Horizontal Dreams … {testimonial prose}

So the girl with horizontal dreams sat on a cold kitchen stool, looking out of the window at the wide expanse of  lively flora and fauna that seemed to mock her with its vivacity. She sat there, one missed call away from depression, one chipped fragment of her soul away from death. Is it what contentment feels like? She looked down at the white gold band around her frail left finger and felt nothing. Not even nostalgia, not longing, not the teary-eyed happiness she felt on her wedding day looking up at the stoic cross hanging on the brick wall behind the altar as if still engaged in persuading her soul that she was still the owner of her fate. No regrets for discarding both families disapproval in an union deemed as “precocious” and unworthy of candid clerical accountability. Not a single sense of vulnerability regarding the signs and foreshadowings heaven weaved into her inside parts. The clock was ticking. From unwhole and numb, She consecutively became beautiful, confused, rebellious, married, ‘free’, and numb.

She sighed and rose wearily, studiously avoiding the taunting ticking of the clock as it betrayed her daily fear, 12:15am and he’s still not home.  This was a dangerous place to be in, this deep sense of failure and giving up for which apathy was too light of a descriptive word.  She ran her fingers over her dry messy braids, tendrils of hair sticking out in the back, and marveled in disbelief at the time when she dreamt to be his wife, two become one, until death do us part- and the church did say amen. She wandered through the comfortable desolation that was her family home, echoing with the many footfalls of a long-gone toddler. Her heart had ceased to bleed long ago. She had forced it to, for fear of her lover’s dismissals that only served to increase the pain rather than to alleviate it.

She had an endless inventory of things she could no longer say, what was the point? He would be back soon, take a quick cursory glance at her distressed face marked with valley-deep channels of her endless tears, and all he would do was shrug.  “If you don’t want to talk about it I’m not going to ask”.  She looked down at her dwindling frame and suddenly felt cold even in the perpetual 35-degree celsius heat. How does infatuation, and passion, and love and obsession, morph into flippant neglect, and uneasy comfort, and torturous nonchalance?

She had dreams, and although he never categorically forbade her from following them, she felt she had to stunt their trajectory, what was the point if she had neither his disapproval nor his praise? She used to yearn for everything that was him; a discarded handkerchief, a late night phone call, a smile; and so it didn’t matter that she let her God-given ambitions cool on the countertop like a stale apple pie. Thinking back, she couldn’t even remember why she turned down that opportunity at the International Institute of Arts to wander in thoughts. He wouldn’t have said no, he didn’t even have the right to, but she thought he was worthy and so she gave him a full ownership to her intimacy with her creator, her heart, her mind, her free will, her future, her purpose, her dreams.

And so her astronomical and horizontal dreams were put to rest. Her life stretched out in front of her in an endless sea of family functions, and traditional weddings and lonely nights in the cold tundra of their four- poster luxury bed. Her dreams for their life together died a thousand deaths at the first shrug of his shoulders. She slid into the icy bed sheets. 3:15am; he’s still not home.

If she was still His horizontal dreams…

[Remember to wisely live your life with purpose, on purpose]

Dear all,

Forgive me; it has been so long since I last wrote you. It has been almost 26 years, and I am nowhere near as close as I should be to knowing you. How arrogant of me to expect boubous hitched up to the shoulders, all the better to embrace me, emotional strains from the kora announcing my arrival. The warmth of your reception fell short only in my wild imagination, because you often mistake me for one of your own and treat me as such anyway. We are still the same people; At least I was convinced. We left the Nile valley together, fertile black soil crushed beneath our feet. We debated philosophy and politics in grand libraries in Timbuktu, fought vicious raiders on horseback to death. We were separated at birth by greed and racism. Civilization was the downfall of our nobility. In fact, the frontiers that divide us are artificial, they run only has deep as contracts drawn around a table in a distant cold city.

Forgive the unnecessary romance, but the closeness I feel to you is inexplicable, inevitable, and for that reason I feel that I must write you with my thoughts. It is disturbing the amount of distress I feel when I see you living a life less than worthy of your rich history. Of course we are all royalties, but every goldsmith and griot and servant had a specific purpose to serve. Only now, this thing called economics, or corruption, (depending on the way you interpret the graphs) has made it so that some of you are relegated to abject poverty and international ad campaigns pleading on your behalf. I want to scream, to rip my hair out in mourning every time I hear someone pity you, each time someone laments the fate of “these less fortunate people”.

I am concerned by the violence of my reaction; forgive me for losing my composure. I only mean to share with you the pain and confusion I feel, not to add salt to the wounds of injustice you face. I want to collect every guidebook, every blog and travel advisory, and burn them a hundred times over for every time they use the word “authentic” or “untouched tribe” or “quaint” to describe you. How dare they, reduce an age-old lifestyle in which every element is a symbol for something greater, to a caricature; a picture-perfect primitive landscape for the back of a postcard, or a stamp, or a museum full of stolen artifacts. How disrespectful, to believe that donating some spare change on the plane ride here is going to solve your problems. Is giving you some candy or a piece of gum and taking a few photos for the road really going to make your day?

I am sobbing hysterically, my tears carve out valleys and channels on my cheeks and I want to scream at you to stop! Stop running, stop waving, stop tugging at water bottles and shirt hems and arms. It’s not your fault; your childish exuberance and past is totally innocent. You were naive and curious. It is not often that strangers come your way. I couldn’t explain why it upset me so, until I heard the patronizing comments, saw the pictures posted online, a virtual condescension that is a world away from you, humiliation you will never be aware of.

Oh Motherland, my heart sinks to new depths when your beautiful form is reduced to something base, vulgar, bestial. They don’t understand, the length of your neck soars above human pettiness and the top of your head and soles of your feet have borne every kind of weight, emotional, financial, the firm bottom of a clay pot. Your hair effortlessly pierces the depth of the Nile and seduces the Congo river. Your Gold, Diamond, Coltan, Cocoa and safari reserves rot in your nailed hands, until the smell fuels the endeavors of your favorite scavengers. I do not glorify what is quotidian, nor do I sing unwarranted praises just to prove a point. I merely state the truth, that your infinite strength, your resilience against the constant battering of time and development cannot be fathomed by a fleeting visit by a tourist group and the purchase of some trinkets. You are not a souvenir with a polished finish, carved with wood and hollowed at the top to hold candles or car keys. Your breasts are not the figment of colonial fantasies. You are NOT for sale.

To you, my heart skips a beat every time I see you approaching. I do not refer to the characteristic quickening of the pulse felt by love struck teenagers. Rather, I mean the irregular beat that precedes my heart plunging to the depths of my stomach. It hurts to see you degrade yourself, to see you earn the label of money-hungry, visa-chasing glutton; interested in any stranger that can help you escape debt, overdue rent, apathy, stagnant job prospects. By no means do I condemn you for falling in love with whoever you desire, but when the desperation seeps through your pores and you are met with contempt in the markets, on the beach, in rundown bars, it hurts me. It hurts me to see you shed your kingly stature, laying down your tattered robes for who-ever has the most favorable passport to walk over. Remember that God has made us all kings, but you regress by stepping down the ladder every time you think this is your only way out. You know better, your ancestors ingrained in you the principles of respect and dignity. Get up, stretch those broad shoulders and puff out your ample chest. There is work to be done, more on your side than on the other side of the immigration checkpoint.

I am sorry if I speak out of turn, you have raised me to be stronger than this, more stable. Still, I can’t help the fact that your beautiful chaos moves me to emotions in battle with each other even during the most divine of walks down any wonder-lust street. It is my hope that you will take me back, though I may have become a truth-telling dangerous stranger. I remain yours, always.


A bold tourist.