I have always loved African stories. In my first post on this blog, I talked about how my late grandpa inspired the storyteller in me. His storytelling prowess was unrivalled! So, just last week, I picked up Encounters From Africa, an African literature set book we read and were examined on high school. I wanted to read from different African authors at the same time. I love it! One of the stories that stand out, in simplicity and style is Sam Kahiga’s “Last Breath”. It is told from a young man’s perspective. He has fallen in love with this beautiful blind girl. His terminally ill father doesn’t seem jazzed by that fact but in the end he ‘gives her eyes’. It’s a beautiful story, really.
Sam Kahiga wrote it from the son’s perspective. I write from the dad’s. Enjoy!!
“Okay son. We’ll go tomorrow.”
“Yes! Thank you dad! You’ll see. You’ll love her! Thank you! Thank you dad!”
Junior ran off to the kitchen to give his mom the good news. I don’t know when he became so headstrong. He always listened to me, but on this matter, he held his ground. I remember when he he told me he wanted to pursue music, I managed to convince him to drop it for a career in banking…and see? I was right. His future in banking looks bright. But on this one matter…oh well, tomorrow will tell.
I watched as junior stroked a stray strand of hair off her face. He looked at her a while, she smiled and then he hugged her.
“Well?” Junior turned to me as soon as I pulled out of the driveway.
“Well what Junior?
“What do you think of Angie?”
“She is definitely beautiful and seems like a nice girl….”
“Yea, dad! I know that already. But I still love her. She is an amazing woman. Even mom thinks she’s great. I’m going to marry her when I come off age in August!”
“Come on son, how blind can you get? There are other women out here. I…I just don’t think she’s the one for you.” I placed my hand on his shoulder. “You know I only want the best for you…”
“Dad. If you have a problem with Angie’s blindness, then Give her Eyes!!” Junior said almost coldly.
We drove home in silence, occasionally broken by my painful dry coughing. Junior banged the car door and walked by his mom who had been waiting with a big smile plastered on her chubby face. She ran over to me and waited for my coughing episode to end.
“So how did it go?”
I gave her one look and she understood. That’s what I loved about her. I didn’t have to say a word. She gets it. She helped me to my favourite seat at the verandah that overlooked the scenic Lake Victoria, brought me a glass of warm water and whispered, “I know you love him. I’ll go talk to him.”
We had chosen not to tell Junior of the cancer until it was absolutely necessary. I didn’t want him to worry…but as I watched the hyacinth sway to the late afternoon breeze, I wondered if it was time. The coughs were more painful now and I hadn’t mentioned to mama Junior of the bloody spit the other day. I knew I didn’t have much time left. My mind wandered back to our conversation. My son was a lot like me. I remember the first time I saw Mama Junior, I swore to marry her no matter what! I heard all sort of things about her, but I always told myself, and her…”Nothing! Nothing! Nothing will ever tear us apart. I chose you. That’s all that matters.” Stubborn. Of all the character traits he would have inherited from me, he chose this one. His words came back like a resounding gong…
“Dad. If you have a problem with Angie’s blindness, then Give her Eyes!!” “Dad. If you have a problem with Angie’s blindness, then Give her Eyes!!””Dad. If you have a problem with Angie’s blindness, then Give her Eyes!!”
They were all there when I came to; my wife, son and best friend. I looked at the light bulb on the ceiling. The light blinded me, and then I saw Him. His hand held out. I told Him to give me a few more minutes…
“Fred! Fred! Whom are you talking to?” Mama Junior shook me as her sniffing graduated to sobbing. “Fred please!”
I took Junior’s hand and asked him to excuse his mother and I for a minute. As soon as he was out, I told her. “Please make sure she gets them. I want too see my son grow old, never missing a moment in his life. Tell Junior I love him, and that I’ll always be watching. I love you.”
I shut my eyes for a second and opened them again. “It is time. I want to rest.”
“No! No! No Fred! Please hold on! I’ll get the doctor!” She rushed out and came back with the doctor and Junior in tow…
“Dad? Dad?! I love you! Pleaseeee…..”
They were all a blurry vision now. As I heard those words from Junior, I smiled and closed my eyes. I better hand them over, they belonged to her now.