By Bodhari Warsame
Offering my Life Away
It is a hot sunny day and sandstorms are blowing. I woke up in the rebel camp for the first time in my life. It is a wide dusty field surrounded by thorny bush. At the front gate stand an armed sentry. Two young boys whose faces manifest fatigue and tough times stand guard at the entrance. Each of them has a machine gun strapped across shoulders. One might think they could buckle under the gun’s weight anytime. Somehow, the boys are drooping awkwardly, but perform their job adequately. No one can ingress or egress the camp without permission. The landscape is semi desert, dry and unpleasant sight for the eyes. I am very tired and seem that I will need some days to recover from my long walk from Somalia.
Although I was glad for reaching a peaceful place, leaving behind the seven bush traversing days between the Somali-Ethiopia border, yet fatigue and hangover from the Qaat drug caught up with me. It is true that taking the drug first hastened my night-trekking steps. I endured the feeling of fatigue and sleepiness, the scratching of trees and trampling over rocks. But, all the bodily hurt that I was hiding at the time for fear caught up with me at once. Munching the green too much of the moist leafs developed a painful abscess in the mouth which made me writhe with pain. Cracks formed on my gums, molars ached and lips chafed dry. I developed nauseating headache, my wind pipe dried and even swallowing saliva became difficult and painful.
Feeling severely dehydrated and pale, I was in dire need of instant continuous rehydration. But who cares about that? My turn was called to the office for enrolling new rebels. It is not an office in the sense, but a simple wooden shed with a desk and a chair thrown in the middle for want of furniture. Standing at the two corners of the shed are armed youth who seem to be ready for firing anytime. Seated in and waiting for me is Dhogor. As I was told, Dhogor was for a long time an officer in the Somali Armed Forces. Here, he is the commander of the drill camp for the new rebel recruits. In description, Dhogor is a short chubby man with big fuzzy hair and a retracted neck. His nose is a large Somali defamer resembling a closed fist just slapped on the face. His eyes are unblinking red with scary gaze.
He is wearing knee-high boots and undersized khaki trousers. Dangling on his right hip is a long pistol, a water canteen and a dagger similarly hanging on the left one. He is biting on his nails while tuned out, like a motherless young girl scolded by her step mother and thinking about the death of her mother and her unlucky lonely life. He is looking at me directly as though he is astonished by my presence. I stood in front of him somehow shaken.
“What is your name?” He asked.
Koombo. I replied, slightly smiling in the hope of introducing some humanity in to his angry face.
“K-o-o-m-b-o?” He inquired, spelling out the name. “You must be humorous, isn’t so?” He said, relating me with the famous Somali comedian whom only the name we share.
“No, I am not a comedian, but I like humor.” I replied.
“It is not that important, just sign here.” He gave me my first order, extending a hand with a pen toward me while, at the same time, pointing a finger to a green paper lying on the desk. He put a cigarette in his mouth and searched for a lighter with both hands without looking in his oversized pockets sewn over on his khaki trousers. I took the pen from him and looked down, staring on the paper. On it was written in bold letters, “I SWEAR TO SACRIFICE BOTH MY LIFE AND WEALTH TO LIBERATE MY COUNTRY.” I looked at him and hoped he would order me to do something else instead, pretending not to understand, but got scared of staring at him and thus quickly lowered my eyes. I looked around like I needed emergency help, but my eyes could not see beyond his two bodyguards. I looked down again, like a young country girl expecting stranger’s blind date.
He surprised me with a question while I absent minded in my own thoughts, “man, can’t you read?”
“I do read.”
“Are you deaf then?”
“No, I am not death either.”
“Then sign the letter, why are you absentminded”?
He parked angrily, checking me up and down. He then cracked a matchstick and lit a cigarette buffing it in twice successively and held it in his left hand while with his right hand used the woody part of the matchstick as toothpick.
“Commander, I did not come with any wealth to offer. I replied, blinking rapidly and tried to look at him directly.
“You will offer when you get it, just sign this paper.” He suggested, with a kinder but seemingly superficial welcoming countenance.
“Then, let me sign when I get it. I tried a superficial laughter too.”
“No, sign it right now.” He looked at the clock making himself look like a busy man in hurry.
“What should I sign then? I stooped down on the paper still lying on the desk and gave one more thoroughly eye scan.”
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