For Somsom: A Christmas Eulogy

I looked at her. I had been dying to be reunited with her for so long, she who burst forth with renascent monstrosity, carving my personality and my character for days; always fervent with a spirit that sipped into my lungs and breathed new life to my soul, replenishing me with enchantment to the next sojourn.

She was born in the highest of heights and dwelt in the greenest of green. Her mother paced the face of the earth, heavy and weary, and chose the expanse of East Africa as the place to bring forth her child. And there, she crunched her knees to the clouds — Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru — and with bittersweet pangs, gashed forth her young one.

She was the essence of my childhood, the personification of the best of Eden. She reigned our senses to the present, arresting any rebel thought that might stray into the what-shoulds and what-woulds, like a matriarch shielding her babe from impending doom. Or maybe she too was naive, barricaded by her mother’s long mountainous range — a futile attempt at protection from an undeniable fate. She brought us together, devised the sweetest of adventures, now memories spawn from infant gullibility and pubescent awkwardness to form fervid nostalgia. She was the chord that united us all, we who have now drifted so far apart by an absence wrought by life’s demands, cast into distances that turned us strangers.

Now, gazing at her, I could barely recognize her — her trickle fickle with an apologetic dribble; her ripples hushed and timid. She is cowed and wounded, her current now a mere streak, intimidated and skirting around shrunken boulders she once vehemently chiseled.

Her mother looks down at her with sadness, herself ailing, sharing in our sorrow. Her luminous hairline that boasted centuries of wisdom now residing, revealing dust and rock: barrenness — the futility of man’s selfcenterdness; the virus that keeps depriving and defiling, maiming himself in the end. For man too drinks of the deep. But he has forgotten, distracted by vanity and illusions of grandeur, temporary indulgences, without a thought to his children — an absurdity, an abomination, a self-infliction, suicide — frivolous chasing after the wind. He now chocks with cancerous aridity — a reality that breeds vipers of scarcity with fangs that suck what’s left of us dry — sapping our souls, gnashing our bones, scotching our collective existence into lavish jars of ash.

We did not see it coming. Clearly, neither did she. Guilty we are, the louse that camouflaged into her braid. Worse: the thief in the night she fought to protect that stole and raped her where she lay.

The slopes no longer tell tales of green plains. Instead, they mark malignant extents of man’s myopia. I look at my grandma, her bones now crouched with aged pain, propped on a crutch — she who once towered over me: tall, lean and elegant, with chocolate skin that refused to crack, now folded in a softness that clings to my lips when I kiss her cheek. Her hair, once sporting the same resilience now spotted with strands of gray. We are all not without the markings of time, it seems. The cancer that ails Mt. Kili, Mt. Meru and their young one found its way to the left of Grandma’s mammary glands. Her breasts are now but one.

There used to be hyenas, Grandma says. Now they too have left the river with nothing to scavenge.

She used to burst with an abundance that made us tuck the hems of our skirts into bands of our panties so we could play with the fish and the frogs without muddying ourselves. Now she can barely open an eyelid to catch a ray of the sun. She clings to the last of fleeting breaths. They call her Somsom. I look at Mt. Kili’s balding crown and at a poignant Mt. Meru and apologize. Our end is definitely nigh.

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