Why do adults tell so many lies?
They don’t just tell lies to each other and us, their children, but they lie to themselves. They tell so many lies they can’t seem to work out where the truth is anymore, even if they ever did.
I am sitting in my favourite tree on the coffee estate. Far enough away from the house to ignore my mother’s voice; like a shard of glass lodged in my little white belly her voice is a constant pain, never ever to be forgotten or ignored. From my perch I can watch the comings and goings of the estate in peace, listen to their conversations and quietly get through the day without being noticed, either my presence or my absence.
The boy who died on the lawn, didn’t die on the lawn. He died ‘in action’. The boy who died on the lawn, didn’t die because he couldn’t stop seeing the black boy he shot in the face; he died because a black boy shot him in the head. The boy who died on the lawn, didn’t die because stupid white people decided black people should be our servants and workers forever, he died because he was fighting for freedom. The boy who died on the lawn, died because he was born, as I am, into a tipsy turvy world of lies.
Adults tell lies over and over again until the truth disappears from view. The boy who died on the lawn is forgotten, replaced by a tragic boy who died fighting for us on the fields of Rhodesian freedom and white supremacy, a god sanctioned right.
Stupid white adults. Stupid parents. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The truth comes with a price tag: it can steal your sanity.
There is a new war shipment coming in. There are different ‘shipments’. War, farm and life. Shipments have to run through ambush territory to get here, I always know if it’s a war shipment because of the number of troops that come with it. This one must be important.
Quietly when the white soldiers head to the house for food, the black ones to the shade of the trees to wait for theirs, I slide down the trunk of my tree refuge. One of the wooden boxes sits temptingly close to my tree on the red African dirt and has been opened, the lid with its nails still protruding lies awkwardly on top of the tightly packed box. It’s not easy to climb. I stab my hand on a nail. I don’t cry.
I’m sitting on top of the box. The lid is tippy. I’ve got splinters from it in my knee. There’s a lot of shavings and I can’t see what’s inside the box. Leaning over the edge of the lid I reach down trying to feel for the contents. There’s too many shavings. Frustrated I lean over further.
That’s when I lose my balance and fall head first into the box.
For such a tightly packed box it surprises me that I fall so quickly and so far into it. Head first into a pocket of space, wedging myself tightly between cold metal objects, shavings and wooden walls I can’t get out. My arms are pinned tightly by the sides of the box and the cold metal objects. I squirm. Wriggling I try to free my arm. I can’t.
My legs poking out of the box are furiously kicking, trying to find purchase on a ledge or edge.
I can hear muffled sounds. Oh oh.
Adult voices. White adult voices.
My legs are grabbed and I’m pulled viciously out of the box, banging my head on the sides as I am yanked free with such violence I literally fly out. Strong earthy white arms are catching me, and running with me.
I am thrown to the ground. He lands on top of me covering my body with his.
That’s when the world explodes.
Explosions are strange things. It’s the noise. The lack of noise. My ears will take days to recover any sense of sound. Just a humming. Almost a drumbeat, I can hear my own heartbeat and the constant buzz of the wordless world around me. There is the surreal feeling of being somewhere else, not really here. Even the gash on my leg doesn’t hurt, it’s just there. Bleeding.
The strong earthy white arms aren’t very strong anymore. He isn’t breathing very well. I squeeze out from under his unconscious body. There’s a lot of running now. Lots of people running everywhere.
The box isn’t there anymore. Just a really big black hole. And my tree is gone.
I’m sad about my tree.
I’m sad that the big strong earthy white arms won’t hold me tight. Soldiers sometimes hold me tight after explosions or ambushes, it makes me feel better. I lift his hand and shake it. But it just flops back on the ground. I hope he isn’t dead. There’s a lot of blood seeping out of him except, I guess, his tummy. If his tummy is okay maybe the rest of him will be too.
I didn’t know it was land mines in the box. I was just curious. I didn’t know that I would kill people that day, but the truth is that I did.
When I remembered these ghosts I drew bears; bears and wrote “IF YOU COULD SEE THE GHOSTS IN MY HEAD YOU’D NEVER STOP SCREAMING”. The truth comes with a heavy price tag: it takes your sanity and replaces it with ghosts.