Juliet Kushaba

Juliet was born in Bushenyi, one of the districts in western Uganda. She is number three in the family of six girls; no brother. She was educated at Valley College, Bushenyi where she studied Literature in English. This was the stage where she read most of the literary materials that helped her make sense of life through the lives of the characters that she read about. She mostly related with Tess in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a novel she read in S.5; her suffering and struggles to keep life moving. Juliet holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from Makerere University, Uganda. She worked as a freelance teacher in various schools in Uganda and Rwanda. Her first school as a teacher was Valley College where she attained her secondary education from and her last school was Gashora Girls’ Academy in Bugesera District in Rwanda where she taught English Language.

Currently, she is pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University, Uganda because of her unparalleled passion for women’s rights and gender issues as a whole, and has done a lot of research in this regard.  Her research for M.A is on Sexuality and she hopes to graduate soon.

Juliet is a member of Uganda Women Writers’ Association (FEMRITE) and is a published writer of short stories and poems. She lives in Kampala with her 5 year-old daughter, Pearl Given Aijuka, a warm and lovely girl who goes to a boarding school in Kampala.

 

Creative Work from the Sticking to my Footsteps Anthology

THE BABY AND THE GIGGLING MEN

I am accustomed to keeping away from the health centre that sits next to our house.  Unlike our house whose front door is cracked in the middle, whose wall paint has faded out of being inhabited for long without renovation, whose roof is beginning to sag and leak, this health centre has strong metallic doors with bright white paint that resonates on its walls. But my mother never wants me there. She has always kept me from getting anywhere close to its doors unless I am sick. So I try to avoid poking my nose in its affairs. Not even when the sick children cry on top of their voices.

Our old house is in Ndekye, a small trading center where I live with my mother, my brother Enock and our maid. It is in the middle of the trading centre. On our left there is a supermarket called Savers’ Supermarket and on our immediate right, Dr. David Mukweso’s Health Centre. Our mother has taken on our father’s small business of selling motorcycle spare parts since he established another business in Kyambura trading centre, about four kilometers from home.

I am perched onto a seat behind the door, watching a Kinigeria on Bukedde TV. It is a very interesting movie and my eyes are glued to the TV. It is about a woman who is in love with her husband’s son. She is not aware of this fact because the boy has never been introduced to her as her stepson. The son does not know that this woman he is so in love with is his father’s wife. The husband is way older than this wife of his. She is his third wife but he has never revealed this to her. She thinks she is the first. I am so eager to find out how all this will unfold. I wonder whether my father would leave my mother for another woman?

I reposition myself in the sofa for more comfort. I take a deep breath in anticipation and, today being a day off school, I don’t have any cares on my mind, except our maid. Naka has a habit of giving me more and more of her work, especially at times when I have struggled to finish mine. But this time, I am having none of it.  Naka, I will not yield to your orders, not today. I have swept the compound, my early weekend morning chore. So, from dawn, I can see a bright day ahead of me.

I hear strange giggles. Loud giggles. I suspect they are just about eight meters from me. I turn the volume of the TV down. The giggles grow louder. I walk to the door and peep outside. I do not see anyone there so I move back to watch my movie. But the noise gets disturbing and compels me to move out again.

It is three men. They are standing behind the water tank that is seated adjacent the narrow corridor that separates our house from the health center. One of them is close to the window of the labour room. His shoulder almost touches the sill. They speak to each other and I pull my ears but still miss what they say. I am not close enough to hear them. I do not want to be discovered In my eavesdropping habit. One man is short and has a dark complexion. His eyebrows look like a lamb’s fur but his eyes are small. I miss the faces of the other men because they are wearing hats and sunglasses.

To my dismay, the men are peeping into the labour room through the window. There is a sinister smile I see playing on their lips. At once, I suspect they are looking at a woman. A woman trying to become a mother. They are laughing as they peep. Giggling. I am itching with curiosity. Who are these men? What are they laughing at? Could my suspicions be true…? Many questions pour into my mind. I wish I possessed my mother’s head. Then I would know what the men are doing, laughing as they peep through the labour room, because my mother seems to have answers to all sorts of questions.

I am still in the grey when another man comes in through the corridor. I do not see him until I am frightened by his voice.

“How are you little girl?’ he barks.

“I’m okay.”

I recoil and run inside the house, sure that this man has failed my plan to get to the core of what the men’s purpose is. I peep through the window and see that he has teamed up with the others. Do these people come here even on weekdays when I am at school? But I have never seen…

I tell my mind to stop wandering. I decide I have to clear the mist in my head. I slide out of the house and hide behind the other side of the tank and listen quietly.

‘Ah Martin, you’ve missed! The woman was wailing as though she was possessed,’ one of the men narrates to his friend who has just joined them.

‘She did not even care about us,’ another joins in. ‘She raised her legs and spread them apart.’

‘Ahhh!’ Martin gapes at him.

‘I wish you were here to see it for yourself,’ the tale-teller goes on.

My heart stirs with anger as I get the details of their conversation.

           Your fathers taught you no manners. The words escape my lips but I am only lucky that it is a mere whisper; otherwise the men might have turned on me. Why have these men come here?

‘Was it red or pink?’ one of them asks as if he has noticed my discomfort and wants to annoy me further. I hold my breath, still huddled behind the tank. I do not move.

‘She is a fine breed. Hers is a combination of the two.’

They both laugh as though the big devil in hell has suddenly taken possession of them. They continue describing the woman’s motherland in their dirty language and I get incensed even more. This makes me doubt if they are adult men. I think of shouting at them to stop at once,  to shut them out of her world. All she needs now is privacy.

I get a strong urge to protect a fellow woman from shame. I am only twelve but I am woman. But wh-at if th-ey…? I stammer, confused. I begin to retreat to join my mother in the kitchen where she is preparing porridge for our breakfast, but my intuition convinces me that they would not harm me for getting in their way.

“Julie! Julie!”

It is Naka, calling from the kitchen, interrupting my plans.  Ahh! But you also, now what do you want with me? I decide not to respond till she calls again but she does not. I return and decide to attack but as I walk briskly to where they stand, the hem of my new, long skirt that I have worn for the first time today is caught up in the firewood which my brother has left scattered all over the yard where he was splitting it. I try freeing it, but to no avail. I pull it hard and it tears all the way to the upper side of my right leg. My heart skips a mark. I run inside the house to change and avoid my mother seeing it. I will put it away. I will not wear it, so she won’t see it again. I decide.

Like an angel chasing a devil, I push my way through the door, speed past the ill-willed men to the labour room. Closing the door behind me, I cover my face with the other hand. My heart beat doubles. What is Nurse thinking about m…?

‘Julieeee’ her voice cuts through my thoughts.

I turn in a flash and the look on her face is as clear as any words: ARE YOU MAD?! I ignore her for a moment and rush to the window to accomplish my mission, to spread the curtain and bar out the intruders from further catching the happenings within.

‘Julie, why have you…?’

The men’s hysterical laughter floods the room. She looks at me and we both understand.

‘Thank you Julie!’

A smile edges at the corners of her lips. It makes my heart serene.

‘Thank you too,’ I tell her but then wonder what I am thanking her for.

I think the men have left because I do not hear their voices any more. All I can hear now is the wind whistling through the leaves of the banana plants next to our kitchen.

I do not want to stay in the labour room lest I upset mother. I turn and look at the woman on the bed and feel scared. I have not quite looked at her since I entered the room. She is panting and sweating. Her eyes are closed and she seems to bite her lower lip hard. It all scares me. I turn and walk to the door.

‘Thank you very much, Julie.’

When I turn to say, Thank you too, Nurse,’ I see a big baby girl in her glove-covered hands! I remember my Kinigeria. As I walk back to the house, I am wondering whose baby the girl is.