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I didn’t know where I would go to, a boy of sixteen, just done with secondary school, but I knew that I had to go.

I also knew—from the words of my darling woman on the radio talking about the Big Men that took our money and resided in the city—that the city was a viable option, if not the only one. I would go to the place where the rich people lived. I would go and understand how the brain of the rich people worked, at least. I would go and save my life from being sucked in and under by the thing that had gripped the rest of my family and would not let go. It seemed stupid to run away from a place one was almost becoming comfortable in, not knowing life anywhere else. Yet comfort was a luxury, one that cannot coexist with poverty.

I wanted to fly, and I surely couldn’t do that, remaining on the tree I had slept in all night long while other owls, like the nocturnal beings they were created to be, had ventured out.

There was a difference I needed, something I had to do, a place I had to get to, and I could only do all this and more if I ventured out into the world in the day, forgetting—choosing to forget—the fact that I was not used to this enterprise I was venturing into; choosing to neglect the voices of ancestors and families past, telling me, reminding me, that we were never meant to come out into the light, that it was the tradition to let ourselves be sucked into the darkness—that of starvation and degradation, of poverty and nothingness, until we died, achieving nothing, being nothing, our lives gone into the blackness of the night, because it was a tradition for our lives to be alive only in darkness.

But I was tired of the tradition of darkness and how long it had to last based on someone else’s timing; based on my environment’s comfort with stagnancy.

I wanted to be an owl of all hours. I wanted to be free to do and be with no rules for activity or rest, but mine. I wanted to be able to take charge of the light, and also own the darkness. I wanted my being me to work for me in all the ways I wanted me to be me. I chose to go. I had to go.

So, after one year—a year of much change and learning and growth—I have come back. But none of them has thought to ask me the most important question in the past hour they have been making such a fuss. None of them has thought to ask me why. It isn’t crossing their minds that there is a reason behind every action, every thought, and every life. They are not thinking to ask, and so I will not tell them.

But I know it in my heart that going out had been my best bet.

I had found someone to attach myself to in the city, learning to make clothes. And for one year, I have been seeing, firsthand, that not everyone in the city is a Big Man. Many of them are people me and like my family whom life gave the coarse side of the rope; but they, as opposed to us, had taken that rope and fine-tuned it into something better, something more profitable. I have seen in the past year what I knew as I left the village: it seems easier to settle for the norm, the rubbish, the darkness that life has put you into; but it takes purpose, a reason, a need for something to come out of that place and venture into the light that nature seemed to have been keeping from you, and go ahead to take that something you have left your sleeping-tree to achieve.

So I feel like a bird now as I watch them jaw-jaw: the owl, the unusual kind, most definitely. I have seen the light, and it is beautiful and foretells of more pleasant things to come.

They think I am tired and have come back to perch on a tree and wait for darkness to crawl in, but I am a different being now—a man on a mission, a mission that requires light so I can see enough to attain that something they have been wishing for all their lives. But I am not wishing—I am taking—and that is the reason why I left my home in the first place.

 They are still talking and jeering. The sun is starting to go down, and now I know it is time to declare my reason for coming back.

“I have come to take Boma with me to the city,” I say, raising my voice above their noise.

They all stop talking at once. You can hear a leaf flutter to the ground. And then, as suddenly as the silence had descended, it lifts again, with a flutter of questions from every angle. Pastor is silent, though. He meets my eye, and I nod. He, only, understands.

I ignore their questions and look on as the darkness – the darkness I had escaped from –  gradually descends.

The End

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