My mother knew what was going to happen to me. “Do fight it or you will end up here,” She told me. She said this to me the night she was admitted at Amani Psychiatric Hospital.
It was a musty afternoon and english literature was the first lesson after lunch. We were presenting on a book Mrs. Masiba had tasked us to read the week before. Mrs. Masiba wanted us to read worldly. She placed us into groups and called them book clubs. Every week she gave each group a different book to read and present on. She let us to pick the names for our book club. We called ours Books For Lunch Book Cub. I don’t remember the book we were presenting on that day. I just know it had a glaring theme on mental illness. A thorn in my flesh.
“Is that all?” Mrs. Masiba asked from the back of the classroom where she stood leaning against the wall.
“Yes.” I picked up my books and began to make my way to my desk.
“Atieno, come with me.”
I stifled a groan. Mrs. Masiba was everyone’s favorite teacher. She was a young, award – winning, internationally recognized published author. Yet she made me uncomfortable. She was always trying to fix something. She fixed your tie, or sweater, or hair if you stood too close to her.
I dumped my books on my desk and followed her outside. We walked to the teachers office in silence. She peered in then motioned me to follow. There was no one else there. I sat down opposite her. She studied me for a while before she spoke. “Adhiambo, do you know why I asked your group specifically to read that book? You do you know, don’t you?”
I kept my eyes downcast.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of,” she carried on. “These things are better discussed in the open.”
She arranged the papers on her desk into a neat pile. “I heard that you’ve been telling your classmates that she traveled to Europe and... Adhiambo?... Adhiambo, please look at me. You are not in trouble.”
“It’s okay not to be okay.” She began to color coordinate her pens and markers.
I sprung up and I shoved everything off her table. “What the hell do you know?” I yelled. I don’t remember what happened next, I just remembered that it felt like I carried an entire ocean in my heart and my heart was too small to bear it. I woke up the next day in hospital with my Dad dozing off in chair beside my bed. They gave me some time off from school. Also, I had to see a counselor.
I did not see my mother again until I was seventeen. She was wearing a cream gown over her hospital drab. She sat upright on her bed looking outside.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked. She turned to look at me, smiled and shook her head. She hadn’t grown a third head. She hadn’t morphed into some hideous creature. She didn’t seem contagious. She was the same.
“I had a dream,” I said after a while. “I was being buried alive.”
My mother studied me with her head tilted to one side. “I have never had a dream before. I was always too tired to sleep.”
She reached out for my hand. I took it. She gave it a small squeeze then let go. “Do not make the same mistake. When it starts, come and see me. I’ll tell you what to do.”
“Tell me now.”
“No, not now. I will tell you when it comes. It will come soon.”
What came sooner was her death. The last time I spoke to my mother was a year after she had passed away. Start writing here…
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