Fiction · School · Short Stories

Selah

prison_literacy_c

This could be a lie, another lie…I cannot remember when I started lying. But one thing is certain. I have lied before. A lot of times. And I will probably lie again in time yet to come. Lying became a part of me. Like alcohol is to a drunkard’s bloodstream. It became a part of, if not an essential in my system. A significant player that I could not do without. It surrounded my existence, my entirety. It was in the air that I breathed into my lungs; in the grain of sand that I stepped on beneath my feet; and on the surfaces that I touched, rough or smooth. In retrospect, I wonder how I survived. How I never choked in its prickly thorns when it passed through my nostrils down into my lungs. How my feet remained blister-free and palms without rough edges. It never caught up with me. That really hurt. What hurts more is that it never got to me then, the lying, but now it does.

I first met Sam along the hallways in the Nile, my hall of residence. It was on a Monday, mid-morning. A bright day. The sun was up early. It was on a mission, the sun…to give life light and to accompany humanity through the day’s hustles. It was the first time I saw that face, Sam’s face on that floor, my floor. I could tell he was an outsider. I had mastered the faces of students I stayed with on the second floor of the Nile. I knew the round-faced, the square-faced and the ones whose faces had no particular shape. One day you woke up and their face was oval…the next day it took something close to a diamond only to take an oblong shape in the evening.

I had just come from my first class of the week. A class I struggled to attend and felt like having a cup of coffee before deciding whether to go to my next. On my way to my room from the common tap I met him, Sam. He flagged me down, an electric kettle full of water in hand and my woes began.

Sam was a stranger to me. In my world he did not exist. Not even close to fantasy. To him I was a specimen. He had watched, studied and learnt all my moves in the school. He knew when I had my breakfast where-at the Mess; wasn’t that obvious? He knew the classes I attended and the lecturers I despised. He knew that I was a low-life and that I smoked to get high sometimes. That I was struggling to keep my lifestyle low-key. Sam knew that I had a girl, Selah; a girl I liked but did not let her know. Selah knew me. We had history and for that I always felt that she could see my murky dark side right through my eyes. Selah existed in my past, a recent past that I failed each time I tried to deny. I did not keep count of the girls I had. Who does at their twenties? I forgot all the girls as soon as they had their clothes on. Selah refused to be forgotten. She refused to leave my head despite my effort to erase her. Sam, the state had me spread out on his thin palms like an avocado paste on a dry slice of bread. I passed with flying colours. I was his best candidate for the job.

I made my first delivery a fortnight later, after all his plans had been set into motion. I handled the simplest of all that was part of the process. That is what Sam, the state said. I received three to four tea-bag-like sachet from different people who Sam sent on different days of the week at different times of the day which coincided with the operating time of the library. My job was to sneak into the library with the sachets, tuck them inside different specified books that had porch-like holes cut right through the middle. In return I got tips that cushioned the cash I usually had. I was also temporarily omitted from the list of students under investigations on drug trafficking as long as I cooperated with Sam, the state.

Sam worked with the Intelligence Service and had been on my case long enough to know that I could not fail him with the plans he had for me. Our interaction from the start was crammed with aspersion. He told me the little services I offered were for the benefit of the state. That was perjury. I knew that it was part of his business, an empire he was building. Sam, the state also knew I lied when I told him it was my first time to drink, in a pub. He bought President-the whisky and was not surprised when I gobbled down mine in a single gulp, walked back into the car without a trace of stagger in my walking.

Looking back, I knew I was damned from the onset, whether I consented or not to cooperate. I was in Sam’s payroll. That should have been a motivation. But I wanted to get out. I had always wanted to get out, to quit even before Sam showed up. To set things right so that maybe one day I could go back to Selah, tell her I was ready now. I could not run away, not from Sam, not from Selah and not from myself. This was my life and I had to embrace it. Sam had everyone working for him-not the Kanjos, the city council Askari, the media and certainly not the cops. He had all of them in his pocket.

Tuesday evening, a day for delivery. I was slowly learning the moves. I could tell when next I was to make my delivery. I eased up and relaxed to ascertain that there was no trace of discomfort on my face just like I always did before setting off for the library. Just after emerging from the tunnel and immediately setting foot on the black tarmac that led to the last gate to the facilities’ compound, I heard a nerve breaking screeching sound of car tyres that sent shivers down my spine before the car came to a sudden halt in front of me. I was picked like a suck of potatoes and hulled into the boot. The car sped off leaving behind a confusion of smoke and dust. The police caught wind of the kidnapping and commenced a search mission. Sam was part of the searching team. The intelligence Service had to be included given the increasing levels of student kidnappings.

****

Seven years later I am beginning to believe that I have faced myself and my fears. Seven years later I am beginning to believe that I am ready to go back. To go back and face Sam, the state. To go back and set the records straight and maybe, just maybe settle the scores.

Most importantly I am beginning to believe that I am ready to face Selah. That my head finally remembers her. Not as a girl who exist somewhere in my past, but as a girl I hurt. A girl that I saw love from her heart in her eyes but saw lust in mine. A girl I knew how to pick up and promised to learn how to hold but failed. That she will understand when I tell her that I failed to catch her when I let her fall from my arms. That she will understand when I tell her that my eyes are finally open and that now I see things with much clarity. That she will understand when I tell her that the kidnapping was a hoax, an exit strategy not from her but from Sam. And that she would understand and accept that she was part of my plan-I had planned to come back for her had I succeeded in crossing the border to Rwanda. The 90-day East African Tourist Visa plan that Rwanda offers could have worked in our favour as we looked for ways to start off. That she will understand when I tell her that the past, my past is a foreign country where things are done differently.

 

Photo Credit; The American Reader

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