Writing Competition 2nd Place: Margrate Batuo
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
First of all, thank you to everyone who participated in the writing competition (theme: utopia or dystopia)! We have had the privilege to read some beautiful pieces and were once again impressed by the creative talent that resides within EUC! We are excited to announce the winners of the 2nd Writing Competition of Writing & Journalism Co.
In shared first place: Ellora Sen (Devoid of Mankind) & Boris Simonse (The Perpetuity)
In second place: Magrate Batuo (Tragedy Took Me Home)
We hereby present Magrate's piece: Tragedy Took Me Home
TRAGEDY TOOK ME HOME By Margrate N. Batuo
Table of Content Part 1: Down Memory Lane
Part 2: “Cry Baby, Cry!”
Part 3: She Was Something
Part 4: “He That Mourns Shall Be Comforted...”
Part 5: ‘Fly away Peter, fly away Paul’
PART 1: DOWN MEMORY LANE (To think or to reminisce)
As we rode past the green fields, it dawned on me that I hadn’t ridden these roads in nine years. Precisely nine years, two months and 15 days.
Whether to call them ghosts or memories, I cannot say. For they were both haunting and satisfying.
It was like it all happened yesterday, the voices of us, children on the playground, the feel of the wind on my skin, the warmth of their hands in mine as we ringed around to the tune of ‘ngombele’. How riveting? the taste of the cold ‘alaska’ on my tongue, the joy of living in our eyes, the smell of the hibiscus bush in the air and the sticky feel of the grass on my kneepit.
Boneh, Tonge, Takem, Bessem, Achuo...their names raced through my mind as I matched their names to pictures of them running around with smiles on their faces and screaming carefree in my memory files.
‘We are home’ He said
‘Yes, we are...’ I retorted, with some fake enthusiasm and a faint smile poorly burying the nostalgia, pain and grief.
That brief interruption of my thought was preceded by an ambush of memories as the dust rose, covering my feet in my maroon, strap sandals, while my feet graced the almost barren sun-scorched earth. Under the full heat of the tropical midday sun.
We had to continue the rest of the journey to the white castle on the hill, sanctuary of the memories of my youth on foot.
Lost in my thoughts I could barely hear them speak, hearing only faint chuckles and reminiscing as we journeyed to the top.
‘Can you remember that rainy day when we played under the rain with the other kids in the neighbourhood? When Boneh’s mother invited us all later for dinner?’...Rita asked
‘Oh yes...I had never had dudu & egg so delicious’ Herman replied
A walk that used to seem so long was done in seconds in my mind’s time.
PART 2: “CRY BABY, CRY!”
We had arrived. Like really arrived. Not the foot of the hill but the gate of the castle and there she stood.
Beautiful and strong as ever. Like a sculptured piece with that smile, that smile that took me through the hardest times, that smile that assured me that this too will pass, that smile that reminded me of my worth.
In that second the world stopped moving and words could not express what my heartfelt.
Whether I let go of my backpack or it fell to the ground I can’t remember but into her arms, I sprung. I was home again. In her tight embrace, I could feel her every heartbeat almost in an amplified way and it seemed to be in sync with mine.
I felt her blouse get wet form the streams of tears which ran down my cheeks.
‘Mama Lu...’ I said in a trembling voice as I held so closely unto her.
My lips tried to mutter words but the emotions welling up inside me were too heavy for words
‘It’s ok Baby, you are home now...’ almost as if she read my mind
We stood there with her frame so firm holding me ever so tightly. And out came rushing all those emotions I thought I had handled as the floodgates of my belly opened. I felt my feet lose strength as I rested almost my full body weight on her shoulders. There we were for what felt like an eternity and at the same time seconds.
As the flood began to calm and my belly lightened up. I heard her gentle voice, with her beautiful thick accent, say to me.
‘Those eyes still remember how to do a fair share of sweating’
We both chuckled. As we stood there with her hands resting on my sides and her mesmerising brown eyes holding mine.
‘My mother, welcome home’ She said.
For I was named after her mother my grandmother.
‘Finally, someone sees me’. I responded.
As we walked side by side into her castle with her hands on my waist and mine just around her back.
It was like a load had left my shoulders. In this raging storm, I had found my fortress and she seemed ever so strong.
PART 3: SHE WAS SOMETHING
It was dinner time and I could not help but feel a piercing gaze on my skin as I devoured the ‘fufu and eru’ set before me. I finally looked up and she said
‘Ma, you have really grown, you are now a woman. And a very pretty one, you know?’ I smiled
‘You look just like your namesake’ she said with an elegant gentle smile on her face.
At that moment she looked like herself and her sister, my Mama.
I could see in her eyes that though she had taken the load off my shoulders, hers seemed to not have found a way out yet.
Taking the bull by its horns, I went for it.
‘Mama Lu...I miss her’ I said, and there went the flood again.
‘Baby I know...I do too’ she retorted
‘I know Ma’ I replied.
That marked the beginning of the reminiscing session. Awake we stayed ‘Mama Lu, Herman, Rita and I mimicking her laughter and slangs she often threw, travelling down memory lane and reliving our experiences with her.
‘She was something’ Mama Lu concluded
‘Yes, she was’ we responded in unison.
PART 4: “HE THAT MOURNS SHALL BE COMFORTED...”
The day was finally here and there we were on the front pew of the church. The room was a snowfield, flooded with white fabrics and the walls of the church echoed as they tried to contain the voice of the choir which targeted my heartstrings. I found myself swaying to the chorus of “Now the day is over” by the legendary Ray Price
‘now the day is over, night is drawing nigh
Shadows of the evening steal across the sky’
As the tall lady sitting closest to the pulpit stretched the note of ‘e-ve-ning...’, I saw them walk in.
Six men all dressed in black military- like attires. They processed toward the altar with the white casket and in it was her body.
Oh, silly me I thought I had done a fair share of my crying and could hold it in, I lied.
At the thought that in that casket laid my woman.
The one who took the 6:07am bus every weekday, the one whose laughter filled the room, the one whose words healed, my confidant, my mama. I crumbled. I crumbled under the weight of the smiles I will never see again, the voice I will never hear again, the warm palms I will never hold again, the embrace I will never feel again and the ‘I love you’ I will never hear again.
I knew this day would come, but not this soon.
My feet could no longer bear my weight as I dropped to my knees. That moment felt like receiving the news over again. It was like tearing through a wound that hadn’t even started healing. I had been hit so hard by a wave of reality, I barely realised when I screamed in denial ‘No Mama, No!’
So, she wasn’t above death? My very own Mama. My fountain of solace, my resting place, my warrior, my lover.
PART 5: “FLY AWAY PETER, FLY AWAY PAUL!”
‘Time is fleeting’ says the poet and there I was at the airport looking down at the sea of cars in the parking lot.
It was not long after bidding everyone farewell that I felt someone slip something into my hands.
Standing side by side with Mama Lu I heard her say in an almost stern but soothing tone.
‘What you are feeling right now? It will always be there... that void? You’ll always have. But I know that you will learn to cope with it, and it will become your strength. So, as you walk through that door, let it never be heard of, that somewhere in the world you are walking with her head down. That you let this break you. Let yourself heal. Don’t feel bad when youfind yourself being happy without her. It is part of your healing process, but we both know that she lives through the values she imbibed in you; you are of her. So, lift your head and be lifted.’ Those words freed my mourning soul, and, in that moment, I was reawakened to the truth that I was the centre of my utopia not my mother.
Alaska: Like popsicles in different shapes and favours. Typically consumed on very hot days or occasions like the Youth day, Women’s day and Independence during the march.
Bayangi – A tribe in the South West Region of Cameroon
Dudu and egg – Deep-fried plantain and omelette
Fufu and eru – Fufu is a dish made from cassava. Eru is a vegetable-based dish consisting chiefly of watercress, eru leaf (Gnetum Africanum) and palm oil. This is the tribal dish of the Bayangi people from the Southwest region of Cameroon.
Ngombele: A song that is often sung by kids in the playground as they hop and dance in a ring.