I park my trusty rusty truck in front of my house everyday because I don’t have a compound. So my truck performs many functions, school kids play on it, sometimes it brings out their artistic nature and they draw on it. The most important social function my truck performs is having a wing-mirror.
This is used by every passing pedestrian to check the latest developments in the face. On Sunday there is a queue of locals who want to get that final look at themselves before church.
I wonder what they see when they look into that mirror, I just watch them for hours; Rwandans cannot resist looking at themselves. There is the quick glance to see that nobody is looking, then the quick glance, they want to leave but they take another look and another and another.
“Yeah you still got it.” They seem to say to themselves. Quite often teeth are the main focus, like a tiger bearing its teeth to the mirror, then one cheek, then another, and then they settle on their eyes and fall into their souls.
It shows the mixture of vanity and insecurity in Rwandans, you look in the mirror but you don’t know what you are looking at or looking for.
I often go long without looking in the mirror, especially if I never shave, and then people say “Rama, you’ve changed.”
And I see I have changed. Sometimes, you have to look into the mirror to see how you feel, maybe you feel happy but your eyes are sad. Maybe you’re sad but your eyes are happy. So which is true? I remember a disheveled relative saying “as bad as I look is as bad as I feel.”
However, you can change your outlook through your appearance and vice versa, but the eyes never lie.
Especially in Rwanda where people are so attuned to mood, so focused on the eyes. “What is wrong?” my cousin asked me “Nothing.” I said. “Your eyes look sad.” She said.
I denied and blamed stress but wondered what gave it away because I was laughing and joking at the time.
Maybe if I looked into the mirror, I would have seen what she saw. Maybe I was better off not being aware of my sad eyes, because the direct cause is still unknown.
The more the eyes see, the more they age. I remember seeing a child soldier when I was a child, we were the same age but his eyes had seen what my eyes will never see. His face was as babyish as mine, only his eyes marked him out.
He told me he never looked into the mirror because he didn’t recognise himself. Maybe, he looked inside his soul and didn’t like what he saw. If he looked into the mirror he might have been able to find that humanity he had lost.
We spend so much studying other people’s eyes, looking for lies, looking for truths, looking deep into the soul and weighing up the goodness in people.
For all that time we spend; we never look into our own eyes, to see what secrets our own eyes are hiding from us, what truths our eyes have to tell and how much goodness is in ourselves.
When we look in the mirror it is often superficially, to see if we aren’t ashy pale, or to see is if our hair is right, but it is never to examine our character and outlook.
So now I look outside at a child who is too short to peer into my truck mirror, but is trying hard to look into the window of his soul.