I once had a farm in Africa

A Reasonable Doubts story by wulle

Self-sufficiency, I now say, is for giants.
Me, I need a mouth to greet mine after chores,
a stranger's words to bring me wonder,
a name to call my name urgent in the dark.
  - from Big Idea by Pamela Greenberg


I once had a farm in Africa.

What a beautiful phrase to begin a story with. But someone has already used it and I can't do a thing except tip my hat, for such a beautiful start, for such a beautiful story.

I must admit my story isn't as beautiful, and I'm not a good storyteller. But no one else will tell this story, because it is mine. It is perhaps the only thing I've ever really owned, my life.

I'm sorry I have to disappoint you, I'm not able to paint you pictures of the beautiful countryside of Africa, nor the wonderful colours of the atacama dessert in Chile. I can't even impress you with hunting stories from Spitzbergen.

I've never been there.

I have always been here and I am sure I will die here, in this small house here in Chicago.

I would like to, as I said, tell you the story of my life, but I'm afraid it'll bore you.

I've never met the knight in shimmering Armour, nor studied exotic countries or cultures.

Even though I was married once, Bruce... It makes me wince even to think of him, what a corrupt coward! Never mind, you might as well forget about him.

I once heard that a man should build a house, plant a tree and conceive a child. But won't the house fall apart? Won't the tree fade, and the child grow old, die and be forgotten as well?

"Self-sufficiency, I now say, is for giants.
Me, I need a mouth to greet mine after chores,
a stranger's words to bring me wonder,
a name to call my name urgent in the dark."

Where did I hear this? I seem not able to remember, but when I look back today, that's all I really wanted, all my life.

And I failed.

I had to work hard for everything I earned in my life, learned early that self-suffiency is very helpful when you're a woman. But that's what I am, a woman, not a giant.

Of course there have been people I've shared some time with. People I loved or who loved me, just like Bruce, for a while.

But now they're all only bygones, bygones on this long and windy path I call my life.

I thank every single one of them, no matter if we shared a year or a glass of wine, lived together or only exchanged looks, whilst sitting in two trains meeting at a station.

Some of them may have altered my life.

Some haven't.

One of them I loved most, and when he left he took my heart with him, left me unable to ever love someone again as intensly as I loved him.


Sometimes in the dim light of the setting sun I think I see his silhouette on the gravel of the driveway.

That's before I remember.

Sometimes I wake up at night feeling his breath on my bare skin, his light touch on my hair. Then I'm overwhelmed I turn around to touch him. sometimes I even speak a few words before I finally notice the space next to me is cold and empty.

Empty like the place where once my heart has been.

Perhaps it's better he left me long time ago, so he wasn't forced to watch that little beauty I once had fade.

He loved my eyes, he called them his private oceans. Now the water of his oceans is poisoned, it isn't clear and bright anymore.

He also loved my hair, shoulder long and dark red, he used to play with the strands that had escaped my ponytail and framed my face. He watched the first gray strand grow and joked about me finally growing up.

He was long gone when I cut off my hair.

He was long gone when I found out what he really meant to me.

I said before I never met my knight in shimmering Armour, but Ashir was the closest I ever got.

We only shared a year, but still when I think back about my life this year is all that really counts. The rest of my life faded into blurry memories and old photos no one ever looks at.

He never loved me the way I loved him, I'm not even sure he was able to feel love, but he was a friend.

A friend who gave me my freedom, but who also needed his freedom.

That's why he could never have been the mouth who greeted mine after chores.

He appeared as suddenly on my doorstep as he disappeared, every time. He never expected a clean house or a fixed meal, but he forced me to never expect him when I came home from work.

I paid the price of freedom with loneliness, with long evenings waiting for a sign of him, sitting at the dark window in need of someone to comfort me, when it had been a tough day at work. Or someone to share the joy with when everything was going my way.

I will never forget his black hair nor his brown eyes. Sometimes I think I see someone move the same way he did.

I wonder If he forgot me.

I was surprised when I found out about him, surprised and shocked. I felt abused. Had he only been on a mission? Could he really be a spy from the Israleian mossat? Were his feelings for real or had he just needed someone for cover?

When Dickie caught him I was already sure he would never appear in a court room, even though he had promised. When he appeared at my front door that evening I didn't know what to think. I took the flight ticket from him, and agreed to follow him to Israel. But I never did, I burned the ticket and told Dickie about his plan, but he was gone by then.

It was the last thing I ever heard from him.

I sent his birthday present to the address he had given me. It returned.

But after all he's just one more bygone. One more I have lost over the years.

Honestly this snippet of a poem still rumbles around in my mind. Why can I only remember this little part of the whole? Or is it I only want to remember this part?

Like I prefer to only remember the year I spent with Ashir.

"...a name to call my name urgent in the dark." Is it that what I need? Someone to rely on? Someone needing me as much as I need him?

It's the high price I paid.

Funny isn't it sometimes I feel like a vigilante living a life in the dark, hiding behind a mask and a secret identity.

But isn't it vice versa? My mask slips in place whenever I have to face society, is it to go out for grocery shopping or at work. I'm only myself at home, when there's no one there to see me, to ask why I do what I do or am what I am.

Of course I'm no vigilante, no crime fighter, no "good deeds doer." I'm just me sitting at a dark window by night thinking of all the chances I missed. All the wrong turns I took.

I'm not fighting the crime, I only see the broken people in court, the victims and of course the offenders. Perhaps becoming a D.A. was the best thing I did in my life.

Ashir was the only one I ever shared my "secret identity" with. The only one I trusted, the only one perhaps being capable of understanding why I am who I am.

Why am I telling you this?

Perhaps because it is time to let the mask slip, perhaps because, as I write down this it occurs to me that I actually have no life that would be worth telling.

I'll be gone soon. And there'll be nothing left of me except a corpse rotting in it's coffin.

No tales that would survive aeons. No one will remember me, my name or the person behind it. Perhaps this is my last attempt to be not forgotten, my last call.

Yes I have walked this earth, if it made a difference or not, I have been here.

And perhaps one day when you walk across a cementary and you notice a tombstone with only a name and dates on it, you ask yourself, who was this person? And why did no one invest the time to at least carve a last goodbye into the cold surface of the stone.

Perhaps your imagination builds a story around this name, and at least for one day this person is not forgotten.

Perhaps this person was like me, an observer, with no own life, with no own story to tell.

Perhaps it was me.



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