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|I HAVE NO TITLE (standard:other, 751 words)|
|Author: DAVID TUMUSIIME||Added: Dec 07 2004||Views/Reads: 2711/0||Story 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. Tweet
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