My Gravesite Has Been Chosen
Chidodo is my best Duruma friend. Duruma is her tribe. My same age, she is the matriarch of many. Everywhere you go you find Chidodo’s children, grandkids, nieces and nephews. The first time I went to Kenya, four years ago, my daughter and I spent a day “shadowing” her and her huge family. We pounded maize, stirred ugali over an open fire and watched her grandson put coals in an iron to put creases in his shorts for school. When we left her compound, she tucked a live chicken under my arm to take home for dinner.
In Duruma culture, you show that someone is special to you by cutting a kanga, a large, brilliantly colored cloth, in two pieces. Each of you wears your half. Two years ago, in a large closing ceremony, Chidodo’s friends sang to me as she pulled out a beautiful kanga, gold, black, maroon, and white, and symbolically cut it in two. She wrapped me in one, herself in another.
This year, the first day I saw her, she had her half of the kanga wound as a ballast for her water bucket, on her head. Hoping I would see her, I had worn mine too. I never would have realized she was wearing hers. It had become faded and worn beyond recognition. It had been put to good use, washed countless times, left to dry in the African sun. Mine still looked like new. Bright. Bold. It had slept tucked in my drawer during the months I lived my other life.
Now she was pointing out to me that we were both wearing our kangas. She laughed and laughed, as only Chidodo can. Speaking not a word of English, she told me through a friend that she had also chosen my gravesite. It is next to hers. Could I come see it?
I thought about it. I wondered if I could ever really leave my bones in the dry soil of Africa. At night would my bones unite with Chidodo’s? Would they dance together under the inky black sky, full of stars? Would I hear her laughter in the far distance, like the soft drums that lull me into sleep, lull me into sleep.