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DEAR NJIDEKA

DEAR NJIDEKA

It’s been twenty years since you and Lola left us. Twenty years since that driver ran both of you over to protect his car from the potholes. We had just returned from school and were buying our favourite candy at Iya Kanyi’s shed when it happened. A crowd gathered and Mama covered my eyes when I pointed to the red fluid that trickled down your head. You had stopped smiling and I thought you were playing dead at first. But Mama told us we would never see you again, that you had gone to a better place. Her eyes were sullen with tears, though I didn’t quite understand, I knew it was something bad.

Twenty years on and not much has changed, the potholes are still there. The country hasn’t improved and the government isn’t helping much either. I passed by our old neighbourhood and found it surprising that they still don’t have access to electricity. We had to relocate when I was down with cholera. The doctor said it was “bad water”. We knew he was right since we all drank from the stream very close to the factory that produces toiletries, the same stream where we wash clothes.  

However, so much has changed in our lifestyle – food, songs, fashion and advancement in the world of science and technology. Just like Mama survived working long hours, I also survived the Covid-19 Pandemic – a war against a virus that can only be won by staying indoors and social-distancing from people – stay away from the next man to stay alive. The heroes were the health workers who fought relentlessly, some lost their lives in the process. We now have to wear a mask before leaving the house. My kids would not hear the last of how I fought off the Covid-19 by simply staying at home, especially when they’re grounded.

I finally secured a job after years of being a jobless graduate. Papa had to call a friend who knew a friend that knew someone. The pay is good, though it had been arranged that I would give up twenty per cent of my monthly income for the next eight months. Tobi left for Canada to continue life as a medical doctor. Many young people leave daily for greener pasturesI spoke to him and he complained about being treated less and bullied because of his skin colour and descent. A kid that lives down his street regularly calls him a monkey whenever he sees him. 

Chinwe, on the other hand, is in Europe, pursuing her career as an engineer. She had to work twice as hard to be treated fairly. She never goes out alone at night for fear of being assaulted. “Being black and a female is quite scary,” she says. 

My love life is a disaster at the moment. I’ve been in and out of love so often I have to take a break. My last relationship was emotionally abusive. If you were here, it wouldn’t even have happened because I know you would have seen it coming and kicked against it. Mama keeps nagging me to bring a man home, “time is going,” she yells.

Life no balance,” it’s something we say to show how unequal and tough life is. I wish you were here to protect me, so many things would have made more sense and been a lot easier to deal with. I am slowly beginning to live the dream, only I never planned on living the dream without you in it.

Twenty years on and not a day passes that I don’t think of you. How’s Lola doing? I guess she’s taking good care of the angels yeah? I miss you guys, we all do.

Please extend my love to all our childhood friends who left before we became adults. To all the beautiful souls with mind-blowing dreams that nature called back too early because they were too pure for this world, tell them life misses them.”

DHESERT CHEQUER 

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