Two tales

One day, a boy went out to play with kids he thought were his friends. They were mischievous than him, slightly taller than him, and they made fun of him all the time. That day they were plain stupid. The ridicule never stopped, not even after that day. They cooked up a plan, the kids. They were going to get under Thuo’s skin-the neighborhood’s mad man. The boy didn’t want to go through with it; he knew it was murderous to mess with Thuo. So he stayed back, decided to watch from a distance. 

If he’d have stood a little bit further maybe things would have turned out differently.

He watched in excitement as the kids taunted Thuo.

“Nisiwashike nyinyi,” Thuo said, shaking his head with vigor like he was possessed.  

Thuo got pissed, and started chasing the buggers who had now ran in different directions. His weak mind couldn’t handle it. He had only to run after one, the one that wasn’t running at all, the one getting a good kick out of the spectacle. Thuo beat the hell out of our boy, punched and kicked him, knocked two of his teeth out and left him there sprawled on the ground, crying, bleeding.

Bleeding with innocence.

I remember seeing the boy’s mom rushing to the crime scene, weeping for his son. She put him across her arms and carried him home. It was almost three days until I saw Stewart again, with a new pair of teeth.

***

There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that? When you kill a man, you steal a life, you steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?

Those lines are from Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner. Top class book with beautiful words that stick with you for days. And the brutality of this book will break you. The twists in it will make you put it down for a while, just so you could gather your scattered thoughts. And I think that’s what makes it a good read.

If you’re like me, a sucker for melancholy ridden literature, you won’t much like the ending. But throughout you’ll scramble for it. You’ll turn the pages in search of a happy note, a paragraph that doesn’t look to end in tears, something.

Again, this isn’t a review. Si you know how it is? They don’t pay me enough for this shit. But let me tell you a few things about it.

The story is about two boys who grow up together, Amir-who narrates, and Hassan. They’re different in every way. Amir is a coward, Hassan isn’t. Amir goes to school, Hassan doesn’t. Ali- Hassan’s dad- is Amir’s dad servant. In a way that makes Hassan Amir’s servant. The two are inseparable in the beginning, an unlikely friendship. Until Amir screws everything up.

At some point, Assef- the neighborhood bully-and his goons approach the boys, threatening to beat them up. But Hassan takes out his slingshot and fends them away. One of the many times Hassan comes through for Amir.

This book is about friendship, about family, about kites, about betrayal and struggle, about war and how it changes things. It spans about 30 years. It takes you to Afghanistan, shows you how it was with the Russian invasion, then to America, the miserable journey to get there. And then back to Afghanistan, in a scary rescue mission for repentance.

Can I spoil it for you a little? It’s important for the post aki.
So this one time Amir enters a kite fighting competition, and with Hassan’s help, Amir’s kite remains standing in the end. The winner caps victory by running after the last fallen kite, it was meant to be like bringing an enemy’s head back home or something like that. And Hassan was the best kite runner around. He follows the kite a long distance, and catches it for Amir. Only, he runs into akina Assef.

Hassan is gone for a long time, and Amir goes to fetch him. When he finds him, Hassan is cornered by Assef and his cronies. They want to beat him and take the kite, to payback the slingshot incident. Instead they let him keep the kite; instead they do worse than hit him. Instead they hold Hassan down and Assef kneels, undoes his belt and molests the boy.

That squeamish scene punches the blithe spirit straight out of the book, made me sick to my stomach.

Anyway, Amir does nothing to save his friend. And he has to deal with that guilt, a monster that claws its way inside him. The book is about his rough journey to free himself from it.

***

The story reminded me of Stewart.

Perhaps my childhood isn’t something to shout about really. It was just okay. If anything it was a time of confused happiness, puckishness and peace, mostly because I had Stewart.

Our estate was divided into courts. A single court had its houses lined in a square; most had a tree in the middle. Ours didn’t. Ours also didn’t have a main gate, and it didn’t have Stewart. I don’t remember once going to his place; I don’t even think I ever knew exactly where he lived. But he came over to my place most days to play.

We had this nightshift Maasai watchman, who, during the day, would leave his bow and arrows at his little station. Those things fascinated us like hell, so much that we had to steal them. Neither of us knew how to work the bow together with the arrows, so we settled for the arrows only. We would throw them at a wall, like darts. The strongest was the one who could embed the arrow on the wall. I never won, needless to say, what with my sausage arms, but it was good fun. It was Stewart who came up with the game, and taught me how to throw straight.

When the older kids would start to make fun of me, it was Stewart who held me, kept me from crying all over the place. And when they’d refuse to give me back my ball, Stewart stepped in.

When I was too small to ride a bike, he’d put me at the back and we’d weave through the estate. At the time going outside the court was sin. Grace put a ban on it; read me the riot act as often as she could. But she eased up whenever I was with Stewart.
The sad part is that when other kids would start to make fun of Stewart I’d join them, glad that I wasn’t on the receiving end that time. If Stewart was hurt, he never showed it. Still, he remained a good friend.

One time we were sitting on the ground, bored out of our asses and I said to him,

“I feel sorry for you sometimes.”

“Why? Because Thuo beat me?”

Never mind that it was years after it happened. That’s when I knew he still lived with it. Probably still haunts him. We never talked about it again.

And then time passed. Boarding school and all that came. We grew up. We couldn’t throw arrows anymore. We got tired of chucking a ball around until late into the night. We stopped cycling. We stopped rendezvousing every Sunday for video games. We grew apart.

I’ve seen Stewart only about three times since then. And all of them gutted me. The first time, he was riding this bicycle, with crates of soda strapped on the carrier. He saw me, I think he smiled. I think he felt ashamed. And then I saw him pulling an empty cart, he looked sad, toiled out, grimy. A torrent of questions hit me like a bus barreling down Sabaki. How lucky could I be to be on my end of the stick? Who the fuck do I see about this?  

Last I saw Stewart, he was a tout plying route 23. I boarded his mat and he didn’t let me pay. That night I went to bed with a bitter taste in my mouth, because he was that plucky, because I could do nothing to help. I’ve been living with that monster ever since.

You’re waiting for me to say I cried right? I cried. There, happy now?

Friends, you can’t save the whole world, but you can sure as hell be thankful for what you have. And you can also read that book. It’s solid.

PS this is my last time posting on a Saturday. So we’ll be meeting here on Mondays, 10, 11a.m?

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