To tell you the truth, I don’t like it here. But I have since made peace with myself, I have long accepted my fate and I have no option. I will sit here and wait. I have called this place home for 4 years now. It feels like I have spent my entire life in here, stuck in this shitty windowless room. If there is hell on earth, this must be it. Hell has brimstone, but here, inside this room, it’s worse than the fucking brimstone. The silence in here is loud. And I hate silence. I crave human presence in my life. I thirst for human voices in my ears. I’m sorry I’m speaking a lot, but sometimes, I can’t help it. I barely speak with these wardens.
I’m Richard, by the way. My second name sounds like a tongue twister, you will get to know it as time goes on. For now, just call me Richard. Or Richie. My friends used to call me Richie, you know, to sound all cool and shit. Hey, Richie, you’re lost!
Man, the good ol’ days!
I’m from Kitgum. Do you even know where that is? C’mon, don’t pretend. It’s nestled somewhere in Northen Uganda. I was last there 5 years ago. I don’t know how it looks today. I don’t know whether the road to my village has tarmac now. Last time I was there, which was the very day I was brought here, the roads were impassable, but 5 years is a long time; I hope they worked on it.
Oh, you asked me about my story?
It’s a story I don’t always share with people, more so, strangers like you. It fills me with dread. It fills my emptiness with regret. It’s a long story, a dark story that I only wish I can rewind the time, patch the pieces together and make everything right. But hey, I guess my fate was already predetermined. I can’t do anything about it.
Do you see this scar here on my forehead?
It’s the mark of my life right now. It explains the position I’m entangled in. I got this scar from my brother. Let me just say, my brother left this scar here, perhaps as a sign of remembrance. Like those lines we used to write on walls at school, “Don’t forget so and so.” That scar, in its silence, in its ugliness, says, “Don’t forget me.”
I killed my brother.
His name was John. He was 3 years my senior; a man with a large girth, big dreams, big hands, big chest, my big brother, but he was big headed; everything about him was big. Plus, he wanted to take the bigger piece of land.
That’s why I killed him.
Well, it was a mistake. I never intended to hit him on the head; it all happened in a flash. I still remember that day, so vividly. Kitgum woke up to a dark cloud and I knew it was going to be even darker, at least for our family. It was a cold morning. It had rained through the night. It drizzled, a bit, in the early morning. The night before, me and my brother had a heated argument about who would take the piece of land behind the banana plantation left behind by our father. Our late father had instructed me to take it over, but my elder brother, being the eldest, being older than me, had said no. It fuckin’ pissed me off. I told him there was no way he would take it. He said I was too young for it. He barked back bitterly. That morning, as the rain poured incessantly, he found me in my hut and hit me on the head, leaving this scar here. I hit him back and, unfortunately, he breathed his last. He staggered back and fell; he never stood up. I never intended it. The whole village gathered. I heard police sirens blaring from a distance. I knew they were coming for me. I knew it was over for me, the same way it was over for my brother. And I knew it was over for that land, that big land behind the banana plantation.
I was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Here I am, in Luzira Prison, living each day as it passes. By the way, I love your glasses. Let me see. Can I put them on? Are you shortsighted, or they are strictly for fashion? They look cool on you. Now that you are my roommate, I will have a chance of wearing them. I have never worn glasses in my life. Anyways, that’s my story munange.
What’s your name again? No, not that one; I mean the easier name.
So, Matthew, you heard mine. What’s your story?