The Bereaved

Pesa hazitoshi,” he announced as he paged through the contribution book as if hoping numbers would miraculously appear from the pages.

I looked at blankly at him as he buttoned the only remaining button on his moth eaten Sunday jacket.  He had given him that jacket when we got married.  He had bought it from the second hand hawkers in the city.  He would not come to the wedding without something new to wear, he had explained to me.

“We need more money to feed the mourners,” he added as he cleared his throat and then tugged at his graying beard, showing the patchwork on the elbow of his jacket.

I closed my eyes.  I was too tired to think.  Slowly I lifted my hands to my temples and started rubbing away the pounding of a hundred drums in my head.

With the creased corner of my tattered kanga I started wiping away tears that had started streaming again.  Opening my eyes, slowly I looked up and my eyes hit the gapping hole on the roof.  The hole he had been hoping to fix after the harvests.   The hole that will probably never get fixed now.  Unless I take Bakari off school and he helps with the farming.  Or should I let Ashura get married so the bride price helps?

In the room full of kanga and baibui cladded mourning women, my eyes found the twins, Jamal and Jamila, whose heads were on their sister’s lap. The sight of them crouched there like that in the corner of the room, with tears glistening their faces, made my throat tighten up.

I turned away and tried to find something to occupy himself with, attempting to block out the twins’ sniffling but my eyes fell on empty sacks that had some rice, flour and beans some three days ago.  The drums that had cooking oil and sugar were also empty.  This was food that we had hoped, would have kept us going for a month.  Two hens were now pecking at the last grains stuck in the weaves of the sacks.  Painfully I turned away and my eyes then fell on his photograph that was carefully placed on a soda crate.  The six years old photograph that was adorned with plastic flowers and had now become the focal point of the room.  He had wanted Bakari to finish school and he would never have let Ashura get married so young.   I groaned as I closed my eyes again.

Mama mfiwa!” He called out, interrupting my despairing thoughts.  “Mama widower,” he repeated again when I did not answer.

Slowly I lifted my head and looked up.  His cataract eyes looked down at me with an empty gaze.

“More people are visiting you.  What are you going to feed them?  We still have three days to the burial and these people will have to eat.  Do you have anything we can sell?  Maybe the two cows?”

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~ by saharasoulfood on December 27, 2012.

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