To heal a school girl
Sometime in October, I was seated under the shade of fully matured palm trees admiring the lush vegetation beneath me. So thick was the grass and the assortment of weeds that my shoes disappeared underneath it all. I was lost in thought. Next to me, members of the secessionist group Mombasa Republican Council introduced their struggles to me. Then they talked about their beliefs. Third came their names and last their ranks.
Then as then niceties went on, a scream shattered that suffocating calmness. It was then followed by an array of voices that sounded like they were in the throes of prayer. The prayers turned to songs. The songs turned into an unintelligible muttering. The only consistency was offered by the continuous wailing that had now become almost a whimper of protest.
I walked towards the sound and found myself smack in the middle of an exorcism. A young girl in a red dress, who looked barely out of her teens was surrounded by adults pulling her in all directions. She was flailing. Her head under a collection of hands. A man commanding an unseen demon to exit her. A woman spitting in the girl’s face. Another holding the girl in the red dress at the hip, almost clamping her down. The girl was barefoot. So were those around her.
They were in an incomplete house. Floor rough from the uneven ballast. Walls from jagged coral. A group of schoolboys peeked through a gaping hole that ought to have held a window frame. None of them blinked. Perhaps fearing that a blink would mean they miss the much awaited exit of the demon.
Then the girl in a red dress looked out towards us, and collapsed into a heap.
The singing got to a frenzy. Mission accomplished. A woman covered the girl in the red dress with an old tattered leso then everyone, including the peeping children left.
Half an hour later, the girl in the red dress woke up from her brief slumber. Picked up an empty bucket of water and walked out of her father’s compound. A few minutes later she walked back into the compound. Bucket full of water on her head. She was smiling. Her gait was confident.
“Udzalamkaje,” I asked in the local dialect.
“Vidze…Ukachererwadze,” she responded.
I asked her what had happened.
“I was in the dormitory. I had a bad fever. I was shivering. I fainted,” she said.
“And the singing and chanting and pulling and pushing from earlier?” I asked.
“Where?” she asked.
“In your father’s house.”
“I don’t remember any of it.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Nothing. Could you tell me more about it? What was I doing? What did they do to me?”
She slowly lifted the bucket of water from her head, briefly rested it on her chest then put it on the ground. Crouched and looked up towards me to fill in the blank that was her life during the exorcism.
But I couldn’t. The elders called me back to the shaded spot under the palm trees. They said they had something more important to say than the rumblings of a possessed school girl. Their voices startled her. She got up slowly. Lifted the bucket of water and placed it on her left knee, then put it on her head. She then walked away with a two day blank in the memory of her young life.