Sunday, 12 September 2010

Dear Muhammad

Dear Muhammad,

It's been what, 20 years since we last met? Sometimes, it feels like it was yesterday. And many times, I wished I could go back in time and tell you this. I don't think you'll ever read this but I had to write it anyway.

Muhammad you made us laugh so hard. Remember the day we had visitors for tea and my mum sent you to have a look and tell her how many people were there? You went and stood in the living room and started counting them out loud pointing. Silence followed then the bigest roar of laughter I'd ever heard in my child life.

Muhammad you helped me so much when I was struggling with my Quran lessons at school. You were my big brother. 

Muhammad, you learned to make "ligaymaat" exactly the way my mum made them. Hot with the sugar melting on them with tea and milk. We'll have them every afternoon after school on the balcony. You are the best house help we ever had. 

And how it all ended. How I ended it all. And am so very sorry.

We were used not to be given pocket money for school. Dad thought it wasn't a good idea. We had food, drinks and enough snacks to end a day and that should suffice he thought. He was right. 

I saw the 2000 F CFA bill on the living room table and I took them. I didn't think they'd be missed. They stayed in my bag the whole morning. By the time I realised that I did not know what to make of them since the market was too far from school and that I could not buy food because I would not dare return home with what my mum had given me it was too late. I convinced myself that if I took them back home, my parents would call me thief. Or so I chose to believe. At break time, I bought food  from the vendors with all the money and called my class mates to share along with the "home food". 

School was in Say, some 54 km away from Niamey. My classmates were so poor some of them came to school wearing their underwear only and with a slate and chalk as school furniture. Our first weeks in school our "home food" was either stolen or grabbed from us. Those were the best days of my education life. I decided I was doing the right thing with the money.

Muhammad, when we got back home later and found that my dad was home from work and asking about the money I got scared. I did not say anything and went down to the playground. I saw you coming from the Fulanis where you had gone to get milk and I told you "there is money missing, 2000 FCFA and my dad is angry".

When we came back from the playground, you weren't there. My mum told us that you had left. 

You started defending yourself even before you were questioned and  told him that you had not taken the 2000 FCFA. He asked how you knew that it was the missing amount, he had never told you. Muhammad, did you realise then that it could have been me? You said nothing. You thanked them, my parents, for having been good with you, said sorry, left the milk in the kitchen and left.
Sometimes, I still cry. Everyday I wish I could say forgive me.

Fatma