“How often have I lain beneath the rain on a strange roof, thinking of home?”
|William Faulkner//American novelist// via As I Lay Dying, 1930|
All too relatable, and not in any way admirable, yet quite laughable because when most of us leave home, we believe it’s time to get away and/or pursue greener pastures. Until the greener doesn’t seem so green anymore.
I ran away from home at 16. My desire to have a better, rich and creamy life had matured from a voice deep within to a ghost haunting away my sanity and tormenting the last of my hopeless existence. I could no longer stand the poverty I was born into. I reeked of it and the smell choked life out of me. There is nothing beautiful about poverty, I tell you. Nights of toss and turn tuned on the rhythm of the gunshots outside. If the bullets don’t kill you, a neighbor’s unkempt cooking stove will explode, the flames will find you and make you funereal ashes.
Poverty, the benevolent spirit, the curse…which torments, bewails and shackles you to the same misery year after year. Not me. Not anymore.
Shamim and her aunt picked me up from the bus terminal in Dar es Salaam. Shamim was a good friend from primary school so when I contacted her and lied that my mother and sister had died, her family accepted to take me in. Her parents had died in a road accident when she was six years old so she lived with her aunt Zabibu. Zabibu was a wealthy business woman, making Shamim a suitable target for my plan. A few weeks later, I started a job as a cleaner at a hotel within the city center. While wiping dust off the hotel room windows, I enviously watched luxurious cars speed by. I admired the business people crossing the roads, boisterously. How secure and confident they seemed. I often stared and caught myself smiling, waving and whispering: Dear Future, I see you’re well. Marrying you soon. Sadly, my life wasn’t progressing as fast as I wanted it to. My struggles still showed by the wrinkles at the edges of my eyes, my soggy skin, rough palms and grotesquely chewed-out, once-jigger-infested feet. Each time I passed by the hotel’s bar, I would find men and women raising glasses in the air, laughing, dancing and chanting. How happy and satisfied with life they seemed.
Who are these people? Some so young. How did they get there? There must be a short cut. And I will find it, I often thought.
I prepared all my questions and went to Zainab. She was a successful business woman…after all!
“What do I do? Where do I start?”
“Are you willing to do anything to achieve your dreams?”
The following morning, she took me to a house in the suburbs. Inside, we found a group of about 15 girls who seemed of my age, and an older woman.
“Prepare her,” Zainab said to the older woman.
I trusted Zainab so I did not question the instructions. What followed was a session of physical therapy.
The other girls helped clean up my flaws and taught me how to wear make-up and lace it with expensive perfume and Shea butter lotion. The older woman explained the tricks of the game, the rules and the tools used.
It was a brothel masquerading as a massage parlor.
At the time, the business was fresh and thus so lucrative in Dar es Salaam such that six months into the job, I joined the bourgeoisie class of the society. Exactly what I left home and mentally murdered my family for. Round of applause…anyone?
Ten years later and here I am, on a rainy night, on a strange roof gnashing my teeth at how I lost my soul to gain the world. I miss home. Back at home, my body was unsightly and dirty by dust but my dignity was beautiful. I could dare lift my hands to the Holy one but with the filth they are dressed in now, I dare not. I’m lost, too wandered off. But even if I found my way back, I would find bare ground and funereal ashes because the flames of the neighbor’s unkempt cooking stove caught up with my family two years ago. My confession became my possession.
This is not my story but it’s based on a true story. I’ve lost a friend or two to the world and in my continued involvement with them, I came to the realization that home isn’t necessarily where our families are but is also our life purpose or where we find peace and security, and that no matter how far gone we may be from home, we will always yearn to find our way back. I also learnt that if it was written in our destiny that we’ll go East, whether we opt to go North or South, one day we’ll have to go East and that’s when our lives will truly begin. It all boils down to accepting that, too often the short cut, the lie of least resistance, is responsible for evanescent and unsatisfactory success |Louis Binstock|.