[The morning after watching an Elia Kazan film, "America, America," I woke up with the beginning of this story in my head, so I got up and started writing. Clearly, the film was my inspiration, although the events in my story were not in Kazan's, and his setting is not mine.]
Once It Begins, It Goes On and On©
P. J. Grath
Here is a picture of my beloved, so big and strong he was! That morning he went to church with his sister, it happened. He never came home, and now I will never marry. That is reality in our little village.
It was not always so. We all used to live together like a family. The Alwadi people and the Mazawa people went to school together, farmed together, owned businesses together, married each other, – anything you can imagine people doing here, we did together, despite tribal and religious differences. The old ones remember that way of life, but all the young ones know is hatred. What no one can recall is how the old way gave way and became what it is today. It is as if it happened overnight, but surely that cannot be so, can it?
My own father was Mazawa. He was killed in the first fighting. By an Alwadi? I will never know, and that’s best, because my mother, after all, is Alwadi. Which am I? You tell me. When I have to leave the house, I go with my face covered and my head down. We no longer have friends or neighbors. No one can trust anyone.
What I am telling, this big change, if it did happen overnight, it had to have happened the night before my father was killed, but my thinking cannot wrap around that thought and push it back further, because everyone, Alwadi and Mazawa, loved my father. There was no reason for anyone to kill him. An accident it had to be. But if he had fallen from a roof or been kicked in the head by a mule – other ways of dying by accident – no one would have thought of revenge. So, since revenge was the first thought, hatred must have begun already in men’s minds, mustn’t it? Could one man start such hatred? Who could it have been? Why? Over what? It seems impossible, and yet it had to start somewhere before it could spread, isn’t it so?
What a shame my beloved’s sister came back here! She had married and was living in Morocco, safely out of the way. Then her husband died. She’d had a child and wanted to bring him back to her own home to raise him. Stupid! What kind of future does a boy have here? If she hadn’t come back, would her brother have been in church with her that morning? No, he would have been safe, she would have been safe, her child would have been safe.
Naturally, the bomb was set off on the men’s side of the church, so his sister, on the other side with her baby boy, escaped unharmed. Physically unharmed, that is. The men were buried in the rubble of the church’s collapse.
This is all I have now – this grave to visit, this photograph to hold. If I could find the man who started all this, I would kill him with my own hands. It would not bring back my beloved, but what else have I to live for if not revenge?