There is very little light in this cell. I stare at her through the iron bars. She looks angry. There is no remorse in her eyes. She is tired, I know she is. I am tired too, like her and Siraji and the two other porters in our small team. But why is she angry? Her smile is gone. Why does she look at me like that? Like I am a stranger? She is the only mzungu here, and people are staring at her.
My name is Lucas Mtui and I have spent the last five days with her. I am not a stranger to her. I am an assistant guide of the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA), but after this I am not sure if I will be, because she has taken away my name and given me a number. She says I am a thief.
There is no space inside the cell. There are too many people, but it is a lonely place. I cannot breathe. I want to sleep. I want to see my little girls in the village. They will be expecting me soon. How can I reach them, tell them I am being held in a prison cell and I don’t know why?
What did I ever do to her? She says I am a thief, but what did I steal? Money, she says, three hundred dollars— but I did not. I am a good Christian man. I carried her when she was tired. That day, when we left Horombo Hut and it started to rain, she wanted to give up but I didn’t let her. She shared her popcorn and Milo and eggs and asked about my daughters. Five days of assisting her on Mt Kilimanjaro and we became friends. I was with her in her moment of great victory. She was so happy there, at the top of the mountain, tired but happy. That made me happy too. She said I was the reason she was able to make it to the top of Uhuru Peak. I was so pleased to hear that. Yet, she put me behind bars. Does she really believe I have taken her money?
Will she come back for me? Or will she leave me here to stand trial for something I did not do?
Angie, come close to the prison walls, come see what you are doing to me…
I am tired. I want to be out of this depressing place, but the sub-inspector wants to speak with me. Lucas is behind bars. People have doubled in numbers, and the police station is even more frightening and claustrophobic. I cannot breathe. I don’t want to be here. People look at me suspiciously, even angrily. The stale smell of alcohol, sweat, urine, and grime permeates through the prison bars and wafts into the reception.
The inspector continues to shout out orders, but his manner changes when he addresses me. I am a mzungu, a tourist, so I will be given preference over everyone else here. Being a woman doubles that privilege; I am offered a chair.
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