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‘Midnight,’ Mother, Love
Posted on Jul 8, 2011
WORD TO MOTHER
Kidnapping is a bullshit English word. It doesn’t convey the insult that the offense carries, when a man invades another man’s home, fucks with his family or his wife, la kadar Allah (God forbid), and steals her away.
The man whose wife is gone stands there try’na push the puzzle pieces together of where is wife is exactly and what happened exactly. His blood begins to boil, thicken, curdle, and even starts to choke him. That’s why for me, kidnapping and murder go hand in hand.
In my case, my young wife Akemi’s kidnapper is her own father, her closest blood relation, a man who she loves and honors. For me to kill him would be to lose her even if I win her back. And I refuse to lose.
Ekhtetaf is our word for kidnapping. My Umma pushed it out from her pretty lips. She pulled it from her soul and gave it the true feeling that it carried for us— the hurt, shame, violation, and insult. For half a day it was all that she said after I relayed to her that Akemi was gone. My new wife had been taken against her will back to Japan without a chance to express herself to us, her new family, face to face.
For me to see my mother Umma’s Sudanese eyes filled with tears tripled my trauma. I had dedicated my young life to keeping the water out of my mother’s eyes and returning a measure of joy to her heart that life had somehow stolen. But Sunday night, when our home phone finally rang, and Umma answered only to hear the silence of Akemi’s voice and the gasp in Akemi’s breathing and the restraint in Akemi’s crying, Umma’s tears did fall.
There was a furious rainstorm that same Sunday. Everything was so soaked, the afternoon sky had blackened and then bled at sunset. So did Umma’s eyes switch from sunlight to sadness to rain and eventually redness.
Through the evening thunder I sat still, trying to simmer. They say there is a beast within every man, and I was taming my beast with music. My earplugs were siphoning the sounds of Art of Noise, a soothing song called “Moments of Love.”
My sister Naja held her head low. She was responding to our mother Umma’s feelings. Like the seven years young that she is, she did not grasp the seriousness of Akemi’s disappearance and believed more than Umma and I that Akemi would be coming through the door at any moment.
Much later that same Sunday night, family day for us, my Umma placed a purple candle in a maroon dish and onto her bedroom floor. She struck a black-tipped match and it blazed up blue. The subtle scent of lavender released into her air. There in the darkness, I sat on her floor, leaning against the wall, and listened to her melodic African voice in the expressive Arabic language, as she told me for the first time ever the story, or should I say saga, of my father’s fight to take her as his first bride, true love, and true heart. I knew then that the darkness in her room was intentional. She wanted to shield the sea of her emotions since there was no love more intense than the mutual love between her and my father. She also wanted to subdue my fury. She wanted me to concentrate instead on the red and then orange and then blue flame and listen intently for the meaning of her words and the moral of her story so that I would know why I must not fail to bring Akemi back home and why I had to seize victory, the same as my father did.
Umma was supposed to be preparing for work, but her most important job, which took all night, was finally finished. She wanted to transfer my father’s strength and intelligence and brave heart to me, her son. She wanted me to know that I must not be halted by my deep love for her, my mother. She had told me, “You have guarded my life and built our family business. I love you more than you could ever imagine. In my prayers, I thank Allah for choosing to send you through my body. But now, ‘You must follow the trail of your seed.’ ”
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