FOOTPRINTS - Episode 7

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“Madam, we are here to see Tusuubira. Please could you fetch her for us?” Musoke asked a cleaner at the church where he had met Tusuub...

“Madam, we are here to see Tusuubira. Please could you fetch her for us?” Musoke asked a cleaner at the church where he had met Tusuubira some years back. “There is no Tusuubira here,” the cleaner answered. “There has to be. I met her here before.” “I have been here now for nearly three years and I can guarantee that I know all the staff. There is no one here by that name,” the cleaner insisted. She was a chubby woman with a serious look on her face. She was not the type to argue blindly. A rather subtle frown formed on her face as she stressed her point. “Musoke and Bitalo looked at each other. Bitalo could barely hide his disappointment. “Please can we talk to the pastor?” He asked, eager to sift out any information that could be of help in tracking the mystery lady, Tusuubira. The cleaner took them to the pastor’s office. “Tusuubira left the church about three years ago. I am not sure where she ran to, but she left rather hurriedly. She is a troubled woman you know. I think something from her past has been chasing her, and she won’t open up fully to allow God heal her wounds,” the pastor said to Bitalo and Musoke. “So there is no one at all that could lead us to her?” Bitalo asked persistently.

“Actually, Mary Damba may know. She and Tusuubira were great friends during her time here. I will send for her.” Soon, a tall, frail woman clad in a white robe entered the pastor’s office. She was in her late thirties, but she looked as though she was in her late sixties. Her veins formed a mesh on her forehead and arms. She did not smile at all. She looked at Musoke and Bitalo with suspicion. “Ma, these gentlemen are looking for your good friend, Tusuubira. I know you have told me in the past that you have no clue where she is, but I was wondering if you heard from her.” Mary regarded Musoke and Bitalo one more time. Her frown grew stronger. “I have no idea where she moved to, pastor, Mary answered stoically. Her voice was firm and strong. “It is very important that you tell us Mary. They have something very important to tell Mary. You see, the young man here is Tusuubira’s son, and he has never met her. He is eager to find his biological mother. Would you be kind to help us please?” “I don’t know where she moved to, sir,” maintained Mary. “Okay, if you hear something, let me know.” “Okay sir,” Mary answered as she left.

“I think she knows something, papa. The way she looked at us, she knows where she is,” Bitalo said to his father as they headed for Musoke’s car. “I agree with you. I saw the same look in her eyes. Tusuubira left three years ago. That was about the time I came to visit her. I think my visit may have contributed to her disappearance. She definitely knows something she never wants to share with anyone,” Musoke answered. “I want to have another chat with her,” Bitalo said turning towards the cleaners’ rest area. They had seen Mary walk in the same direction. He heard a voice. It was Mary’s. She was behind the toilet, talking in a hurried tone. “You have to listen to me. They are here now. I think they will come back. There are two men, one of them, the younger one claims to be your son. You need to see him, Tusu,” Mary said into her old Nokia phone. Soon, she appeared from behind the toilet. Bitalo was looking her straight in the face. She panicked as soon as she saw him. “You know where she is, don’t you?” He asked her. “No, I don’t!” “I heard you talking over the phone. Imagine, if I were your son, would you not want to see me? Do the right thing. Please tell me where she is.” Mary was quiet for a while. Then, she answered.

“She lives in Lira. I promised her that I would never tell anyone, but I think it is important that she meets you. She does not believe that you are alive.” “Can I have an address, please?” “I don’t have an address, but I know she works at Hotel Pan-Afric. You will find her there.” “Thanks for doing the right thing.” “Please don’t tell her I told you where she is. “I won’t.” Rather than return to Kampala, they drove to Lira. “That is her,” Musoke said to Bitalo, who took a long, hard look at Tusuubira. They had been sitting patiently in the car waiting for the cleaners to emerge. “I am not sure I look like her,” Bitalo said. “Come; let’s follow her down the street. They walked at a safe distance away from her as she walked home. She wore a pair of ragged leather sandals and a brown gown that looked old and rumpled. Her heels were jagged. “Tusuubira!” Musoke called to her. They had finally closed the gap on her. They were on a quiet sandy road, lined by trees. A bird chirped and hopped atop one of the trees. The trees swayed under the spell of a cool breeze that doused the scorching heat of the sun. “She turned and froze. Musoke was the last person she had expected to see. She looked at them.

“What are you doing here?” She asked caustically. “I told you to live me alone! Please go away!” Tusuubira shouted. “Calm down Tusuubira. I came with your son…my son, Bitalo. He desperately wants to see you. Don’t you want to meet your son?” Musoke said calmly. Bitalo looked at her, not sure what to say. Tusuubira turned her attention to him. She regarded him for a moment. Their eyes were locked as they looked at each other. “Are you my mother? Mother!” Bitalo said.  “You are not my son…I am not your mother she said. She broke tears. Her knees sagged under the weight of her emotions. She found herself dropping to the ground. She sat on the sand, tossing her bag to the side. Tears poured down her face, as she lowered her head in sorrow. “Stop crying Tusuubira. Bitalo is not mad at you,” Musoke offered her some consolation. Bitalo did not fully know what he felt. He felt sorry for Tusuubira, though. “He is not my son. You don’t understand,” Tusuubira repeated through tears. “I killed my child! I killed my own daughter!!! It was not a boy…it was a girl,” she said unable to contain her guilt anymore.

“I…I…I was only seventeen when I had my baby. I did not know what to do. I hid the pregnancy from my parents. I was lucky; my belly did not grow so big. I went to stay with family friends and relatives until I had the baby. I could not tell my parents. They would have killed me. I…I did not know what to do after finally having the baby.” She paused and looked up to them as though she needed them to understand with her. They both looked at her, not knowing what to say. “I…I…k-i-l-l-e-d my own daughter! I strangled the poor girl. She did not deserve it. She had every right to live as much as anyone else, but I was too selfish…too afraid to do the right thing. I squeezed life out of her before her life even began. She was so beautiful and cuddly. She trusted me…depended on me to protect her, but I took her life away and tossed her dead, mangled body in the bush.”

“You have to let it go Tusuubira. Let the guilt go now. It is time you forgave yourself. You have punished yourself for too long,” Musoke said. He could hear the raw pain and guilt in her voice. Bitalo had specks of tears around his eyes. That could have been me, he thought. Thanks to mama for picking me up that night. I could have died there, his mind continued to run helter-skelter. “I don’t think God will ever forgive me. I killed my own child with my bare hands,” Tusuubira replied, raising her hand. Her right palm was covered in cuts. It was rough and jagged. “I cut my palms…I have been cutting it…the hand that killed my daughter. It is a constant reminder to me of what I did.” “You have to stop now, Tusuubira. Let us drive you home. You cannot continue like this. I can offer you some help. You need medical attention. You are killing yourself one day at a time. You were young and blind. Let it go now. You have suffered long enough. God has already forgiven you.”

“Has He?” She asked raising her head. A long, jelly stretch of phlegm hung perilously from her right nostrils and her eyes were hiding behind a curtain of painful tears. “Yes He has,” Musoke said. He moved closer and lifted her to her feet. She had told a few closer friends about abandoning her child. This was the first time she had told the entire truth. As painful as the moment was for her, emotionally, she felt a lighter load on her shoulders as Musoke gently helped her to her feet. Bitalo watched in confusion – a part of him was relieved (that means the old man’s story is wrong, he thought), and a part of him could not help but be thankful for the second chance at life by his adopted mother; one part of him felt sorry for Tusuubira for the anguish she had gone through after her horrendous act.

They drove Tusuubira to a nearby hospital. Musoke knew a psychiatric doctor in the area. He called him in to evaluate her first. Bitalo placed a quick call to Najja. He quickly narrated the events of the past few days to her. He was elated. “We are not related, honey,” he said, finally calling her ‘honey’ for the first time since Okwayi’s revelation. “Actually, you and your dad may have chased the wrong lead,” Najja replied somberly. “My father has gathered that my uncle actually had an affair and new information he has dug up indicates that my uncle’s mistress actually dumped a child where you were picked up by your adopted mother; that could still be you, Bitalo,” she added.   STORY CONTINUES...

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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FOOTPRINTS - Episode 7 An African Literary Blog
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