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I HAVE NO TITLE (standard:other, 751 words)
Author: DAVID TUMUSIIMEAdded: Dec 07 2004Views/Reads: 2592/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The meaning of words. Words are not a trivial thing. They can save a life and they saved mine.
 



I HAVE NO TITLE. David Tumusiime 

Adults left in the disconcerting company of young kids to distract the
shameless scrutinising stare will often playfully ask, “And what do you 
want to be when you grow up, clever little boy.” 

“An artist! Maybe a writer. I haven't yet decided.” The adult is strung
to laugh even before the answer. 

But clever little boys speedily learn to disregard the raucous laughter
of silly strangers. That's why they are not part of family, isn't it? 
And they're discouraged from speaking too much with them too. They 
could mean harm. 

But your family wants what's best for you. You know they do. Otherwise
they would have poisoned the supper you eat every night a long time 
ago. And yet...and yet... 

“So what are you going to choose? You can be anything you want, you
know! What is it?” 

“A writer.” 

“You can't be that! That's silly!” 

It is not hard to remember when I last experienced this. It is like that
first time I 'catch' my mother flirting with a man I don't know or my 
godlike father cravenly saying “Sir” to another man and meaning it 
completely. They were thunderclaps. And when the quake was over, the 
ground is no longer beneath my feet. 

They call this “growing up.” But those are early disappointments whose
shock is mitigated by the confusion and pain of losing my innocence. 

The most destructive disappointments are the ones that come when I think
I've seen it all and I'm supposed to be blase. Like jokes on the clown. 
Unexpected. 

Boarding school is good for many things and I will be the last person to
demand these prison retreats should be abolished. Boarding school was 
good for being forced to confront everything directly and fight trapped 
with no way out inside those barbed wire fences with white frocked 
Brothers who make meaningless signs of the cross and ask you to pray 
for a solution to every problem. 

Maybe this only happens in Uganda but I doubt it. I remember a teacher. 

“As Keats said, ‘From forgotten ages we breathe human air and don't
sicken.” 

“Sir, excuse me, sir, but it is ‘From unremembered ages we/ Gentle
guides and guardians be/ Of heaven-oppressed mortality;/ And we 
breathe, and sicken not, / The atmosphere of human thought.' It wasn't 
John Keats who wrote that, um, it was Percy Shelley actually.” 

“Shelley, Keats, my goat, who cares anyway? Nobody does!” 

The blinkers should fallen away. But there is an interim. The groping
around time when nothing seems worth doing and there is much boozing, 
fornication, smoking, sulking, pick your diversion. 

Oh no, but you don't go it alone. You're a performer, a tiny dot in the
center of Namboole Stadium and you have your spectators. The people 
closest to me kept on saying in baffled, hurt tones, ”You've changed,” 
and though I wanted to weep with them I found myself unable to. 

One Friday night after evening preps as the last students left class to
bed I found a book atop a desk and the lights being turned out in 
classroom after classroom, in the corridor, idly opened it and there, 
“On blue summer evenings I shall go down the paths, getting pricked by 
the corn, crushing the short grass: in a dream I shall feel it coolness 
on my feet. I shall let the wind bathe my bare head. 

I shall not speak, I shall think about nothing: but endless love will
mount in my soul, and I shall travel far, very far, like a gipsy though 
the countryside--- as happy as if I were with a woman.”  Arthur 
Rimbaud! And the blinkers fell away! 

Not long after I discovered my favourite part of Kampala. The tip, where
Kampala road turns into Jinja road. A place whose existence is of 
continual amazement to me, a Kampala as we dream her to be: a mirage of 
a whole way of life we had a chance to be and never will now. 

In a restaurant on that corner, the best reading voice I have ever heard
on a warm, still night made Philip Larkin real recalling that, “Higher 
than the handsomest hotel/ The lucent comb shows up for miles, but see, 
/ All round it close ribbed streets rise and fall/ Like a great sigh 
out of the last century.” 

And that's the restaurant I always go back to. Alone, to sit by the
porch, lost in thought, wondering how I made it. 


   


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