This was not the life he would have chosen if he could have chosen the life he wanted to live. As he stood staring at the dump he was being forced to rake through in other to survive, his eight year old mind pondered, once again, on the existence of a God who they said loved him but who couldn’t be bothered enough to lift him from this personal hell he was living.
All around him, the other children laughed and played in the stinky dump that was their “work place”. They looked for scraps from the trash and handed over whatever still seemed useful to the master who in turn paid them whatever he thought the trash was worth, which was always little to nothing. He couldn’t count how many times he had considered running away. But he couldn’t leave mama alone with three other children. Although two of them were older than him, they were struggling too in their various “jobs”.
He watched the others running around completely carefree; oblivious to the fact that there was a better world out there for them; this is all they had ever known. This is where they had lived all their lives. But he knew. He knew there was a better life outside of this miserable place. He knew there was better food to eat than spoiled meat, stale bread and rotten fruits that served as their meal scavenged from the dump when Mama couldn’t provide for them. He knew there were better clothes to wear than the tattered shirt on his back and the trousers that barely fell to his ankles, and were part of the three clothes he possessed. He was born here, was being schooled here, had never left here but he knew there was better. His eyes fixed back on the trash in front of him but glazed over seeing nothing yet seeing everything; painting a picture of the life he wished he was living, the future he wanted to have.
He would finish school here no matter how low the educational standard might be. He would get the scholarship to secondary school that the government gave out every year. He was smart; very smart he’d been told a number of times. It was why his teacher allowed him read whatever books she could get him. He would go to the university his teacher often talked about and learn how to be a doctor. Like those men and women who came twice a month to treat the people in his community for free. They wore white coats and smiled a lot and sometimes they let him help them. He would then come back here and move mama and his siblings away to a real house with real toilets and real kitchens not the shack they slept in with the roof that leaked like a tap when it rained or the pit behind their shack that was their toilet or the little corner in their room where mama prepared their meals when there was something to prepare.
No no no. Someday, he would not have to listen to her cry every night for the husband that was no longer hers, for the children she could barely take care of, for the jobs she did round the clock in order to keep them fed and clothed, for the world she carried on her back, for the pain she carried in her eyes.
Just thinking about it brightened his gloomy mood. He looked to the sky and thought I’ll make it happen however I can. And he dug the rake once again into the dump with vigour and determination.
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