There’s something wrong with this scene. A square room, the floor patched with puddles of water here and there. At the corner stands a girl. Barely 6 years old, you estimate. She seems aloof, distant, withdrawn, as if looking beyond the cracked concrete wall, into nothingness. She seems very familiar. Too familiar. You want to call out her name. But you can’t remember it. A repetitive noise keeps coming from the ceiling. Tip. Tap. Tip. Tap. As if some ghost lurking on the other side, looking for a way into your world. You’ve heard Tanzanian stories about ghosts that lurk in the night. Spirits of dead ancestors, wishing malice upon the living.
There’s a paleness about this girl. A shade of shocking pale white, bordering on pink. And the way she just stares at the wall, refusing
to blink. Maybe she’s the ghost. Something somewhere at the recesses of your mind tells you her name is Nduta. So you call out to her,
and she turns to face you. No, her name can’t be Nduta. Nduta is your daughter’s name. Your beautiful little girl. There’s a scary emptiness in her eyes. You realize she’s started crying. You want to ask her what’s wrong, but you already know the answer. Everything. An involuntary tear escapes your eye. Everything’s wrong. You know she’s not real. It’s been like this for years. You see her face in all places and spaces. You see her face in the small girl in green uniform holding her mother’s hand on a rainy Friday afternoon.

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You see her face in the mirror when you’re washing your face in the morning. Each time you see her, you shed a tear. Each time you see her you mumble inwardly, a silent prayer to whoever people pray to. You wish you had one last moment with her. One last Sunday afternoon to watch her play quietly in her room. One last Monday morning to pack lunch into her bag as you prepare her for school. But you’ll never have one last moment. Bygones. It’s been five years since you last saw her face. That pale pinkish face with the cheeky grin. Ever since you had given birth to her,
people would talk behind your back about her. The way she was pink when everyone else was black. They called her an abomination, a mistake, one of nature’s pitfalls. Your husband left you when you bore her, called you a cursed woman. But you loved her. With a passion. You loved her to death. You loved that pale skin and the yellow hair. And you refused to listen to other people’s words. She was your daughter. It’s been five years since you saw her face. That fateful Tuesday afternoon when you went to pick her from school. She was nowhere to be seen. You searched frantically, asked desperately. Nothing. You couldn’t find her anywhere. You ran to Mwanza Central Police station. Filed a missing persons report. They promised you they’d do their best. You went home that evening hoping you’d find her there. You didn’t. You cried like a child. You cried till your eyes hurt. When you couldn’t cry any more, you screamed till you lost your voice. Five years since you saw her face. She was barely six years old. You keep hoping, hanging on to threads, that you will see her again. But you know she’s gone. Tanganyika is no place for a six-year-old with pink skin. You’ve heard the stories, how their organs can cure any type of illness. How they’re worth millions in market value. It’s a booming business, you hear. You don’t want to imagine that’s what happened to your daughter. You keep hoping
that’s not what happened to your daughter. There’s something wrong with this scene.

This story is by Jude Mutuma

 
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