18 Oct 2018

Eyes that speak

She sits across from me.

Her eyes will occasionally meet mine, then travel. At first, they will look at her feeble fingers wringing on her lap, then to the side as her head cocks as if to listen to a voice far away. Like a weary traveler, those eyes that have seen more than language could ever express, finally rest on the notebook in my hands.

I follow those eyes.

                                                                                    pic source

They beg to be followed. They promise to tell, promise to show. It's a nondescript notebook. But in it holds questions that reduce her life to a series of answers. Suddenly, I want to throw it away. It seems to generate heat, too much. It's a Moleskine. Nothing much. But as I look at it through her eyes, its the window in which her past is displayed. It's the epitome of all things evil, all things inhuman, all things she has been working so hard to forget.

I find my hands putting the moleskine down. I am surprised by this move, more than she is even. We both look at the object of her disdain and my new-found bane.

I have been asking her questions for the past 15 minutes. It feels like we have been talking forever.
Talking insinuates we have been discussing how healthy her goats are, or how fat the chicken are becoming. Talking makes you think we have delicate china in front of us on checkered table cloths with steaming tea and biting on finger sandwiches.

I doubt she even knows how to make finger sandwiches. I doubt she ever owned a china set. Her cups are old cylindrical tins that have hints of the colour they were when she first got them. That is what she offered me tea in.

I do not like tea with little milk. Yet, norms dictate that I never refuse such an offer from a woman such as this one. Now my tea sits on the ground next to my chair, flies covering the rim of the cup. I see them fight for a spot on that rim. I assume that spot is the least hot for them to perch on.

She clears her throat. I look up. Those eyes again. Now they are imploring. Asking me what I am thinking. If I am judging her.  I hold her gaze, trying to push back the current thought. Which goes like this - 'I am stupid for shifting my attention to flies, instead of what you are telling me. I am sorry.'

I pick the moleskine again. I have forgotten what my next question is. Shameful really. Because I have been asking the same questions to women in this area for a few days now.

'Are you afraid of dying?' I ask

Stupid question. Who isn't?

Eyes that speak answer me. No.

Why?  I ask her.

The cameraman who has been quietly filming this interview interjects.

She did not answer, he says.

I sit up and shift in my seat. Of course she did not. Her eyes did. She has barely moved.

I ask her again.

She bites her lower lip, and chews it slowly.

The woman in front of me is 40 years old. She looks 70. She is frail. Too thin. She is dying of AIDS. Because she was raped and infected during the post-election violence. She has 6 children, all under 15 years. No husband. She is alone. She is all her children have. They have no idea she is dying.

I seek out her eyes. And hold them.

No. She says.

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