Today. Today, I find myself standing in this room full of mirrors. The sun I see is blue, it’s cold, but the light is warm. I can’t feel the air around me, but I know it’s supposed to be there. I suffocate in the presence of atmosphere, so I eradicate, I eradicate the unknown, I wonder what brought me here.
As a teenager, unaware as I was, and still am, I pondered over the magnificence of a leaf. Why does a leaf come into existence? How does it grow? If after getting detached from the plant, it dies away, why does it do so?
The other children always thought I had strange ways. That I was different, and as any different person, was tagged as weird.
When a child sees a leaf, he touches it; he relishes the moist feel of its surface and, sometimes, plucks it for no familiar reason. I believe, the reason is lack of knowledge. The lack of knowing that the reaction is unknown, or the anxiety of knowing it to be continuously so. And this is something I was well experienced in. I was a leaf which was plucked over and over.
I had heard stories from my mother how it felt to live in an actual home, go to school and play with other children. No matter how much I always wanted these things, I never had the privilege. A small fate of turn had been the reason for what I am today. My grandpa fell a victim of cancer, and the substantial financial background was lost. My mother was married to a miner, my spiteful father. She was living in the conditions Mama never thought she would. There was an insufficiency of money, but the insufficient love overpowered it. After my elder sister was born, the financial status of the household improved, as Mama started working in other houses. After I was born, I used to visit these houses since the time I don’t remember. But the time from when I remember, that was the time my father died in a cave-in, some of these houses were homes, and some were standing just because the architect had constructed them to. There were people who said they belonged to the upper class, but now as I look up on them, they were no different from the people whom I live with.
My elder sister attended primary schooling for 3 years, but now both of us were going to be termed as illiterate. Mama said that it won’t make a difference for her as she would soon be married. So for the next five years, before she went off to the ugly baker’s house, she taught all she had learned, in school and the world outside the school, which she said “taught more”.
All day long I used to roam in the streets of Chakari, in search of inspiration to live, thinking about how others could always find some or the other mischief to do. Sister said that we belonged to a country known as Zimbabwe, and there are people outside our country who think we are lower than them. This concept was never clear to me. The concept of countries, the concept of lower people and the lower people being divided further.
As I grew up, I felt more and more that I didn’t belong to this world. I kept wondering how people can be happy. At the age of 18, Mama thought it was time for me to see, what is that it is there outside our village. So I moved to Chegutu into her cousin’s place. At the very first day I knew I won’t be welcomed here for long. So I immediately started looking for what I moved to this town, a reason. I got my first regular job as a bus conductor. I had to collect a piece of paper from the travellers and in return give other pieces of paper which were more apt for their purpose. Though I didn’t have enough money with me, but soon I decided to move out to a place of my own. I was taken as a tenant by an elderly couple, in their late 70s. Truly, my stay with them was the most exciting part of my life till then. Hearing the war stories from the now so-old-grown soldier, and his always-been-a-housewife lady, were something I used to look forward to. How having so different experiences and how they developed totally different attitudes towards life, but still managed to be happy together was something I had never bumped into.
At my job, I usually travelled to nearby towns with buses overloaded with people, but in the return journey it was quite quiet. The drivers had different shifts but there was this one particular man, who travelled with me most of the time. He always bragged that he belonged to one of the royal families of Europe, and frankly, I never believed him. He said his blood didn’t declare him to be royal, his deeds did. Though, I never understood him properly, he was one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. From him I learnt never to refuse. Whatever life brought from its tray to serve on our plates, was meant to be eaten by us.
He always said that of all the lads he had met, who moved from the nearby towns and villages, I was the wisest, and the most melancholic too. He thought I thought too much, and that I should be a little more free to commit mistakes.
In Chegutu too, I had developed relationships with people whom I counted as acquaintances, but who called me, their friend. Human intimacy was something which always eluded me. But somehow I managed to tumble along with these guys. They were a bunch of musicians; each specialized in creating music from a different instrument (including one of the vocal chords) who shared a common dream of becoming a “band” as they called in the “superior” countries. With them, I learned how the youth reacts to the world, and how it reacts to them. Of all that I encountered, one of the most astonishing things was change. An event so minute, which could have been easily ignored, can change a person with all its might. That night we all were returning from Kadoma, after they had performed in the town-hall and me, for I had to.
Our bus had just left the depot, when we heard what everyone, on the inside, hates hearing- the call, them yelling, “Stop! Wait for us”. As the driver unwillingly stopped, we saw two ladies hop up the bus.
One of them was a dull, old, white lady, wearing a brown coat over a black dress and a small hat, odd for a woman to wear. The other one was a younger blonde, more vigilant and excited. As I handed the maiden tickets for both of them, she passed a glimpse of the glow on her face, unto me. As she went and sat on the seat next to, who seemed to be too old to be her mother, her aunt or sister, the hollow men, not so different from me, began to discuss her grace. As the night darkened, and sleep captured most of the few humble minds on the bus, I observed the fragile one, as much as I could, as much as I shouldn’t. Her eyes never matched what she spoke of. Though, I wasn’t clear on what I heard her lips uttering, her actions well said she was trying to cheer up her mate, from something which had affected her as well. Folks thought she was a person who had the best of everything in her life, but it didn’t seem so to me.
As the sun came nearer to the horizon, and the darkness swept away, we reached our destination. The girl soon faded away from the words of my companions, but she didn’t leave my thoughts. There was only one thing on my mind- how. There was only one desire of my restless mind –to know how her vibes could be so positive, when it was clear to see, to whoever wanted to see, that she was, indeed, sad.
I could think of nothing, as of how her thoughts were being processed, and it was the moment when I realized, that I had more thoughts in my head than I could handle. They continuously swept between the idea behind arousal of a happiness and the regret for a full lifetime being away from this thought. As walked to my home, I saw a child, sitting in his garden, next to a plant, gently tapping the soil underneath it, with his mother by his side, I crossed a group of young men, laughing together, and two little girls, whose dolls were getting married. I saw the old folk of the town gathered near the church. They murmured that today is the day next to the last day, and they should thank the Almighty that what the town chaps had been spreading around that yesterday, the 21st of December was going to be the end of the world, was untrue.
I passed a smile to them, as for them, the world was the same. But unaware as they were, like me, of the fact that one world had ended. And starting from today, this anonymous man would make something out of himself and the blessings He had reserved for him.
I always thought that my job doesn’t take me anywhere. I start from one place, go around, without knowing where I would go, and come back to the same place. I remembered every person in my life, because of whom, I was here. And I smiled. I am not wrong. My bus, and my life, leads me to no-where, BUT exactly now, here; this exact place where I’m supposed to be –this room full of mirrors.