.

As Ghankay walked to his doom, he could not imagine a world where individuals had no choices for their nations and people’s sake.    He had fought a good fight, and whether his fight caused thousands to die, the world had indicated they did not care. He could be satisfied if he were being judged for his actions in his native Liberia, but now he knew the world did not care about those whose lives wasted on the Liberian theatre.

    Remembering his parting words to the Americans the day he set out for his Nigerian asylum, Ghankay repeated it to himself: “They should call off their dogs,” now that he was being thrown in the slammer.

    He knew he would soon be forgotten, and lost to oblivion. And that was the part, like a cancerous tumor, defeated his resolve to remain optimistic.

The End

When I am Gone

                                                    By Omari Jackson
    “What are you doing now?”  The question did not come as a surprise to me, for the authorities in Ghana had made their position clear: all Liberian refugees must be out of the country by a certain date. The date was what I could not accept since I felt that I also belonged here.
   “Tom, Tom,” my shrill voice echoed, and I felt my own voice coming, from, as if it was from a distance, “there is the likelihood that we’ve no choice as refugees…” my voice trailed off, and to be exact, my voice failed me.
   I had lived at Buduburam for the last eighteen years, and hence I could argue that I was almost a citizen, or to put it mildly, I was a resident, who deserved the comfort and treatment like the locals. But then in Africa, this poor continent that many of us preferred to describe as, “a continent with all the natural resources untapped,” unless one was prepared to suffer downright human indignity, there was no need to insist that there was any right needed to enjoy.
   “What then are you preparing to do?” Tom’s persistent question probed my conscience and it was clear that I had to make up my mind to either leave Ghana before the deadline ended.
    Mind you, I had lived here for many more years, a situation I found myself informing my friend, Tom.
   “Tom, just in case they send me home by force,” I continued in my attempt to make some sense to my friend, “will you look after my interest in Ghana?” I had acquired some properties that I was not prepared to let them be trampled on by some future users of the Camp.
   “Let me see,” my friend said, his two hands outspread before me, “you have two houses, one near Area B, and the other near Area G, right?”
   “Yes and…”
   “I know about him, your son,” Tom interrupted me, and revealed my third property in Ghana. See, I had managed to build myself two mud houses and had born a child with a Ghanaian lady. My son, Kwame, named because he was born on Saturday, was to honor my wife; since she insisted that in the Ghanaian tradition, names march the days children are born.
   “Oh my son, Kwame…” my voice choked, wondering if I would leave him here in Ghana, or take him with me. He was now twelve years old. My friend looked at me for several seconds before I sensed that he was reading my thoughts.
   “Let me answer your question,” Tom, after lifting his right hand to hold my shoulder, said, “I will make sure that nothing of yours get destroyed, when you’re gone.”
    A faint smile came on my face as I nodded in agreement.
   Tom fumbled something in his breast pocket. Then his face registered what I considered as anguish, for he was a Ghanaian through his father and a Liberian through his mother. Now since he spoke the Fanti dialect so well, there could be no argument that he was not part of those of us who had been threatened by the Hon. Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Interior, to leave this land, formerly known as Gold Coast.
  “Will Gina go with you?” Tom wanted to know.
   “Well, with the news that Ghanaians in Liberia may not be happy about the situation, I don’t think she will be glad to go with me.”
  “But aren’t you taking her with you as your wife?”
   “We discussed it last night but she would not accept the fact that she would be fine, in Monrovia.”
   “Then you’ve a problem,” he said.
   “I sure do, but anyway I must return to Liberia and for good this time.”
    The early morning sun swept across Buduburam, and there were many Liberians, looking like zombies, for the decision by the Ghana Government had destroyed their spirits, since they had not expected the result of the peaceful-demonstration to turn out to be like this.
   “Heh, Sam, you going too?”
    I did not want to answer Janet, a neighbor, whose husband died the second day of the demonstration, leaving her with five children, the youngest three years old. The late Samson was a friend, and I felt I could not turn my back on his wife, since he was gone.
   “Yes, I am.”
    Several children raced after each other, and once in a while vehicles using the Awutu-Breku highway would toot their horns.
    I mentioned earlier I would be returning to Monrovia for good, yes, I had been going back and forth; doing what I thought was business. I would buy some “Fanti Lappa” and take it to Liberia and after selling them, or rather after crediting them, I would return empty handed to Ghana.
    I thought I was doing a fine business, till I did not have any more money to continue with it. The last time I went to Liberia, most of those I credited with the goods had woeful stories to tell me.
   That taught me how to do business, in the future.
    I wanted to sell my two houses at the Camp, and leave, but no one wanted to buy them. And since I did not have a registration card as a refugee, I was afraid that I could be arrested, and sent home against my will.
   Trying to avoid any humiliation, I decided to get my things ready, and whether I got any money or not, find my way out of Buduburam in particular, and Ghana in general for good.
    My heart ached inside me as I thought about the fortunes of Africa.
    When oh, when, would we understand that Africa is for all Africans? By now, I could not hold back my tears. My eyes misted with them, and the thought of leaving Ghana came back to haunt me. Another difficulty I thought of was the sense of hopelessness I had witnessed in Liberia during my failed business trips. There were former colleagues who were still struggling to find any kind of job, to be able to earn a living; and there were still others who seemed to have given up any hope that the future for Liberia could be bubbling with gold and honey.
   I then reminded myself that Liberia was no Israel, and the promise for a better future was by men and not by God. With such a forecast, I knew I had to return, even if it was on the orders of Hon. Kwamena Bartels, or someone else.
  “I am going, Tom,” my own voice surprised me. “One day, I’ll be back.” With that statement, I was reminded of what the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor said, the day he decided to go into exile. A frown on my face registered my disappointment and I wanted to take my words back. My fear was that since Taylor did not have the freedom to return to Liberia, I might not have the chance to return to Ghana.
  “I’m going home by Kwamena Bartel’s order, I am.”
   That was all I could say, though it was in the morning, I fell into a deep slumber, and in a dream I arrived in Monrovia to be received by some family members and friends.

   “Welcome Home, welcome home,” they said, as if in a chorus.
  Though I was no Martin Luther King Jr, I heard myself shout: “Free at last, free at last, thank  God I’m free at last,” but then something jerked on my side, and I heard my friend Tom, asking, “what freedom are you talking about, here in Ghana?”
   “Oh,” I stuttered sheepishly, “So I was dreaming?”
  “Yes,” my friend Tom added, as a consolation, “and you spoke about freedom.”
   “Well,” I said, “I shall return someday.” Though I had the hope that God could make any unfortunate situation fortunate, I could not overcome the sense of let down, as a result of the perennial silence from the Monrovia Government, the United Nations and Liberian embassy staff in Accra. The consequent agony I had seen, since our women decided to do something about the disappointing situation we have had, brought it home to me that we were just alone in the battle. Suddenly bitterness mixed in my mouth. It was then that in my mind’s eye, I could hear a Liberian musician, I could not remember which of them, his lyric drumming in my ears, “Tomorrow I am going home, tomorrow I am going home, tomorrow I am going home, tomorrow I am going home.”
“Yes, I’m thinking about tomorrow, when I am gone,” I said.

 

I Can Only Imagine

By Omari Jackson

  She knew I was serious when I said, “You taking this thing for a joke, huh?”

  She held her breath for a few seconds and said, “I’m not, why?”

 “Why did you ask me?”

She said, “I didn’t hear you.”

I waited for her answer to sink into my brain, held the phone to my left ear, and listened to her soft breathing. It had been several days now since we came to know each other, and we were having fun.

I said, “You know I cannot say I miss you, right?”

“Why can’t you?”

“Because,” I said, “I don’t know you.”

I heard a sound of dissatisfaction in her voice. I was not trying to hurt Jeanice, for it was a fact that I did not know her, neither did she.

I heard her voice on the telephone line, and it was apparent that she wanted to say something. I held my breath, ready for her but she did not.

“You know I’m telling the truth, right?”

Her voice came in low and soft. It was like a hissing sound under a heavy rainfall.

She said, “I think you’re right.”

“You think?”

She said, “We never talked about our dislikes and likes.”

I said, “I already know what you like.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” I said, “and I can name them.”

“Ok.”

An echo came on the line and I thought the line was dead.

I said, “Are you there?”

Jeanice’s soft voice came on the line, to reassure me that she was still around.

“I’m here.”

I said, “Being human you deserve to be loved, and I don’t need you to tell me.”

“Ok,” she said, “what else?”

“Before I continue,” I said, “let me say that I can only imagine you.”

She said, “What do you mean?”

“Remember I said I cannot say I miss you,” I repeated, “because I don’t know you.”

“You’re right,” she said.”

I said, “I can miss hearing your voice.”

“Yes,” she said, “and I can miss hearing yours, too.”

“I’ve seen your picture,” I said, “and therefore I can only imagine you.”

“Oh,” she said, “but I didn’t hear what you said from the beginning.”

I said, “Hello sweetheart was what I said.”

“Ok lover-boy,” she said, “and that was why I asked about what you said.”

I was smiling from my end. Like all things in life, distant relationships were some of the enduring ones. Internet had made it easy for easy communication. The element of having romantic relations with someone on the opposite end of the world was becoming fashionable, and it was my first time into it.

I said, “As I was saying about you…”

“Yes,” Jeanice said.

“I know you’ve value, meaning you mean a lot to me.”

“Yes,” she said.

“A man needs to cheer you up.”

“Ok,” she said.

I said, “You need to be surprised.”

She laughed.

She might have felt the truth of what I said, because I had surprised her with a wonderful gift, when she had not asked me for it. The discussion was heating up, but then she made a request.

She said, “I’ve a signal that my battery is dying.”

I knew then that it was time to end the discussion. She had told me about the frequent rains in her town, Monrovia, and it was clearly the reason sometimes the phone-networks would interrupt in our frequent discussions. As we said goodbye to each other, I could only imagine her.

                                                                                            The End

Reassuring Honey P (Rose)

By Omari Jackson

     It was difficult the day I saw her image, and as I gazed at her picture, my heart’s beat increased and I felt the world would not be the same again for me.

    I said, “Honey…” and lost my capacity to continue. Her voice was calm, and full of life, when she said, “I mean it,” and tears came down my eyes.

    Her message, sent to me on facebook, said, “I’m a very weak woman,” and I could hear the echoes of her anguish of tears.

   I said, “You’re worried for no reason, Honey P.”

 She said, “I was afraid of losing you.”

  I said, “What happened?”

  She said, “I just don’t know.”

My hand shook at the thought of her anguish, and I blamed myself for that. For starters, Honey P told me that love was in her heart for me.

 At the time I said, “Honey P, isn’t love a dangerous animal?”

  She said, “Sometimes my heart would want to break.”

“Why?” I said, “Haven’t I told you, you’re the greatest thing to ever happen to me?
She laughed.

  Then she said, “I was so afraid.”

   I said, “Afraid of what, Honey P?”

She could not reply and I could hear her breathing, so hard.

  I said, “Is honey not sweeter than even sugar?”

  She said, “It is, honey do you believe that?”

Her question hit me on my face, and I laughed at that one. It was apparent that her reaction was due to the accidental removal of my facebook content that made it difficult for her to access it. I did not realize it at first and so when I was able to understand the reason of her agony, I rushed to my facebook account to fix the damage.

   Having repaired the cause of her anxiety and reassuring her of my undying love, I said, “Honey P, you are reaching an unfortunate conclusion.”

  She said, “How could I not reach such a conclusion?”

  I said, “You realize I did not mean it?”

She said, “I am so weak now.”

I said, “Huh?”

She said, “Yes.”

I could no longer allow the woman of my dream to shed unnecessary tears for me, and I had to move in to assure her of my undying love.

I said, “Give some meaning to your tears, Honey.”

She said, “Am I losing you?”

I said, “No, honey.”

She said, “You can say that again.”

With that reply, I assured Honey P of my growing confidence in her. Our love was in its infancy, and we were yet to make it official. The thought of meeting her the very first time was building up in my lanky frame of body. For truly speaking, Honey P was an angel, and her pictures proved that to me.

I said, “Honey P, you’re an angel.”

She could no longer control her tears, and she said so.

“I’m trying to be.”

I said, “Honey P, you’re already my angel.”

She said, “Thank you, love.”

I said, “Remember there is no one but you.”

She said, “I’m confident now.”

It was enough for me, as a smile came on my face.

I said, “Enjoy your day, Honey P.”

She said, “So long and take care of yourself.”

Though we were writing to each other, it was like we were sitting face to face. My heart jumped with gladness, and as I signed off from my facebook account, I was reassured of Honey P’s faith in our enduring friendship. With the thought of Honey P in my heart, I slumped on the couch, and before long I was dreaming, meeting Honey P again in memory lane.

 

 

 

 

Yearning for Vanessa

 

By Omari Jackson

Vanessa Brown’s eyes met mine and the message seemed clear to me, and I responded in kind. A smile came across my face, and I turned to look at her.

She said, “Hi,” and smiled.

“Are you a Liberian?” I said, shaking my head.

“My mother is a Liberian,” she said, “and my dad is a Ghanaian.”

“Good,” I said, “have you been to Liberia before?”

She said, “No.”

I knew she was one of the children born in the United States, and had not had the chance or opportunity to visit the countries where their parents originated.

Vanessa’s voice was soft, and her eyes were delicate and curious.

“Can you give me a number?”

She said, “Yes…” but did not finish the sentence.

I nodded my head, and I could not hide the excitement that was building in me. It was not that I had not seen Vanessa until that time. The truth was it was the very first time that I was taking the time to chat with her and to at least come to know her.

All the time I had seen her, she appeared to be a wonderful young woman of great promise, for she was so young, and the promise was too clear for me to see. She seemed in her early twenties. Her body was athletic, meaning she had been keeping eyes on her weight. She had on a nice pairs of jeans, which complemented the blouse she wore.

It was clear she was a woman of fashion, though she was now working for NCR, whose Suwannee location, I had been assigned and where we were checking each other’s up.

I said, “What’s your name,” and turned to look away, for her smile was like a magnet, which I could not ignore.

 “Vanessa,” she said, and smiled again.

“I need you to call me.” I was becoming fond of her, a secret admirer, the reason being that my spirit was taking her and loving her. It was like meeting a friend for the first time and a part of you suggesting there should be some personal contact.

She said something which I did not hear, and I went closer to her to hear it.

I said, “What did you say?” straining to hear her.

“I don’t have a phone,” her soft voice breaking the silence in my brain.

Which was strange but I did not voice it up to her.

I said, “Why?”

She smiled, and I could read a sense of unhappiness in her face. Nonetheless I probed on and staring her in the face, I heard her soft voice penetrating my brain.

“I owed a lot on my phone and so until I pay it,” she said, “I may not be able to call you.”

I said, “How much are you talking about?”

“It’s big,” she said.

I kept my focus on her face, as we walked towards her area of assignment.

“How much is it?”

She said, “It’s like two hundred dollars.”

She was given me this message two days after I had hoped to hear from her, but did not.

“I see,” I said.

She said, “That’s why I could not call you.”

I said, “You don’t make any effort to call me, for I can raise the money in two weeks for you.”

After some seconds she said, “Ok I’ll try.”

It took a couple of days, and when we met, she stressed on the phone problem again.

“Do you have a facebook account?” trying to find another medium to communicate with her till the phone problem was solved.

She said, “Yes.” She turned around, and I walked alongside her.

I said, “Can you give it to me?” She rolled her eyes, and I could see a smile on her face.

 “Ok,” she said, and smiled her usual smile again, swinging her hands back and forth.

What I was learning from Vanessa was that anytime she smiled, her beauty would enhance her image, and my heart would go out to her. It was a strange feeling, and the idea that I always wanted to see her became more pressing.

I was no kid and therefore I could handle any situation of that nature. However, that I would always want to see Vanessa was what excited me.

Though I could not get her facebook information, a social network, I consoled myself, saying, “She would be back here tomorrow.” That assurance kept me sane, as I waited for the next day to come. But why was I too much to know about Vanessa? What was happening to me? I could not find an answer to satisfy my questions.

It was just that I liked her and therefore I had to make the extra effort to get to know her a little better.

But suppose she continued to indicate that she had no way of calling me on the phone, though I already gave her my number?

Then of course I could explore the avenue to provide her with some assistance. Was that the best way to begin a friendship with such an incredible, but charming woman? I examined the issue but I could not come out with a reasonable answer.  But that did not stop me, and did not lessen my desire to see and speak with Vanessa Brown again.

So on the third day when I saw her, I was elated, and shouted at her as she walked along with a couple of her workmates.

 I said, “Hi Vanessa,” and my voice was so high that she heard me and turned, and with a smile on her face, indicated with her hand that she would come near me soon.

“I didn’t get the facebook account as you promised,” I said, with a smile. I was following her example, and it was a good thing.

Vanessa smiled, and explained she did not see me the previous day, which was the truth.

I said, “Can you give it to me today?”

 She agreed, and said she would see me later.

And lo and behold, before she left that evening, she returned with the facebook information, and though I was far away from my station, she lifted her hand, and when I nodded, she placed the piece of paper on the computer I had been working with.

Few minutes later, when I held the piece of paper in my hand, I saw her “email address” and smiling at it, I placed it in my trouser pocket, with firm satisfaction.

Though Vanessa was out of my sight, I could still hear her soft voice in my ears. This was a wonderful experience.

The End

Reasonable Motive

By Omari Jackson

Caroline’s eyes filled with tears, as she wrung her hands.

“This is difficult,” she said, as she flung her right hand about herself. “Did you see all these, Benarda?” Benarda‘s eyes stared her as if in disbelief.

She said, “I was there, this is not something someone told me,” and hesitated for her response to sink into her friend, then said, “It was like a movie, you know.”

Caroline could not agree to that. Her unwillingness to accept the events that led to the death of Holman did not surprise her.

For Holman was the father of her three children and though during their eight years of marriage, Holman never treated her like the woman she was.

True, he was what Benarda described as a compulsive liar at heart, but Caroline did not, or she failed to accept that her former husband was what he had been described.

But now that it seemed he was dead by his own actions, Caroline, deep down her heart, could not agree that her patience in enduring the years of suffering under Holman had been paid.

She remembered the early stages of their married, how sweet and remarkable Holman was. It was then that she heard the voice of her friend, as if from afar.

“It was difficult at first,” she said, her eyes wide as she hung on the chair, “but when I went closer, it was clear that he was the one.”

Caroline said, “Where was Napoleon?”

“I did not see him at first,” Benarda said, “not until the police came.”

“You mean,” Caroline said, “both were dead already?”

“The police now think so.”

Caroline said, “So what did they say happened?”

“Officer Mark was one of the first to be on the scene,” Benarda said, “and he told me later that he believed the two men committed suicide.”

Caroline listened and waited for some seconds before she mustered courage to say, “Why did they kill themselves? Why?”

Benarda said, “You know our wedding anniversary was on Thursday, and Napoleon told me we needed to celebrate it.”

Caroline remembered the third anniversary of her wedding, and how she had visited several places, including the historic Martin Luther King Jr, center in downtown Atlanta. Like a movie reel, she could see Holman holding fast to her hands and with her eyes aglow with joy, moved leisurely down the main street to the center.

Holman said, “Can you believe our marriage has reached three wonderful years?”

She laughed at the way he said it, before saying, “I’m glad to get you as a husband.”

Holman said, “When you bowed before the altar and declared to the world that you would be my wife, I knew I was the happiest man on earth.”

But the thought of Holman’s declaration of his love for her was mixed with his violent behavior, two weeks’ later.

With tears now in her eyes, she now remembered  the dramatic change that came over Holman, and how that led to more violent behavior.

Coming out of her day-dream, Caroline said, “Sometimes I don’t understand how what seems to be a perfect relationship becomes so violent?”

Benarda said, “You know Napoleon was one of the sweetest men I could have but then see what happened? There was nothing I could do to help him…”

Caroline could agree to that.

How long did it take Holman to become a monster? Two weeks? It happened two weeks after their third anniversary but she condoned his behavior till the eighth year of their relationship. Did she have any reason for that?

Benarda broke her thoughts: “At least you have three beautiful children out of your marriage.” Caroline could hear the sadness in Bernadetta’s voice, and moved closer to comfort her.

Both women sat at the 345 Classic Apartments where Caroline had been staying for the last two years since her marriage to Holman ended. Though she had had the occasion to call the police, reporting that someone like her former husband was stalking her, she never encountered him.

In their last encounter, Holman’s violent assault sent her to the Gwinnet Medical Center, and she was in surgery for three days. It was after that experience she realized she could not save Holman, and she was better living alone than being with him.

Napoleon, yes, sweet Napoleon as Benarda described him, was a man whose descent into violence against her friend had come as a surprise. Caroline could not believe that Napoleon’s friendship with her Holman changed the former so much.

She heard about their drinking binges, and she had had the occasion to advice both men, but it seemed to have fallen on death ears. But if it was true that both men had committed suicide, what could or was the motivating factor to that? Searching her mind, she could not find any reasonable motive. The police could come up with a theory of what might have happened to the two men.

She was thinking about what she would tell her three children about their father. Suppose they ask her, whether their father was a good man, what would she tell them? It might depend on what kind of good her children would want to know.

She was a good mother, caring for her children’s needs. She could not remember a time in her life when she had to demand to know about her own father. True, her father was always there, safe the period he had to leave from their small town, somewhere in Colombia to come to the United States.

A smile came across her face.

Then Benarda said, “We need to take courage,” and smiled, gazing at her friend.

Caroline said, “I know,” lifting her face to meet her friend’s gaze. The morning weather felt warm, and she believed what the weather people had been saying in the TV the other night.

Caroline said, “Sometimes it is just difficult with the children but all the same I’m glad they bring me some joy and comfort.”

“I know,” her friend said, and laughed.

True, Caroline was now in a relationship, she did not know if she was ready any time soon, to rush the man to the altar. Sometimes the idea of marriage made her cringe, but she knew she would need to marry in her life someday. Though she would not allow any man to treat her like Holman did, she was now prepared to play a meaningful role, and be a woman of her own.

As the door squeaked open, she knew it was time to get breakfast for her children.

The End

SHE IS GONE

By Omari Jackson

      The icy weather held Georgia captive, and for the first time in many years, Atlanta felt the pangs of the winter cold. But no one thought it would be her final moments in life, despite the truth that there is a time to be born and to die.

     “How did it happen?”

      The voice boomed from behind me. I whirled around; a young woman of about twenty three was standing there, her face serious and wanting to know how Elizabeth’s death had come. I could not figure out where I had known her, but true Elizabeth had been pronounced dead when she was rushed to the local hospital, the night before.

     “I wish I know,” I said, with a weak smile.

      The young woman held her head high, and though it was a little dark in my apartment I could see worry on her face.

      “Do you believe that she is dead?”

     “I don’t know what to believe,” I said, “but it has been reported in the media and those who had gone there brought the news that she was dead.”

     “Did you know her personally?”

     “Not exactly,” I said, grinning bitterly in the face that seemed to change at every speech, “I know friends who knew her, and she was a sweet young woman.”

      “Oh,” she said, as if she was no longer interested in the discussion, “they say that about all of them.”

       “What did you say?”

        My voice was louder now, but I could not feel the presence of anyone in the room. It was then that I began to have a fit.

       My body shook, involuntarily, and my hands danced by my side. Who was I talking to?

        I sauntered toward the corner of the room, and checked around and there was no one in there.

       I began to talk to myself.

      Anyone here? Was I going mad or something? I was talking to someone a while ago but who was that?

     Fear held me captive. My two-bedroom apartment was becoming a nightmare for me. Then I began to get the picture somehow clearer.

      A Liberian woman was reported to have been struck down, along with an American woman, when they stopped their cars to check a fender-bender, and another woman had driven straight through the women, killing them both.

      The story on the news had unnerved me, and I was wondering how could that tragedy have been prevented, and then boom, someone, a woman, had responded and we had chatted for a while.

      I initially thought it was a dream or that I was standing somewhere outside and there were people familiar with the case, and therefore I was sharing my opinion on the story, but did not realize that I was alone in the room and someone had come to join in the dialogue.

     “This is weird,” I told myself, and by now my body had adjusted to the fear, and my hands were no longer dancing by my side.

 

      The noise startled me.

       “Who is that?” I shouted, and moved towards the door. I had been living alone in this apartment for the last two years, and it was the first time that I was becoming openly afraid to remain here alone.

        A voice said, “Huh?”

       “Huh what?” I said, nearing the location now, my heart fluttering in my chest. Questions came to my mind, and I wondered if someone was playing some tricks on me. I did not know the young woman who had been reported dead, and considering the nature of her death, I was in sympathy with her.

     Accidental death is one of the most unfortunate ones in places where every day trip is made by a car. But from her story, she was apparently coming from work or something and when the fender bender occurred, she wanted to make sure that there was nothing wrong with the car.

     My residence in Lawrenceville neared one of the local grave sites, and though there were always fresh-painted graves, I never saw anyone burying relatives there.

    On several occasions, I wondered about the future of mankind, and had reassured myself that since in death there is no conscious existence, it sounds reasonable that the dead will be concealed till the resurrection promised in Scripture.

   The idea of a resurrection has always comforted me, and also by knowing what is also written in Scripture that whether we live or die, everything is to His (Jesus’) glory, and therefore I have a comfortable understanding of death and its mystery.

     But then why could such a belief? It was clear that someone had been in the room with me, but who was she?

     Having searched all the corners that I thought someone could hide to scare me, and finding no one, I rushed to the center table and grabbed the Holy Bible, and held it in my hands, like a mother cuddling an only child, after a tragedy.

     “The Lord is my Sheppard,” I sang, “and I shall not want.”

      Like a riddle, my tongue rattled the famous Psalm 23, and in a few seconds, I had regained some reassurance of God’s grace, deep in thought.

     I could not help, but felt appreciative of God’s wonderful comfort for the living, realizing that no matter what the situation would be, God would be our only protector.

     The mystery of life is fraught with uncertainties, and it is only in the Scripture that some understanding is gleaned from the curse of it. Salvation was becoming clearer to me now, for after all our hard work, if death would smother everything, and there is an apparent hopelessness, then why was man described as the glory of Devine Creation?

     I could not imagine the shock when the death of the young Liberian sister was announced to the family, somewhere in Atlanta, and as I gazed at the distance, watching and imagining it, I shuddered at the thought, but I regained the comfort that is promised for those who wait on the Lord.

      Personally, I had been waiting on the Lord; the day violence broke out in Liberia and smothered the living and the beast.

      In my most difficult moments, I had sought refuge and sang the song, Amazing Grace, and when the goings seemed tough, I would hide behind the song, “Hear Me Dear Lord, For the Days Are Wicked,” and these had comforted me!

      Now with the death of a young Liberian sister, I was awakening to the reality of sorrow. And what was more, the recent tragic earthquake in poor Haiti, where close to two hundred thousand were buried alive, gave me much to think about.

     “We should always remember the only condition that is inevitable,” I said it aloud, “for in the end, which comes unexpected, we would meet mankind’s enemy to complete the circle of our existence.”

       I may never be able to know who engaged me in the conversation, but one thing I was finally certain about was my determination to face the certainty and the uncertainty of life head-on. For the Scripture has also assured that there is no hatred, work or devising in the grave, where the living finally end up in death.

       “I know she is gone,” I mused, “may God’s undeserved kindness remember her forever.”

                                                                       The End

Copyright

    2010

 

The Day He Saw Her

                               By Omari Jackson

    James could not admit that he was fast losing himself. He was twenty two, and for the last three weeks, he had found it hard to even sleep and eat. Why? It was the simple question that had come into his mind, since the beginning of the three weeks.

   Sitting under a shade, he held a book between his hands, and frantically searched in between to see something. What did he want, really? He appeared confused, and on several occasions, he put the book down on a table beside him and looked into the heavens. He was searching for an answer, and that answer was not in the house of God.

   “Hmm…” His breath was long and hard. He was about one hundred and forty pounds, and his hands were rather long. His face was coarse, and it was said that he looked like his father. But who should he resemble? Sony was not the type to argue when others decide to make him the subject of their gossip. He was not the one to even challenge others when they spoke badly about him.

   He was not the kind also to fight back in any way, which did not mean he was some kind of a coward.

   Now his heart was completely empty, and had been empty the day he came to know Dorian Gray, the beautiful eighteen year old, who lived a block away from his residence in his Arizona quarters.

   He was taking the situation very hard, and for all he knew he might find life more attractive if Ms. Gray did not agree to share her love with him.

   He had heard about people, some his age that had committed suicide when the love they had anticipated failed to respond to the dictates of their hearts, and had wondered how that could be. To die for love could be a noble thing to do in fiction, he knew, but in reality should be in the hands of God. His determination was to win Ms. Gray’s heart by telling her how he felt about her.

   And when the opportunity came to him three days ago, he had told her, despite the difficulty he had felt from the beginning:

   “I cannot explain this, Ms. Gray.” He had begun the confession with a little difficulty, his voice losing its vitality, and his hands shaking. He held his hands as if he was playing with his belt to keep them steady. “I must confess my love for you.”

   There was a giggle, as if of derision from the young woman, as both sat under the very shade of the tree they were occupying. Initially she had feigned angry, and had twisted her mouth like any little girl would.

   Then she laughed, and turned her face away from him.

   “Do you mean it?”

    It was not a question to Sony, for he had meant it the moment he set his eyes on her, one Sunday after church, and he had said it all. Looking around him, he realized the opportunity for him to re-emphasize and spill what had been in his heart for several days, until then had presented itself.

   “To demand whether I mean it,” he said, a smile curling up on the corner of his mouth, “is like asking me if I am sound in mind.” He waited a couple of seconds, to hear her speak.

     Then she spoke, and laughed a little louder, before she said again, “Give me sometime to think about your request.”

    What seemed like cold bumps had descended upon him, and in a daring move, he thrust his hands to hold her, which she did not withdraw.

     That day was like day of blessing for him.

      Afterwards they had walked together, holding hands, and after he had come out of what seemed like some confusion in his mind, the young woman told him, she was not sure she understood what was happening.

    “I have observed you in our community here,” she told James Sony, “You’re different and you appear to be a serious kind of guy.”

     “I appreciate your comment,” he had also told her, grinning from ear to ear.

     “But,” she continued, and James pricked his ears to hear what was coming, “I feel we are different, since you come from Africa and….”

     “But we’re the same, and I love you to death.” James’ open retort had held what he considered a kind of fascination for her, for she had looked into his eyes, and seeing the fire in there, had remarked, “I’m not sure my parents will agree for us to become what you just told me.”

     She had walked on hurriedly and before James knew what was happening, she was gone.

    Now as he considered that experience, he could only sit and wait, hoping that someday, some power from above would come down and direct his actions. The thought about a young African girl, who had recently come to their neighborhood, now came to his rescue. She was young, and beautiful, too!

    He remembered the first time they met somewhere, also at the church. Her face radiated some innocence, and she had smiled at him. He now wondered why he failed to read the meaning on her lips. That Sunday, she had simply said, “Hi, I’m Mickey.” Now he remembered the sweet aroma that had emanated from her, and he wanted to ask himself how he could have failed to understand her.

   Now that Ms. Gray had reminded him that he was an African, he decided to take some interest in those of his kind, maybe he could find a companion, to give him the kind of happiness that he had always wanted.

   He felt bitter, but not angry, for love was meant to bring happiness.

   Standing up, he looked into the heavens again, and instead of questioning himself, he understood the truth that he must go for his kind, the very people that would not remind him of where he had come from.

   There was a smile at the corner of his mouth, as he picked the book on the table beside him. He walked leisurely and crossed the road, feeling a sense of peace in his heart. He would not worry anymore, no matter what.

   The reason, he now admitted with all his heart, saying, and “love is made to be celebrated and enjoyed to the end.”

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