FOOTPRINTS - Episode 3

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“Kwa nini yeye kufa? Kila siku kupita Nilikuwa napenda kumwona...kutumia muda pamoja naye. Mwambie wote kuhusu darasa yangu katika shul...

“Kwa nini yeye kufa? Kila siku kupita Nilikuwa napenda kumwona...kutumia muda pamoja naye. Mwambie wote kuhusu darasa yangu katika shule na marafiki zangu. Alikuwa mwanamke mzuri, sawa? (Why did she have to die? Every passing day I wish I could see her...spend time with her. Tell her all about my grades in school and my friends. She was a good woman, right?)” Najja asked her father. She was teary-eyed with the letter resting firmly on her chest while her right hand ensured that it remained tightly connected to her heart. “Alikuwa malaika, Najja . Malaika wangu. Yeye aliondoka prints miguu juu ya maisha yangu...juu ya moyo wangu na moyo wa kila mtu ambaye alikutana yake (She was an angel, Najja. My angel. She left footprints on my life...on my heart and the heart of everyone who met her),” Bagamba answered. “Is that the reason you never remarried?” “Yes my child. I loved her far too much that I am afraid of soiling my perception of love. She had the uncanny ability to make me smile, laugh and tear up in a good way. She loved everything that walked and crawled on the face of our planet. She did not know how to hate anyone, even after a lot of people had hurt her. She was my anchor. I hold her closely to my heart everyday. I cannot remarry my child. I am still married to your mother’s spirit. I know she watches from up there.”

“Sometimes I am mad at God for taking her away from me...from us,” Najja complained. “I understand how you feel Najja. I felt the same way when your mother died. Actually, your mother passed away with a smile on her face. She looked death in the eye and said, bring your worst. She said she had a great life with and I and your grandma. She wanted us to be happy. I believe her spirit still wants us to be happy. Maybe people who are so beautiful inside out like her are too pure for our terrible world. Maybe they are better up in heaven watching over us. Whatever the case, your mother wanted to live free of sadness and pain.That is hard, but we have to try. Don’t be angry at God, Najja. Your mother is in a better place.” “I...I...I miss her so much papa.” “So do I my child. It is normal to miss her. Grandma loved her so much too. Sometimes when I look in her face, I know she is thinking of her, but she carries on. She understands that your mother wants us to be happy.” “Do I look like her?” “Very much like her. Her smile, her kindness, her loving nature and thoughtfulness, her wisdom, I see them all in you.” “You do?” “Yes, Najja.”

“I hope I can do her proud. I hope I can be like her.” “I don’t mean to pressure you my child, you have to be yourself, but I know your mother is within you. All you have to do is just do what comes naturally to you.” “I love you papa. You are so easy to talk to...I guess that was one of the many reasons mama loved you so much.” Bagamba smiled. He did not know what to say. He was too humble to accept the praise from his daughter. At the ages of fifteen and twenty, she read her mother’s letters, which encouraged her to become a woman of substance...virtue and wisdom. She looked forward to her mother’s letter, counting down to every single one of them. A part of her felt sad that she had only one more left, which she would get the pleasure of reading on her twentieth birthday.

Najja had just turned nineteen. She was a first year medical student at the renowned Makerere University in Kampala. The night was cool, as evening breeze rocked trees leftwards and rightwards. She had a backpack that housed her books as she strolled from the library towards her hostel. She loved to soak in the cool, crisp evening breeze. From a distance, she saw some female students that appeared to be running away. There were figures moving into a dark alley, shrouded by a lane of trees. One of the escaping girls ran past her. “What is going on?” Najja asked her. “I think someone is about to rape a girl over there. I think he has a knife,” the girl answered as she continued running. “Can’t we help her?” Najja asked. The escaping girl ignored her and continued her mad dash to safety. Najja ran towards the figures in the dark. She could not bear to ignore the fate of the poor girl who was about to be violated. “Where are you going? Are you mad?” Asked another escaping girl. “But she needs help?” Najja insisted. “We should run now...let’s find some men to help,” the girl explained in a panic. The area was secluded. It would take some time before male students arrived. Najja stepped into the dark and searched for the assailant. It did not take time before she found him, trying to force himself on the poor girl. He had a hand over her mouth to keep her from shouting. In his other hand was a glistening knife. Najja dislodged her backpack from her back and landed a lethal blow with her bag on the young man’s head.

He grunted in pain as he fell off the girl. “Run!!!” Najja shouted to the girl who scurried to her feet and began to run. Her clothes were ripped, but she did not have time to bother with that. Safety beckoned and she was not about to turn her back on it. Najja tried to lift her back so she could speed off too. The angry assailant swerved quickly, took hold of his fallen knife and went after Najja. She saw him charging towards her with a shiny blade in hand. She left her bag and began to run. He caught her before she could escape. She slapped her across the face and punched her repeatedly. Dazed, she fell to the ground and the rabid young man began to rip her clothes with violent rage. “Let go of me!!!” She shouted. He grunted angrily as he tore through her clothes. She kicked and punched as forcefully as she could. He was too powerful for her. Soon, he had done away with her clothes. He began to reach further with fiery speed and force.

Najja closed her eyes. A mixture of pain and fear encapsulated her. She said a prayer, asking for strength. Her eyes closed tightly and so did her legs. Her attacker yanked at her legs with vicious rage. She saw a face – it was a face she had seen only in pictures before. It was the face of her mother urging her to fight. She opened her eyes with renewed strength and threw another punch at him. It landed on his left eye. He grunted more forcefully as he clutched his eye. She scampered to her feet and began to run. He came after her. She looked back and there he was, right behind her. He reached for her and stabbed her in the back. She felt a gush of blood fly out of her body. Pain swept through her. The right side of her back was burning with stifling pain. She cried out loudly. The attacker raised his hand in an attempt to deliver another angry stab. Then Najja heard a thud. She fell to the ground. She was losing blood quickly. Her senses were fast evading her. She managed to catch glimpse of a girl in torn clothes. The girl she had helped earlier had come back to help her. She had struck the assailant in the back of his head with a sizeable stone. He too lay on the ground, semi-conscious. The girl yelled for help as she landed another blow on the attacker’s head with the stone. Then, she lay beside Najja and held her. “I think some people are coming. You are going to be alright,” she said to him. Najja was descended rapidly into coma. Everything went wavy and numb. Darkness took over! She heard faint voices at a distance. Then, silence descended. 

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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FOOTPRINTS - Episode 3 An African Literary Blog
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