“What if we all woke up and found out that which is alien has become familiar and the familiar has been shrouded in mystery? The faces change with passing years; the heart remains constant.” These were the first words out of Tom’s mouth and he could hardly wait to say them. Even in the shadows of the park, the other men could feel his anxiety. The induction hit me hard of course. It was so pertinent that I even felt his zeal. My intuitions led me to feel a fearful premonition of doom in the air.

Samarra, in Colombia, was a street of so much life. Every organism with inclusion of trees in the driveways and parks, snakes on the trees and the concrete seats beneath the trees upon which we sat on, all sang in unison to celebrate life. On this day, the mood was mundane. The trees did not dance. The birds did not chirp. The mundane mood instilled some fear in me. It wasn’t the fear of a snake bite but the fear of something greater than what would kill me.

The street was silent. The colour of the day was outrageous. The sky was grey. Not even the ever-scorching sun was in its usual self. I felt so much heat but the heat was from another sun. The wind did not filter through the trees. I was sweating. “Mary is dead.” That came so strong like a hurricane and swung me round and sideways. Tom says I ran off, hit a tree and lost my consciousness which I doubted but the bruise on my head came out so openly with the assertion. I was stunned why Tom wasn’t crying but I overlooked into his eyes and saw that he was bleeding from the inside. Emotional haemorrhage has claimed more lives in this decade than any other.

Tom’s reaction lifted me to reality and my mood alternated from gut chilling fear to anger. I rose up and asked tom to lead me to where Mary lay. Our walk was very uneventful. The street in front was a pedestrian walkway, with planters and flowers and palms along its center, like a promenade. The place is usually crowded with people strolling but, on this day, there was no one to be found save for some rubble who thought it necessary to loiter on doom’s day or can we say ground hog day. The afternoon shadows lengthened as we continued to keep up our pace. We hardly talked. Everyone dived deep into his thoughts.

Mary was Tom’s girlfriend who had been 11 weeks pregnant before she decided that she wasn’t going to keep the child. Maybe it didn’t matter to her since she didn’t want to ruin her modelling career, but it mattered a lot to Tom who in other words felt a loss of high IQ sperms. Mary had some prowess in modelling which made her the top model in Cuica University and currently the Mrs Cuica University. Mary’s career was fast unfolding. She had a kind of quixotic zeal for her work. The world was awash in anonymous skulls scattered across continents by wars, pogroms, massacres, slaughters and murder. Somehow, she felt she had a genuine mission to turn the wasteland of trivialized death into individual moments of significance, face by face by face. It was a small thing in the grander scheme of things, she knew.

On the other hand, it was no small thing at all to give an identity, a history, and a kind of redemption to what had been only a lost and empty bone before she touched it. Her touch was as magical as it was divine. But, all that was no more.

“Ben, we are here.” It was Mary’s home. The culmination of my anger and frustration coupled up by my inability to imagine life without Mary let loose my eye lids. Tones of tears rolled down as I headed to see the remnants of the vague superstar, the spark who did not give herself a chance to burst into a flame.

Tom and I both played a part in refraining her from aborting the child. We played the reggae song by Nthsenge ‘Abortion is a crime’ on repeat and got her emotional movies and even wrote her articles about how bad we needed her and the child and how the world’s women fertility rate had reduced by half its usual rate. Actually, according to the Kenyan Business daily of Monday 12th November 2018, “there has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having… And there would be profound consequences for societies with ‘more grandparents than grandchildren’… In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. The fertility rate all but halved to 2.4 children per woman by last year… The fall in fertility rate is not down to sperm counts or any of the things that normally come to mind when thinking of fertility. Instead it is being put down to three key factors: Fewer deaths in childhood meaning women have fewer babies, greater access to contraception, and more women in education and work.” Regardless of being exposed to all of these, she remained unshakable. I had to soak in the words of Esther Ingolo that “we were born looking like our parents but we will die looking like our choices.”

I saw her face. The face of the assassin who had the intention of killing one but instead killed two. I saw her so vivid and suddenly my weeping stopped. I felt that it was poetic justice for her to lose herself in claiming to save her career. Her additional reasons were that she didn’t want to be seen carrying a child because the society would judge her. I realized the controlled pandemonium and I noticed all her family members were bitter about the situation since neither Mary’s mother nor her father knew about her pregnancy. Not even her best friend Edith knew about it. I also remembered that I was having a lecture on criminal law from 4 pm which was 20 minutes away.

Tom’s eyes were fixed. He had not set eyes on her since she made the decision three days ago. They had even broken up on that day and Tom came to me so hopeless. I actually did not think that she would do it. I tapped him on the back but his attitude had also changed. His attitude seemed to be, ‘thank you very much for pushing me off the cliff, but now that you have, I am going to be in charge of the falling. And the landing.’ I knew how important that moment was to him. This kind of stuff comes with an emotional price, especially between partners who have shared more that the secrets of state.

I walked out and took a taxi to Paseo de la Reforma, where I got into Polanco. I walked three blocks south of Polanco and six blocks west to Cuica University main gate. The Auditorium was packed. I got in class in time to get the lecture kicking off. I reflected on the impromptu meeting which painted the whole scenario on the wall, ‘Abortion is a crime’. It took me a while to completely get soaked into my chair. I sat there like I had the entire day to sit. That was my best chance of reacquiring my normalcy.

©Rashid Hunt

The Face of an Assassin