My poetry, I thought, wasn’t very good, so I began to write short stories to express my angst instead. The first I offer for your contemplation is entitled Kenyan Prayer Scarf, which was inspired by my near suicide and sense of hopelessness.
Kenyan Prayer Scarf
He takes a Kenyan prayer scarf, forms a loop with a third of its length, and fixes it in place with a simple knot. He tugs the knot to make sure it won’t slip open, and places the scarf ceremoniously on his bed before sitting beside it.
He lights a cigarette and exhales slowly, while lowering his head to within an inch of his knees. He remains in this position while his mind produces a convoy of thoughts, as though it were a busy city, and each artery and vein a road carrying the feelings his thoughts generate to race around his body.
His thoughts are as dark and troubled as they have always been, and the feelings they produce only wretched – a ceaseless process that has led him to sit next to the knotted scarf.
His thoughts reach back to the beginning of time, and stretch to his seated position on the bed. Although he does not attend church or follow a religion, he contemplates God, and senses how sad He, She or It must be, because he is sure God hoped to create something beautiful, which has become as hideous and disappointing as Frankenstein’s monster. He knows he is feeling God’s sorrow, because he believes he is part of God, as everyone is.
Yet; after some time of deep contemplation, he is overwhelmed by a sense there is no God, because he reasons that God would have intervened to make the world as it should have been, so the sorrow he feels is only his own. His thoughts have always been like this – swinging to and fro – which is unbearable when one searches so earnestly for a meaning to life.
He pulls the last drag through a hot filter, sighs smoke and bends over further, to crush the cigarette into an ashtray sitting on the floor, before lighting another and resuming his sorrowful cogitation.
His mind abandons God and wanders off to consider humankind’s origin in a scientific sense. He thinks of Mitochondrial Eve, the mother of the first Homo sapiens, who lived in Africa some two hundred thousand years before – perhaps in Kenya, two hundred thousand years before the scarf was woven.
‘If only we would have remembered where we came from’ – he thinks – ‘we wouldn’t have even thought of enslaving our most distant relatives or dividing Africa as though a cake shared amongst thieves. If we would have remembered, Africa would be the most revered place on Earth; a point of pilgrimage for the planet’s inhabitants, who would bring gifts and knowledge to their motherland as people always had. There would be no racism, if it were so. But we didn’t remember; we didn’t know, but even so, how can humankind behave in such a way?’
He knows the answer to his question, since his internal dialogue is repetitive and continuous, and has reasoned him into the deep despair within which he is now enveloped. Nevertheless, he chooses to reply, as if to leave the answer unspoken would leave him in danger of forgetting.
‘Humankind would not have behaved in such a despicable manner’ – he reasons. ‘The world is the way it is because some wanted to, and they encouraged and even forced others to act against their will; against common human morality. Like Hitler’s war, and so many atrocities committed through the actions of the majority and intention of a minority, which has given the whole human race a bad name and produced a planet to be ashamed of.’
His eyes are red and swollen because he cries almost every day. A tear appears in the inner corner of his right eye, as though symbolising his belief that the future will only be a sorrowful continuation of the past. He lights a cigarette, from the one he has been smoking, and tosses the butt towards the ashtray. It misses and lands on the floor, where it begins to burn a brown mark on the linoleum, within a constellation of ones already there.
‘I don’t understand. Why didn’t the majority rebel against the minority and unite to create a fair, equal, peaceful world? A world where everyone would have been free to travel wherever they please, unhindered by borders, as all other species on Earth are able to? So people would have travelled through curiosity, rather than to search for peace or a better standard of living elsewhere? If this would have been so, the concept of God would have become a topic for international debate, which would have surely led to a belief in the One God watching over us all and global worship of the divine, rather than endless religions that have created religious warfare.’
He massages his wet eyes with nicotine stained fingertips, which causes them to water defensively and wash away the tears of sorrow. A wave of angst wells within him, displacing a fresh flood of thoughts.
‘Why don’t we see how beautiful the world could be, and strive to make it so, rather than throwing fuel onto a fire that consumes all hope of it ever being the paradise it should be? Why doesn’t everyone see the world is made up of a whole bunch of farms, which we call countries, and the people of each are only as free as farm animals can be? And politicians are only farmers, who keep humans as livestock to fund their lifestyles and those of the elite? Why can’t people see that borders prevent the human race from intermingling as one force, expressing the true, united nature of humankind? Can’t they see that we don’t even know what we are really like, because we live within a game of life created by a corrupt, selfish minority rather than an altruistic majority? And our history should be the history of human nature but it isn’t; it is only the history of humankind’s behaviour when governed – when the majority were told what to do by a minority, whose intent was far beyond common morality?’
He drops the butt of the burning cigarette, which lands in the ashtray with a dull ‘ting’. He lights another and spins it between his thumb and forefinger, while imagining a tribe of Native American Indians, proud on horseback, galloping free across plain and prairie, with their Chief the voice of wisdom and morality. He thinks how unlike the Chief the world’s leaders are. A terrible sense of shame rises within his soul when he remembers the genocide of these beautiful people, and the theft of their homeland. He remembers the trail of tears, and begins to cry his own.
He thinks back on his life, and growing up enveloped within the Cold War of the 1970s and 80s, which still holds the world in its icy grasp decades later, despite claims that it had ended or transformed into a friendly, warm war.
‘Did the destruction of the Berlin Wall mean nothing?’ – he asks himself, as he has on countless occasions. ’Nations kept apart through a supposed fear and hatred of one another, yet only joyful when they meet? And Christmas day during the First World War, when soldiers stopped fighting to play football and sing carols? Did these events show nothing of the true nature of our kind – our curiosity and love for one another – and how we are only manipulated to behave in dissonance with our souls? That we are forced to play games that end in carnage and death, when we would rather play football and sing? Games invented by the minority who govern us; the minority who have created a divided hell on Earth, rather than the paradise everyone would have created, together, for all to enjoy?
Will the people ever see the true intent of those they regard as powerful and charismatic, and learn not to trust them, but rather turn to the peaceful, gentle, wise, unassuming members of our kind to guide them, or better still – to unite and create a world through the collective intelligence of humankind, rather than allowing a minority to do the same, through their fragmented, twisted, dissonant logic? A minority who place the wishes of the majority second to their own, even though they are entrusted with the wellbeing of the majority?’
He knows for this to be so would demand a true global democracy, and the minority who rule humankind will never allow that to happen. He thinks the world will always be the way it is, and grow worse with every technological advancement. He believes the very evolution of humankind is affected by the way the world is governed. He thinks fear is destroying the love we should have for one another. Exploitation and inequality creating resentment, rather than fairness and equality gratitude; everything he has ever considered seems to mirror what he senses should be.
He sees there is happiness, but only a selfish form of the emotion. He knows the secret of happiness is being able to push the world’s problems out of one’s mind, but this is something he has never been able to achieve. He can’t enjoy food while others starve to death, or peace, when others are at war, or even a home when there are those who are homeless. He finds the endless cookery programmes on television distasteful, when the world is wracked by poverty and famine. He remembers how he had cried when his local supermarket was selling Kenyan avocados when there was a famine in Somalia; Kenya’s neighbouring country. He remembers wondering why they didn’t take the avocados over the border to Somalia, instead of shipping them all the way to Europe where there is plenty of food. He had phoned the head office of the supermarket and spat his fury into a voicemail, but the avocados remained.
He has never understood the world, and knows he never will. He knows the secret of true happiness. He knows he would be happy if he knew everyone on the planet lives in peace, and are housed, fed, educated and cared for when they are sick. He knows everyone would be truly happy if this were the case, but doesn’t believe it will ever be so. He doesn’t wish to live in such a world. He is ashamed of the actions of those who have directed the construction of global civilisation, and continue to do so, and of those who exist within it, without a thought to anyone but themselves. He is tired of the apathy of humankind. ‘This is not who we are’ – he thinks. ‘This is not who we are supposed to be, but we will never change.’
He cannot bear to live because his soul’s desire will never be fulfilled, and he cannot endure the feeling of powerlessness any longer. He crushes the glowing tip of the cigarette between a thumb and forefinger, in an effort to prepare for the physical pain that will end his spirit’s agony. He stands, takes the scarf – which has covered his crown during so many unanswered prayers – and passes his head through the loop.
He stands on a chair, in the middle of his small bedsit, and secures the free end of the scarf onto a large hook he has screwed into the ceiling, while experiencing a curious melange of fear, relief and sorrow, but most of all – the anticipation of the divine and eternal peace. He carefully senses his emotions, since they will be the last he will ever have, before kicking the chair from beneath his feet.
He jerks to a halt, some twenty centimetres from the floor, and begins to panic. He tries to press his fingers between his neck and the scarf tightening around it, while blood pounds in his ears like a drumbeat. His face burns and his eyes bulge in their sockets. Spit runs in a river down his chin, and he hears a choking sound as though he is underwater. He urinates and defecates, while his legs kick and flail in a pointless effort to find footing, which only hastens his demise.
His mind has turned to the horror of the moment; the world’s sorrows have left him at last. As he ceases to struggle, and begins to slip into the unconsciousness before death, his last thought is the realisation that he will be reborn in another human incarnation, and before his body has stopped swinging, he is.