As soon as we began the drive to the dam, I began to sing along to the song on the radio and everyone joined in. We hollered at the tops of our voices, often times completely out of tune. Everyone sang, except John, maybe because he was driving? My eye caught his’ in the rear view mirror and he looked away. The road to the dam had several potholes in it, throwing us up and down and sideways as we bumped along. Suddenly, the national anthem came on, it was Democracy Day, and every station halted regular transmission at noon to bring the President’s national address. Our singing started again, it was different, this particular singing. It was sung with pride and ease from practice, and this time, John joined in. The radio did not stop after the first stanza, it played the second, and the singing stalled then. There was embarrassed laughter, we did not know all the words to the second stanza, it was neither intoned at the school assembly all those years ago, nor at the stadium before the games. But John kept going.
“…direct our noble cause…and lead in just and truth….”
“Someone co-wrote the anthem o” Leila teased him and we joined her.
He just mumbled something under his breath and kept quiet. We made it to the dam, and began the slow drive on the gravelled path, towards the foot of the hills. The car was quiet as we all drank in the beauty all around us. In the silence, I could smell jollof rice and pepper beef, maybe the cooler behind was halfway open. The elevated path on which we drove was flanked on both sides by grassy banks, stunning water and low hanging clouds, there was beauty in three different tones of colours, lush and rich. As soon as I brought out my camera, the heavens opened up and fat rain drops pelted us. We ran back into the car, and took shelter. John, however, left the car, and began to walk in the rain towards the hills. The wind whipped his shirt behind him as he climbed the hills, while we watched in fear, fear that the wind would pull him down, fear that the ground under his feet would become too slippery to hold him up. But he climbed to the top as we watched, spreading his arms and turning his face towards the skies when he reached the top.
“Well atleast somebody is enjoying the view, you said the weather forecast said no rain” Leila began, looking at me accusingly.
I did not respond, it was too risky, I wanted everyone to enjoy the moment and not bicker and argue. But just as suddenly as it started, the rain stopped and we sat on the wet grass and began to eat. John joined us, his wet face glistening in the sun that was gradually coming out.
“I joined the army two months ago. I travel to Nnmi in a week with the rest of the squad. ” He spoke almost inaudibly, chewing on a piece of beef with far too much concentration. He said it with a finality that spoke of no negotiations, a process already begun. Many things began to make sense to me, his absence, his new routines, the brooding.
Mum began to rock herself back and forth on the grass. I recognised that gesture, and knew that I had to say something.
“Look how stunning it looks over there.” I was winging it.
But over there, the sun was indeed beginning to set so beautifully. It was as though someone had painted fiery stillness over the water, and let the painting hang low. It was soothing and stunning all at once. We were quiet for a long time, drinking paradise in. Then we began to discuss his plans in low reassuring voices peppered by exclamations of how beautiful the scene before us was and clicks of camera shutters.
So now everytime I think about John making that committment to serve our country, everytime I miss him, everytime I worry about his safety, I remember with pride what an incredible gift he was giving to us, and the amazing gift nature gave us, the beauty of the sunset on our last day together.
WRITTEN FOR PICTURE WRITING CHALLENGE #15
The ONLY “rule” is that you use the picture I’ve posted here to make the story (or poem (yes yes ill allow poetry:) (although I don’t get poetry myself so I may not comment on your entry), That’s it. I know that there are a good few writers among you and I think that I would be really interested on other angles.
You don’t even have to do a story as such, it could be a thought, a memory or a feeling that you get from it, something deep and profound or funny and whimsical.
Basically anything involving words or audio or a combination of both.