by Lucy Chihandae
“Every person we encounter in our pilgrim walk called life can in the end be anything to us according to our own dealings with them; but the constant fact remains, they will always be strangers less.”(quote)
She smiles at me; beautiful baby girl balancing on her slim left hip. She looks like one who has fought and weathered the storms of love and come out strong... still fighting. Her long, dark, curly hair, parted at the side and combed out in a huge afro, bounces lightly around her head like a halo. Her huge eyes regard me: soft, not pleading; almost blank. I can only hear the slight strain in her voice.
“Cherie, bitese, how are you,” she greets me; her accent a beautiful musical Kinyarwanda-French mix. I smile and respond softly, hoping not to disrupt my neighbors whose heads are bowed in obeisance and prayer. I, on the other hand, don’t really know how to tell God what’s on my mind, my heart. I can feel it...twenty-six letters can’t decipher it. I lighten up... but I am worried...
She does not hesitate to let it out like she did the time I met her on the way to work, when, in torrents of pain mingled with faith and strength, she told me of her life, the baby, the negligent boyfriend, the job issues, money problems. Life was hard.
Life is hard.
“Cherie, he is in jail. He was with a woman... She died in his bed.”
I gasp and take her hands, holding on to them in a reassuring stance. In my mind, memories play a sad little tune. I see the fireflies. I recall his face, when I knew him seven years ago... when I did not know her. When he was light carefree, engaging, warm… and a drunken marijuana smoker. He wore his heart on his sleeve, his love, his pain...
He had his own sad tale; an open wound and pain he never let go of. Between puffs of cigarettes and swigs from his Bell Beer bottle, after a long day in the hotel kitchen, he told me stories of the life he had lived. Bitter and hard for a young beautiful man.
I felt sorry for him.
Sorry that he went through so much and angry that he sank deeper into an abyss of self- pity, refusing all help. That was then.
I prayed he would change.
In the dead of night, we stole out of the workers’ domes and roamed the grasslands, prowling with wild game park animals. We sat against a tree, ushered on by the brilliant light of the moon, and watched fireflies. When we watched the fireflies and his childlikeness, warm and authentic persona shone through, I thought there was hope... Then I met him again, five years later, with a girlfriend, many months pregnant. He came to church. I hugged him, I was glad... I thought he was back...
She stayed. He went back, frolicking, chasing fireflies.
She smiles faintly and wriggles her soft cold fingers, which I had grasped in my shock, out of my hand. A cold hardness masks the beauty of her soul. She is strained within by the pain of loving a gypsy. “Maybe it’s time for him to come home. I believe so,” she says haltingly, with much determination. “Let me come back,” she whispers. I gasp again, sad, pained for her suffering. There and then, I find direction for my prayer: For her to see that he will never change... that she needs to let him go.
Let him chase his fireflies.