Incomplete Tales

When we lived in Ilha de Mozambique we had a nanny. She used to rock my sister’s bun into sleep and sometimes mine too. Besides playing with us and making sure that we had enough to eat, she used to tell us African tales.

I remember one of them particularly, because I never knew the end. It was about a hungry lion, who tried and failed to kill a buffalo. In that same day, the lion fell into the river and was caught in the strong current. He was almost drowning when the strong body of the buffalo saved him.

I went to sleep during her description of the lion’s fight to reach the back of the buffalo, hoping that she would tell us the rest the next morning. But I never saw her again. Days latter I overheard my mother (very upset) telling a friend that the nannie’s father sold her for wine and capulanas, a system called lobolo. She was only twelve.

Her absence was particularly sad for me, because she was happy like a ray of sun. I was 5 years old by then and, as a result, I suffered from butts of sadness and nightmares. But I believe her story telling had a positive effect on my imagination. I can see myself, before sleep, trying to end the story of the famished lion. In my version, he could hold on to the buffalo and the buffalo could swim to safety and they would become good friends.

We all like to know the end of a tale because tales have happy endings. This week I was informed that Marcel, a nice lady who used to be our neighbour, died. I received this message still in bed. She was on holidays and just died. Her daughter rushed to Portugal to know how could such terrible thing happen. The comparison of dying with an incomplete tale came automatically. When someone dies, unless he or she is so sick or lives so long that tales don’t matter any more, it’s like falling asleep without knowing how the story ends.

Then, I remembered Paul and realized that he will never know so many things about us. He knew I was capable to do his job, but he will never know that I had the strength to actually do it. He will never know if Ti (TD) is going to settle with his new girlfriend Danico. He will never know if Andy is going to stop drinking. He will never know about JP losing his job. He will never know about his daughter, grandsons and granddaughters. So many incomplete tales when someone dies…

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