At Mariama’s bedside Bansi sat, two hours now. And the clock ticked and tocked time away. A whole six hours of daylight yet, but the sun had adamantly declined to show up. It had shown up, Bansi believed, only that it wouldn’t show its face, not today. He looked into the pale face on the bed and wondered how fast his mother had reduced to such frailness. The eyes stared back, lifeless but speaking love, pity and everything he had known mother for.
‘’Will you take your meds now? I’ll bring you a glass of water.’’ Bansi left.
Mariama had turned so that she faced away to the wall. Bansi looked at the picture of her mother on the wall, it hung on the same side Mariama faced now. She was a beautiful woman, and in that picture Bansi saw a different woman always-not his mother. Unlike the one he always pored over in the family photo album, this was the first and only one which Mariama had her afro on.
‘’Go and call me Ma Jane’’, she did not turn to look at her son, and her voice frailer.
Bansi placed the glass of water on the table and left. Ma Jane live three blocks from their house and Jane was his classmate, friend and neighbor. He would pick up his Science exercise book from Jane.
Ma Jane’s door was locked, and he remembered that both Jane and him had been sent home from school to fetch their parents for a PTA meeting. Jane had probably told her mother. He hadn’t told his own, not with the frail body lying on his mother’s bed. His mother would not walk three miles to school he had sworn.
Mariama died the moment Bansi closed the door and went out to call Ma Jane. She had her hands folded towards her chest so that she lay lifeless facing the roof, she was very dead.
Now he stood at the bedside, calling for mum, and mum never moved an inch. Her right hand tightened into a fist. Her eyes now completely lifeless and staring into space, not at him as they had done few minutes ago. A piece of paper peeps out of her fist near the little finger, he held her fist and pulled the piece of paper out of it, the first tear dropping on Mariama’s now cold nose. Bansi read.
I sit here writing and the questions you posed to me slowly nibble away at my sanity. I am a demented woman, and soon I might run naked-Hope I don’t before I say in ink what exactly I should have said that evening when you stared deep into my eyes and like confetti, spewed the questions with a confidence that bewildered more than surprised me. Where did you get that? The confidence. Sorry I had to start with a question, but time has a habit of robbing us of things we never thought would leave our sight. You were a laid back boyfriend I had back then, speaking less and only doing so when I insisted that you should. Look what a man time has sculptured out of you.
My hand trembles and the pen darts about this page when I pause to scratch my head. Don’t mind the marks around the letter, matter of fact you should be loving them. Remember the first letter I sent to you in high school? You replied, disregarding all my effort in spewing my heart’s contents, you were stunned by my grasp of grammar, and asked if I prepared rough copies before writing a final draft. I said I didn’t, and you said you loved one’s thoughts unedited, unaltered by sweet words, you said you loved truth, and so when writing to you is should do just that-send the first draft I write, no clean copy. We’ll I will do just that in this, let my emotions trickle down to the ink and to the paper.
A born rebel you said I was. Why did I change to Christianity you ask. You loved me just the way I am. I’m not sure you meant that. I’m a woman though, a beautiful woman who believes in God. And God to me will remain whence I take all my troubles and joy.
You wanted to know where I stay Evans. I would have given you the directions when you did, but your four wheel drive would never maneuver these streets, I get lost at times myself-when I’m drunk and heading home in the dead of the night. You however insisted that you’d find me, whether I liked it or not you’d make it to my house. It’s a week now and I’m convinced now as I had earlier, that you would get lost. So I’m writing. I hope this meets you halfway to this place though.
Why Bansi you asked? Why not Joseph, or David? He is the music to my ears, ears that have borne the brunt of endless admonishing. Bansi is flute Evans, flute in India. So you see, I am Indian too. I have an ingrained trait to swim against the norm, you said that yourself, but I disagree. Perhaps that’s just where we don’t agree, and probably where we failed to agree on from the start. I don’t know if we should see again, or if we should at all. But I want a few things told to Bansi, just a few, and I couldn’t find a friend more befitting of this role than you Dr. Evans.
Pease tell him why your acceptance letter had to come just a day after we had dropped by at as street HIV/AIDS testing stand. Remember how I pulled and cajoled you to follow me to the stand? Do you? Definitely you do, you are a doctor, and the last thing you shouldn’t be knowing is how to keep your medical data history. So tell Bansi please, why it had to be that day, tell him you cried when you broke to me the news of your acceptance letter to Leeds University. Tell him I cried too.
Tell Bansi that life is not a punishment, he believes that. One day he comes from school and asks me why I rarely leave the bed. I do not know what to tell him, so I lie. But he insists, ‘’Shall we go downstream and take a walk?’’, I hear these words and suddenly remember you, the walks downstream. All these thoughts like glitters in my dimly lit uneventful life. Please tell Bansi the world loves him, but still reserves a few cubic meters for hate. Tell him he is bigger than his dreams. Tell him these because I never did. What am I?
Please tell your son he has a father.
Bansi’s last tear fell on the name Mariama and the ink spread out.
He heard a knock on the door and felt bitter at how Ma Jane would scream when he let her in. How late she was. Now she would scream out loud at how she will never get a friend of Mariama’s caliber. She would recite her rosary prayer before rolling out in the dust, and he would wonder what to do. He had seen them, both his mother and Ma Jane draw out wails when Pa Jane passed on months ago.
He opened the door and looked up. It was not Ma Jane. The stranger looked down at him, in an ironed suit and brandishing car keys.
‘’So you are Bansi’’
Bansi sent his eyes to the wet piece of paper in his hands.