A resurrection of mercury
Glimpses from the other biography of Marajan Morgan Margay
By Kamal El Gizouli*
Translated by Elkhatim Elmahdi
Edited by M. El Mekki Ibrahim and Amelia Charles
You will not be straying far from the truth, not much anyway, if you assumed that the name of Morgan was the first thing that attracted me to that athletic, charcoal black, captivatingly handsome giant of a man.
It all began late 1968. We were then green, full of life as sophomores in the school of Law and International Relations in Kiev University.
Looking back, I have no doubt now that that friendship was cemented by his magnanimity, his kindness of heart, mild manners, his intrinsic loathing of shoddiness and his exceptionally rarified artistic and political sense. That friendship was further entrenched by his astonishing energy for creativity as a writer. And he was also gifted with a true musical ear, with special affinity to classics. He exuded an ever contagious zeal for student revolution, for the New Left, the American Civil Rights movement in its early realizations of identity pioneered by Miriam Makeba and her husband, Trinidadian civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. An identity so powerful at that time, it had literally re-written the bible of struggle for millions of blacks all over the world: youth and students in particular. Slogans such as “Black Power” and “Black is Beautiful” were the hymns that referenced that bible. I should hasten, however, to admit that I discovered all these qualities in the course of a friendship which progressed over time. But its beginning was exclusively triggered by his name. Morgan.
It was my first day in college. We met first on the staircase leading to our rooms, which were, coincidently, numbered 51 and 52. We were just returning from a late dinner in the students' restaurant occupying the ground level of our hostel in busy Krasnasdvosdniya Street. Somewhere in the staircase where the meaty odors of borscht soup were vanishing away, Morgan slowed down and, smiling sweetly, extended his hand:
“Hi," he startled me with a deep voice, “Robert David Morgan, from Sierra Leone. My friends call me Morgan."
Immediately, the image of his Sudanese namesake jumped to my mind. They were identical in everything: loftiness, handsome looks and captivating smile; Asaad Mahmood Marajan, adoringly nicknamed Morgan, materialized in my imagination, I found myself pumping his hand enthusiastically.
“Yes, yes…” I replied. “I remember! You were singing in my farewell party only yesterday. Or was it the day before yesterday? Boy… that was some singing! We croaked our throats dry all night long.”
“Who?” He retorted, with a confused smile. “You mean me?”
That was enough to shatter away the surreal moment, shoving me urgently, yet fleetingly, into embarrassment. Again, I shook his extended hand.
“Oh…” I apologized. “Never mind. I am Kamal El Gizouli, from Sudan."
Asaad Morgan was a close friend. In our early boyhood he was always top of his class, from elementary through to intermediate and high school. Asaad was such a soft and kind soul, immaculately good mannered, and of such eruptive passion that his tears were occasionally shed over incidents of minor import. Yet, ironically, he was preparing to join the War College!
He was an only child. His mother, Aunt Na’eema, was a hefty, jovial Egyptian from Tanta, who oversaw a rotating saving fund for the women of the neighborhood. His father, Uncle Mahmood Marajan, was a Nubian veteran of Sudan Defense Force, of immense piety and silence. Upon his discharge from the force, uncle Marajan started to scour western Sudan in a Bedford lorry, reaching as far as Abéché in Chad, bringing back loads of textiles, yards of qarmasis silk and Parisian perfumes. Sometimes, he might add to that powdered tobacco leaf used as snuff, honey and an assortment of crops. But he was never far away from the continuous speculation on the true source of his wealth. Gossip flew far and low, yet never loud enough. Truth be told, we never witnessed any wrong doing. We enjoyed a lifelong relationship, with a narrow passageway opened in the wall separating our houses. Indeed we saw them as family.
Morgan and I were close companions and friends in the neighborhood and at school. We went together to Central Library in search of books during those leisurely Fridays. Morgan was my opposite in one respect: he curiously distanced himself from political activity, leftist organizations in particular, whether secret or public. Aside from that, he was our star, in everything: Boy Scouts, athletics, sports teams, music, travel and literary societies – the latter in both Arabic and English.
While our one and only destination, for all fashion needs, were the verandahs of Omdurman Souk, with their legions of tailors and Bata footwear delights, Morgan did things on a finer note. He wore only mohair slacks, Nylon shirts and selected fine leather shoes from Morhej or Bon Marche boutiques in Khartoum market. To top it all, he was the only one among us who owned a bicycle!
In short, he was Alpha in every possible trait: fashion, culture, swimming, table tennis, football and basketball. Beside his notable mastery of playing piano and guitar, he displayed unparalleled versatility in chess, dominos and all sorts of card games.
Now, that’s not all. Girls were attracted to Morgan like moth to light. Intense competition would ensue between maidens to win his affection with abundance of little gifts: knitted caps, silken handkerchiefs colorfully adorned with tartar and decorated with lonely hearts bloodied with Cupid arrows, and bottles of Fleur de Amor perfume. But he instinctively shied away from them. And that enraged us beyond reason, especially so when it was about Awadia Almahi. Oh… that serene breath of heavenly beauty. That flaw in his character fuelled our sarcasm whenever we were unable to outrace him in the matters of romance.
Ah .. Nearly forgot to say that most of us would turn green with envy whenever discussion veered, as it inevitably did, to Morgan’s brilliance. His legendary exploits encompassed excelling in mathematics, languages, geography, history of Europe from Napoleon to Bismarck, plus an epic memory of full names and proper designation of princes and archdukes of ancient times. No, that’s not all. Morgan could recite correctly a full repertoire of jazz and blues, name every single singer or musician worth knowing, with details of their various biographies. Yes, every single one: Armstrong, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, James Brown, Otis Redding, the Jackson Five (when that was the name of the game), and many, many more. He had a keen and contagious interest in Hollywood films and stars that held us speechless on many moonless nights, when he would captivate our collective imagination as he enthralled us with the latest stories of films, in great, and no doubt somewhat embellished, detail. We believed every word. His room, covered in posters supplied by an acquaintance in the National Cinema House, testified to that. His clean, Sandal-fragranced room, full of neatly arranged books, magazines and vinyl records, would always feel different each time we visited, some new “champ” would shoulder a place among glossy posters of Rita Hayworth, Peter Otool, Anthony Queen, Sophia Lauren, Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton.
Morgan’s house was an estate among the rubble of our neighborhood. Built with thermal bricks, it was distinct with its reddish English roof, expansive verandahs, black and white floor tiles, dark green Venetian windows, wrought iron gate with a lion's head knocker and heavy shrubbery of neem trees surrounded with a wrought iron fence topped with short, spear-like shapes. Uncle Adam, the ear man (nicknamed after old acne marring his right ear) faithfully handled all household tasks, from cooking to chauffeuring uncle Mahmood’s black Humber car. Uncle Adam was always there, as long as we could recall. Some say he’s been there longer than that, while others said he acquired his household sometime after the end of World War II.
Letters kept me in touch with Morgan for two years or so after I left Sudan. I felt sorry for him not making the cut for the War College. I was equally sorry to learn from his few letters, and also from detailed letters of mutual friends, that he was involved in hastily-arranged marriage that ended disastrously a month later, for no apparent reason. I could only discern from his letters the immensity of despair and lack of interest in completing his studies, as a direct result of the botched-up marriage. In the following weeks, Morgan took to spending most of his days assisting in his father’s business, or legging it between British Council and British Embassy, seeking an elusive grant to study psychology in the University of London; a grant that never happened.
Slowly at first, his letters dwindled, then became rare and finally stopped altogether.
Later on, I learned the reason from mutual friends. One saddened me greatly, but adequately explained his lack of communication. Aunt Na’eema, Morgan’s mother, succumbed to a sudden heart attack one evening. While her funeral was being readied Uncle Mahmood, his father, stricken with grief, and weakened by unforgiving blood pressure, fell dead right on top of her cold body.
Thus, that dark, sad evening saw two coffins leave the brick house of the Morgans, progressing haltingly under the scant light of kerosene lanterns. The two were laid to rest, side by side, in Hamad Alneel cemetery.
Several months later, I lost the final shred of comforting thoughts that I vainly consoled myself with. Letters from Sudan narrated, in sickening detail, the state of shock Morgan had fallen into. With long, disheveled hair, scraggy beard, dirty nails, tattered clothing, filth clogging every inch of his body, Morgan was seen wandering the streets aimlessly, bare foot, with a massive laloob worry beads around his neck, scurrying behind stray donkeys and dogs with imaginary food in his hands. Sometimes he was seen chasing or being chased by throngs of stone-throwing kids, rhythmically shouting vulgar words of abuse.
This troubling news rattled me deeply. Then the events of July 1971 took place and those bloody massacres drove me into a dark, oily despair. Alone in the dreary, unforgiving Russian winter, I sourly missed that infrequent trickle of letters from friends and family in Sudan. I missed Asaad Morgan’s letters more. They were my anchor in a turbulent sea of loneliness.
But as days went by, the strengthening friendship of Robert Morgan helped elevate some of the impossibly heavy burden off my chest.
Morgan and I went to college together, returned from college together; had our food, did our homework together. We frequented theatres, cinemas, libraries and cultural venues together. We were, indeed, inseparable. We vacationed, winter or summer - or both - in Helsinki, Berlin, Prague and London, and spent endless leisurely summers in Black Sea resorts. Or, financial needs dictating, toiled away, shoulder to shoulder, in Ukrainian vineyards. Our lives became so entwined together, that nothing separated us, barring the need for sleep or for women. Here I must admit that never, not even once, did I see Morgan with a girlfriend. Contrary to his African contemporaries, he never allowed himself to be involved with any girl, not even those sharing our dorms, not beyond the customary courtesies among colleagues. Girls, on the other hand, referred to him as “different," attributing his behavior to his extreme shyness and sometimes to his gentlemanly mannerisms. For his part, he rejected all approaches using, his favorite phrase:
- “She is not my cup of tea.”
Frustrated beyond endurance, I once exploded in his face:
- “It seems the leaves of your tea are being planted in Saturn!”
- “Not so,” he replied, laughing, “it’s just that the mistress of my soul isn’t born yet."
Assigning his reply to an inflated ego, or a kind of poetical caprice, I didn’t raise the matter again. It was a matter of personal taste which I left solely to him.
On and on our friendship grew. Nothing irking it, except for the bouts of weeping that could grip him without warning anywhere, anytime. Great gusts of sobs would rake and shake his body, his eyes reddened, and the veins in his neck swelled and nearly burst.
Thus the subject of women remained off limits between us. I soon noticed those weeping bouts comforted and relaxed him so I brought myself to overlook them for the sake of our friendship.
Morgan would insist that I translate my poetry from Arabic to English or Russian, often commending them, though I found them lacking unpleasantly. But I had exclusive access to his attempts in storytelling, written in unblemished English. He used to write his stories - short or long - in beautiful long hand, and kept them in a colorfully decorated, brown covered notebook. His stories were entertaining and vivid, with protagonists so full of life, you could almost touch them with your hands. But he always pushed them to such bizarre endings that left you breathless. Yet he never strayed away from the rules of literary craft. Not one inch.
One evening we were enjoying a hot coffee in front of the fireplace in Morgan’s room, listening to the frosty wind beating against the windows. We had just finished preparing tomorrow’s seminar. Everything in the room: books, vinyl records and magazines, was in a state of cumulative yet creative chaos.
- “Morgan, have you ever thought about publishing?” I asked him “There are many periodicals out there keen on youth literature.”
For a moment, he didn’t reply, busying himself with adjusting the knobs of a huge radio.
- “Fear, my friend,” he answered, in a voice lingering an octave lower than his usual booming opera level. “Fear of the social, rural African embarrassments. Most of my stories’ characters are alive. In Freetown. Some of them are friends and family!”
- That’s nonsense. Who said that, for example, Chinua Achebe’s characters were all fakes?
- “Achebe? Who dare compare me to that giant?” with a loud laugh he dismissed it, without even letting go of the mammoth radio. He went on, “You know, when I was a young boy, we used to have a radio just like this one. I remember when the Russian sent Laika - yeah, that dog - right next to heavens, our neighbors kept blabbering: the Russians will paint the skies in red! Being an only child, my parents were away that day, and being at loss for someone with whom I could share that news, I turned to mighty grandmother. She was stationed in her favorite corner and, as usual, sewed her heart away, self-consciously touching her supple head of hair that she never tired of reminding us she inherited from a distant grandfather, descendant of a lineage still roaming southern Egypt. Asking her help to climb up the house to see it live from there, earned me an indignant reproach:
“Use your time to study, not gawk at this nonsense!”
And, as customary when she didn’t like a particular situation, she added in a weary tone, grimacing in her peculiar way:
“You believe all the blasphemies of that damned radio?”
Only then did I notice that he was an only child. Later on, I discovered that his father, a retired officer in Sierra Leone army, now occupies an administrative post in a commercial company, his mother a social worker in a feminist organization helping educate women about the dangers of dieting on wasu mud. What he told about his grandmother seemed to me, at first, out of context, but made me laugh anyway.
By the time he finished telling me that story he had finished tuning, and Big Ben chimed away the beginning of what he used to call: “The BBC Ritual," which meant total immersion in following the news. So, our evening continued in silence, but for the deep, guttural voice of the BBC broadcaster.
I was an avid fan of all his stories. But I became obsessed with one of them in a particular way, maybe because, for some reason, he didn’t bother penning an end to it. It remained unfinished through those long years we spent in college.
That story told about Prince Margay, a Sierra Leone young man, so handsome he might have been unearthly, and immensely rich. He was sole heir to a father who used to be a general in the Coast guard. The father started accumulating his immense fortune years ahead of the Independence of his country. He had a knack for corruption that helped his murky involvement with British administrators and, later on, with diamond smugglers. The general, always pragmatic, consoled his conscience by arguing that if he didn’t do it, someone else would. Always!
Despite his wealth and looks, Margay - deep inside - was impossibly miserable, and living in impenetrable isolation. He was an eccentric, living alone in huge castle, shrouded by trees, and secured with massive, solid steel doors. His only companions were an old cook, a toothless driver and a rural gardener. Nothing emanated from his dark, invisible world, save a distant sound of strange music. Did I say eccentric? Perhaps that was an understatement. If mere chance would permit, he would be disguised behind dark glasses eating half his face, clad, rain or shine, in heavy wool clothes and shaded under a huge, dark umbrella that he carried above his head tirelessly day and night, season notwithstanding. Margay was a true loner, with no friends, either male or female. He seemed as if struggling under an unbearable burden of a dark secret that he was too keen not to reveal.
Freetown being a typical Atlantic city that literally lived on gossip, Margay was a focus of diverse interpretations on accumulative speculations. But that’s quintessential African way. Among them were assertions that Margay’s eccentricity relates to a strange relationship between his parents. Others went as far as suggesting that he was a sinister reincarnation of the general himself, as they are descendants of a West African lineage known for that peculiar kind of sorcery. Others subscribed to the extreme view that the general himself was impotent, thus Margay was nothing but an unfinished creation of hired wizards! And so on, and so forth.
Five, long strenuous academic years later we finished our studies, and it was time to bid farewell. Morgan was scheduled to depart three days ahead of me. This naturally, called for a festive goodbye party. Oh, and party it was! He sang and played music like never before. Early next day I accompanied him to the airport. There, when we had to say our last goodbye he opened his handbag, and shoved the brown leather notebook in my bag:
- “I do not need it anymore," he said- tears trailing down his cheeks “I know how fond you are of it. I’ve left a surprise for you there. I wrote it yesterday after everyone had left. The last chapter for Margay. It was so hard for me to leave it without a proper ending. Just for you and you only. You will also find my postal address in Freetown. Please remember to include yours in Khartoum when you write me next. I promise to reply promptly. Bye!”
The next few days flew by in a whirl of preparations. My friends and colleagues threw a memorable party, which I was too depressed to enjoy. I missed Morgan so much; I cried when I realized that I will never see him again. When finally I relaxed back in my seat as the Aeroflot plane taxied before takeoff, I opened the brown leather notebook to the last chapter of Margay’s story. I wasn’t surprised when I found it well written, but unsatisfying nonetheless, as Margay met a tragic end. His decomposed, putrid corpse was found, one dreary autumn day, beheaded and concealed in a dense corner of his large garden, signaled by seagulls circling above it. Almost instantly, the city was buzzing with news of Margay’s fate. Legions of police men flocked to the castle, and started collecting evidence and investigating every inch of the place, turning everything upside down. The old cook, the toothless driver and the rural gardener were extensively questioned and then led, handcuffed, to the police station. Margay’s body, covered in a white shroud, was carried in a slow moving ambulance that could barely make its way on the streets clogged with onlookers, who maintained a long vigil outside the castle, despite an insistent rain storm.
For long months to come, Freetown was hopelessly addicted to Margay’s death saga. The smallest details became major breaking news, and imaginary developments kept cropping up in every corner.
But in the end, as is with all stories, the story of Margay’s death became stale, and then faded away. The police investigations, reached no conclusion and the old cook, the toothless driver and the rural gardener were set free, and the case closed, life went on and Freetown became free again of Margay. Only the three hands, the old cook, the toothless driver and the rural gardener still lived in its shadow as they scurried from one official to another, trying to retrieve some of their dues after the government appropriated everything Margay had left. No next of kin was ever found, though an endless procession of fake claimants tried once and again.
I placed the notebook in the pocket of the seat in front of me. A few minutes later, fatigue swept over me, and I slowly sank into a delirious nap. I dreamt of a raunchy wedding party in Officers’ Quarters, our neighborhood in Old Omdurman. In jumbled flashes, I saw Prince Margay dancing wildly to the tunes of Asaad Marajan and the singing of Robert Morgan!
I woke up with a start to the dimming plane’s lights, and heard feet hurrying in the aisle, as the flight attendant announced that we should fasten our seatbelt to commence final approach to Khartoum. Rubbing my eyes awake, I gazed at the city floating serenely far below.
Finally through customs, I threw myself in the welcoming arms of family and friends, weeping shamelessly. Tears of joy mingled freely with those of sorrow.
My father, in full regalia of his Medical Corps uniform, took me aside, and rendered me speechless with his next words:
- “Son, death is the fate of every living soul” he began, in a halting, broken voice, not at all like his usual strict self. “I have sad news for you. It makes me utterly sad to tell it - I have to. Now, rather than later. Now before we reach home…”
- “Is it Mom?” I shouted, fear clogging my throat like a coarse piece of cloth.
- “No, no! Your mother, may Allah bless her with longer years, is fine.” He went on, avoiding my eyes “But your friend, Asaad, was found dead early this morning, under the old neem tree in his house. He was killed. His throat was slit open from ear to ear. He was beheaded. Police sent his body to the military mortuary. I left them finishing post mortem, and came to meet you.”
Legs buckling under me, I crumpled to the cold floor, sweating profusely, as waves of nausea washed over me.
Later that day, we buried Asaad, and went back to his house, where the traditional tent was pitched to announce three days of mourning. We wept for Asaad. Our grief was double folded. We mourned his wasted youth, untapped capabilities and the bright future that will never be fulfilled. We also wept for his tragic death; to go like that: childless and no family- save for some distant relatives, was the utmost tragedy. Even Adam, the ear- man, got his share of the shocking event. He was the one who discovered Asaad bloodied, headless body, and whipped our neighborhood to a frenzy, running from door to door, terrorized by the bad news. Adam, the loyal servant to the house, got his twenty-some years of devotion trudged upon with heavy boots, as he was hauled away for questioning. Despite neighbors’ protests, police regarded Adam as a major suspect. Our shock, and Adam’s betrayal, was bottomless.
Just after sunset of the third day of morning, we bundled away the traditional funeral tent, to erect it again, forever, in our hearts. Assad’s troubles were over, so we turned our support to Adam the ear-man. We took turns visiting him in the Southern Station jail, supplying him with food, clothes and drugs for diabetes that assaulted his golden years. A famous trial lawyer donated his services, and fought a lengthy, fierce legal battle that ended victoriously for Adam. He was escorted in the lawyer’s own vehicle to a merry celebration in the neighborhood.
One loss always breeds another. Two weeks after my arrival, I discovered that I lost something else beside Asaad that fateful day. Some of my bags were missing, and I didn’t think much of that as most of my memorabilia was safely tucked away in the remaining luggage. Only the brown leather notebook that Robert Morgan gave me wasn’t there. I must have left it in the pocket of the seat in front of mine. I yearned to write to him in Freetown, to ask him about the mind-boggling series of coincidences: the death of Asaad Marajan less than three days after Robert Morgan had penned the stunning end to Prince Margay story. The painful congruity was astonishing.
In vain I tried to find the notebook. I tried everywhere; the Aeroflot agent, Airport Administration, and the headquarters of the Civil Aviation Authority. All I got was an indifferent shrug and a yellow grimace: you’re too late!
Fifteen years later, I received, in my capacity of Secretary General of Writers Union, an invitation to attend a celebration in honor of reviving the Asia and Africa Writers Association in Cairo, Egypt.
Arriving one day ahead, I went straight to the Marriot hotel, where the event was to be held. I showered, ate a light lunch, and decided to familiarize myself with the attending colleagues. In the event’s secretary office downstairs, a lovely secretary welcomed me. She gave me a glossy file containing all related papers to peruse at my leisure. I thanked her, and went back to my room in the fifth floor.
The guest list was arranged alphabetically, and I easily found myself familiar with most of the names. I was just about to close it when I found, listed under “S,” Sierra Leone. To my utter astonishment and joy, I read the third name: Robert David Morgan, poet!
Morgan? A poet! They must have made a mistake.
Not able to contain myself, and never bothering to wait for the elevator, I flew down the staircase to the secretary’s office. It was closed. Next, I harassed the front desk clerk, who called Morgan’s room. It was number 512, right next to mine! Getting no answer, he tried the one next to us, room number 511, still in vain. So I ran to the restaurant. He wasn’t there. Next I tried the bar, bank, swimming pool, and cruised all open stores in the hotel’s mini mall. I kept scanning all faces, scrutinizing anyone who looked remotely African. Frustrated, I went out side through the glass revolving doors, and searched every nook in the adjoining streets. No trace of Morgan.
Tired, and breathless, I returned to the hotel, and asked the front desk clerk to take a message for Morgan. Then I went to my room, and started calling his room’s phone, at two minutes intervals, leaving voice message after voice message, asking him to return my calls, whenever he is back from whichever hellhole he went to. By midnight I gave up, and fell down to an intermittent, dreamless sleep. I didn’t even bother to eat my supper.
I got up early next day, with nothing on my mind except Morgan. I jumped to the phone, redialed, and nearly had a heart attack when the phone was picked up on the other end after three rings. But, as soon as I shouted down the line, “Hello… Hello! Morgan? Don’t hang up. It’s me, Kamal!” I heard the phone click coldly, and the line went dead. I dialed again, but the busy tone told me he took the phone off the hook. Clumsy with anticipation, I put on my trousers, nearly dislocated the door from its hinges, and shot to his room. I pounded his door, but no response. I kept pounding away, each time louder than before, not paying any attention to the progression of doors opening down the corridor. Angry, astonished, groggy faces peered at me with accusing eyes of all shades and ferocity, Asians, Africans, Arabs, men and women. This only fueled my insistence. I intensified my efforts, nearly splintering the door, and doing irreparable damage to my hand. No use. I started shouting, at the top of my voice:
- ‘Morgan… Morgaaan! Open the damned door. Morgaaan, please, this is Kamal. Mor- “
Then the door opened. Morgan peered back at me. An angry, groggy, red eyed, but nevertheless same old Morgan, except for a touch of gray on his sideburns, few additional lines on his brow and a pair of prescription glasses he was trying to adjust with shaky hands.
We stood there, gazing at each other, only a few centimeters apart. To my utter bewilderment, he didn’t take me in a bear hug. He didn’t even say hello! Not a trace of smile on his face. We looked more like two opponents on the verge of spilling each other’s blood, than two old friends, meeting for the first time in fifteen years. It only became worse, when people thronging the corridor, kept on staring, their curiosity pitched high. Such was the scene; I nearly taking the door down a few moments ago, but now standing immobilized. The whole floor was deathly still, all holding their breath, frozen in expectation, like a scene out of Madam Trousseau’s.
At last, after what felt like a lifetime, my old friend seemed to have decided to change his tactics. His gloomy, stern scowl suddenly dissolved, and he spoke quietly:
- “Yes, sir” he said in his deep, guttural voice that I knew only too well, with such shyness I was familiar with. “How can I help you?”
- “Morgan! “ I exclaimed, the whole situation sounding more and more puzzling. “Robert David Morgan…!”
He only shook his head in bewilderment. I shouted, in Russian, as if trying to shake his memory awake:
- “Look, I might have aged a bit, my looks might have changed, but not to the extent that you do not recognize your old friend Kamal, from Sudan!”
- “Excuse me,” shrugging coldly, incomprehensively, he shoved his hands in his pajamas pockets, and continued dismissively, “I do not understand what you are saying. Please speak in English."
- “Ok” I said, taking a deep breath, I knew there was no way but to keep calm, or at least fake it. “You ARE Robert David Morgan, the storyteller from Sierra Leone, right?”
- “Yes, indeed. I am Robert David Morgan, from Sierra Leone. But I am a poet, not a storyteller!”
- “Your father was an army veteran” I pressed on, “who later went to be an administrator in a company in Freetown until he died?”
- “Yes, until he died, right.”
- “And your mother was a social worker in a feminist organization helping educate women about dangers of dieting on wasu mud?”
- “Yes,” he replied, visibly struggling to comprehend how I knew such minute details, “at least for some time before her death.”
- “Well, don’t you remember that you used to write superb short stories, in a neat, elegant long hand, with colorful headings in a notebook with brown leather cover?”
- “Sir!” he exclaimed with indignation, “I told you I am a poet, and I have never written a story, long or short, in my life!”
- “Don’t you remember Margay, the castle, the old cook, the toothless driver and the rural gardener?!”
- “I am sorry, sir.” He looked at me as if seriously doubting my mental health. “But I have no idea what you are talking about!”
- “Well, you do not remember me? Though we were close friends all those years when we studied international law in Kiev University?”
- “That, undoubtedly, would have been a great honor, sir. But unfortunately, I must say that you are truly mistaken. I’ve never seen this Kiev, never studied law, let alone international law. I am a London educated psychiatrist!”
My legs buckled, and I crumpled to the cold floor, sweating profusely, as waves of nausea washed over me.
Yet, the mother-of-all shocks awaited my return from Cairo. As soon as I arrived at my house, I hurried to my study. Searching frantically, I delved into my Kiev Album, the definitive archive of all my years and memories there. Yet try as I might, I couldn’t find one iota of resemblance amongst those grainy photos of my friend Morgan, Robert David Morgan the storyteller, from Sierra Leone.
The author is a Sudanese poet and writer