Imagine darkness. Then, see the light.

1996-1998

Remebering Tumusiime Rushegye

by on Nov.11, 2015, under 1996-1998, Short Stories

We met way back, in 1996 or 1997, somewhere around the New Vision offices. I suspect it was a sunny day because you had to meet people like Old Fox on a sunny day for even if it was gloomy they created their own sunshine. He was old and funny and witty and he had a very strong, husky voice that spoke many interesting and clever things, sometimes many of them at once.

I wrote a little column called The Robbing Hood in Sunday Vision and he wrote his Old Fox escapades in the Sunday Magazine, plus did all the crossword puzzles and Ekanya, and God knows what else. Our deadlines were the same so we met every week with our pieces of paper, going to the editorial room.

He asked me to visit him in Entebbe and I did. I was allowed to enter the home and the kingdom of this special man. Shaded by the tree in front of the house, was the covered verandah with so many books and papers, strewn all over, covering tables, chairs, sofas. Tom was always somewhere in the back room, next to the kitchen, behind a funny-looking computer that produced templates for his crosswords.

He could hear my car but wouldn’t come to the front door and I would walk in, trying to adjust to the semi-darkness of his home, and he would call out from inside the house. The house was this old colonial bungalow, manned by a few quiet ladies who made coffee and took care of him.

He would be bending over that machine, printing his latest concoctions of words that I’d recognise again in the newspaper a few days later, and cuss for not peeping into solutions page while trying to conquer another one of his impossible words and clues.

Then, he’d stand up and say: “Let’s do the words!” so we’d move to the veranda, newspaper on the table between us with that game consisting of a set of ten letters, and we competed who will make more words. I was always behind but not so badly, and he’d always tell me how it’s admirable, a girl from Titoland to speak English so well.

I’d have two cups of coffee and head back to Kampala.

Then Alan died. And he was sad. Then he fell sick. I saw him at Entebbe Hospital. He was improving, so he said. Yep. And not for too long.

Life shuts down. Then a memory springs up and revives those good old days when happiness was a simple thing to achieve, wisdom was close at hand and shared without any reservations. Tom was one of the people who shaped me. Those days were tough for me. He chose the role of a father who’s his daughter’s best friend and ally. My own father was far away but had they ever met (even in heaven) they would have made a great team, those two.

Here. This is my memory of this very special man. Bent over that funny computer and shouting: “Kyakwera! Come in! Someone make coffee!” from the darkness of that room, in the peaceful corner of Entebbe. We will never have a man like that among us again.

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Anything and Nothing, Really

by on Oct.21, 2015, under 1996-1998, Interesting Words on Love, Observations

He mentioned you just pick a topic at random and write about it. Anything and nothing, really. So I will write about you as you are a topic for a lifetime. I never told anyone but a piece of your skull is buried in that garden in Mbuya. Just under those two granite slabs. I know, neighbours wondered why I’m lighting beewax candles over there so here it is. A piece of your dead and burnt body was put there by me.

I have no obligation to remember you but I do. You have put my life in danger enough times that I should endeavor to forget that I ever knew you. The girls you slept with were dubious; you had a gun to my head more than once. You fired shots, I have witnesses. I should forget you completely and erase you from every trace of existence but I remember you well. So I can recognise your behaviours in any other person, male or female, so I can save the world from another one like you.

That bullet that you put into your head – we shall talk about this some other time. But what a botched-up job. It was meant to be grand, great concept, sloppy execution. Besides, I don’t believe in suicide as a solution, although you saved your ass. You left those girls. That was your crime. This is why I still shake my head when I think of you. Thankfully, no association with you any more. God, I was so stupid and green. Thank you for that innocence and for sparing me from all the dangers of his network and net.

Aca

I have no obligation to respect you either, and I don’t. But for the sake of those old days, I’ll leave it at this. For now. I’m not yet ready to tell your story. Except that bit about your bones and ashes. Not all was sent back in a cookie jar, a piece of you is buried in Uganda. You can never escape from here.

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Sequence of seven in 140 characters

by on Jul.02, 2015, under 1996-1998, Interesting Words on Love, Short Stories

You hold me and lift me at the same time with one arm, then wait. That wait consists of million thoughts and leaves me weak in my knees.

You don’t let go. You hold me too close. Seconds pass. When you finally make up your mind to kiss me, I’m weak, I’m lost, I surrender.

And for all the times I was walking away you mastered that one move, that right arm hold that made me feel like a queen, made me stay.

…………….

Standing by the graveside, i still feel the grip of your arm around my waist. The hold is choking me. Someone puts petals in my palm.

Rain is cruel. It makes breathing difficult. I drop the petals and the key. It makes a very awkward sound on the coffin. Sound of the end.

I try walking to the car. Mud is holding onto me. Your last attempt to keep me. Yet this time, you left. My feet are heavy. I fall. I die.

Someone pulls me out of that mud. I convince him I’m OK to drive. I’m not. I just buried my world. I play strong. I always play strong.

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Gypsy-orange

by on May.06, 2015, under 1996-1998, Interesting Words on Love

I was around fifteen when I went to Russia to spend the summer with my dad. He worked on setting up a huge tannery in a little village called Raskazovo, near Tambov. It was a strange place for a fifteen-year old. I was the youngest among the Serbs temporarily living there, I was bored, I had no friends or acquaintances and – even though I was happy to be there as I left a very jealous boyfriend at home – I was somewhat bored.

Not looking for entertainment, just looking for new experiences, new things to do. Something to remain in the memory. Raskazovo is the place where I first drove a car on my own. It was a large black Volga, weighing a couple of tons and guzzling fuel like mad. I learned how to move that thing and I was quite proud of myself, ploughing the dirt roads with the heavy wheels of this black monstrosity – when I was able to steal the keys and run away with the car.

On one of those trips I encountered a group of gypsies. They were poor, cheap labour for the construction site of the factory, now engaged in cleaning the site and packing away all the debris from construction, planting flowers and grass and other menial jobs. They were heading home after work and I followed them from a slight distance, very discretely, as you can otherwise do peeping over the steering wheel of a huge black Volga.

They led me to their den, a valley on the outskirts of the village, full of improvised tents and horse-carts. I looked around for the horses, knowing clearly that the Volga love had instantly faded and is replaced by this new adventure. It was getting late and I made myself a promise to go back the following day, on foot, to see what the gypsies have for me.

Summer in Russia is a whole day, every day affair. The Sun sets at ten, eleven and it rises at three in the morning. It is a perpetual day, with just a bit of semi-darkness between the sunset and the sunrise. My mind was occupied by the prospect of seeing the gypsy horses and I hardly slept. I was eager to sneak out, at the break of the dawn, run to the edge of the village and start scouting for the familiar shapes and movements in the tall grass of the gypsy valley.

And so I did. And so I found them. Grazing to the backdrop of the most magnificent fiery sky, painted the colours of orange I can not explain in words, I had failed to reproduce in paintings and most certainly failed to photograph all my life.

Gypsy-orange colours of life. Simple, uncomplicated, basic and straightforward life. I stole a horse promptly and rode off, prompting the village spy assigned to follow me around to run after me until he was out of breath. I had other horses follow me, catching up with my steed and surrounding us, making the ground shake with the thunderous noise of hooves, neighing and heavy breathing.

I never felt so surrounded by pure energy before. The dust, the steam coming from the nostrils, whipping of tails and closeness, speed of movement, group coordination, like being inside a very powerful cloud that races across the sky with no particular aim other than demonstrating its beauty and raw, immense power.

That gypsy-orange colour was now forever alive in me.

That memory of glowing morning sky is what I look for in every sunrise and sunset, and I see it. Coordinates don’t matter. It is the moment in time when your mind becomes one with everything you love and the fire lights up the sky and your mind simultaneously, fills you with the energy that has no explanation other than pure love for what you are, for what your world is, for everyone and everything in it.

Years later.

There were the days of sunset when we sat together at the balustrade in front of house No. 29, our feet dangling and our hands touching, waiting for the sky to fill up with that gypsy-orange colour somewhere above Makerere Hill. It must have been a very awkward sight because – what’s a soldier doing there, daydreaming with a girl… The preciousness of those days embedded itself painfully onto my mind, like a burning brand on the horse’s skin. It is a scar that radiates gypsy-orange colour inside my soul, reminding me of the painful finiteness of death and even more, of the ever-lasting presence of the energy of love.

Once you love someone or something, it is yours. It can not change, it can not go away unless taken by brute force of destruction, disappointment, betrayal. Death never ends anything. It is the way of preserving things at status-quo, giving you the ability to question and find answers on your own, answers you want for the situation. Death preserves everything as it was in your mind. Years later, nothing changes. The emotion is still right there, wrapped in that gypsy-orange tone. And you see it everywhere.

Years later.

Heart and mind are infinite in their ability to add more love and more experiences into your life. Except the love becomes more universal and less specific as the time goes by. More about giving as opposed to give and take of the young days. More free and more encompassing. Like a door, ajar. No bolts, no locks, no burglar bars. Anyone and anything walks in and out, taking what they can carry, leaving what they are able to give. It is a gypsy-orange coloured space that brightens up every morning and dims every night, radiating light just like a guiding star in the sky of my universe.

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I’ll make you a deal.

by on Apr.25, 2015, under 1996-1998, Interesting Words on Love

I’ll make you a deal.

I’ve said this so many times and you haven’t really said what you want, yet. But I’m ready to make you a deal of any kind, including, as they say, selling my soul to the devil.

Can you, somehow, go away and leave me alone? Can this memory be wiped clean, deleted, defragmented, rebooted – or can this hard drive suffer some serious damage? Can the last trace of you disappear from my mind forever so I stop clinging onto those snippets of happiness and sadness and finally, move on?

My mind is a random sequence of pictures of moments spent together. Or moments spent alone wishing we were together.

The day we met, your towering figure in the doorway, casting a shadow on me and the rest of my life, wearing a pink (!) shirt and looking immensely shy and confused, me not knowing yet that it’s love that struck us right there and then – with one simple blow to our hearts, leaving us breathless and confused in the moment.

Days of hiding my emotions to the point of feeling ill, not sure what it was: life, love, desperation, desire to run or desire to stay and wait for you forever if need be. The way my knees would shake and my head would feel empty and light when I hear the sound of the footsteps crossing the shadows of the living room to find me in the backyard, pretending to be busy but actually waiting for you for hours, and still unprepared to meet you, to be in the same space with you.

The day I summoned you home to tell you that I love you and that there is nothing that will stand between that love and me, even if we never touch. And the way you held me and asked me why are you there, with me, every day, happy to just see me and exchange a few shallow words of greeting, happy to be within the same space. Just to be. Near me.

The kiss, that first one and every next one that was hidden, stolen, naive and scared, smuggled then passionate, open, carefree, for everyone to see and know that we are that one thing together, the wild animal that knows no fear any more.

Next, the day guns were drawn to kill me because you admitted we were lovers and you decided to keep it between men, as if me being that very woman who had forever divided friends was not relevant, not key to the drama at all. Shaka’s and Paul’s shocked faces when I walked out of the car towards the gun because I had to put a stop to another man’s hopes of ever getting me back, even if it meant to get the bullet. Turning my back to the known world of friends and acquaintances because I knew they were judging me and I wanted to give them space to speak their small minds in order to console the man who lost me. Also, blocking their evil energies to preserve what we had, to let it grow and bond us to one another.

Back to the day you brought Dombolo from Congo and promised you were ok, even though you were hurting, physically and emotionally, knowing right well that all your friends have let you down at that time. The way you looked at me and asked why am I still there for you, why don’t I leave like everyone else had done, why don’t I move on as you have nothing to give me, no money, no security, no future. The way I answered you that our time together is enough because it is precious and that is all we will ever have between us and it is never enough.

The day we kissed on the street even though this wasn’t the thing to do – to show passion and love in front of other people. It was dark and late at night but still, the soldiers were around watching us walk out of the car, to the gate, saying goodbye and kissing, clumsily, like schoolchildren.

Our first fight and first making up. My tears of hopelessness when you were not well and a quick wipe of my face so you don’t see that I’m already mourning you in a way. That I know you will leave me but you will never leave me because you can’t do it on your own and I’m not willing to help you.

The day it rained all the way to Mubende and I drove like a maniac because we were to spend a long weekend together; the time spent in the small hotel room that looked like a castle to two of us who didn’t have any place under the sun together. The rain that saw me out of there, as fast as the tears pouring out of my eyes and trying to wash the pain of knowing that we can not exist together even though we were made for each other. That this world will simply not let us be ourselves. That people we know will never leave us alone.

The day I knew I am the source of life, the day you died, and the day everything we truly had between us died with you.

There is no way I can manage this any longer. It is hard, after so many years, to realize I have not grieved properly, I have not finished that process and you are still present, walking through my mind at leisure as if you are the rightful owner of that space and yet, you are long gone. You left me, remember?

In my dreams, I sit with you at the wall in front of Nakasero House and we look at the sunset over Makerere. We are very old and wrinkled and ugly. We had spent a lifetime together. We still argue over kissing. Life is easy. But it’s still just a dream.

I’ll make you a deal: come into my dreams any time you want. Leave my days to myself and to what is precious now. Dream is the only place we have now. Till we meet again.

*Johnson Mwebaze. Departed on 1st October 1998. Never left. If you love me, you will understand that the pain of death, forceful sudden removal of the person you love is the worst pain of all. When there is no chance to say goodbye and all you have is your grief and your memory. No matter how your life unfolds, unfinished stories haunt you forever.

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The days I left in the past

by on Apr.24, 2015, under 1996-1998, Interesting Words on Love

The slightest unrest rocks the boat. There should be no sign of emotions because emotions are strange, unknown, fierce things that we can’t quite understand. Relationship should be based on clarity: now we eat, now we sleep, now we… Anyway.

How do I contain the inner world full of bursts of energy, colours of the wildest range from fire to fire, emotions changing from joy to devastation within no time… How do I put all this in order to suit the fears of a man, his worst fears that he will not be able to understand me, care for me, love me and that he will ultimately lose me?

To contain the uncontainable; how do you bottle the wind, the stars, clouds in the sky? How do you preserve a butterfly so it is pinned on the board, framed, hung on the wall yet still alive? Can it be done? Can you ever take a bird, cut off the wings then admire its flight? What is there to admire on a dead bird?

Every now and then the same spark appears. This spark of emotional misunderstanding that takes people apart. Mine is to always yell the simple truth: a woman is a whirlwind of feelings. Don’t try to unwind them and hinge yourself onto one only. There is not one emotion in a woman that can be singled out, isolated and disconnected from a whole array of others.

Hinge yourself onto all of them. Be glad she shows them to you, for she is too wise to shower everyone with such intensity and beauty. Be prepared to open your heart a little, to allow love to step in. Be less of a warrior and more of a knight. Allow for time to set the scene, to bring you closer and firmer together.

Don’t run. She will not appreciate that. Don’t be a coward anyone can be. If she thinks you are special, you owe her the courage to discover why. Don’t be a simple nothing that will make her disappointed in her poor choice. Be a pillar of strength she can lean on.

It was never promised to be simple. Reading a woman’s mind is like reading a huge book whose pages were thorn apart and dropped on the ground, then hastily picked up with no order. You will get the middle of the story combined with some end and some beginning. But the pages will be true and it is your effort to put them in order that makes sense.

That moment you realise you were that lucky to have a woman who loves you – grab that moment and make it last. Sometimes a lifetime. Sometimes a minute that is worth a lifetime. Sometimes just a thought or a knowing is enough. Sometimes it can’t be. Still make it yours by holding that moment in your hand and in your heart as precious. If you are lucky, you may be loved again for the simple fact you tried before.

There was a day I doubted a lot; I wasn’t sure; I was eaten by my own insecurity. It was difficult to trust and to hope. Then the words arrived, plain, clean and simple. Words that said there is no other, there is only one space in his heart, there is only one me to occupy that space. That no matter what I do and how I feel, that space is mine and I am welcome to enter and own it, whichever way I want.

The pain of unpredictability of life entered the stage a little while after. Many things were up in the air and had crashed on the ground with a big, fat thud. Everything was lost in a day. Now, I’m reminded of how long was the route that love took to arrive, express itself and give us space to think and decide we belong. And how quick death took it away.

Recovered? No. Trusting again? Yes. Hope? Yes. For life is nothing but hope. Hope that love is looking out for us and giving us the beauty of its presence, freely, like the air we breathe. To that hope, I look forward every moment of my life. To what I have, I am eternally grateful.

 

 

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Loved by the Darkness, 1996

by on Apr.20, 2015, under 1996-1998, Artworks, Interesting Words on Love

Sometimes emotions overwhelm us. The need to show them is stronger if you're not allowed to. What changed life forever is what is now lost forever. But it has to come out, the way it exited the painting and moved onto the frame. True feelings can not be held back.

Sometimes emotions overwhelm us. The need to show them is stronger if you’re not allowed to. What changed life forever is what is now lost forever. But it has to come out, the way it exited the painting and moved onto the frame. True feelings can not be held back. This is a simple beginning of a story that has to be told. All in due course.

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