The bravest man is the one assured of his death. Wakoli, the village cobbler, was such a man. You never met him, but Wakoli could look at your shoe and stitch it in one motion, but the same hands could not hold a woman’s hand without his knees shaking.
It came as a surprise when he suddenly said that he wanted to return to his father’s land. We sat with him as one of his hands went into the shoe and the other the needle, pulling and fastening and fixing. He would say, “A man has no friends in this world,” every time he talked about his ancestral home. He would pick another shoe, look at it and smile.
“You can tell a lot about a man’s shoes. How he takes care of the things that protect his feet as he leaves footprints on the earth. Some shoes speak of love, others, misery, but my Father’s home is awaiting me.” Wakoli was not a day older than your Father, but his back was bent from all the stitching he did. He carried his sack of shoes waiting for his clients to come for them. The sack was old and torn but never did a shoe fall from it.
Wakoli was the wind. He came and went as he pleased. Everyone at home knew him, but even so, he was the only one who saw me beneath the busaa. No, that is not true, he was one of the few who saw me, your mother- Nyanam, was the other. She was the only woman who could carry ten pots of water and not complain of a stiff neck come dusk.
She would laugh until you felt as though Heaven was with you. When she cooked, the food would warm your soul, and she never let me sleep hungry. She would come to the busaa den looking for me, “Shemeji, you have to eat what I made today, you know you are the only one who appreciates my cooking, eh? Now how about a few mouthfuls then you can continue quenching your thirst?”