If Degu were alive..

September 18, 2008 at 7:54 am Leave a comment

As I was saying, I was at the Emergency Room of Dagmawi Menelik Hospital Saturday evening. I saw 4 people brought in that night due to accident (3 car & a woman who had a block from a building fall on the upper part of her body). One of the car accident victims, a girl of around 20 was in a really bad shape. A fact you can tell by just looking at her bloated face & unnaturally shinny skin. She was bleeding, shaking uncontrollably, and unconscious. What’s worse, nobody knew where she came from or where she was going. The driver has fled after the accident and “given his hand to the police”, or so we were told later. The two men who brought her had to drag her from underneath the smashed car, apparently. And who should come to my mind? That young man Teddy Afro has been accused of hitting and running. Degu Yibeltal. Age 18. Occupation: Street boy.

I started thinking about him. I wondered if he knew Teddy Afro. I felt he would. Would he have been his fan? Most likely. Would he have therefore wanted to get involved had he known he’d get the icon into this much trouble by simply dying? I did not think so. Money offers would have probably tempted him. But he would know, the minute he signed those papers, he’d become a reject among rejects. And not being a reject is an important thing in Ethiopia. Even in the streets. Especially in the streets. Who would you turn to when you have nothing more to give to your mangy dog and he dies or leaves?. When your night seems to call for more than a cardboard paper for a wall, smelly rags for a blanket, a bit more earth for a bed. It’s bound to be lonely, lying underneath God’s sky. You are bound to feel insignificant. And you’d want company. A shield, a friend.

Then I tried to imagine what would have been his fate were he to come back alive. No doubt, I argued, many a Teddy-Afro fans would like to give him a slap (the same way i wanted to give my relative a good one when her withered body became too heavy to handle). And he’d have probably apologized. Even attempt to have Teddy released by knocking at the door of all concerned individuals early in the morning. Who would have had him thrown out, and set vicious dogs on him. But he’d find a way. He’d grab the official’s leg and refuse to raise until heard. No amount of kicking or hitting on the head would make him let go. Between tears and whimpers, he’d present his case. He’d swear his wounds were inflicted by something totally unrelated, a mad dog bite, a fall in a ditch, a faceless homosexual maniac that attacked him one night. No trace of madness or evidences of rape being found in his body, he’d be thrown in jail for giving false evidence – on himself. He’d be let go after 72 hours. No victim showed up.

For some days he’d become a hero. The boy that said “no” to injustice! And paid dearly for it. He’d become the man of the Hour!! His uncle, wearing the traditional gabbi, with his hat in his hand, would give interview of his hopes and dreams for Degu. How he’s always known that boy was different, even when he kicked him out. He’d also add how wonderful Teddy Afro has been to his family, how he’s visited them only the other day and told the journalists that were with him it was their responsibility to see to it that such young men as Degu become productive citizens. And no, he didn’t adopt any one of their younger kids although the family did anticipate some such gesture.

An awkward photo of Degu Yibeltal, shaking hands with Dr. Negasso Gidada, while four of his friends tried to squeeze into the view next to him, would soon appear on “Rose” magazine. Endale Geta Kebede would write a pretentious little poem in his honor. Betwketu Seyoum scratches his goatee thoughtfully, prefering not to get involved. And Tagel Seifu would save the clip, to use it in one of his narratives.

In the meantime, his mongrel friends try to make a few “coins” by letting people touch the wounds in his hand and putting their fingers on his side (so they would stop doubting and believe). Which he doesn’t seem to mind, except being waken up from his sleep (which he doesn’t seem to get enough of these days, through hail and thunder) every other second. His 15 minutes of fame, however, won’t last long. The world would find another helpless wretch to torment. Another celebrity to run after. Another excuse to blame the government with. And Degu would go back to his cardboard wall, to his smelly rag blanket, and lie peacefully underneath God’s sky getting as much sleep as his body needs to heal. He might wonder, now and then, what his life would have been like if he took the money. Ask himself if he’s done the right thing in refusing, in going to all that length. If it was worth it.

A doubt whose answer he already knew.

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