The first day I saw death, it came in form of a snake. The snake had bit me, and it was on its way to continue life. It crawled its black body away. And, I felt it drain my life. I was 9.
Growing up, my father tolerated no form of violence amongst his children.
On time, when my elder brother pulled the ear of our youngest sibling, my father went up to the drawer where he kept his cane – a thick black electric cable – and set to discipline my brother.
He didn’t care that she was rude to my brother. What concerned him was that a brother should never lay his hands to hurt a sister. He cautioned that there were other forms of leadership that we could use to exert the influence we needed or wanted.
My siblings and I got savvy with age, and we conspired to steal the black electric cable and throw it away.
He never asked for the cable; his black leather belt was always inches away from his hands when he needed to instill discipline.
The black leather belt was different from the black electric cable; it always stirred the feeling I had felt when i saw the black snake crawl away.
The snake made it out of sight into the bushes. At that point, every detail I ever heard about snakes came rushing into my head -no thanks to National Geographic and Discovery Channel. They all pointed to one thing: I was going to die.
Even at 9, I knew what death meant. I wanted none of it.
I ran, I screamed, I wailed. But, everybody else laughed. They said I was confused; there were no snakes in that area; what could a 9 year old boy know?
That didn’t stop me from crying. I wanted to live.
They wanted me to show them a sign. To vomit. To do anything true to make them believe. Else, they wanted no part of my drama.
The truth came at 2 am. My bed was laided with puke. By sunrise, my left leg was 3 times it normal size.
So, he was telling the truth. They said.
Like the snake’s poison needed their approval to reek its havoc. Like their new found validation presented a cure. Like their display of emphathy and remorse cleared the pain I felt in my chest or made my swollen foot easier to carry.
When my parents arrived that morning from their travel, their fury could not be contained. There were “grown ups” around. Why hadn’t something been done earlier?
My father must have wished he could use his black leather belt. But, he had his younger sister to thank. She had nursed my leg, and organised a group to take me to a nearby hospital – just in case.
My recovery took a month. In that period, I learnt that the approval of others or lack of it didn’t stop nature from running its course. I learnt that someone wise would be available to do their best to help. I learnt to carry on even if the world laughed.
I later heard that it was better to think about death. It made you wise, It made you discipline -to see that life was always standing with a black leather belt for when you went astray.
I’ve seen death. It came in form of a snake. He might be ugly. But, I am a survivor.
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