29 June 2013. A year ago, I met a beautiful man. In the midst of violent protests. In the midst of some kind of a revolution. We were friends. United by a common purpose. Like me he is a journalist, a brilliant mind. A walking encyclopedia of politics. A gentleman. A player. A strategist. I – a maverick in every sense of the word – the passionate go getter, the analyst who wears her heart on her sleeve most times and a visionary sometimes.
Our meeting was a challenge. At the edge of Independence Square( Place de la Independence). My passion was waning. He was wearing dark Ray-Ban sun glasses. Unlike his fellow journalists he wasn’t wearing the customary “Press” flat jacket. Actually he looked quite dapper. With just a pen in his hand. If he wasn’t the most sensuous hue of dark chocolate, I would have dismissed him for a pretentious Frenchman. He laughed at me “You are crazy!” The first words he uttered to me, as if we had been hanging out together the night before “You are new here, you can’t speak French and you want to write a story about the elections?” He shook his head. I was beyond irritated. Yes the odds were against me. “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do” I said like a wounded child. “You don’t know me or where I’ve been, it’s either you want to help me or you don’t” I said moving to other less intimidating male journalists. He shook his head and continued to stare at something in the distance while I asked anyone who would listen questions… “ so when do you expect the march to start” in broken English and French. My frustration was growing, like a gene he rubbed me up the wrong way and smoke was coming out of my every pore. “Non, no English, French” they each responded to my incoherent list of questions, they were not even trying, but I was relentless.
“What do you want to know?” He eventually turned to me as if to shut me up. “Everything “ I replied raising my eyebrows. He continued to stare into the distance and told me everything as if he were an insider, a lawyer, a protester, the activist, the public, the politician, the president, a passerby “here’s my number” he said jotting it down on my green notepad as if to a child “call me if there’s anything you don’t understand with your stories, I will help you” he said jumping into a white van which came from no-where and disappeared just as fast.
I resolved not to call him. He had given me more than enough. I can take it from here.
Time passed. Eventually, suddenly we were friends. It was not anyone’s plan. I was in distress when he called me for the umpteenth time, in a taxi to no particular destination. He was right. I am crazy.
We became friends. Really good friends. We talked all night. He sang with Luciano and I thought how cute. We shared a vision, a meeting of two minds. One day we discovered that love is infinitely possible and can be found in the simplest of moments together – sharing milk and honey – coffee and tea – fish and rice a ride on his beloved motorbike – a football match – a football game – a basketball game, skipping – working. Listening. Dancing. “That score was for you baby!” He would say kissing me in celebration. I would be half reading something, half writing something, crocheting a baby blanket for his sister or mine I hadn’t decided, half marveling on how easily pleased he was by something so well… small. It was just a game. I had no doubt of his love for me and neither did he. One day as I was basking in a vision of infinite possibilities, he took my hand lovingly and said “ It’s going to be hard, and you will have to be have to be strong” I smiled his favourite smile. He held my hand even tighter and continued “ I believe in you Jedi, I know you, you are strong” I believed him. My strength renewed. I thought I was ready. Come what may.
He ,dear reader, is not a man of a thousand words, so when he spoke I listened and it is hard not to believe what he says. It became even harder to doubt him when my mother, a woman of even fewer words said to me “He is a man of his word”.
But I guess I didn’t believe every word he said after all – because nothing – nothing in the world could have ever prepared me for what would follow. Nothing could have prepared me for just how hard things would get, how much I, we were up against. How high the mountain I would have to climb, how many lives would be at stake, hopes, dreams, aspirations would have to die in the process. How many, many very small but heartbreaking decisions I would have to take. How so many would be disappointed, angered, be betrayed. How much I would have to compromise, overlook, confront. How much opposition would come my way from all sides, every side, everywhere I look. I guess I didn’t quite comprehend how much hate our love would have to fight.. How much I would have to CHANGE. My mind. I didn’t know how many times I would be ripped to pieces, how much my world would be turned up-side down inside out, scrutinized, analyzed, checked, and surveyed. I never knew how easily I could be forgotten, left for dead, made irrelevant, of no consequence even to my own blood.
I didn’t know how mad I could get. How crazy I would become – when Isolated from you. I never knew how lonely and alone I could feel right there in your arms. I never knew how much self-control I would need to just keep it all together. For you. For us. For me. I never knew how far my heart would have to stretch to accommodate, each and every bitterly, cold blow. Actually, I don’t think I knew what it actually meant to be strong. To believe in something, in someone. I didn’t know that it would require EVERYTHING!, blood sweat and Oh so many tears. And then some. I didn’t know how much I could grow, how- ever soft and tender my heart could get. I didn’t know that I could be capable of greatness even in my weakest of weakest moments. I didn’t know how much power I had in being vulnerable, how empowering powerlessness could be. I never knew that I could be this gentle, this patient, this peaceful in the eye of a raging furnace. Yes I never knew I had so much love in me, pulsating from the very core of my being. I didn’t know that I was love or that love is my essence . Enfin, what I didn’t expect, and this is altogether laughable, I didn’t expect that I would find, in right here in me, my greatest challenger. My greatest fan. My very own hero. Myself.
Even as I get ready to let go and to hold on, even as I from time to time lose hope, faith; even as I begin to doubt the vision which was once so clear, so vivid, so ultimately possible . The irony of American President Barack Obama’s African Safari – from Senegal to South Africa – not withstanding – brings it all together, my past, present and future. I thought it can’t be true after all. I never knew love like this before. I pick up a book on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Antjie Krog almost accidentally, briefly, takes me back to Goree Island… where we danced under the moonlight.
“I know it’s hard, harder than you ever imagined, but it’s possible, yes, we can.” “If you believe, anything is possible” my younger sister gently encourages me every day. And then I see her ,on her wedding day, So radiant, so beautiful in her white and pink All Stars… about to walk down the Isle and suddenly, poetically her feet give way, to some kind of a dance , a cha-cha-cha, a folks trot, running on the spot, a jog, shaking it all off, at the starting line, warming up to a marathon of a lifetime. I will never forget that image. I now understand what was unfathomable at the time. Yes, I cannot say with any certainty that I know what tomorrow holds, or if I will like its presence. All I have is now, today. And I am excited. I am happy to be here. To be Alive. In this moment in time. I am so grateful for the gift of love, in all its shapes and forms, because love never ever fails.
“I never said it would easy, I only said it would be worth it” Mae West.
- Obama heads to South Africa as ailing Nelson Mandela clings to life (wtvr.com)
- Obama heads to South Africa as ailing Nelson Mandela clings to life (wqad.com)
- In Africa, Obama plays catchup with China (kansascity.com)
- Obama yet to have African legacy like predecessors (sfgate.com)
- Obama leaves Senegal for South Africa (vanguardngr.com)