Buffalo Soldier
 
“Your X-ray and MRI show nothing Kilonzo,” the Doctor said.
I gave him a puzzled look. “I don’t understand Doctor. When I kick the ball it feels like my knee is coming apart.”
The doctor shrugged. “You should probably do some strengthening exercises and if you have to play soccer, use a knee brace.” Pause. “If you go for the surgery, chances are that we may go in there and find nothing. It’s a risk.”
       I stood up and walked over to the window. “You don’t understand doctor, soccer is what brought me to America. Without my leg, I am nothing.”
       “It’s your call son,” the doctor said calmly. He had been down this road before.
       I looked outside the top floor window of the hospital and saw tiny cars below stuck in the traffic: pedestrians crossed the streets and couples held hands, oblivious that folks were dying inside the building that they had just casually walked by. How was I supposed to achieve the American dream with one leg? I wondered.
       I sighed in dilemma.
Real life. Definition. It’s where the things that matter most are taken from us… and we claw our way forward … the fear of failure, our motivation… the finish line, a mirage.
       I turned to the doctor. “Let’s do the surgery.”
 
             
A week later, I walked into the surgery department of the ParkerHospital feeling apprehensive about the next few hours of my life. While the hospitals in Africa smelled of antiseptic and were a scene of writhing patients on the floor, this one looked and smelled like a hotel and it confused me for a second … made me feel less of a patient and more of a guest. Maybe that was the idea.
       I signed in at the reception desk and the nurse directed me to the waiting room. We treat your family with care, compassion and respect, a sign on the wall read.
       The waiting room looked like a classroom, with the exception of the couches against the wall and a coffee pot by the entrance. I walked inside the dimly lit room and headed straight for the coffee pot but remembered in the nick of time that I wasn’t supposed to drink or eat before surgery. I quickly diverted towards the rows of uncomfortable looking wooden chairs.
       Now, as an African in America, there’s this game I always play every time I walked into a room full of people. I call it the ‘Guess who’ game. My job is to figure out who was going to ask me the question first. Was it going to be the nurse at the counter or the old man reading a newspaper on the far corner? Probably neither? The nurse met all kinds of people in her line of duty and the old man… he looked like an ex military man… seen everything in his life.
       I turned and locked eyes with a young girl of my age and she shyly looked away. It wasn’t going to be her either because she didn’t want to give me the impression that she was hitting on me, although I could tell that she was interested. The ‘guess who’ game was a little tougher today.
       Something hit my foot and I looked down and saw a yellow ball spinning on the spot. Footsteps made me look up and I saw a little girl around ten years old running towards me after the ball. I sat up and smiled at her. She stopped running and leaned shyly against a nearby chair and then slowly inched forward. From where I sat, I could clearly hear the search engines going amok in her head as she tried to place me: my skin was darker than what she was used to; no jell on my hair and no tattoos on my skin. I did not check out in all that she had seen and learned in her ten years of life.
       “Halo cutie,” I greeted. “What’s your name?”
       “Daisy,” she replied with an innocent voice. And then without hesitating, she added, “Where are you from?” And boom! There it was. The question! I would never have guessed.
       It was always the same question regardless of what State in America one was. Americans are like a pack of wolves: strong together and solid in the belief of their ideals. And when the wind shifts direction, they pick up the stranger’s scent real quick … and it shows on their faces if not their words.
       “I’m from Kenya, Africa,” I told the little girl.
       “Is that very far away?” she asked with glowing eyes.
       “Yes Daisy, you sit on a plane for a whole day and night. And you fly over the ocean for a very long long time.”
       The kid giggled. “You talk funny,” she said. “I want to go to Africa.”
       “You will,” I said as I picked up the ball from the floor. “What happened to your hand?” I noticed the bandage.
       “Oh,” she replied hesitantly. “I fell down playing baseball.”
       “Does it hurt?” I asked as I studied her face. She turned and looked at a man on the other side of the room and I suspected that he was the father.
       “Yes. It hurts a lot.” A shadow crossed her eyes and I realized that it was fear.
       “Do you like baseball?” I quickly asked as I tried to steer her away from her injuries.
       “Yes.” She nodded quickly. “My dad and I go to the baseball games all the time. I like singing and eating popcorns.”
       “Can you sing for me?” I made a puppy face and she laughed. And then surprisingly, she started singing:
 
       Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…
Her voice was strong and full of innocence and it made my insides melt. She was adorable. “You have a beautiful voice,” I told her and she looked elated. 
The man across the room looked up at the sound of her daughter’s singing and when I nodded at him, he didn’t nod back.
The door suddenly opened and a nurse called my name. “Kilonzo?”
       I stood up and totally forgot about the kid. It was time for me to pay for my soccer crimes … all those boys I had hurt over the years. Who was laughing now?
       The nurse ushered me into a tiny room with a single bed that also acted as a gurney. “Take off your clothes and place them inside that plastic bag,” she ordered as she handed me a white hospital gown. “Put this on. I’ll be back,” she added as she dashed out.
       I instantly hated the hospital gown because my butt was exposed on the back allowing for a cold draft to pass through. Some genius must have designed this outfit for comic purpose. How about a zipper or some buttons?
       Footsteps. The nurse was back. “Which leg is it?” she asked.
       “The right one,” I replied.
 I watched as she used a marker on my leg and I felt better knowing that they wouldn’t make the mistake of cutting into the wrong knee. A second nurse walked in and I knew that she was the anesthesiologist.
       “Is there someone you need us to call for you,” she asked me.
       I hesitated as I thought about my mum back in Africa, probably happily weeding her garden at this very moment. What if I didn’t wake up from the surgery? I refused to acknowledge the thought and pushed it to the back of my mind. I did not want to worry my mum with my problems and so I shook my head and told the nurse that I was ready.
       She smiled and drove the IV into my vein.
       “Kilonzo?” she called. “Can you please count down from a hundred?”
       That’s easy I thought. “100, 99, 98…” it was the furthest I got before the darkness took over.
 
       I woke up a few hours later and found myself on the gurney in the corridors. A nurse shoved a cookie into my mouth and I struggled to chew and wake up at the same time. The cookie made its way down my stomach and my body craved for more. I grabbed five more from her and she smiled knowingly.
       “Water,” I whispered. “Water please!”
       She sat me up and helped me down a full glass over my chirped lips. My eyes shifted and I cringed at the sight of the thick bandage around my knee.
       “Your crutches are here sir,” she said a while later. I took them and struggled out of the bed and onto my feet. She helped me walk around until I got used to it.
       “You are ready,” she said.
       “How long before the pain kicks in?” I asked as she led me towards the check out counter.
       “A few hours,” she replied. “Don’t hesitate to call us in case of any complications.”
 
       A few minutes later, I was standing outside the hospital entrance waiting for my ride to come and pick me up when I looked up and saw the little girl’s daddy: short black hair and a wrinkled black suit. I hoped over to him with a lot of effort, and was breathing heavily when I got to his side.
       “Are you Daisy’s father?” I asked.
       “Yes, I am.”
       He watched me with a lot of interest as I tried to control my breathing. And then the words came rushing out of my mouth. “If you touch that little girl again, I will kill you!” The veins on my forehead threatened to pop with anger and I wanted to swing the crutch and hit him.
       He looked confused at first but slowly came around with a grinning face. “Did she tell you?” he asked.
       “No. She would never tell. I saw it in her eyes when she looked at you.”
       The man looked around to see whether anybody else was listening and then took a step in my direction. “And what are you going to do about it?” he asked as he studied my face. He was close enough for me to hit him but I wasn’t totally lost in anger; a part of me knew that the hospital cameras were pointing in our direction… and I did not want to go to jail or get deported back to Africa. I gripped the crutches so tight that it hurt.
       I took a step back. “Leave that girl alone sir. Twice breaking her hand is enough punishment. That baseball story you fed her can only stick for so long.” I turned to walk away and heard him yell.
       “Stay away from my business. She’s my daughter!”
 
Walking away hurt me a lot more than I imagined. How cruel was this world? Ten years old, a girl so innocent. Why would anybody want to hurt her? Was the dad into drugs or what?
       My ride came and I got carefully into the back seat.  “How did the surgery go?” My friend asked me.
       “Good I guess,” I replied with indifference. “They put me to sleep so I don’t remember anything. Give it a few months and I will know.”
       The car glided towards the exit and suddenly I couldn’t take it any more. “Stop the car!” I whispered.
       “What?” My friend wasn’t sure that he had heard right.
       “Stop the car!” I yelled in anger. The car jerked to a sudden stop and I was thrown against the seats. “Gosh,” I yelled. “Are you trying to get us killed?” My anger was misdirected and my friend looked confused.
       “Can I borrow your cell phone?” I asked with an outstretched hand.
       “Sure, who you calling?”
       I did not reply. My hands were shaking; the expression on my face was grave. I took the phone and dialed a short number. A lady’s voice cut into my ears after the second ring.
       “911 here, how can I help you?” The lady asked.
       I took in a deep breath. “I want to report a possible child abuse,” I said. “I don’t have a home address but the accused is driving a White Toyota Camry license plate number JKT 753. The victim is a ten-year-old girl. Her name is Daisy and her hand has been broken twice.”
       I handed the phone back to my friend and looked outside the window with a sad expression. I knew that I had failed Daisy. I could have done more… I could have done more to make the world a more beautiful place to live in.
 
       Impunity: definition simplified … exemption from punishment. We live in a cynical world… where our self-interest takes first priority. If its not beneficial to us, then we steer away. Hey, look! There’s a lady with a flat tire on the highway. I wish I could stop for her but I will be late for work. We make excuses and turn a deaf ear to the world around us… we become distrustful of other people, friends and family.
       Impunity prevails in our society when good men do nothing.

News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...