Questions. I believe that in life everyone has questions that nobody knows about. They keep coming and coming and you know what the worst part is? They don’t stop coming no mater how strong you try to be. Have you ever looked into a mirror and asked yourself, ‘why did God created me like this’?
Feeling that you are not enough, that He would have made you as handsome or beautiful like some people you see on the streets and in the magazines. That when you walk down on the streets people see that you’re unworthy. Have you ever been in a crowd of people but you still feel alone in the place and unwanted, feeling like you are the most hated person underneath the sun? Or do you sometimes and/or most times talk to someone and you feel like you are tying and pushing yourself so hard onto them and nobody wants to know and hear what you are speaking about?
Sometimes, so many times and almost every time this is how I have lived my life. This is how I feel about my life and self and I think even if I am in the middle of a crowd of people and I scream, nobody will turn to my voice. I give out wide smiles but deep down into my heart, I feel unloved, unwanted and unworthy. There is pain that lives behind a happy face, a healthy body and a skin in the clean cloths and I know so many people don’t see it and can’t understand because everything looks to be fine. Hiding pain and fears is one of the greatest gifts I thank God for because if I wasn’t good at it, how could I have lived in this crazy world where discrimination and degrading one another is the norm. I have tried so hard to be strong. I have been strong to hold on. But now I feel it’s too heavy to lift on my shoulders.
First of all, I didn’t stay and grow up with either of my parents, I blame it on the violence. But again what exactly did I know, then? I was a kid, just a little child waiting for life. My mom lived in Nsambya and my dad lived both in village and in Lubigi, where they have now constructed a sewer treatment plant. I lived in Lubigi and sometimes I could go to the village too. Every time it rained the whole place flooded. Coming back from school and going to school the next morning was always a hustle to not be taken by the water but I always made it to school. I had to deal with the youth (then) who smoked marijuana and did more crazier things, everyday. How I survived marijuana I don’t know. How I distanced myself from all those types of wrong guys, I honestly do not know. It was not easy but I made it through. I think it was God! But no, it was me who made it, my decision because they were all over me.
From the artists who used to come to work on their voices to the guys who camped there to smoke marijuana and share their deals. I could stay and sleep in the middle of the papyrus fields alone. Frogs’ voices became my lullabies every night. The neighborhood was scattered, separated by long bushes, trenches, gardens of yam and papyrus and the neighbors were marijuana smokers too but not sure whether they were terrible because they never hurt me at any one single point. I don’t know how easy or hard it was because, so many things were happening but I always made it. I can tell that no one knows how yams and their leaves taste so much better than I know! And when you ask someone from those ghettos about the yams, they will tell you that yams and the leaves taste nice when cooked with ghee and beans.
Whenever it rained while I was at school, I was not bothered because then all my books were already stolen so no worries on how to protect them while crossing the waters. I was also sleeping on a high bed made with eucalyptus poles so the water would just pass under my bed. It was only those days when I’d just gotten my new black books and it rained that I always got afraid on how to cross them safely. And so many times while at school I was bullied about my dark skin and my nose and also called names. One day a boy called me “Kiwi”.
Even when I got home and something went wrong, I was bullied and called names just like at school. I hate my nose and the truth is that I hate my face and skin. When I look into the mirror I don’t like the person I see. I wish I was created like someone else with a brown beautiful face, skin and a good nose. Even when I am talking to someone I feel and think that they don’t listen to me but judge me. So many times I wish to be somebody else. I wish I can hide but I can’t. I hate it that I don’t like my skin, I hate it that I don’t like the person I see in the washroom mirrors. I hate myself. But the real truth is that I smile, I look a happy person and walk very firm and strong even though deep inside I’m hurting. I always smile and laugh a lot just to cover the scars and the pain I have on my heart and it works because people think I’m okay. And yes, I am okay not to be okay. My mom did everything she could, but not all. Then, I had a garden of yams and I could sell yams to get upkeep at school.
Every evening after school I went to my garden and got yams for sale. I sold yams and their stems (seedlings) at Hoima road every evening and on weekends. Whenever the mature yams got finished in my garden, I checked in my dad’s and later he could yell at me and sometimes he’d beat me. Most of the time, he caned my hands and now I firmly tell it was not punishment but torture. I remember in 2010 my P7 year, my mom visited me at school for the last time. She brought me black books and pens as always but this time she came with four apples. I had never tasted an apple before in my life. Everyone in the class looked at me with a ‘wow’ face. I realized she didn’t want to look at me and I was scared. I didn’t know it was my last time to see her at school. I left her in the office and went back to class with my books, pens and the apples. I did not eat the apples because as a matter of fact it was my first time to see an apple, I didn’t know how to eat them and I did not want to embarrass myself, so I gave them out.
Through the window, I saw mom slopping down out the school and she never looked back. I didn’t know what she was thinking. It was hard for me to realize she was sick. At 15 years after my P7 (2010), this is when everything and life became real and hard for me when I called mom about my high school and she couldn’t say anything about it. I walked to Nsambya to get the details about my high school education and which school I was going to go to. I wanted to go to Nsambya Secondary, it was my choice. I’d gone to tell her I want to go to Nsambya but what I found, made me lose all hope.
I just walked back knowing that I had to find my own ways of surviving. By that time the sewer project had started so I could sneak in and eat some of the workers food. One day in the morning, one man approached me from my garden of yams. He spoke English and I responded. He was surprised that at my size and where he found me and my appearance, I could speak good English and keep the conversation. He asked my school level and told him I’d just finished p7, we became friends and every Friday he gave me 10,000/= or 20,000/= for the weekend, I remember and honestly, those are the most precious moments of my life. I told him how much I wanted to go to school. He promised to take me but never did although we remained good friends. He saw something in me or he was feeling sorry for me. That one I didn’t know. I became friends with everyone at office but not everybody at the site.
Many things happened behind my innocence but still unknowingly they all passed. I used to wash the heads of the trucks at the site every early morning and sometimes I washed consultant’s vehicles for a living. I became a site kid, walking and running on top of the soil poured by the trucks. It was hard and always has been but I made it my mission to care for my mom and siblings. One day it rained heavily and I couldn’t find my home from the site. I slept in the truck without anything to cover up my body. The night was too long but in the morning, I wore my smile again. In front of every person I made everything seem okay. Many site workers asked where I’d slept and I’d just laugh. I laughed because it was the only answer to give every person.
So, one day in the morning, a lady called me, I reached to her and she took me to my friend’s office who always gave me 10,000/- every Friday. I reached to him in his office, he smiled and called me by my name ‘Jemba.’
“How are you? Can you wash my car?” He asked.
It was a white pick up parked outside next to his office. I washed it but only the outside because it was locked I couldn’t access the inside. It looked so clean and he was happy. I can never forget his smile and how he looked at me. It was threatening to rain. He told me to get in the kitchen and have myself a seat. He ordered the lady (office clerk) to give me tea, by then it was already raining. I took a full cup of Nido milk with cassava.
The next day in the morning, he always came first before anyone. That morning it was drizzling but a little heavy but I picked up a bucket and the sponge and started washing the administrator’s car, it was a Toyota Rav4. The white man passed by me, heading to my friend’s office and when he saw me, he asked, who was going to pay me. As always, I looked at him and smiled then I pointed at my friend’s door.
He walked in. On his return he just said perfect. Later on he offered to buy me an overall and safety shoes. In the evening I got my overall but it was big, I knew how to stay in my lane and shut up because even the shoes were also big. And that is how I got employed at 16 years in November 2011. I could wash the cars then after I sit, drink powder milk and wait for lunch and every end of the month my 100k salary was there. I could pick like 40k or 60k from the administrator and live the balance with her. I saved up to 600k and that’s when mom called me to go and see her. She called for three (3) weeks until one day I told the Administrator to give me 300k which she got from my savings. When I saw my mom I was broken. I didn’t tell anyone, I pretended things were okay as always but my heart was bleeding.
To cut the story short, in 2013 I got a driver’s job from the same office. They arranged me a good pay and I could offer help to my mom and pay for my siblings’ school fees. From 2013, I have been posted to work in so many different places across the country. I know so much about the country, from Kampala, Kisoro, Koboko, Abim to Karamoja. I love the Kabale hills and the cold winds from the mountains. I wish I can see those hills and feel the winds again. I have seen a lot of good things and bad things. I have tried so hard to be a good person in order to keep moving, and yes there are things that did go wrong in my presence but at least I never put harm to someone.
I am a human, I know it’s not an excuse but I can’t be perfect. For so long I’ve tried so hard to be strong, I’ve hid a lot of pain behind smiles and laughs. I am 25 but my shoulders feel the weight of 60 years. I have faked being okay until recently when something broke me down and tore me into pieces.
On Monday, I wanted to commit suicide. I know you might judge me but wait, one time I was like anybody else. I used to scroll up and down social media feeds and see suicide cases and attempts. Although I’ve lived with pain behind my back, I never knew that one time it could me. I don’t know how it was going to happen to take my life, maybe I was going to jump into a speeding car or jump from a northern by pass flyover. I texted the people I wanted to meet, my twitter friends those I met and never before but few responded and those who replied did not want to meet. I just wanted to see them for one more time.
I remember I texted Arthur, Arnelle, Kwikiriza, Naster Petrinah, Josh, Methia and so many others. At around 11AM, I received a whatsapp text from Kera which said we meet at 5pm. Josh said we meet on Tuesday, others turned down the appointment and others never opened the texts I sent to them. At 4:56pm, I’d just delivered Baileys to the some customer. I called a Safe Boda who took me to Kera in Nakasero.
We talked as we walked on the different streets and that’s how he saved me on that day, not because of what he told me, but because he prolonged my program. I told him about it and he encouraged me to be strong but I was not listening to everything he said, deep inside me I was feeling different and my minds were far from what he was telling me. I haven’t met Josh, on Tuesday he said we meet on Wednesday but I didn’t show up, I feared to look into his eyes and I’ve not bothered him again since then.
Some I just wanted to hear how they sound like when I called Ugaman, he asked why I’d called him but I didn’t know what to say. I lied that I wanted to meet him. I’ve been making calls and saying nothing, I wanted to talk but I didn’t know what tell them, I ended the calls. Today makes four days when I started fighting against my brains. Now I am fighting, fighting very hard but I’m afraid I might lose this fight, it’s not easy to fight what the brain has programmed. I have voices in my head asking when I’ll do it. My minds are evil to my own self.
I’ve developed a weird headache and sweating, like yesterday at around 4pm I went to buy pain killers and sleeping pills but on my way back I could not understand anything. What I remember is that I got a boda and reached home. When I went to bed, I had too much headache sweated a lot.
Dear stranger who is reading this, I know you could be judging me and maybe you are right to but before you do so I apologize for being a human and remember that a normal person like you can’t feel what I am feeling right now and I don’t care. Also that one time I was like you seeing posts like this one whenever I scrolled my twitter feeds. This is something I did not call or wished for, but now it’s eating me up. I’m fighting so hard but what if I lose?
Dear stranger, for everything that is in the world, I’m not asking for so much, not a single coin of the money from your pockets. I just need your one single prayer to help me pass through this situation. And if you read this when I’m no more, may be you can say a prayer and never judge me because right now I just don’t understand my head. I can’t control it. I had dreams, very big dreams to change the world but now I only have a wish. A wish to stand on a stage in front of many people, I close my eyes and perform a poem before the clock stops ticking. Or maybe I’ll perform to the Angels in heaven, but who knows that maybe the evils are also waiting for the same voice?