Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The things I've seen
I have seen a woman stop by the dirt path on her way home from the fields and give birth. I have seen a boy who fell from a tree, sitting strapped onto the back of a bicycle with a bubbling, breathing hole in his skull, eyes still open, though glazed.
I have seen a man who shot off his own finger, staring at it stunned as bits of bones and veins and ragged skin filled his vision. I have seen a cow with her belly torn open by a lion in the night, and heard her screams as she died.
I have seen a child sitting on the ground, wearing only his skin and a very large belly - He was starving to death and could not even stand, and his family flowed around him, just waiting.
I have seen a man come into my yard with a basket on his head, and in the basket, his newborn child. I heard him explain his story - his wife died in childbirth, he could not raise this infant on his own, he wondered if these white missionaries might take it and raise it. I saw him leave with his basket still on his head, in which the infant lay, and I saw such sorrow and defeat in his eyes. I saw his knowledge that the last chance for his child was gone from him now.
I have taken another such infant in my own childhood and held it until almost the moment of it's last breath.
I have seen a boa constrictor swallow a baby goat almost completely, until the boa was killed, and the kid's back legs hung from that reptilian mouth motionless.
I have seen a dear friend go mad due to the cruelty she endured at the hands of her husband. I saw people just stand by as she was beaten and beaten and beaten until her very spirit was broken and killed. I followed once, as he beat her walking down a path, blood soaking the back of her skirt. I watched her eyes lose their spark and I watched her die, not bodily, but in every other way. If only it had been her body that passed on, I could bear that much more easily than the things I saw.
I have seen a woman, wild-eyed and arms waving and yelling at the sky, beseeching "them" to leave her alone. I have always wondered who they were, those things that I could not see, but that tormented her until her death.
I have seen a child as young as four years old endure the horror of female circumcision. I watched as four grown men held her down as another cut he with a rusty blade.
I have watched the land burn, and with it sometimes houses, and I have seen it all re-grow and re-build.
I have seen an entire village gone mad with violence and greed. I have seen war, and refugees walking for miles holding their horrifically few belongings and just surviving long enough to see more death and pain and madness.
I have sat in a classroom and heard the sound of bullets whizzing by. I have seen a man on his knees, wailing toward the sky, and I have seen the store that was his with bullet holes through the door and looted of everything that was his life.
I have heard the wailing at dawn, that announces yet another death in the night.
All of this and more I have seen, and it haunts me.
All of these things I carry with me, and wonder if there was anything that I could have done to change the way Africa was and is.