The early morning sun broke its way through the thick canopy, the thin rays making beautiful shapes on the ground.
A small green lizard crawled over one of the branches and a small drop of early morning dew that had condensed slowly flowed over a leaf.
At the leaf’s apex it seemed like it was permanently stuck until unwillingly it detached itself. Looking at it, the drop was a tiny crystal ball.
But nothing lasts forever; the drop fell with a slight thud on a slightly wrinkled forehead. This did not seem to bother the owner who lay with a troubled face on the hard, still, cold ground.
When you met him for the first time, Mugabo was not the kind of man you could care to take a second glance. With slightly bent back, broad shoulders, clearly packed muscles and narrow hip, he was more than the ordinary.
He seemed to tower above everyone he talked to and his facial expression was always stone cold. He had a deep dimple on his left cheek but again, his smile never seemed to get.
He had a pair of deep-set eyes and a simple glance from him would send shivers down one’s spine. There seemed to be some untold story behind those brown eyes.
Something searching and threatening that would send your own pair of eyes shying away, for safety, to the ground, in the sky, to the next person, anywhere but not his eyes.
“Your eyes once had this hard look. I’m glad I could change that but I have to move on.”
These words echoed in Mugabo’s head and his eyes closed tighter as a teardrop escaped the tight squeeze of the eyelids.
As it flowed towards his ears it met the dewdrop and together they disappeared down to the ground. With great effort, he lifted his body and sat facing the direction she had appeared from and the same direction she disappeared to.
Two days ago, as he sat at the very spot, she had walked out of that point like the sun peeping out of the canopy. As she stood there, Mugabo could not help but stare.
Was it some kind of recognition in his eyes? Mugabo would never know because as fast as it came, that look of recognition disappeared. Unlike everyone, he had known. She kept on looking down at him.
“Good morning my son…” she said in a soft voice.
“Good morning Mama,” Mugabo answered in a shaky voice. Why his voice was shaking was a mystery to him but there was something about her that called for respect.
“I have been travelling all day and night. I have looked for shelter but no one is ready to take me in. My son, would you kindly give me something for my old stomach and a roof over my grey head for a short time?” she said. He could sense the authority behind the words though. It was more like a demand.
“Certainly mama,” Mugabo promptly replied. Their eyes were still locked in a long gaze. A thin smile appeared on her wrinkled face.
A deep dimple appeared on her left cheek. As he looked at her, Mugabo felt like he had known her all his life. He rose and led her slowly towards the village. Everywhere they passed, people were deeply surprised.
Was this Mugabo’s relative? They had never seen him taking anyone to his home. Since his mother vanished into thin air Mugabo had practically chased away anyone who stepped in his compound.
So who could this old lady be that so solemnly walked behind his massive body into the compound? The villagers wondered.
When they were in the house, the old lady silently took in everything and her eyes became crystal like as small trails found their way down her sagging cheeks. This almost sent Mugabo off his feet. This act by the old lady made him scared.
“I am just so glad to have a place to rest that I cannot stop these tears from falling,” she said.
She looked so brittle. Mugabo tried to comfort her but stopped, remembering that he is not supposed to show anyone affection.
This is because his mother abandoned him. She left him playing outside when he was only ten years old. She had left without a telling him where she had gone. This had deeply hurt Mugabo.
“I‘ll be home late. Please don’t play for so long. When I come back I will make you your favourite soup,” and with this, she had walked away. She never came back. But even as a grown up, Mugabo found himself going into the house early and sitting for hours waiting for her return.
“Do you mind if I went to rest?” The old lady’s voice brought him back from memory lane.
“No mama, you can go and rest in the room to the left,” he replied. With this he went out to his shelter and started working on his painting.
All the time, he looked up and hoped against all hope that his mother would walk up to him and back into his life. When the sun became blazing hot, Mugabo walked into his small kitchen and prepared the only meal he knew how to prepare; the soup he had always seen his mother prepare as she narrated one of her endless stories.
When it was ready, he took it to the house and there he found the old lady busy knitting table clothes exactly like his mother did. He invited her to the dinning table and silently they had their meal. The old lady then excused herself and went out of the house.
She came back as the sun was giving its last blessings to the village, giving way to darkness. Mugabo had just finished lighting the fire.