one day boi saw a man outside her office. the next day she wrote in her diary…
like any other day, that day i walked out of the fast food restaurant outside my office after a quick lunch, on my way back to business, busyness… back to work; when my colleague pointed out to me the man sitting on the parapet wall outside my office. i was told he was sitting there since morning, in the same position. i immediately formed my own mental impression of him. he was alone. he looked sick, tired, as if someone who has no control over his world, nauseous and about to faint. my heart went out to him. but like everyone else, i walked past him and two seconds later i forgot all about this stranger.
that night it rained… after months! as the city received its first showers, accompanied by a mild storm, i screamed in delight. at the same time, unknown to me, at another corner of the city, someone was taking his last breath. next morning as i stepped onto my office, i saw him. he was lying on his back, cleansed by the rain, blanketed in soil, mother earth performing the last rites for him. i went close to him. i wanted to touch him. i wanted to say something to him. i wanted to erase his pain away. they asked me to move away, to leave him alone. even at death he was so lonely. i continued to stare, transfixed, as motionless as the corpse that lay before me. i looked at his fingers, they were dirty. someone had dropped a piece of cloth that covered his face. his clothes were still on. two drops of tears escaped my eyes. i wish i had gone to him the previous day, offered him one kind word, some love. i wish i gave him some water to drink. he continued to haunt my soul. i looked up onto the sky and i saw birds. i bade him goodbye. as i left the scene i reminisced over my own life. in the presence of death, life suddenly became so much more meaningful. each moment stood out as a moment on its own. the choice was mine; to celebrate or to mourn. i remembered elizabeth kübler ross’ life research* on death and dying patients.
and then i remembered the butterfly. and i smiled.
*This was the value of life out there; people just died without anyone to even cry or claim them. Elizabeth had written that death really did not exist, like the caterpillar metamorphoses into the butterfly, our soul too leaves the body and takes on the metaphoric form of the butterfly.
~extracted from magicNineby baisakhi saha
N.B. this piece was originally written when I was in Nigeria 2007-08 on a student exchange program; this scene was in Lagos outside my Goge Africa office in Surulere, where I worked.