It was already noon when Anungla heard the news. The headman of the village next door had died the night before. “It was a painful death but he is finally at peace,” was what she heard the neighbours say.
They talked at length about how generous and knowledgeable he was, a prime example of a manly man who was known for his courage and valour. But Anungla was not paying attention. She knew she had to do what she had postponed for so long.
Quietly she went to her bedroom and combed her hair. She removed her gold earrings and kept them in a box, for it was common knowledge that one should not adorn oneself whilst visiting the home of the dead. She draped herself in her great grandmother’s shawl, a family heirloom that had been passed down for three generations. The village next door was just a 20 minute walk but it would be the longest journey of her life.
She stood by her courtyard and spent a good 10 minutes staring at her chickens. What an amazing life chickens led. Their only duty was to lay an egg every now and then, but only if they felt like it. All through the day they could do as they pleased, shitting all over the place while the humans scurried behind them, trying to clean up after them. Chickens seemed to enjoy more freedom than most humans did. They were free of feelings. They did not know what guilt felt like.
Outside, at the exit of the village gate, the taxi drivers had lined up their vehicles. Each one of them called out to her, trying their best to entice her to come sit in their colourfully decorated cabs. A cab ride always cheered her up but that wasn’t what she was looking for today.
She walked, not to save money but to buy time. Five minutes into her journey, she had slowed down to a snail’s pace. She wished she would somehow find out that she was too late to attend the funeral service. Or that it would get so crowded that she wouldn’t have a chance to peek inside. He was after all the headman, and all great men were always given a grand funeral.
Right at the turning where the guava tree stood, she met an old woman who was on her way home after collecting firewood. “Oja, let me help you with your basket”.
But the old woman refused. “Child, what day of the week is it? Is it already the day we celebrate Isu Krista’s resurrection from the dead?”
“No Oja, Easter isn’t till next month. Please let me help you with your load.”
“Carry my dao if you must. I can see you are quite a weakling from the size of your limbs.”
She grumbled the entire way but Anungla didn’t mind. It was strangely comforting to listen to the old woman complain about things that the both of them had no control over. It made her forget about things that she didn’t want to remember.
As they reached the entrance of the headman’s village, Anungla’s heart sank. She avoided looking at the village gate and without betraying any emotion on her face, made the impulsive decision to quietly follow the old woman to wherever it was that she was headed.
Almost in an instant, the old woman stopped and turned to Anungla.
“Child, you must complete what you set out to achieve today, for you do not want to live a life of regret”. Anungla stood there stunned as the old woman continued on her journey.
She looked at the village gate. It was just six steps away. The village headman’s house was packed with mourners. She didn’t see a single familiar face. Someone offered her a cup of phika cha but she politely refused. Slowly she made her way to the room where the body was kept. Some were singing a hymn, some were crying and some pretended to be singing. She saw his face. He really did look peaceful, just as her neighbours had said.
Slowly she crept close to the coffin.“Elder brother, many years ago, in this very room, I was invited and offered some sweets. I trusted you. But nothing prepared me for what you would do to me that day. I have hated you ever since, I have hated you for 30 years. But today I bury that hatred as they bury your body for I cannot cling on to this hate anymore.”
The singing stopped and everyone stared at the strange woman who had come to give such a startling revelation. For even though what she said was but a whisper, the whole room heard what was spoken. The headman’s wife got up, came close to Anungla and looked her in the eye. The widow then reached out to her and held her in a tight embrace. The singing continued as the two women held each other and wept at the feet of the dead man.