I have played three games at international level for Nilemwe and I am in the squad to go to Gabon for next year’s Africa cup of Nations. When I return I shall likely be transferred to a big European League and earn more money than I ever dreamt possible. Then I will be able to buy my mum a fancy house in a more desirable neighbourhood of Chanzo City. And me? I’ll have an apartment with lots of rooms where I can dress in anything I want and pose in front of the many mirrors I’ll have.
Now I have to make do with my mum’s cracked mirror on her dressing room table.
I know my mum normally works till late in the afternoon – she weaves and sells plastic baskets – but sometimes she comes home early and once or twice she has caught me dressing in her clothes. She was horrified when that happened and once she called the witch doctor to help cure my affliction.
I look back on that day now and laugh – to think they thought ‘cross dressing’ was caused by my being possessed by evil spirits. But that day I was scared beyond belief. My stomach was liquid and I couldn’t stop quivering.
My mum squatting in the corner, and me wearing only football shorts. Kneeling in front of the Witch Doctor. Around his neck was an unnerving array of small animal bones, a long yellow rhino tooth and dubious juju fragments. Standing in sawn off wellington boots and dressed, in a bottom half of a faded mauve tracksuit, a red monkey waistcoat, a wilting feather head dress, white eye-makeup, and considerably grotesque, yellow and green facial paint. He looked like he had just re-entered earth’s atmosphere. He began ‘washing’ my face with goat’s blood and muddy water from the Holy River and then slapped coarse, grey powder – supposedly ground from mountain gorilla bones – onto my head. The marrow in my bones melted.
Then, all of a sudden, our catholic Priest, Father Salumba entered with a blast.
“What in the name of sweet bleeding Jesus do you think this horse shit might achieve?”
The witch doctor turned an evil-eyed shamanic face. His voice was high pitched and shrill. “This youth is possessed. I am ridding him of the spirits that invade his tortured soul.”
Father Salumba grabbed the witch doctor by his waistcoat and dragged him to the blanket door. “Get the hell out you crazy heathen quack!”
But the witch doctor was not done yet. “Do not let rain water enter his mouth. When he sleeps…you must…cover his legs…” – before he was forced headlong through the door.
That was the day Father Salumba threatened me with the police if I did not go to the youth club to play football with the other boys. And that’s how my life turned around. Soon I was playing semi-professional football.
So witch doctors cure obviously never worked. Otherwise I would not have been so excited about parading around the Big Market in a lemon pinafore and high heels.