I am afraid. I do not know what sparks this terrible feeling in me. It keeps pushing me like a strong wind, urging me to run faster. Why do I feel like I have travelled through time to a familiar place, far beyond any calculable distance?
I am in a new place. There is noise everywhere, and though it is dusk, my new setting is alive with activity, hope, optimism—I can see it in the people’s eyes, I can hear it in their voices. There is hope in the splattering of soup within their clay pots; hope in every thump from the clash of pestle and mortar. As I walk through small gatherings of families and friends, I realise that no one notices me. Everyone is blind to my prolonged stares and deaf to my shuffling.
I do not feel welcome here. It is with pain that I acknowledge this revelation. As I plunge deeper into my thoughts to dissect my feeling, a little boy holds my hands. He takes me on a scampering journey through the people, mud houses, and bushes— all beautiful under the moonlight. It is as if he is taking me on a tour around my new, unnamed home.
We are still running—my new companion and I. This place has a sea that blows a sensational breeze ashore at night. As we run, it carries us lightly through the darkness to a compound. Here, there are three or four houses in a ring sharing a compound. Their homes are brown like their pots however, the difference is that the former is adorned with beautiful designs I cannot readily identify. Oh, I think I see one that looks like a lizard or an alligator. I do not know much about these people but I know they are as beautiful as their culture. Like the people I had encountered before, this house was not quiet. There is music accompanied by such an enchanting rhythm, my feet are forced to move to it.
There seems to be a cause for celebration in this particular house. The atmosphere is tense and expectant. My companion mumbles something into my ears. Before I have the time to ask him for a repetition, he drags me into a small dark room, lit only by two lanterns—one on the windowsill and another in the hand of a middlaged woman.
A woman lies on the ground, writhing in pain as if she is suffering from birth pangs—of course, she is. I am told this is the third day of her suffering. There is an assurance that she will make it today. The men have to stay outside; the only connection between them and the room is the window they press their ears against. I sit through four changes of warm water and towels and then comes the cry. It is shrill, yet tiny. The source of this cry is a tiny, lively life kicking her way into the world.
At the sound of her cries, the entire household is jubilant. The men outside are allowed to come in. One man, however, has the pleasure of holding the baby first. He is clearly happy, as he defiantly decides to name her straightaway, against the people’s usual practice of naming children on the eighth day after they are born.
The man takes her outside as if to announce her arrival to the world. Amidst the laughter and congratulatory messages, he declares proudly, “the name of this child is…”
I am in my bed. My hairline is wet and salty. I can hear my breath. The breeze from the sea in my dreamland seems to have followed me into reality. I can feel it on my skin. I try to sleep again, in my disappointment of not hearing the baby’s name in my dream. Before I do, I check the time on my new alarm clock. It is 11:59 pm, and next to it is the date—March 5, 1957.
Author: Joy Blebu, threesixtyGh Writer