The Sea is Wild
The gale-force wind
shrieks, whipping up nausea and pain. We gasp as the boat lists. Blood is
seeping down my nose ― now and then it dries up for a while and then starts
again, sometimes slowly, sometimes black. Sleep doesn’t come easy; when it
does, it gives no rest. The only thing I know is my story will, sooner rather
than later, end up at the bottom of the sea.
When the bullets
started to explode, there was no echo. The air was dead, but the echo formed
inside my head; the echo echoed my fear and the fear turned into nosebleed. I
held my breath, I shut my eyes, I pressed my fingers hard on my ears. Within a
few minutes, I lost all the men in my life: my father, three uncles, two
brothers, four cousins, six nephews and my father’s father. I couldn’t see how
it was done. They were either in a hurry, or the gods were kind to me:
they didn’t stop and look underneath the hut or torch it before they left. And
so when I, and then my mother, emerged into the night after the dripping of
blood had stopped (from the floor above), we were crushed by the sight of the
handiwork of these othermen.
We were too afraid
to stay to bury our dead. I couldn’t quite tell one from another, as all their
faces were gone ― except this was an adult and that a child. My seven nieces
were gone too; so were my three sisters, two aunts, five cousins and the wives
of my uncles. Even my two grandmothers. They’ve become trophies in a war that
My mother and I
didn’t talk for days; all our words had died. Walking was all we could do,
until we saw, from a distance, the frothing sea. My mother had all her money in
a bag sewn on her inside vest. You go, I’ll come later, she said. She
only had enough to pay for a single fare.
I don’t remember
what I said to her; I don’t remember how I’ve come to this half-standing,
half-crouching pose, with all these other stinking bodies pressed against mine
in a dark dank dingy space. How I overcame my gut-wrenching sea-sickness I
can’t tell. Somebody tried to grope me, but too weak to do anything else. Some
went overboard, or perhaps were pushed. Children whimper; grown men weep.
Feeling has deserted me: my passion is gone, my compassion has disappeared. A
little girl somehow let herself fall into the water, vanishing without trace,
leaving her mother howling with pain. I hold my breath, I shut my eyes, I press
my fingers hard on my ears. The storm shrieks, we gasp as the boat lists. The
thought of dry land, the thought of my mother’s face.
I shall not be
singing lullaby to my children and their children: they’ll never be born; my
womb will stay empty. Their faces I want to see; they’re looking for me.
But there’s only
the sea: will the sea set me free?