She closes her restaurant early and asks the one waiter she has employed to come later than usual the next day. His face lifts in surprise. “It’s only tomorrow,” she assures him. Outside, dusk settles on Eastleigh’s First Avenue like brown dust reclaiming space on a roadside stall. Walking out of the restaurant, she quickly adjusts her hijab to shield herself against the wind as she rushes to find her son. His life is in danger. She’d tried to tell him about the police officer on the phone earlier, but she couldn’t find the words. The old shoe shiner waves at her from his chair, but she doesn’t wave back. Instead, she feels the hairlines behind her neck constrict and her heart starts to beat faster; she has been afraid for her son before, but never like this.
Drivers hoot in traffic. A pushcart is dragged on the wrong side of the road. Dust whirls up from the street as a cold wind blows. Hearing the adhan, she realizes she’ll miss maghrib prayer. The sound of brakes screeching sends an irritable electric rush down her spine. It reminds her of her madrassa in Mogadishu when ill-mannered children scratched the blackboard with their nails. She passes a fruit seller cutting pineapple into thin long slices, and a young man selling roasted maize beside uncollected garbage. As she nears the butchery where she buys her meat, she hopes Abdi, the owner, doesn’t see her. He always wants to talk, even when there is nothing to say, and today she does not have the time. She clasps her face in her hands as if to yawn and walks past quickly. At the junction where she crosses into Pangani, she leans into a wall to evade an overlapping matatu.
There are election campaign posters everywhere: on walls, on electric poles, and on some street stalls she passes. There are potholes on the road. Some recent, some old, and she knows the ones filled with mud where cars get stuck when it rains.
She arrives at Pangani Liberty Hall at seven. At the entrance, she meets a group of women who she realizes from their T-shirts, are mothers and widows who have lost someone to police shootings. Her son, Yusuf, is moving between them, hugging them. She wants to shout to draw his attention, but the women pull him aside and kiss him on the cheek; the men embrace him as if he were their son. His gait is confident and proud, and she is ashamed that as his mother, she has never noticed this before. But how could she? How could she have ever known that her son, scared of the slightest confrontation as a child and often tormented by other children, would have grown up to be like this? And yet it is she who made countless duas for him as he grew, teaching him how to walk like that, albeit with varying degrees of failure. “Yus, chin up, shoulders straight, and look someone in the eye when you talk to them.” She would cane him with a ruler or a bathroom slipper when he didn’t do one of these.
She doesn’t go inside, not yet. She watches her son’s sporadic reappearances: consoling a mother, comforting a friend. Her fear is replaced by jealousy as if each person Yusuf speaks to is given a piece of him that is somehow removed from her.
“Ingia,” someone ushers her in. She doesn’t know most of the people here. Her social circle is small, mostly composed of Mogadishu Somalis who like to talk about the past. Although she knows an old Eritrean who works at Asmara Restaurant—she speaks to him in Italian as if it were a secret language between them.
Inside, people are holding candles and wearing T-shirts that say, “Our Lives Matter”. It’s a vigil for Yusuf’s friend. The sad story of his death is well known. He’d been playing football with friends. Night had fallen and the city was slowing down. A police car pulled up in front of them. The police officer asked where they were coming from; they told him. The officer told them they were lying and accused them of being in a gang. He then asked how much money they had. All of them, except Yusuf’s friend, had money. The others were let go. His body was found the next day with a gunshot wound to his temple.
“Hooyo,” her son says.
She places her palms on his face, noticing he has cut his hair in the style her husband had when they first met. In those days, Xamar was defined by light. The light washed over the sea, the streets, and it reflected off buildings. It was everywhere. She remembers that day when her husband walked into her family’s restaurant, he had all the light of Xamar in his eyes. He was twenty-three, in his final year at the Somali National University; he was with two exchange students from La Sapienza. They’d come from the beach, having seen her restaurant as they soaked in the sun. “Ciao,” he’d said to her, and then he ordered three cappuccinos in Italian. His voice was so sweet, like the smell of rosewater. And she, nineteen years of age and wanting to impress him, had replied in even better Italian that she would not serve him unless he promised to come back the next day.
“Are you alright?” her son asks. She nods, and before she can say anything else, Yusuf is called to the front of the hall. Everyone sits. She goes to the front because she wants to be the first person to reach him when the vigil is over. Yusuf’s friends from the social justice centre appear on the podium. They place large black and white photographs of Thomas Sankara and Che Guevara, and a large, framed quote ascribed to Frantz Fanon: “In these poor, under-developed countries, where the rule is that the greatest wealth is surrounded by the greatest poverty, the army and the police constitute the pillars of the regime…”
Minutes later, they give speeches condemning the shooting.
When her son approaches the podium, everyone applauds. A drum sounds. The hall lights are dimmed, and the room becomes silent. It is mystical: the simultaneous silence of several people.
“The police in Kenya are destroying lives! They know it, and they do not care!” He goes on, saying he spends his free time at the social justice centre cataloguing sadness. He says that what happens in their neighbourhoods is the same thing the police are doing to young black people in Brazil, the United States, and France. “Here, it’s because of where we live.” He mentions his friend who was shot, tears filling his eyes. Perhaps this is why they loved her son: he felt what they felt but wasn’t afraid to show it. “I wrote a poem for my friend,” he says. She’d taught him buraanbur because she didn’t have a daughter to pass it on to, so at least even though his poetry is different, she knows it comes from her.
“An Elegy for Those who Remain.”
& sometimes our souls form rivulets / to bind us in different worlds / our hearts burn the colour of rage / tunasema kwaheri Allah amepata malaika / here a thousand candles are lined to form your name / we cry & try to do the impossible to bring you back.
She tells him at night after they’ve finished eating dinner. She is washing the plates, her hands in a bowl of warm soapy water.
“A police officer came to see me. He said you should stop what you’re doing or you’re next.” She says it in Somali, so he knows it’s serious.
“Stop what I’m doing?” he responds, baffled. “I’m collecting funds to organize for a court case Hooyo. The police should not kill people because people are poor.” His Somali isn’t fluent, it is sprinkled with Swahili and Sheng, like white rice cooked with onions and carrots.
He goes to the living room. She follows, stands over him, folding her arms. Behind him, on the wall, is a verse from the Quran. Beside it is a red arabesque carpet, sold to her five years earlier by a merchant in transit. Its middle contains a map of Mogadishu in the mid-eighties, and to her, it is a cartography of memory—the places destroyed in the civil war reappear there.
She tells him about the officer, the same one who killed his friend. “Listen to me Yusuf, it’s not your fight, we are not from here.”
“Hooyo, I was born here. It is my fight.”
She claps her hands and folds them again. If her son were younger, she would beat him into obedience. She can’t quarrel with him because she knows he is right. And he is a good son, a dutiful son: he bought a new couch for their apartment, and he helps at the restaurant when she complains of tiredness. But he has been arrested twice. Once in 2013, after terrorists attacked Westgate, and two years later when they attacked Garissa University. Each time, the police said he looked like Al Shabaab and he didn’t have identification to prove otherwise. After the second time, she forged documents for him and spent half her life savings in bribes to get him a Kenyan identity card and passport.
“What would Aabo have done?”
She wonders why he speaks of his father as if he has met him before; he only knows his father as a collection of memories she has passed on to him. She does know what his father would have done. Her husband was loyal to Siad Barre, and he was from the Darood clan. He was a rising government official. He believed the Somalia he grew up in would always be the same. He did not say a word when Hargeisa was bombed even though he felt it was wrong. And three years later when the civil war forced them to flee, he held onto hope that it wouldn’t be long before the government restored control. Her husband would not have stood up against authority. But she does not mention this to her son, because she’d once told him that his father was a brave man.
Yusuf leaves the room. She knows he no longer listens to her. He has not listened to her since he started reading. Some mornings, when he was not teaching at the orphanage, he’d wake early to go to the national library in Buruburu, only leaving when it was closing. He read everything. She has seen books on Politics, Economics, Law, Philosophy, and Literature. In his early days, he used to pay the daily charge of twenty shillings, but now the librarians allow him entry without charge. Often, he talked about the books he read. She liked to listen even though she didn’t always remember what he said.
She suspects him of something else too. She has seen a new graffiti tag in the neighbourhood with the words Flossin Mauwano. She knows he draws when he is bored and she has seen spray cans in his bedroom; but more so, she suspects him because he is the only one who knows what it means. “It represents police who kill people without consequences,” he’d told her, speaking like the books he read. When she asked him about the spray cans, he told her it was for the children he taught at the orphanage.
She is unable to sleep, but she likes the intermittent stillness. From time to time, on the street overlooking their apartment, a vehicle passes. The intervals are consistent enough to pass for sea waves. Back when she was hired to cater events at the Croce del Sud Hotel, she would ask her husband to join her in the evening. They would walk along the shoreline as the sun set and the sea felt like the romance films she watched at Cinema Xamar, the scene where the lovers promised each other they would be together forever.
Restless, she remembers her last days in Xamar when everyone was leaving. They left for Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ethiopia, and some crossed the Kenyan border into a new refugee camp called Daadab. She and her husband left on one of the last flights to Nairobi after his extended family was killed by the rebels. She remembers when they first arrived in Nairobi twenty-six years ago. It was so cold. Kenya was Anglophone, and there was the Swahili she couldn’t speak at the time. She spoke Somali, Arabic, Italian and, importantly, English because of her restaurant clients in Mogadishu. Her husband did not speak English and so she became his translator in this new world. When they arrived, they registered with the UNHCR in Gigiri. For her, Nairobi was supposed to be a transit point. She wanted to leave Kenya as soon as possible and applied to have them resettled. But her husband refused, saying they would go back to his beloved Somalia when peace returned. So, they rented a place in Garissa Lodge, and it seemed as if Somalia followed them there. Soon the lodge turned into shops, and the shops turned into malls selling everything: clothes, jewellery, curtains, shoes, and perfumes.
In those earlier, happier days, when her husband believed they could return home only after a few months, they were grateful to have each other. Her husband never spoke of his family, but he grew quiet, and once, he had cried.
They would go to Uhuru Park in the mornings. It was often cold. They would take boat rides on the lake. In the boat, she would place her hand lightly in the water so that when it moved through her fingers, it formed soft forks. One day they met a photographer who took a photograph of them as they stood on the Nyayo Monument. On the LOVE sign, she stood beside the L, and he stood on the E.
Their settlement papers dragged, and the Kenyan government told them they had to go to refugee camps, otherwise, they would be declared illegal aliens. Suddenly, they found themselves not wanted in a country they didn’t want to be in. But why would they go to the camps? Go to the camp and wait for aid? She and her husband were not beggars, they had only lost a country.
“Foolish jareers,” her husband said whenever he had to bribe police officers enforcing the encampment policy. Then he started having chest pains, which seemed to follow the violence of the civil war. When she became pregnant two years later, she no longer wanted to leave Nairobi. However, it was different for her husband. He said he wanted his child to be born in the hospital near their home in Mogadishu. He died from a fatal heart attack the day Yusuf was born as if he couldn’t exist in a world where he shared a different identity from his son.
It’s the morning of Eid-al-Fitr and she and her son alight from the matatu in the city’s central district. The clouds hang low, but she knows it will not rain because of the patches of sky between them. Several shops’ shutters are closed. There aren’t many cars on the road. She decided that they should go to Jamia Mosque for Eid prayers even though they haven’t spoken much since they argued. She is wearing a black buibui with yellow embroidery, while Yusuf is in a cream kanzu and kofia, an outfit he reserves for special occasions. At the zebra crossing, they don’t wait for the light to turn green. It’s a feature, she learnt of Nairobi: to disregard the traffic lights.
“Eid Mubarak! Eid Mubarak!” A street child rushes towards them holding out his hands. Yusuf gives the child a twenty-shilling coin. Two more street children come towards him.
“You shouldn’t give anything. When you give one, more come,” she says.
He doesn’t say anything. It surprises her how different her son is from her, how naïve he can be sometimes.
She sees the mosque’s green minaret. As they walk past Al Yusra Restaurant, they are met by a long line of worshippers. Some of the women are wearing such beautiful buibuis; she promises herself that she will buy herself one once she saves enough money. At the entrance, her son says: “I’m organizing a protest against the police on election day.”
Her mouth drops but before she can say anything, a man she knows appears and greets her: “Saalam Alaikum.” As she replies, her son disappears into the crowd of worshippers.
She is at her restaurant making breakfast for a few customers. Her restaurant smells of dough, masala, and camel-milk tea. She adds cardamon to the sambusas and checks on the sabaayad. For lunch, she will make bariis iskukaris. Every morning when she arrives, she writes down the meals of the day on a blackboard outside in multicoloured chalk. It’s simpler this way: taking away from the customer multiple choices of what to eat. She realised this when she worked in her family’s restaurant. It was mostly frequented by tourists, and they would ask what type of meals were on the menu and then still take her recommendations. Sometimes she makes canjeero, baasto, maraq digaag, and kalun iyo bariis. When she caters weddings, she makes xalwo for the guests.
A politician’s caravan outside causes fatigue to envelop her. During election season, they always promise the eviction of illegal immigrants in Eastleigh. And the police respond with force. She knows people who have been arrested and transferred to refugee camps. But those are the ones who couldn’t pay the bribes. She survived on bribes. Whenever a police officer comes to her restaurant and asks for her registration papers, she shows them (she bribed the City Council officials to get them), but when they ask for her identity card, which she doesn’t have, she must bribe them. They often accuse her of being a beneficiary of piracy on the Somali coast. She has learnt to wear a cloak of invisibility. When a police officer or government official looks at her, she avoids eye contact. And when confronted, she does not question them at all.
She wishes she had a family to tell her troubles to. When she first came to Nairobi, she went to a payphone and dialled the phone numbers she knew. She called an uncle who had fought in Ogaden; she called a cousin who had worked at the fish market; and she called an aunt who had fled to Baidoa when the rebels announced on Radio Mogadishu that they had taken over. No one answered. Sometimes, when she replaced the receiver into its cradle, she thought maybe the telephone lines had been cut, so she sent letters, but still no word. When new arrivals came to Eastleigh from Mogadishu, she asked them about her extended family but there was nothing. It was as if the earth had opened up and swallowed them.
Five years ago, when the Transitional Federal Government was formed, she had the idea of going back; she knew of some people who had returned. Her son introduced her to the internet, and they searched online for places she knew but she didn’t recognize them anymore. All she saw was loss. The pictures of the coastline showed it didn’t curve in the places she remembered. Her memory felt like a nostalgia time capsule opened in a destroyed city. She cried knowing she couldn’t go back. What was there to go back to? The problem with exile was longing, longing for a place as it was before, longing for people as they were.
Her restaurant is small; when she first started it, she installed mirrors on opposite walls to make the space appear bigger. But, when she served customers, she kept running into herself. The effect stunned her, made her afraid; her image recurred as if splintered. She saw how fractured she had become. She saw the sadness in her eyes, her developing wrinkles, and the secret places her husband touched that he never would again. It reminded her of what she’d lost, a mist that would never turn into water. And she thought of her customers, who were mainly refugees searching for their identity in her food, and how devastating it was for them to look in the mirror: an intrusion into a part they would prefer to keep hidden. The next day, she called a carpenter who removed the mirrors and replaced them with brown tiles.
She’s in the kitchen when she hears the commotion; she raises her head and sees the waiter scampering towards her. The customers have turned their heads towards a tall imposing man. Outside, beside the shoe shiner’s chair, is a police car. There are other police officers, but she knows the one inside her restaurant, even though he is not in uniform.
“Waria! Nilikuambia!” He points a finger at her. “Your son anatusumbua.” She bows her head and leads him to an unoccupied table, feeling a burning in her throat against this man who has proclaimed himself her son’s juror; and at the same time, she is engulfed by fear. She must be as polite as possible. She wants to shout at him, to slap him, but she cannot.
The officer picks up a toothpick from the table and places it in his mouth.
She walks to the cashier box, comes back, and shakes his hand, handing him all she has made so far in the morning.
“Because you’re my friend, I’ll give you one more chance.”
“Afande, wallahi. I’ll talk to him. I’ll talk to him.”
When the officers leave, she instructs the waiter to take charge of the restaurant. She rushes to the orphanage where her son teaches. Here, the houses transform into shanties that dip into a valley, separated by the green sludge of Mathare River. As she walks, she is struck by a memory of herself and Yusuf walking there when he was little. He was about six years old, and his baby teeth were starting to fall out. She was contemplating taking him out of madrassa and enrolling him in the orphanage since the headmaster had offered her free schooling in exchange for free meals for himself at her restaurant. She was holding Yusuf’s hand. He’d learnt a few hadiths, but overall, she felt the ustadh wasn’t doing a good job. Obviously, her son was a smart boy: she’d taught him to recite his lineage through several generations. The afternoon was filled with sun and a few clouds. She asked him to recite the numbers in Arabic.
“Wahid, ithnan, thalaatha, arba, khamsa, sita, saba …”
“Go on. What comes after?”
“No, in Arabic. What comes after?”
He stood in the middle of the road and placed a finger on his mouth, thinking.
“Yus, what comes after seven?”
“The end of the world,” he said, laughing, and then he made the sound of an explosion.
At the orphanage, children play hopscotch and kati in the play area. At the end closest to her, some girls skip rope. They sing:
Public Van, Public Van, Number 28. I went for a ride but I stepped on the break. Blue band by zero, zero point zero is a round, around is a round, a round and a round. These are the actions I must do…
She finds Yusuf’s class. His lesson is on the verge of chaos. Hands fly up in the air, students scream out answers while Yusuf screams back disobeyed commands for order. She stands outside of the class trying to find the right words. Some of the children ask to go to the bathroom—but then stay out to play. When Yusuf sits to mark assignments, they swarm around him like fireflies at starlight. At the back where manila paper charts are pinned, two children make paper planes and throw them to the front. She realises this is Yusuf’s problem: he has a soft heart.
She knocks. Yusuf sees her and tells the class to stay seated as he walks to the door.
“Hooyo, what’s wrong?”
She says a silent bismillah and then holds his hands. “You have to stop Yusuf, they are going to—”
“Hooyo, calm down.” He places a hand on her shoulder.
“You need to stop with the protest,” she says, and, when he is about to open his mouth, she doesn’t give him a chance to speak. “Promise me.”
When she looks up at him, she sees her whole life. Not her life as she had dreamt about when she was a little girl in Xamar, but her whole life in the sum of what has been taken from her for him to be here. Does he not see what she has sacrificed?
She cries openly. Yusuf’s students move to the door, some jut their heads to look at him. She brushes the tears away with the back of her palms.
“Hooyo macaan, I promise. I’ll stop.”
“I can’t lose you, Yus,” she pauses, looks him in the eyes. “Don’t you see, you are the only one I have not lost.
They watch as the election results are about to be announced. Yusuf did not go ahead with the protest; he is still alive. She wants him to leave the country. It is the only way her heart will calm down further. She’s been researching immigration into Europe. On the internet, she saw photographs of African migrant boats arriving in Lampedusa, and on the Sicilian coast, in Palermo. She saw capsized boats on the Mediterranean Sea and migrants drowning with their dreams. The ones who reached Rome spent nights on streets outside Termini Station. On the journey to Europe, some were swindled and sold off into slave markets in Libya. So she opted for the Middle East, but when she saw the kafala system there, she closed her browser immediately. She cannot believe she wanted him to migrate illegally, cannot believe that exile has corrupted her so much that she didn’t bother to check legal and safe means for him to migrate. She will ask him to apply for scholarship programs, to study, he likes to read after all, and he will be safe.
“Would you like to leave Kenya?” she asks him.
She doesn’t say anything. On the news, the president wins a second term. The opposition party says the election was rigged. It says it will move to the Supreme Court to challenge the election results.
A dawn to dusk curfew is announced in Eastleigh, Mathare, Kibera, and Kayole.
“Why don’t they ever announce the curfew in rich neighbourhoods?” Yusuf says as she goes to the kitchen. Outside the window, as the sun sets, several police vehicles move past. Opposition supporters are holding a protest against the results of the election. She hears gunshots. They come and go, similar to her final months in Mogadishu. She feels a familiar tingle in her spine. The country is coming undone, and they are at its seams.
As she is finishing making dinner, her son’s phone rings. As he speaks, he frowns, and then his face is full of anger. “What? What! No! No!” he shouts. She rushes to him.
Yusuf looks at her and says: “The police have killed a girl I teach.”
The shooting makes newspaper and television headlines. The girl had wandered out of the orphanage as the opposition party supporters protested. A police officer knelt, took aim, and fired at her. She was nine years old.
She cannot stop her son now. He goes to the orphanage every day and comes back with stories of grief. She knows he doesn’t have classes to teach, but he still goes. Days later, he comes to her restaurant and finds her preparing rice. He comes in with dusty shoes, and even before he speaks, she complains. “Yus, your shoes. There’s a shoe shiner—”
“Have you heard?” This is the first time she has seen him smile in days. He opens the browser on his phone and shows her a news page: The Supreme Court has nullified the election of Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta as President citing irregularities with the voting. IEBC now must hold a fresh election …
“Hooyo, we will hold our protest on election day, inshallah.”
So many things are happening at the same time. The ground shifts every day. The neighbourhood feels on edge, the anger visible, almost bursting. Whenever she walks anywhere, the air is thin; she feels as if a choking wind is encircling her. She closes her restaurant early because the curfew has been extended indefinitely. She is home by six, watching her son organize the protest.
The police raided and ransacked the social justice centre so he can no longer go there. He designs and prints posters for the protests. Most of them are black or red and have a fist raised to the heavens. He makes phone calls to his friends. Everyone gives her renewed respect when they see her walking with Yusuf. “Mama Yusuf. Mama wa mtoto wetu,” they say. On Fridays, when they go to the mosque, she holds his hand tightly as if he were still the child who couldn’t count past saba. Yet, she still feels him slipping, like dry sand through fingers.
One day, on her way home, beside a construction site, she sees a police car with its windows smashed. A charred Molotov cocktail lays on the driver’s seat. On the car’s side, scrawled in white are the words Flossin Mauwano. An empty tear gas canister rolls into her feet and she kicks it away. Around the neighbourhood, graffiti portraits of the murdered nine-year-old girl mushroom and claim the space of green moss and peeling paint on old buildings. On the shanties, near the orphanage, they also serve as decoration. The girl has become a martyr: her face a symbol of police oppression. And still, the government responds by bringing more police officers in. Deep inside, her fear rises with each passing day.
The morning of the protest is a ripple, strumming somewhere in the middle of the sea. She seems to exist someplace else, in a past she has lost and a present she is losing. She doesn’t see her son when he leaves at dawn to the protest meeting point. She cannot eat. She tries to watch the news, but she cannot. She is afraid she will see him lying in a pool of blood.
She needs to find something to do.
She goes to her restaurant and opens it, tearing down a printed sign which said closed, and tunes her portable radio to the news.
From a distance, a group of people are queuing up to vote. There aren’t many voters: the opposition party decided to boycott the vote, citing the electoral commission was compromised. An electoral official in a green reflector ushers them into a polling booth. Clothes hung outside on the building opposite her restaurant. She watches water drip down from them in soapy droplets. A customer comes in. From his henna-dyed beard, she recognizes him immediately. It is Abdi, the butcher.
“Mama Yusuf, kwani hauogopi leo?” he asks, laughing at his joke. She does not answer. She is there precisely because she is afraid. She serves him his usual camel milk tea and sambusa. She listens to his stories; they make her laugh, but they do not ease her worry. The portable radio breaks into a live broadcast. It is the Interior and Security Minister:
Fellow Kenyans, I want to appeal to all of you to maintain peace. We have dispatched the police, the military, and other security personnel to hotspot areas. An election is not an excuse for violence. Kindly vote co-operate or you will blame yourself.
He then issues a directive shutting down all media outlets except the state-owned one. The radio goes dead after the broadcast. Silence reigns. A deceptive silence, as if it is pawing the air before it rips into chaos. She slaps the radio and turns the tuning knob to resurrect it. It doesn’t. She takes out the batteries, chews on them and places them back. Still, nothing.
“Are you alright?” Abdi asks.
When she looks at him, she doesn’t see him, but rather sees outside. She notices the old shoe shiner isn’t there. And she sees how bright the kiwi shoe polish logo is without him.
“How is Yusuf?” Abdi asks.
Again, she doesn’t speak. How is her son? She doesn’t know. There is no way to know. What if she loses him and she is the last to know? The thought makes her lose balance and she holds onto a chair. She feels as if she is losing everything. She has lost a country, a husband, a family; and now, her son?
She leaves Abdi baffled and hurries to the protest’s meeting point.
She runs and runs and runs until she sees the protesters marching. There are hundreds of them. They are wearing “March for Our Lives” t-shirts. There are placards: “End Police Brutality”, “Haki Yetu”, and “Protect Our Children”.
Her son’s voice booms from a megaphone at the front: “The police do not maintain law and order, they maintain those in power!” The protesters roar in agreement. Their passion merging with Yusuf’s. They raise fists and punch the air.
“Yus! Yusuf! Yusuf!” she calls to her son. She can’t get through the moving crowd. Suddenly, they all stop. They are face to face with the police.
There’s an armoured riot truck ahead of them. Its green gleams from the sun. Its side is meshed like a prison fence. In front of it are police officers in helmets, bulletproof vests, riot shields and guns. Around it are more police vehicles. An officer with no helmet issues instructions; as he turns around, she recognises him.
Suddenly she is shoving her way through the bodies in front of her. She has never been so strong. As she reaches the front, her hijab unravels. The wind carries it off and it tangles around the wheel of the armoured truck.
“Hooyo,” her son says to her.
She stands in front of him and stretches out her arms. The police raise their guns. She closes her eyes and hears a memory belonging to her and her son.
Yus, what comes after seven?
The end of the world.
About the Author:
Dennis Mugaa is a writer from Meru, Kenya. He was longlisted for the Afritondo Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jalada, Lolwe and Washington Square Review. He is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia where he is a Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship recipient.
Feature image by Merlin Lightpainting/Pixabay