FOOTPRINTS - Episode 4

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“Najja!!! Please don’t die. What would I do without you? What would I tell your mother when I m...


“Najja!!! Please don’t die. What would I do without you? What would I tell your mother when I meet her on the other side? I was supposed to take care of you!!!” Bagamba cried relentlessly outside the theater. His mother, Bernadette was broken. She too arrived and began to fling herself to the floor. Bagamba was forced to pull himself together so he could attend to his mother. The doctors and nurses worked painstakingly for hours on end as they sought to fix her severed arteries. The stab she got in the back had ripped through some blood vessels causing her to lose a lot of blood. “I will put a knife through the throat of that monster when I see him,” Bernadette cried. “The police have arrested him mama. You don’t have to kill anyone. They will deal with him,” Bagamba replied. What he said was in total conflict with what he felt. Deep in his mind, he thought of strangling the young man who had attacked Najja. As he consoled his mother, he was not sure that he could not do the exact same thing he was cautioning his mother about if he saw the young man.

After what seemed like eternity, two doctors, a man and a woman came to see them. “She was badly hurt by the stab injury. She lost quite some blood before she was rushed to hospital. We have done everything we could to fix her wounds and now she is receiving blood transfusion. We’d rather you don’t see her yet until she comes around,” the male doctor explained. “So she is going to be alright?” Bagamba and Bernadette asked almost at the same time. “We are hoping so,” the female doctor said, managing a feeble smile as she spoke. “Can we just look at her from the door?” Bagamba asked. “Please…we need to see her,” Bernadette added. “Bear with us please. It is for her own good,” the male doctor insisted. “Just a second?” Bagamba asked persistently. “I know how you feel, but we can assure you that she is in safe hands,” said the doctor. Bagamba sat forlornly in the lobby with his mother counting down to when Najja would feel better. After another two hours, he could no longer take it. “I am going to see her, mama,” he said. “But the doctor…” His mother began. “I have to see my daughter. Just follow me and don’t say anything please,” he said cutting her short.

They walked to the room were Najja was lying. There was a nurse at the entrance. “I am afraid you cannot go inside,” she said to them. “Do you have a child?” Bagamba asked her. “Yes I do.” “You will understand me then, Kajuga,” Bagamba said, having read her name from her badge. “But I have strict orders not to let anyone in there. It is in her best interest that we let her rest for now.” “I know, but I just want to look at her, even for a second. Imagine if your daughter or son was hurt…what on earth could possibly keep you away from them? Please, let me just see her face.” “I will throw myself to the ground and start crying and rolling over if you don’t let me see her now,” Bernadette added. “Mama wait,” Bagamba cautioned his emotional mother. “Please nurse Kajuga. I beg of you in God’s name.” She looked at him with pity. “Her mother is gone and I promised her that I would always take care of our daughter. Please let me look at her for a moment,” Bagamba pleaded. “I am going in there now. If you like, call the police on me,” Bernadette said as she started for the room. “Wait mama. It is not the nurse’s fault. She is only following orders,” Bagamba said barely keeping his emotions in check. “Okay, just one minute!”

They both walked inside and stared at her as she slept peacefully. Bagamba felt her side to make certain she was breathing well. “That monster wanted to kill my beautiful granddaughter. I will bite him until he stops bleeding when I see him,” Bernadette said, almost in tears. “You have to leave now,” the nurse Kajuga reminded them. Reluctantly, they began to leave. As if on cue, Najja opened her eyes and squinted. “I saw her…I saw her face,” she said. “She is talking,” they both exclaimed. “I have to call the doctor now!!!” Kajuga shouted. “Nurse can’t you be reasonable. Okay, call the doctor…and the military too, because I am not willing to leave this place. My granddaughter is talking!!!” Bernadette said with a dose of passion and intransigence. Bagamba sat beside Najja and held her hand. “You are fine my girl. Grandma and I are here. You are going to be alright,” he said smiling. Relief was hopping all over his face. “I saw her face,” Najja said again. “Who?” Bernadette asked. “My mother. She told me not to give up. Her face was burning with life. I saw her papa.” “She said she’d always watch over us,” Bagamba replied. “Gonza my angel…I know you are well up there,” Bernadette said.


Five weeks later…
Najja was discharged from hospital. She spent another three weeks at home before returning to University. She and Sanyu, the girl whose impending rape she had aborted had become inseparable friends. Sanyu was a law student. Whenever they had free time, they were together chatting and laughing. Sanyu had a killer sense of humor. Despite the attempted rape, she was still full of life and vitality. “I am going to the party at Haandi restaurant, and you are coming with me,” she said one Friday night to Najja. “I have to study for my Anatomy and Physiology quiz,” Najja protested. “I have contract law to study too, but I need to get out and do something different. We have all weekend to study. If you don’t come with me Najja, I will pour water on your bed, so you’d have nowhere to sleep,” Sanyu threatened. “I would like to go Sanyu, but I have a lot to cover before Monday,” Najja insisted. “You always say the same thing. I am having none of that tonight. You are coming with me.” Sanyu went to outside and returned with a can of water. She proceeded towards the bed as though she was about to sprinkle the water on Najja’s bed. “No, Sanyu,” Najja protested, blocking Sanyu’s path to the bed. “Then go get dressed!!!” “If I fail this quiz, I will blame you for it.” “Fine, I accept your terms.”

He was by bar when Najja and Sanyu walked in. He had a bottle of Eagle Extra Lager in hand. Music was blasting through the restaurant as students ‘grooved’ to every single bit. “You finally came, Najja,” Onzia shouted on sighting them. She was a brilliant student, one of the brightest in Najja’s class. “I dragged her out, finally,” Sanyu said. “I am glad you did. She studies too much.” “See who is talking,” Najja countered. They got themselves some pineapple juice and stood near the dance floor so they could get a good look at the dancers on the floor. Several guys came over to ask for a dance with them. Onzia was quick to get on the floor with a guy. “I have to dance tonight, you know,” Sanyu pointed out. “Go ahead then,” Najja said. “Well, are you going to stand here like a statue? You need to dance too.” “I am fine watching you dance.” “No, you have to dance. The next guy that comes here, I will make sure he drags you to the dance floor.” “I can take care of myself Sanyu. Dance if you want to.” “Excuse me, can I dance with you,” he said in his rich baritone voice. He had been watching them from a distance. He drained the last drop of beer from his bottle and headed over to them. Sanyu looked hard at Najja, signaling that she should go for it. “I am not in the mood,” she said instead. “You can dance with my friend,” she added.

“I would like to dance with you, actually,” the young man said. Another guy came and asked for Sanyu’s hand in a dance, and she energetically streamed to the floor with him. “I guess you missed your chance. Now, my friend has gone to dance with someone else,” Najja pointed out to him. “My name is Bitalo,” he answered instead, ignoring her last comment. He stretched his hand and Najja took it and gave him a firm handshake. “So, what is your name?” “I’d rather not tell you,” she answered. “Why is that?” “I don’t feel comfortable telling my name to a stranger.” “I am Bitalo Kikongo. I am a student of mechanical engineering. I am from here in Kampala. I promise, I won’t bite you.” “I am not worried about your teeth. They look rather soft to me,” Najja teased. “I am glad you can see that,” Bitalo replied chivalrously. He had not stopped beaming with smiles since walking over to her. Sanyu signaled to Najja to get on the floor with Bitalo. She smiled and ignored her. “I would like to know you…I mean any guy in their right senses would like to know a beautiful girl like you,” Bitalo said, not giving up. “The best thing for any right thinking guy would be to leave me alone.” “Even when you say that, the smile on your face says a different thing.” “So you can read my mind now? I did not realize it was that easy to switch from engineering to psychology.” “I was not trying to read your mind; I was pointing out the obvious. You sound tough, but I can tell you are a very nice person.”

“Flattery is your thing isn’t it?” “I have never been told that I was into flattery. I try to say things as I see them.” “Bitalo, I know the next minute you’d tell me that you love me. Love does not work like that. I am not ready for that now.” “I am glad you remembered my name, at least. I have not reached the point of love yet.” “At what point are you at now?” “I just want to know you…or did your mother tell you not to talk to any guy?” “I wish she were around to tell me that.” “She is dead? I am really sorry about that. Mine too.” “How long has she been dead?” “All my life. I think I was too when she passed away…that is what my father told me.” “I am sorry to hear that,” Najja said, showing some interest all of a sudden. “My mother died when I was one,” she added. Bitalo reached for his wallet and pulled out an old passport photo. That is her…mama was such a beautiful woman. I like to keep her close to me at all times.” “I am impressed. Seriously, I am impressed that you carry her picture around with you. I have my mother’s picture all over my room, but most of all, I carry her in my heart always.” “What you just said is beautiful. I like that…you carry her in your heart always. Can I borrow that?” “Sure,” Najja said. She studied Bitalo’s mother’s picture. “You look like her,” she said. “I think I look more like my father though,” Bitalo said, pulling out a picture of his father.

Najja studied both pictures. “I still think you look like your mother,” she insisted. “I know you look like your mother,” Bitalo said. “How do you know?” “I can feel it.” “Is that the engineer or psychologist talking?” “That is Bitalo talking. So, can I know your name now?” “So because you think I have fallen for you now, right?” “No, I don’t. I am just eager to know you.” “I am Najja.” “That is a beautiful name. I like it.” “I knew you’d say that.” “How did you know?” “I sensed it.” “You too can be a psychologist too.” “I guess.” “So, do you mind if we went over there and talked for a while, since you don’t want to dance?” Bitalo asked pointing to a less chaotic part of the restaurant. Najja regarded him for a moment. “What do you want to talk about?” She asked. “I want to tell you all about my mother….and me. Just sit back and listen. I will do the talking,” Bitalo answered still smiling. “Okay, I am a good listener,” Najja agreed.   STORY CONTINUES...


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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

Poster source: www.theatlantic.com

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