The Cot

“I carry the bars within me.”
― Franz Kafka

It is a very peculiar thing, how some seemingly inconsequential memories will not fade with time. Simply refusing to let go of the grip on your mind long after the context for their existence had faded into the gray mist of forgetfulness. Holding on for dear life as if to say “Look at me, look at me. I’m important!” without giving you any explanation as to the why.

That night was tranquil and hushed. Not even the distant howling of brown jackals that normally disturb the silence was heard. A faint light from a clear African sky, filled with bright stars, dripped in through the open windows, curtainless. A small child lays outstretched on the modest pale brown wooden bed that was tucked away under the window in a corner. The frame of his naked chest slowly rising, falling in complete peace. In the other, darker corner, stood the cot. It’s sleeping occupant as oblivious to the night.

A large shadow appeared in the door frame of open bedroom door and pierced the silence with a loud bark, “Wake up! Come and sleep in my bed!”. The small child jolted, rolled his legs off the bed and sat up straight in a sleepy confusion, staring at the now empty door frame. The occupant of the cot dragged himself up against a side railing with the use of his tiny hand. Chaotic sounds filtered in through the dark. Male and female voices, some older some younger.

“What happened?” asked one of the voices, bewildered. “Terrorists through the window … your sister … shot … dream”. Words kept on stabbing the dark but made no sense at all. The small child disappeared through the dark door frame to join the voices, leaving behind his brother, standing inside the cot silently looking, waiting not understanding, alone.

Although the child in the cot did not understand the meaning of all the words that swirled around outside his bedroom a feeling settled on him as he stood there by himself. A feeling of dread that continued to grow as the night exaggerated seconds into infinities, until he could do nothing else but cry in terror.

The voices started to drift away into different corners of the house, he could hear his brother ask, “Why is he crying?”, “Because he is scared” came the simple answer. But nobody came for him. He cried, like most children do, until he fell asleep inside the pink cot with the Bambi print and mattress filled with red horse hair. A cot bought for a baby girl.

Loneliness covered him with a blanket, planting a seed within whilst silence returned to the night. The seed that would take hold and grow over many years into a tree of aloneness, bearing many fruits. The child in the cot waits to be valuable enough for someone to come for him, include him, rescue him from behind the bars he carries within, him.

At the rise.

Where should one start a story? Start, because it’s neither the beginning nor the end but simply the parting of the curtains and story, since we know there are as many truths in the play of life as there are actors on its stage. Let us not even contemplate the views of the audience in the event we get overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities of, truth.

We could start this story with another word instead, peace. Some might say that it is the brother of truth. That they hold hands and to find one is to find the other. It is such a small and in some ways, insignificant word, peace, yet its profundity drives so many of us to do extraordinary things in its pursuit. It has the appearance of an ever-shifting mirage, one we chase in vain across the plains of our lives. We look at those who find it with a kind wonder and even some unspoken envy.

So then, let us start the story with peace or the lack thereof on the Dark Continent that is Africa, a farm in some small corner of its vastness where a bloody war is raging and the child that stood crying amongst it, terrified.

“Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.”

― Karen Blixen, Out of Africa