Where are we going?, why are we running?, why are we running so fast? “Don’t dawdle Freckles. The smile of dawn is fast rising to cackle at our folly.” I’ve never liked the sun anyway – it burns. It burns! Ish…ish…there’s an itch on where my hump will bulge when I grow. I think there’s a tick in a freckle on my bald milky back. Mother it burns! “Freckles, bite your tongue!” Ha, it’s working, I can’t feel the itch. Shall I keep biting? Mother, mama, ma, maa, mom, moo… “How is he still talking? Shut…blood…Freckles stop biting! We’ll get you some cassava leaves when we get to where we get to.” Where are we going? “Don’t cry, your tongue will heal. Now hurry!”
It’s been a long walk from Kafanchan Bayan Loco, where I was born, my tiny spindly limbs of cane have poked the muddy backyards before but the firmament always rises like foam, no holes to testify that I was here some. Nothing is familiar anymore because we never stop unless necessity is slapping his whips on our shrivelled stomachs; there’s no time for admiration then unless you are inquisitive like me but you can’t be short like me; I can’t see beyond the fallen udder and empty dangling flaps and oval scrotum and chunks of flabby flesh on thousand stretched legs. I can’t smell beyond the fodder in the rain. I don’t like the sun, it smells like roasting hay. But I listen well, to the sounds of strife, to my mooing for the last stop, to the voices that won’t shut up in my head for me to shut up. So mother, are we there yet?
“Where?” Are we home yet. “Hurry, Freckles hurry!” No I won’t! “Finally it’s quiet! …Freckles…where are you?” I stopped. I have stopped so that you will halt as well, mother. Look for me, look around, look below the thousand herds of our extended family. Grandma must be tired why isn’t she stopping, why isn’t anyone stopping. My hooves have a splitting headache…”My child, my child, my foolish child. Don’t you see the whip slashing the wind like a bat with its sharp teeth aiming at your back where your hump will grow someday?” Whip-Whip! Moo!! “Moo!!!” Maa, the sun has gone mad and forgotten where she sleeps, see how she has scorched my back this night. I am crying but I will never move! “HEY, OUT OF THE WAY! MOVE ALONG! IDIOT, add lines to the dots on your body and you will marry your reflection in the pool of your blood!” “My child!” Whip-Moo!, Whip-Moo!, Whip…oh no, mother…
“I just killed a man! See what you made me do, child! Foolish child! Oh child, the family will hate us for this. They’re stopping to wringe out the hatred in their eyes smear it on our shame as they headbutt us out of the way. Grandma is crying greener pastures but here lies the Fulani herdsman, his brothers gathered around him on a red pothole garnished road that is not ours. The police on our tail. That is why we are running. Now run, Freckles, and avoid the eyes of others; guilt is as heavy as a hump but not as pleasant to carry.”
So we can stop?! Forever sojourners, who made this misery so important that we commit time to it, to wallow in the folly of another? We are running so much, we are forgetting so much except the present pain which will fade when the rains wash the pastures green. But hatred; it stays, it stays forever especially where we haven’t seen beyond the horizon, beyond ourselves and beyond the one way systems. Who are we? Without a home, who are we?