‘What a waste…” A young lady holding a bible in her hand says, to nobody in particular.
Her face shows great concern.
“It’s so painful,” another lady remarks.
Her head is wrapped in a head cloth proclaiming the power of prayer.
From their demeanor I can tell they are members of the Christian Union or the Women’s Prayer Guild or something that has a lot of prayer in its agenda.
The lady with a bible is clearly fighting back tears because I can hear the choke in her voice.
Her companion is a bit stronger though. She just shakes her head in sympathy.
The crowd around us seems to grow bigger and bigger.
And I can feel it surging forward.
In a few minutes, the police land cruiser will pull up and a tape proclaiming “Police Line – Do Not Cross” will be drawn around the area.
It’s a cold Tuesday morning, and I can see the moist breath emanating from the sad, concerned and worried faces in the crowd.
Many are clutching their sweaters and scarfs and trench coats.
Arms folded and faces made longer by the events.
It is the tail end of 6 o’clock. The dying minutes of dawn.
“Quite symbolic…” I think to myself.
Am still in my Puma sweat pants and Puma hoodie, leaning against my Apollo bike, my hands kept warm by the weight lifting gloves I have on.
I feel a force drawing me closer to him. Like his spirits are struggling to whisper something to me.
So I lock my bike and take one step forward, then another. And another.
Am staring not at him, but at the shoes that sit idly there by his feet.
They are a pair of worn-out red and black Air Jordan shoes, with white soles and a disintegrating tongue sticking out. The red laces are neatly done which means he had no time to untie them.
Probably in a hurry to make his journey.
His upper body is covered by a pretty red t-shirt with scribbly writing – in a funny font announcing something in a language I cannot recognize, probably some Nordic tongue or maybe Dutch.
He has a pair of ribbed jeans on him, a faded shade of grey.
He has no socks because I can see his ashen feet from where I am.
His big toe is ugly, with a crooked nail. But who worries about crooked toenails or ashen feet when the journey ends.
His lifeless body dangles pitifully from a lonely tree at the edge of the football pitch. Supported by a rope so thin it has cut a slight circumferential line on his neck. Feet only a few centimeters off the cold and wet ground. Like a piece of meat on a butcher’s window. Unconcerned and unconscious of the people staring at him.
He is dead.
His face shows no emotion. Just a blank expression with the eyes half closed and two tear lines running down his temple. He probably had a good cry before taking that final leap that ended up in a short drop and a sudden stop.
He must have felt his neck bones crack as his weight pulled down on that thin plastic rope, the breath escaping his body and the cold waft of air from the other dimension welcoming him to the here-after.
As if on cue, a police cruiser arrives and a clearly hangover police officer struggles to control the crowd.
His gun hangs lazily from his right shoulder and I can feel the previous night’s debauchery on his breath. He must have been woken by a call about a boy who “offed himself.”
Another officer walks idly around the crime scene, probably looking for clues, a Nikon camera clearly depicting the government logo on it hangs on his neck.
A third officer rummages through the pockets of the boy’s backpack by the Air Jordan shoes, probably looking to establish a name or a note.
It is a sad-looking CSI team.
Am lost in the moment. Staring blankly at those shoes and occasionally lifting my head to take in his face.
He looks young, probably in his very early twenties.
A small beard claims his chin which is still smooth – not a razor bump on it.
Heck, the boy might even be 19 or 18.
Around me, I can hear a few voices proclaiming what a cowardly act the boy decided on.
But I don’t judge because I know there is nothing cowardly in the action he took.
It takes a special kind of selfishness and bravery to take one’s own life.
“Mkubwa, can you please step back behind the line…” a stern voice stuns me back. And I realize I had been standing too close to the body, well inside the perimeter of the “Crime Scene” tape.
I squat out of the lines, and make my way back to my bike. All the while imagining how peaceful he must feel. Undisturbed by the attention he is receiving. Totally at ease from this world of turmoil.
I pedal away back to my house, to continue with the routines of the day. Pondering just how fickle and fleeting our existence as humans can be. Well aware that any day can be a good day to die