Clutching his black worn out satchel, Mark trudged on. He stopped for a moment and looked up towards the monastery. He had about two more kilometres to go. He had been hiking up the trail to Stavrovouni Monastery. Trevor his old teacher was now a resident tutor at the monastery. He had been to his former college to locate Trevor but was told he left six months ago. Hours and days of searching for information finally revealed that Trevor was now serving at Stavrovouni.
Mark was on leave. He had been serving in Iraq for six months. He had seen his friends and mates murdered right before his eyes. He had seen his mates blown to pieces right under his nose. He had seen the Iraqis kill themselves. He had seen his mates lose limbs and become incapacitated. He had seen families lose hope because of the demise of a loved one. The most recent one being the demise of Katenda. He stood at the cemetery glued to the ground, oblivious of what was happening around him. All the while his eyes were fixed on Katenda’s young wife, Kilinel and baby son, Katenda Jnr. When the wife put to birth, Katenda was away on duty in Iraq. He had talked so much about his impending trip back home so that he could see his son and wife Kilinel again. He dreamed about his son and wife every night. Katenda and Mark would often stay up till late talking about how they would spend their time when they got back to England. This was the only therapy they could make do with after all the blood shed they had witnessed.
Katenda wrote letters to his unborn son. Daily he logged his experiences so that his son would read about a world that had lost conscience. As infantry men, and soldiers they followed orders. They did not question orders, however their postings had made them to realise how a people who were stable, have been rendered worthless and useless as a result of their intervention. “I have witnessed the dearth of cultures and the wiping out of a generation. The question I have often asked myself is let’s flip the coin around. If this were to happen in England, how would we react, what devastation would occur, how would we handle the takeover of our country by people from outside who have no clue or who think they have an idea about our way of life” Mark would ask himself.
Then two days before Katenda’s departure, an ambush was laid for Katenda’s team. They were on patrol. And the explosions and explosives. Oh damn! Katenda did not make it. Shattered dreams. Broken images. Broken families. Widowed wife. Fatherless son. Then eulogies and all kinds of encomiums. Like T.S. Eliot would say ‘wasteland’.
Questions bothered Mark. Nights turned to torment. Daytime was a waiting horror. Mark lost appetite for food. He dreamt of Katenda and himself daily. He kept seeing Katenda with his brave heart saying to him that he has made it to the other side. “He talks to me and when I ask him questions, he does not answer. When I stretch out my hand to touch him, I touch space” Mark soliloquized to himself.
He wondered how his wife would receive the news. He wondered how his son would grow up to be taken to his father’s grave and lied to, that he died a brave man defending the integrity of mankind. Katenda always had a photo of his wife in his wallet, a photo of his son and his little pocket book that he wrote letters to his son. These were all blown to pieces. Mark used to read and listen to these letters and they were weighty letters. Mark promised himself that he will re-write these letters and present them as a souvenir to Katenda Jnr.
What about his young family? What crime did that boy commit, to be born into such a cruel world? Can’t see his daddy except images and videos and letters.
After the funeral and the rite of passage, Mark decided he was going to look for his old teacher Monsieur Trevor. Mr. Trevor was not just a teacher, to them, he had been like a father.
Mr. Trevor never missed any teaching moment. What made him stand out amongst other teachers was his ability to connect whatever he was teaching his students with life’s skills. Now that character building was in short supply; now that everybody had rights including animals, human beings were losing out on the right to know left from right, right from wrong because everything considered wrong before was becoming acceptable now.
Mark had some questions bothering him. He needed answers. He spoke to the chaplain Major(Rev) Smith and he did not get the answers. The only person who kept coming to his mind was Mr. Trevor. So after Katenda’s funeral at Croydon, he set out to Ingram High school to locate Mr. Trevor. After series of searches and leads, he was able to locate his last known destination, the Stavrovouni Monastery at the hills in Cyprus. He boarded a flight to Lanarca and travelled down to Paphos. When old Andrew dropped him off at the base of the mountain, he decided he would trek up to the monastery.
He was drained. He needed that trek. For the past few months, life has been such a haze to him. He knew that he was losing the plot and needed help so badly. Chaplain couldn’t help him; doctors couldn’t help him. Family and relatives couldn’t help him. He knew that perhaps Trevor could help him.
His mind kept going back to an incident that occurred when he was in year eleven. Tinashe was a young boy who had just arrived Ingram and he was on the medical register for epilepsy. It was spring and quite nippy for spring when in the class, Tinashe had a fit. He stiffened and foam was coming out of his mouth. Everybody ran away. People were scared and Mr. Trevor walked calmly to Tinashe. He held him with so much kindness and laid his hands upon Tinashe and prayed for Tinashe. Tinashe came back to himself and was well instantly. Mark had never seen anything like that in his life. Majority of the kids had never seen anything like that. They didn’t go to church. Most of them did not believe there was a God. They just lived life as it came. It was so surreal to see at one instance a boy under a fit return to normalcy. They were expecting to see a paramedic staff come by and then here steps Mr. Trevor out to demonstrate another aspect of himself. From that day the students all started listening to Mr. Trevor and taking him seriously. He became the students’ unofficial counsellor, adviser, resident priest and father. Mr. Trevor told the students tales about life that sometimes cracked the students up but the most important lessons the students learnt from him, were the golden nuggets of life.
Mark brought out his water bottle and took a sip. He wiped the perspiration from his face and trudged on.
Another incident came to his mind as he plowed on the Stavrovouni mountain. It was the incident between Ingram and St. Mary’s students. It was after school and Saint Mary’s boys had invaded the entire perimeter of Ingram. Ingram boys were scared to death, they wouldn’t venture out. Where were all the tough Ingram kids. They had ran to the toilet to lock themselves up. Saint Mary’s boys meant business. The headteacher Mr. Stewart called the police but before the police arrived, Mr. Trevor came out and walked to these boys and squared them up and they dissolved like butter and the Ingram boys went home. By the time, the police arrived, everything was under control. And from that time, everybody in the school had massive respect and fear for Mr. Trevor. What did he do to those boys? What did he say to them that dissolved them like butter?
One hour later Mark stood facing the huge gates of The Stavrovouni. His clothes drenched in perspiration.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2018