Esosa left his country because of its bad state to a land filled with milk and honey, where he faced a bigger monster that made him regret leaving his home.
Time slowed its pace at the Downtown Train Station in Florado following the deafening sound of a gunshot. A man has been shot. A black man has been shot by some white cops who were doing their work more zealously than supposed. People dispersed in the quest for safety. Unannounced commotion filled the air. Parents shielded their wards’ eyes from the blood that gushed out of the man’s side and dragged them away from the scene. It was a gory and scary sight.
One of the officers, the tall one, gaped at the dying man who was fidgeting on the floor, shoving air down his lungs with a determined struggle for survival.
“Why did you take the shot?” He asked.
“He was reaching for a gun. I am sure of that. His hand was in his pocket.”
His partner who took the shot replied, as he devoured the man’s jacket like he left something in it.
The tall officer looked on, uneasily waiting for his partner to prove himself right. But the devouring search ended in a disappointing futility. Both goggled at each other, conveying a message of fear from the tall officer and that of fearlessness from the one who took the shot.
“What are we going to do?” The tall officer was nervous.
“We do nothing.” He pulled out a cigarette pack from his breast pocket alongside a lighter. He lit the cigarette stick and puffed steps closer to his grave. “He refused to cooperate and I shot him. End of story. I am going to call an ambulance.”
He took a few steps away and noticed the scared and terrified crowd who cowered out of their hiding places.
“Okay! You all can come out now, everything is fine. Just…okay…yeah, just do that.”
He puffed another smoke and glanced at his terrified partner.
The crowd wasted no time in disappearing from the station.
“Okay, I got to call an ambulance.” His hands located his walkie-talkie. He turned it on and passed the falsified information to the paramedics without any guilt or remorse.
Esosa, the tall hairy handsome black man in his late twenties, squirmed on the floor painfully. His hands pressed his side to stop the bloody stream flowing out. He compelled his nose into mustering enough oxygen as fast as possible. He wanted to live. He wanted to survive. Dying was not on his to-do list that day. All he wanted was to go out as usual, board a train to his place of work, do his bar-tending work diligently, and get back home safely. But he was wrong. Fate has another plan – one so different and tragic. He felt his soul hurriedly evacuating his body. Life was failing him and all he could think of was his homeland, which he ran away from two years ago for fear of starving to death. He fidgeted, his hands pressed harder on the bullet wound trying to stop the bleeding. His ear faintly registered the sound of an approaching ambulance. He knew they were coming for him. He relaxed as paramedics emergently alighted and hastened towards him. They pulled him in and began the passionate fight to save his life. He lied on the stretcher with an excruciating pain that was moulding his bone marrows into arrows, piercing through his bones and cracking them as they force their way out. He could only groan inwardly, trying to conserve some energy. His rib cage cracked and blood mixed with water darted into his heart, sending jitters and flash of memories up his brains.
He reminisced about his homeland – Namiria. A country located in the western part of Sub-Saharan Africa. He recalled the dreadful circumstances that pushed him away. His decision to leave his homeland for this dream nation was an impromptu one. The situation of the land did not give him the time to clearly weigh the options. It did not allow his brain to circumspect on anything. The land was a time bomb, counting minutes like they were seconds. The elders, those whose teeth could no longer peacefully chew even an overcooked chicken, have hijacked the economy. They gathered, in the unlawful court of their different tribal and class inclined palaces, and shared the honey and milk of the land to themselves, saving the remaining for their generations yet unborn. The saying that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow was nothing but a skeleton of a man who died centuries ago. It could be seen, felt and sometimes appears in every nook and cranny of the land, yet it has no effect. It has no regard. If you were not related to the toothless elders, you have no future.
So youths, in the quest for survival, clenched to these toothless elders. They became their teeth, chewing their chicken for them, wearying their own teeth.
Having graduated seven years ago without a job, Esosa started looking for an easy way out. He was not going to let his sick mother die because he could not provide money to take her to the hospitals which were more of hostels. No drugs or equipments. Beds were made of joined foam and roughly fixed irons. Doctors and nurses go on strike at will because they have private hospitals, leaving the sick at the care of the domestic staff in public hospitals.
A thousand and one times he applied for jobs and a thousand and one times he was screened out, even before an interview. He became frustrated when his mother’s sickness worsened. He needed money, and whatever source it could come from did not matter to him.
A friend approached him and told him of a job which he promised would pay well. He was excited. Finally, his days of suffering would come to an end. His mother would be managed at one of the hospitals pending when he has enough to send her to a private hospital owned by those toothless elders and the striking doctors. But the further revelation about the job murdered his interest in a cold blood of sycophancy – something he detested with every drop of blood in him. He did not understand why some youths would choose to lick the footprint of the very people marching on their destiny and future. He did not understand it, and so he hated it. He wept that night, locked in his half-furnished room, wishing for death to come and end his misery. Death did come. But it stopped at the house of his widowed neighbour and killed his son, whose ribs were showcased on his chest like the footprint of worms, and left. That would be the twenty-fifth lives taken by Kwashiorkor. Yet one of the toothless elders said it was a curse placed by God for the numerous sins of the land. Onome woke up that morning feeling guilty for inviting death to the neighbourhood, yet angry at the death for not visiting those who invited it.
He confided in another friend who informed him of a nation, a beautiful dreamland located at the far end of the western world called Florado – a land where everyone was welcomed, a land where he could easily achieve his purpose in life, a land where milk and honey was a common food – one for one, one for all.
At first, it was like a fairy tale to him, a happy-ever-after kind of story which he knew was possible only on screen. He didn’t believe it, and neither was he going to think about it. But he unconsciously spent months wandering in the sea of confusion and indecisiveness. Leaving his mother would do him or her no good; yet staying with her seemed like the worst choice. The night he told her of his intent, she cried herself to sleep. With love in her eyes, sickness in her body, she awoke the next morning begging him to reconsider. She told him she would die anyway but dying by his side would make it less painful or lonely. But he was not ready to sit down and watch her die, not when there was another option.
“I would send for you, mama, you will leave this land and live with me in this foreign land where everything is perfect.”
His words were like grease to his mother’s rusted heart. A heart rusted from the vision of pain, loneliness and abandonment. The mother nodded, finding the situation hard to consent to. But the day he was to leave, she spoke. Her words began and ended with prayers of success. Amidst tearful eyes and shuddering lips, hidden in a long hug, he promised on his life to come back and take her with him. Bold yet heartbroken, he left for the land where he expected magic to transform him into a successful and accomplished being.
The ambulance halted and the paramedics briskly wheeled him inside the hospital. The shaky sound of the stretcher, the whooshing wind married with the raucous attention of the ER doctors amplified his pains. He groaned and moaned louder. His hands reached for his belly and instead of blood, he felt a band-aid. His shattering head shrunk back to normality. His heartbeat decelerated. He mustered heavy air and forced it down the reservoir of his lungs, reminding his lungs of their primary function. He heard a nurse ask what his name was, but he was too weak and boggled to brew an answer. He tried to put together what really happened to him.
He was not armed; neither did he do anything that could have gained him such a brutal shot. His right sorely hand was hidden in the pocket of his jacket as he pleaded the ticket clerk to stamp his ticket. He was late for work. So did not find the clerk prioritising her phone calls over his request – a request to do something she was paid for – funny. On the fourth request, the young white lady scowled at him, asking him to chill and give her some space. Then she giggled into the phone like the conversation was just about to start. He pleadingly persisted but the lady instead picked the office telephone with her other hand, and before he could stop her, she muttered some scary words into it. In a flash, he was accosted by cops asking him to raise his hands up and make no movement. He confusedly turned to the shotguns pointed at him in two different angles.
Raise your hands and make no movement has no business being in the same sentence. No one raises his or her hand without making a movement. So what exactly were they asking for? The warning came the second time. He became frenzied. His first thought was to lift his hands up. He made to pull his right hand out of his pocket but one of the cops let go of his trigger.
Tears rolled down his cheeks. Fear choked his respiratory tract as he thought about his life – a poor and regardless life which in search of purpose evacuated him from his homeland to the land laced with racial discrimination. A land though different and far more developed, with many prospects more than his homeland, was devoured by their hate for people whose skin is a bit darker than theirs. A few months of arrival into this land where he was assured of safety and equal rights of the citizens, he witnessed what he feared was a bigger monster than the one he ran away from at home. And now the monster has caught him, ready to prey on his body and soul.
He remembered his girlfriend, Maliki, a tall handsome black lady from a different land located also in the sub-Saharan Africa, a land worse than his. The duo met at an Africa event where people of black skin were educated on what it means to live in a land full of people who might have a different view about the colour of their skin.
“Why are we so much hated?”
He asked her one evening at the restaurant while they sat for dinner.
“I left my land to escape the economy that was being destroyed by old and shameless elders, only to majestically stroll into hate, a hate more chronic than hunger. Why do they hate us?”
Maliki looked into his eyes and saw his naivety. She told him that people fear what they don’t and can’t understand.
“Does God also hate us?”
“No! God hates nobody, Esosa. He loves us all. He created us all in his own image and likeness, there is no way he would hate us.”
Esosa shook his head sternly in an outright disbelief. He has seen the tussle of social class difference in his land. How the haves discriminated against the have-nots. How the royalties literally flogged the common men out of the way just so they could drive past on a road wide enough to contain four cars in a row, blowing sirens like an ambulance with an accident victim. He suffered hunger because some people felt it was their sole right to eat while others, like the biblical Lazarus, watch and pick the crumbles.
And now, he was to fight people who judge others neither by class nor blood, but by the colour of their skin. He sighed. Nobody would condemn him if he doubted the belief that all men were created equal in the likeness of God. He grinned and sipped his coffee.
Maliki peered at him and saw his doubt hidden in his pretentious grin. “I know you don’t believe me, but that is just the truth. People get many things wrong which does not make any of them right. The Bible said, He created man in His own image; not black or white. You have to…”
“It might be in the Bible but in reality, it is not so.”
He glanced at the many white faces in the restaurant, wondering how they could be so busily occupied in their various activities to even notice his worrisome state.
“I have not stayed here up to two years and I have been dished with a good portion of racial discrimination that I think dying side by side with my mother would have been better, at least they will happily bury our corpses.”
“Don’t talk like that. Your mother is doing well now, thanks to the job you got two months from staying here. And you are seriously planning on bringing her over. What…”
“I should tell you now. I have cancelled every plan towards that. My mother is not coming to face this hate with me. Never!”
“You are not serious! Things are better here Esosa, you just…”
“No. They are worse. They are terrible and don’t make it more disastrous by telling me how better it might be or how we all are created in the image of God. Did I tell you how a man, a white man, turned down a bottle of beer he ordered because I, a black man served him?”
Maliki thoughtfully looked on. She understood the facts in what her heartthrob was saying, but she couldn’t concur to his argument to avoid inciting in him another form of hate. Neither would she want to disagree to avoid getting him upset. So she kept quiet, and with a caring and loving expression clearly shown by her mellowed gaze, she peered at him, listening to his rants. He nodded.
“Yeah! I told you that when it happened. And last week, a black kid was killed by cops who pulled him over, saying he was driving under the influence of alcohol. They asked him to step out of the car. But guess what? He was about pulling up the hand brake when they shot him, and claimed it was an accidental discharge. But on that same road, a few hours later, some white kids drove by, clearly reeking of alcohol and speeding their lives to eternal ruin. The cops did what? They patted the trunk of their car and said. ‘Today is your lucky day, get home safe’. Meanwhile, an innocent black kid is being buried.”
Maliki held his hands. “You need to stop, Esosa.”
“Why? Have I said something that is not true?”
“No, you have not. You just have not considered the other part.”
Esosa halted. He was disappointed. A black lady – his girlfriend should not for any reason align with the whites no matter what; not after all they did. He believed that blacks need to come together and fight; it is the only way they could, if possible, gain their freedom. His confusion intensified as he deduced the look on her face. She was looking at him like a disgruntled and naive man who has no idea about the war he was trying to jump into.
“There is another part? The part where God didn’t create us all in His image and likeness? Good! Tell me about it, I would love to hear it. Maybe that would make me accept my state.”
Maliki coughed harder, clearing her throat for the long explanatory speech she was about to make. “Racism might have existed right from the beginning of time, but it was never aimed for a deliberate murder. Yes, we were avoided, enslaved, denied certain social amenities, but no one was killed because we are black.”
Esosa took the role of an African kid – head on his grandfather’s lap, ears on the traditional folklore under the moonlight. He paid uttermost attention to Maliki’s long historical explanation on why she thought black lives mattered less.
“The freedom given to us which allowed us to even become full citizens and enjoy some sort of liberty was taken for granted. Many of us, possessed by the crazy and greedy hunger for quick money, got involved in various crimes – crimes that were unheard of in this land before. The blacks brought in gambling, robbery, scamming and other notorious activities this land didn’t know much about. And because of their wide population, they infiltrated the citizenry and made these crimes rampant. An analysis was taken and the result revealed that almost ninety percent of these crimes are committed by blacks. That result developed into a mental misconception that every black is a potential criminal, hence any sudden move by a black man is considered a calculated one for a crime.”
She inhaled as she took Esosa’s terrifying hands into hers. “It is not entirely their fault, my love. We kind of brought this upon ourselves. They are only trying to provide maximum security for their citizens, which is the right thing to do. They cannot attack you if you live by the law. You have to understand that.”
Esosa’s anger withered like a green leaf soaked in a bowl of hot water. If what she said has any iota of truth in it, then these people were not to be blamed. “How do you know about this?”
“I was born here. I am a citizen but my father reminds me every day that in whatever I do, I should never forget that I am black. He always says that here is not my country, we are aliens here, Esosa and….”
“No! I am not. I am human.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean, I passed my Geography class. I just think the name itself has a mental effect on people using it and the ones it is used on. I mean aliens are perceived as dangerous and whenever they come, they are attacked. Isn’t that what it happening to us?”
“No! It’s not. Have you considered the ones in our land? They are aliens too, but no one dares attack them because they act responsibly.”
“No!” He boggled. “They act nothing close to responsible. We regard them well because our inferiority complex would not let us see them for who they are. We consider them as our superior – a higher being that knows everything. We allow them into every sector of our economy, making it look like we can’t function without them.”
“You need to shut up.”
“That’s how you know when you are saying the truth. They will just order you to shut up.”
Maliki smiled and kissed his hand.
The scissors pulling out the bullet from him bruised vein sent shivers of pain to his brains. He was jolted out of the reminisce valley he sank into. His lips shook in a silent moan. His emotions magnified despite the anaesthetic in his blood system. Little by little the pain disappeared, and he wondered how his mother would react when the news of his death hit her. It would shatter her being and call back the sickness which has been chased out a long time ago.
Slowly, a faint smile patted his lips as his pains hurriedly deserted him, leaving him with a rush of calmness. Everything seemed so pacific. A serene and immaculate breeze cooed into his ears, stirring a magnified peaceful emotion within his soul. His strength multiplied and he slowly rose from the bed amidst the doctors’ and nurses’ rush to save his life. He heard the medical jargons puffing out of their mouths and wondered why they couldn’t see the fact that he has woken up just fine. He shrugged at what he thought to be their foolishness and started out.
Stepping out of the emergency room, he found himself in a white and lovely castle, with a beautiful horticultural arrangement that bespoke excellence. A tall fountain with an angelic statue stood in the middle of the castle, its fresh water runs to the gardens down the carefully arranged plantation. The gardens have numerous kinds of trees, with attractive and colourful fruits dangling on their branches. In his wonderment, he looked back at the position of the door.
The door was gone, the hospital too, and on its spot stood twelve elders, dressed in an immaculate white robe. Behind them were an uncountable number of angelic beings. Each held trumpets, lyres or any other unimaginable instruments. Combining these instruments, they produced the most awesome and glorious melodies. The peaceful songs snaked into his ear like a balm.
He smiled at the serenity before him. Everything was pristine, devoid of any physical stain, dent or worry. He looked around, people walked around free of pains and suffering. He smiled again, this time broader. He didn’t know where he was, but wherever it was, he sure loved it. With the same smiling face, he ambled around; feeding his eyes on the beautiful environment he luckily stumbled upon. Few steps close to the fountain, two kids playfully ran into him, using him to dodge each other as they giggled so gaily. He looked down on them, with a broadened smile, one seemed so familiar. He pulled him closer, looked straight into his eyes and gaped. He recognised him – his white neighbour’s kid who died of pneumonia months ago.
The little boy dished him a smile so innocent and hospitable as he hugged him.
The hug took him back to his first encounter with Tyler’s mother. He was alighting from the taxi back from work when he saw Tyler’s mother dragging him inside the house. She was angry and violent. The other kids – those who Tyler was riding a bicycle with – stood in shock and heart break. The smallest of them has tears docked in his eyes as he kicked very hard on the bicycle which he pushed on the ground.
Esosa approached in confusion and asked them what happened. The eldest, with restrained tears, explained how the woman insulted them, called them criminals and dragged her son inside, stating that they would corrupt him. He looked around; the kids were all black. He felt a rush of anger, and irritation pumped through his veins. He rushed after the woman to find out the reason of her actions. But as he got to the door post and raised his hand to knock, he heard something that shockingly suspended his hand in the air. The boy was asking the mother why he was not allowed to play with the kids. And the ignorant and self-made racist mother bluntly answered.
“Because they are black. All black people are criminals, they are a bad influence. You need to stay away from them. Do you understand?”
Read this too: Bad Influence, a poem by Hamamatu Ya’u
Esosa heard the boy voice a submissive, yet unconvinced, yes. He felt terrible as he walked back to his house. He couldn’t stop thinking about the damage the woman, whose intentions might just be to protect her son, was doing to the little boy, or how the boy would grow to have the nasty mentality that all blacks are indeed dangerous. That was when it dawned on him that nobody was born a racist, they were all taught to become one, blacks and whites alike.
“Uncle Esosa!” Tyler was excited. “What are you doing here?”
Esosa feigned a smile as he lifted him into his arm, patting his back.
“I am going to stay here for now. Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“Of course I am. I am happy to see you. Did you see my mother? How is she?”
“Your mother is fine.”
Tyler smiled, dragging Esosa’s chin.
“Have you seen Onome? He is here with me. We ride a bicycle together. He is so good at it he always wins. Come, I will lead you to him.”
Tyler jumped down, and with his little friends, dragged Esosa towards the fountain.
Onome was one of the black kids Tyler’s mother warned him never to play with – the one that kicked his bicycle. He was hit by a white drunk driver on his way back from school, and the case was closed without any charges.
Tyler ran to Onome and gave him a tight hug. He broke the hug and told him to come meet Uncle Esosa. Esosa’s happiness turned into shock as he wondered just what the castle was. He looked around for the umpteenth time and saw no clue of where he was. As he came closer to Onome, his wonderment amplified. Onome and Tyler were colourless – not white, not black, just a glowing skin that emits pristine crystal rays. Slowly he looked around as he couldn’t understand why they both should have the same skin colour, and to his greatest surprise, everybody in that castle has the same glowing skin. He looked at his body – it was still black, the only different person in the castle. He smiled as Onome called him out and hugged him so tightly. A tap on his shoulder startled him and he turned to behold a man, dressed in a long white robe, with skin glowing like stars and a smile as innocent as a baby’s laughter.
“Don’t be scared,” the man said. “You are not lost. You are just witnessing the second fellowship of humans – those washed in the blood of the lamb and made pure from all iniquities and atrocities. I know you must be wondering why everyone looks alike, deferring the race and gender differences,” the man paused with a smile as Esosa nodded attentively.
“Well, here, there is no such thing as gender, race or colour. Everybody is equal and all enjoy equal rights and freedom. No one is superior; no one is inferior, just as God made them – in His likeness.”
“What is this place?”
The man smiled and looked around then returned his gaze to him. “Here is the everlasting kingdom, where all started and would eventually return.”
“Am I dead?” Esosa’s face twitched.
“Not yet. But if you don’t go back now, you might be.”
“But I don’t want to go back. I love it here. The world is full of so many evils, discriminations and racial fights. People die on daily basis for something that could have been peacefully reconciled. Please wise one, do not send me back.”
“No.” The Man smiled. “You are here for a reason, to send a message to the world, a message about the equality of human race in spite of the colour or race. A message that skin colour is nothing but paint on a wall. Scratch it off and the bricks will show. Every wall has bricks and bricks look the same. You have to let the world know that God loves everyone, blacks and whites alike. He is only interested in the redemption of souls and nothing more. You must return and proclaim what you witnessed here to the whole world.”
“I don’t want to go, please.” Esosa admired the beauty of the castle.
“Uncle Esosa, you have to go and tell my mum to allow my siblings play with Onome’s brothers.” Tyler pushed him.
He looked down at him, smiled and nodded.
“I am getting a pulse,” a Nurse shouted as the beeping of the ECG machine rose. Esosa jerked on the bed, fluttered his eyes and opened them. With a smile on his lips and tears in his eyes he looked around the room. He saw the doctor’s frenzy struggle to uncurl his stethoscope from his neck.
“He was dead.” He finally uncurled the stethoscope and placed it on his chest. The nurse was attentively glued to the ECG machine, reading the zigzagged lines that decorated its screen.
Esosa confusedly scowled at them. “Dead? Where am I?”
“You were shot, sir. And then you died. It’s a miracle that you are alive. Please calm down so we can figure out what is going on.”
Esosa felt a mild pain by his side. His right fingers trailed it and he felt a plaster covering the wound. Then a series of flashback ran through his head – the gunshot, the castle and most importantly the message. He smiled. A sniffle on the door drew his attention to Maliki who was shedding tears of joy.
While the doctor and the nurses ran around conducting some tests, Maliki slipped into the room and held his hand. Her eyes were blurred with tears which flowed like a river down her cheeks.
“I thought I have lost you.”
“Not happening anytime soon, because I am not done troubling your life.”
The two lovers chuckled. He looked at her and smiled again.
The doctor inhaled. “I have never seen anything like this.”
Esosa stared at him, then at Maliki. He returned his gaze to the doctor. “Wait till you hear the message I have for the world.”
Maliki glanced at him. “Message? What message?”
The nurses and the doctor froze in shock. Like on a cue, all looked at Maliki. She shrugged, more confused than they were.
Esosa noticed their bewilderment and smiled. “I need to rest,” he said and slept off, readying his head for the task ahead.