Posted by Tumwijuke Mutambuka in ,

To be born in Uganda. To live in Uganda. To be Ugandan. What does it really mean? What makes me part of this nation? My parentage? My heritage? A birth certificate? Am I really Ugandan?


Clarissa wanted to get out. To get out now. She clenched her teeth, closed her eyes and screamed on the inside. AAARRRGGGHHH!

This life, this existence was too much for her to bear. She couldn’t be around these people anymore. They were driving her insane.

- Take. Me. Away. She silently shouted at God. Take. Me. Now.

She smelt him before he reached her. She opened her eyes.

- Okay Auntie? Sick Auntie?

Clarissa looked disdainfully at the grubby boy in front of her. She couldn’t understand the child’s fascination with her. She certainly hadn’t done anything to encourage it. From the first day she arrived in Mbuttu, he had been attracted to her like a moth to a flame. She shooed the child away, ignored him and even once slapped him and yet he continued to follow her around like a loyal puppy.

Tony called her a sadist. He said maybe she wasn’t ready to be the mother of his children after all.

Clarissa focused her attention on the boy again. How old was he? Four? Maybe five? She couldn’t really tell. He was the victim of poor feeding and a horrible diet consisting of little more than that tasteless plantain, matooke, a little watery soup and a teaspoon of the nastiest vegetables she had ever eaten. The boy was a poster child for malnutrition. A distended belly, red-brown hair, scurvy, rickets.

How often had she seen pictures of children just like him in the newspapers back home and angrily lambasted the photographers for typecasting Africa? She labeled the western media colonialists and accused them of trying to keep Africa as poor and as dark as possible.

But now? Here he was. Flies gathering on the scab on his knee, a huge gob of mucus stuck somewhere between his nose and his upper lip and his breath reeking.

- Get! Me! Out!

- Auntie Clarissa crying?

- Go away, she told him.

She couldn’t even remember his name.

- Go away, Al Stinko. Go play with your friends.

He smiled at her, oblivious to the insult, and sat on the ground in front of her. Clearly he wasn’t about to go anywhere.

Clarissa saw Tony in the distance. He was like a chief among his loyal, adoring servants. Groups of men old enough to be his father followed him everywhere. Women throughout Mbuttu flirted with him, rolling their eyes and offering him choice pieces of meat to eat. He reveled in their attention.

- You have grown! They exclaimed when they first saw him after 15 years. So handsome. So strong.

- You are a doctor now? They asked in wonder. You are so clever. Your parents would have been so proud.

- How many cars do you have? Two? Eh mama! You must be rich!

Clarissa hated to see Tony like this. Proud, self-righteous and self-absorbed. Those were her traits. He was supposed to be different. He was supposed to help her become a better person.

Tony spotted her looking at him and waved at her.

- Oh no. They are going to turn and stare at me now, she mumbled.

And they did.

- Hello! She shouted her greeting in their general direction.

They stared in silence for a few seconds and then turned away. Back to their Tony Worship. Almighty Tony, you are the best. Only you are good, only you are wise. But that woman you brought us …


- Hello! She yelled again.

The boy laughed, smiled knowingly at her and stood up.

- Hello! He shouted.

Clarissa looked at him in surprise and joined his laughter.

- Hello! She shouted.

- Hello! He replied.

She stood up and waved her hands in the air. Hello! Hello! Hello! He joined her, mimicking her actions enthusiastically. Hello! Hello! Hello! They shouted and screamed to the dirt at their feet, to the open sky, to the bright yellow noonday sun, to the trees around them and to each other. Hello!

A large crowd grew around them, but energized by their manic behavior, they didn’t stop. They couldn’t stop. And then, with one frenzied cry Clarissa and the boy shouted in unison, HELLO! They fell into each other’s arms and down on to the hard ground laughing hysterically.

Then suddenly conscious of the crowd, she stopped, sat up and looked at the people gathered. She could almost hear their thoughts.

- Strange. Weird. Crazy. Wrong for our Tony.

She smelled the boy again and looked around, but he had disappeared.

- It isn’t him smelling. It is I. We’re one now.

Clarissa laid her head on the ground and closed her eyes.

- Thank you, she whispered. Thank you.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 08, 2006 at 5:46 PM and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


As always, very exceptional Rachel. I tell you, I wasn't expecting that ending and that is the truth!!!!

I love the way your mind works. You're brilliant!

8:58 AM

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