Sixteen

Nyakueth could no longer stay with her parents. It was time for a new life to enter the planet earth as expected. Because of this, she was called back home, since her mother was the right person to take care of her at that particular moment.

After two days at their home, she gave birth to her firstborn son. The baby looked like his father 80%. When she gave birth, her father was absent. He was busy discussing important issues with his friends and relatives.

He used to come home at midnights, when everyone else was asleep. His voice became familiar to all those that move around at night. They even knew him by name. One day, an unknown bird, very small in size sang one of his songs as it sat in the tree during the day. That made history in the area.

The story isn’t believable, yet it happened. What kind of bird was it? No one ever seen such a bird, and from that day, it disappeared.

Dogs stopped barking at him at night, because they all seemed to know who he was. The foxes and hyenas were his friends from the wildlife kingdom.

They could hear him and keep walking on their ways with no fear at all. They knew he was not looking for them. They knew he always does this while going back home. They even wanted to join him, but language barrier was the issue.

Before the nightfall, her in-laws came to visit her and the newly born baby. They came with a tin full of grain of sorghum, and that was how the child’s name came about—Gatbeel[1].

Nyakueth’s mother named the child, saying “they only visited us with grains”. This was a serious message to her daughter’s in-laws, culturally.

“He will call me uncle, won’t he?” he asked.

His sister looked at him, and then smiled. He really loved his little nephew, as much as he does his father, the baby’s father. In most cases he played with the baby, putting him on his labs. A new human being was added again to the number of the family. People die and others are being born.

“Oh no, you gave him the baby, he will mishandle him!” shouted their mother. No matter how many times he was told not to handle the baby, he still finds a way to get to it. He can kiss him on the cheeks. After a while the baby knew his uncle as the closest person after his own mother. Grandfather rarely greet, let alone playing with him. When he looks at him, he could see his father. He had nothing in him.

No matter how many times Gatbeel urinates on him, his maternal uncle held him well. He only calls for his mother when the baby needed what he couldn’t provide. He wished he could help in that, but you must be a bee in order to produce honey. There wass no doubt his young uncle loved him. For sure he was the only living uncle at the time.

Sometimes Panyim and Nyakueth, his sister had talks and discussions over many issues, including the baby’s life and health. Bol, the baby’s father had no means to approach or visit his baby. He can only hear that he was doing well from his wife, a lady he was told not to talk to. Through his younger brother in-law he could still contact her whenever he wanted. He was indeed a link, a peacemaker, a bridge.

“Who looks like Gatbeel?” Panyim asked.

“What do you think?” Nyakueth answered.

“I think he looks like his mother?”

“Yes. He does, but, only if you’re blind. If not, then you must be joking. Look at him again and decide by yourself.” She said.

“Was his father like this when he was a baby?”

“I don’t know. His father is older than your sister my friend. How can I know how he looked like when he was a baby? Will your wife know how you looked like when you were a baby? At least me, I know how you looked like.”

“Sorry. You reminded me of her!”

“Who is it please?” before he could answer she quickly recalled, Nyakor.

But this is a childhood thing. She thought about when he was referred to as Nyakor’s husband. It wasn’t a reality but a way to tease him. She even remembered how she used to call him these names.

“Your wife got married!” she announced. He then looked at her for a while, and then smiled, before he laughed out loud.

But in those days girls were selected to be married to men who were their fathers’ age mates, when they were of her age, Nyakor’s age. Dowries could even be paid in advance, so that when time arrives, the bride would be given in marriage. For this very reason, Nyakor was educated about all these by her own mother, even as young as four.

Nyakor is your age mate. This means you cannot get married to her, even if you will meet again in life. Besides, she was already chosen by one of the richest men in the area. Did you know this? Are you listening to me?” she asked.

“Just as the richest man needed you, he didn’t get you, did he? The same way, she might have been given in marriage to someone, but if God said she’s mine, no one else will take her away.”

Panyim, my brother, you always talk like a wise boy, and of course you are. I love you, brother. If it wasn’t you, Gatbeel would not have been born. Do you know that?”

“If it wasn’t God’s will, he would have not been born. And the same goes for you. The same thing goes for me and for everyone else. If it wasn’t God’s will, it would have not been possible for you to meet his father. What do you think? You think anyone can change God’s plans? Tell me! Who can change God’s plans?”

“Do you still remember how she looks like? You can’t recognize her anymore. She’s now tall and looks 3 years older than you are. Girls grow faster than boys. Forget about her being your wife. By the time you are ready to get married, she will already be having two children with someone else.”

“I will still go for her, even if she has ten children! I love her so much, my sister. She’s a very good girl, you know? I can’t take a different one no matter what happens.”

Panyim could see everything with his mental eyes from the other world, where his future wife lived. He could hear her sweet voice. He could see her as she grows taller, more beautiful than ever. But those were all mere imaginations.

“He’s angry. Please come and give him his milk. I wish I have something for him. I could give him without calling for you.”

One day, he urinated. The urine got into his uncle’s eyes, nose and mouth. He held his very first nephew with a great care. To him, his sister’s child was his own child, in a different way. For sure they were relating biologically. His future daughter could never get married to his nephew, as long as Dinka and Nuer values were concerned. There were no marriages between people who relate biologically, not like it happens nowadays.

“Do you want to try?” she asked her brother, as he was holding her breast with his right hand.

“No, I want to help you put it into his mouth. Your son is as glutton as his….are!” he explained.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Can you please complete the sentence? You say as glutton as who? Huh? Say it again and let me hear it clearly!” she spoke angrily.

“I mean to say he’s as glutton as you are.” He said. “You, I will bite off your finger, if you point at me again like this. Don’t you see my teeth? You can now cry of me, not like when I was young. I can beat you up like a baby.”

Nyakueth wasn’t interested in the childish conversation. She concentrated on her baby. “I will talk to our father about you.” He said. “What do you mean really? Are you mad? What will you tell him about me?” she asked. “I will tell him you must go to your husband. We can’t keep you here with your glutton baby. He will listen, you know? I’m the Prince. A Prince of Torkiel! He must listen to me. He will allow you to go to your husband. But you must tell me if this is what’s in your heart.” He spoke.

“You must share your thoughts with me, my sister. I can convince our father, and you will finally be with your husband. There’ll be no need for you to hide from anyone. You will be at your own home. I will be happy to visit you there and be respected.” He explained his views.

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“I am as serious as usual, my sister. There are no jokes. Just tell me what you think. I will do as you wish. Our mother can’t convince our father about this, because she fears him so much, just as you know. I am his only son at his bosom. He’ll do as I asked, not because of you, but because of me.”

“How will you tell him?” she asked.

“Don’t worry about how I will do it. That’s my job. I know exactly how to talk to him. There’re many ways to do this. All I need from you is your will. You see this thing on my head? It means God hears and does whatever I ask from him.”

“I really want to go to my home. But please don’t tell my father in this manner. I mean, don’t tell him that I said I want to go. He’ll cut me into half, and you’ll have no sister. Understand?”

“I like what you have just said. If you mean it, then believe it’s done. I will only act as a mediator, but the job is done. Just wait and see with your optical eyes. But you must first see it now in your mind, okay?” she thought he was only joking as normal. But he was serious. He wanted his sister to be at her own home. Their mother was listening quietly when they talked over those things. She pretended to be very busy with her own things. She was also singing, but she kept listening. She was thinking about those points her son was making. She had no doubt in what he was saying. She knew if his son could speak to his father, it will happen.

Their mother didn’t want to interrupt them for many reasons. She was listening and thinking of a way she can get involved into the process. Like her son, she wanted her daughter to have a home that can be called her own. There must be a way out. Something must be done to make it happen.

“How is that thing doing?” he asked.

“He’s fine.” She replied.

This was how he asked about his grandson, whenever he comes home ever since he was born. He called him a thing. He never held him in his hands. He had no plans to do so.

Any idea to take him away from his home, he and his mother, will be relieve. When he sees the boy, he sees his father.

Did he know this little boy’s father will be of great help in a few years to come?

[1] Gatbel or Gatbeel literally means son of grains.