In both memory and history there is a subjective
stance. A date is fact, everything else is a whisper. The wise
accept this, the foolish do not. On the continuum between wise and
fool I am like a politician, happier when maneuvering amongst whispers,
because this way my sins are either explained or undiscovered.
Okanya once spotted a monkey. It was high in the branches of a lone
Tamarind Tree, and it was feeding on ripening fruit. More surprising
it was not in the least afraid of us, and Okanya's mother who was fond of
Tamarind joined in the effort to chase it away.
Okanya himself did not care for Tamarind, it was bitter and it upset his
stomach, an excuse his mother refused to accept because Tamarind was good
for the blood. For my part I ate anything Okanya's mother gave
me to eat and I thought Tamarind delicious, even if it did taste bitter
and even if it did upset my stomach.
By lunch time,
we had been directed to stop throwing stones at the monkey because
Europeans thought it a most charming addition to the garden.
In the mid afternoon, as Okanya and I watched
the monkey feasting and glaring down at us, Okanya told me that he had heard
monkey was quite tasty. We looked at the little creature's boney
fingers, its eyes and eyebrows and decided that somehow it would be wrong to
eat a monkey.
That late afternoon there was a European
gathering, a sort of festival of monkey which included beer, cocktails and
peanuts. The latter of these the monkey truly enjoyed, and while
amongst some Europeans it became a competition to see how many peanuts the
monkey could eat, others debated the monkey's origins. Naturally there
was giggling and laughter and jolly good white-kneed fun.
The following day the monkey was
gone. Okanya looked guilty. It had the quality of meat, but had
tasted like tilapia, a most delicious fish from Lake Victoria. And
they had eaten it all, saving none for me.
I lied when I expressed disappointment,
and ever since I have felt uncomfortable with that lie.