Phantoms of the past


The door opens behind my back as soon as I enter the store. I wasn’t expecting anyone so soon. It’s the first customer of the day. A woman walks up to me and asks for a candle with the incense of jasmine. “We don’t have it in stock. Please try some other aroma,” I said.

She takes her time, goes through everything, sometimes nodding her head. I see burn marks all over her black body. She is beautiful but her face is riddled with troughs. “What happened, dear?” I asked rubbing her arms. She looks at me and starts crying. “Rwanda…” she mumbled. Ah, the massacre. “I was there when it happened. I somehow fled. I…”

I wrap myself around her. She gives in to a big hug from an old woman. I back off immediately finding it difficult to breathe. “Please allow me to sit for a while. I need my strength,” I said. I take a seat and get her one as well. “This one is for you. I hope you have time.” She nods.

I tell her my story. Her face swells up in empathy. Tears fill her eyes. She wipes and wipes. “Here, take this piece of cloth. You may wash your face if you want,” I said.

“This is way beyond what happened to me and my family. We suffered but you lived in hell for months. Now I can take my place in society thinking about what you have done. This will give me courage. I wanted to die each day, unable to muster the courage. This stops now.”

I am glad my story gave some strength to another victim. Remembering the past gave me the strength to go ahead in the future. I endured something so harsh, life doesn’t seem difficult to me anymore. I can wither away in peace knowing I did well to have a new family after losing the one I had during childhood.


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