I remember those days with an uneasy feeling in my chest. They were days of smoke and blood, and of chains and whips. They were days of tears and sweat on brows. I remember those days for what they were; dark days with no light.
I remember the strange men and their strange poles that made thunder and tore open flesh. I remember running towards the forest in search of safety. I remember falling to the ground, and then being lifted.
I remember Mama.
I remember her gentle voice reassuring me that it would be alright. I remember her warm touch and the safety I felt in her bosom. I remember her half smiles and stern rebukes, her quick instructions as the strangers passed. I remember promises of meals that never came.
I remember lots of fruit and water. I remember Mama telling me to eat as much as I could. I remember long treks under the rain and sun, wounded and blistered feet from miles walked in the dense vegetation.
I remember Mama’s silent tears when she thought I was asleep. I remember her swollen leg and the awful smell. I remember silent prayers to silent gods. I remember receiving no help from anywhere.
I remember the sting of the whip on my back and the force of the boot by my sides. I remember the pale men who spoke through their nose and their funny hats. I remember the chains, long and hard, that held the rest of us in obedience. I remember Mama beside me, urging me to be strong despite stumbling steps.
I remember large canoes, larger than I’d ever seen, floating in the distance. I remember smaller canoes ferrying us back and forth. I remember Mama being led away from me. I remember chasing after her, as well as the beating that ensued.
I remember vomiting several times on the big canoe. I remember being whipped and kicked for that. I remember the incessant rains and turbulent seas. I remember feeling uneasy and unsure.
Alas, I don’t remember seeing Mama.
I don’t remember seeing her on the big canoe. I don’t remember seeing her in the land of the pale people. I don’t remember seeing her in the cotton fields or big houses. I don’t remember seeing her in our communal gatherings.
I don’t remember seeing her when ice fell from the sky, or when the man on the metal beast came to pick me. I don’t remember seeing her anywhere. I don’t remember hearing her gentle voice or feeling her warm touch.
I remember Mama. I remember her face, and her eyes. I remember her voice, and her touch. And as I lie here in this shack breathing my last breaths, I cry. I cry not for the years lost or pain suffered. I cry not for the children beaten to death or wives separated from husbands.
I cry because I remember Mama.
I cry because I remember.