By Bodhari Mohamed Warsame
I am not sure what time it is. I do not wear a watch, but anyway, it should be about early evening hours. I know that it is in the early hours of the night in East Africa, because the general curfew is yet to be announced. I am sitting in a tea house, already gulped a cup of black tea and placed an order for another with milk. I am somehow shaken and worryingly unsettled. I do not know who to listen or who to ignore, who to seek advice from or who not to and who to believe or disbelieve. I cannot tell apart, because the world of my early childhood and the one I am living in now are completely different. What was preached yesterday and what I see today are in total contradiction.
The barrister at the tea house is Amran, a girl of my neighbor and for her sake I came here tonight. For her sake I am drinking endless tea, one cup after the other. For several years, I have been harboring special feeling for Amran and had a special eye on her and her alone. All those years, my conscience was pulling me towards her direction. Hearing her soft and raspy voice is what I entertain my soul with. Her innocent smile and passionate gaze are what I am particularly fond of. Her prominent eyes with matching lashes, her long nose and her sparkling face command me “do not look away from me, not even a moment.” Her braided hair hanging below the shoulders, her long figure looking like a flowering stem grown in a spring rain and her taako midsection all manifest perfect proportionality of beauty. Her long neck resembling that of a healthy giraffe, her straight long shins, well build arms and her golden brown complexion all indicate in unison what an especial creation of Eebbe she is!
With all that, I have never conveyed my feelings to Amran. I never said to her ‘my darling’, not in real words at least. I have weak point in that area. I used to fear or get shy before her; though not sure which one is true. I could not guess what to expect from her for a response. Actually, I didn’t even know what I wanted from her. Even tonight, though I would have liked to convey my secret pain to her; again, I will not relate my feelings to Amran. Though this may be my last opportunity to sit in front of Amran; again, I will not open my soul to her. I will not discuss my personal feelings and inner pains with anyone. I will not show my soul’s vulnerability; not at all. If I am hurting with love, I will not seek remedy from anyone, and if it damages me, I will not blame it on anyone. I am strong-hearted. I am a proud a nomad.
On the seat behind me rests Cawar, Amran’s father. In front of him lay a cup of black tea, as he smokes a long tobacco pipe. He is not a man whom I long for to seeing, as I do for his daughter. In fact, his company troubles me great deal. Cawar is in his fifties, big bellied, flat bottomed and skinny legged. If you did not know him personally, you would have not thought he and Amran shared same ancestry. In fact, you would have not assumed that they even woke up from same abode a single dawn. He and his daughter are two completely different creations, both physically and intellectually. With that being so, Cawar’s ugliness is topped with extreme lewdness. He is rumored to be a spy who report neighbors and society’s gossips and jokes for the hated regime in power. I am not sure if this is correct or what made him do that, but anyway, he is a man to be feared and not to share a gossip with. None of his family members work, except entrepreneurial Amran who brews tea. But, he neither seems unemployed nor empty pocketed man. According to his house, his car and attire, he seems to be a fairly rich man. This has increased suspicion about his mysterious personality. His life is all shrewd in secrecy and people do not like secrets. People do not speak when around places of his presence. I mean they do not speak freely and tonight is no different. The traffic is understandably minimal around the tea house. No one is talking to another, except few who are whispering mouth to ear in secret, like couples do in their courting ritual. Everyone is busy with own cup of tea or cigarette and sadness is manifested on all faces. People are somehow melancholically tuned out or absentminded. Is it that Cawar’s presence poses extra burden on them or is it something else? I am not sure.
The hour of the curfew has finally come. Signal rounds were shot from the army barracks, not far from where I was sitting. Now I know what time it is! It is indeed 10:00 pm. People remember the curfew hour by the bang of the signal bullets. The clients who were sitting at the tea house did not get startled at all. If even random artillery rounds were fired, for the people it will only mean one simple thing. “Oh! It is five minutes to ten, let’s just close down businesses and go to sleep soon.”
A certain signal was shot for turning off the city lights and the seated clientele streamed out at ease, while Amran started collecting chairs in preparation of shutting down the teahouse. “Koombo, I am sorry. It is that time they used to make us sleep early. I will brew a spicy tea tomorrow night, so have a good night cousin”, she said in soft voice, standing over my seat and smiling for me briefly. She was worried about not being able to serve me the second round of creamed tea I ordered previously.
Bodhari M. Warsame
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