The crowd watched quietly in sheer sympathy of her life story yet they held great admiration for her. Whiles others clapped, the rest were too busy wiping their tears and trying to shake off the shock.
It was a mixed feeling, some men couldn’t sit, they just stood, arms folded. Looking on in the crowd I felt an echo of the past of that unusually warm morning…
I walked up the hill to school, I was late and was going to be lashed mercilessly -as usual- yet I wasn’t in a hurry to get to school. I admired the foliage and appreciated nature. The name of the area was “quarters” and each apartment comprised ofa two bedrooms self – containment unit. The settlement was just right. All the houses looked alike, the moment you lose your house number, you lose your location. Any new resident could easily get missing.
The sun stared angrily into my bruised faced. I blinked asthe heat from the sun hurt my bruised and unshielded face, yet the pain was trivial in comparison to my aching head. Aunty had hit my head with a sandal for leaving the pair of sandals I wore the previous day in my school bag.
The metal underneath hit my head so bad I shook myself from her grip, jumping all the way from the top stairs after her second smash. I didn’t know how I managed to free myself from her grip.
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Empty of ambitions, I always awoke my inner strength to be able to wake up at dawn, sweep the huge compound, wash utensils and our dirty clothes; the strength to receive more lashes from school and hefty blows and scratches from home. And whenever she cursed me, I always had my eyes fixed downwards looking beyond the curse… wondering if I could get beyond the curse.
Life tasted sour, shredded happiness. I was always wide awake in my sleep, being mindful of when she would strike and when my senses would prompt me to dodge those substantial blows. If I was given a fair chance to choose, I could have chosen to sleep on the street with my mother. The street was dangerous yet I could sleep. I knew God did not have to look through any ceiling to see me out on the streets. Hahahaha my childish thoughts without egos and inspirations.
I had no friends. Timid was my perfect description. But then I was aware of a sweet Jesus – a spirit of truth who always surged joy in me. I was too young to know He was the Holy Spirit but I remember one simple prayer I made at the park aunty used to take me to pray with her church folks.
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“You’re the only friend I have but I don’t want anyone to understand our language when we talk, so let’s speak in a language no one will understand. It’s between you and me.”Of course I wouldn’t want aunty to hear me telling Him about the lashes and slaps I took in a day. On the last day of thefasting and prayers I began to speak in an uncommon language. I always inquired of the Holy Spirit, and whenever I was done talking “In our language” whatever trash the day gave me was replaced with joy. This kind of intimacy with God I am sure most elderly people never had. I was only 8 years then.
Life with aunty taught me how to fish for valuables even in the heap of garbage. Life with aunty taught me to walk on the right path and continue work without complain even when my eyes were closed. “Why?”, well, there was a day when pepper was poured into my eyes and a day when I had to go to the waste stand “BCLA” and search through the garbage for the earring she placed in the dustbin herself which I had taken to the refuse damp already. Life with Aunty taught me to be selfless. Life with Aunty taught me to be STRONGER THAN PAIN and live in love. I fought beyond curses and today I inspire you.
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When it was time for me to run I did. The strength built in me was beyond the borders of fear to move. Sometimes, it takes a lot of bravery to run because fear can cause you to be immovable and stagnant.
Bravery… with a sigh I lifted up my head as I jostled back into reality. The crowd before me had heard just a fraction of what I went through as a child and yet their emotions were clearly spelt across their faces. “How did she survive?” I could hear one lady ask another. “ … And she look so polished and DBEE” I simply smiled.
At the close of the program, a young lady walked up to me and whispered, “Can I hug you please?” After the worm embrace she said “You have a beautiful heart.” After I had laboured so much in pain I gained a “beautiful heart” I call it BEAUTY AFTER TEARS.
Source: Miss Maiden S. Hackman, A Writer