As they say, everything happens for a reason. Some are beyond our understanding and some we have no response but to leave to fate.
Lungi had not been a very good story to tell, but I had to contend with what was there. Betty, my brother’s girlfriend, never grumbled, even when my hard times continued.
My knee had a deep hole, and it was what kept me waiting. The nurse, who came to have a crush on me, struggled to subdue me, but that was not my priority at that time. She kept all my medication and wanted me to go to her home for treatment.
My partner and future wife, Theresa A. Johnson, sent some money so I could buy a ticket home. I feared to say goodbye to anyone not close to me; they would expect me to either leave my clothes or shoes or, worse still, leave them money. I had none of these, so I stayed quiet.
Before I left, I gave myself a day or two in pretense with my brother Peter A., or P.A. as he is known, and his girlfriend.
My foot still had an opening and I hated it. My walking was much improved, but I was not meant to run anymore. I cried when I thought about how I could be only a spectator in soccer. That haunts me to this day.
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I found courage in knowing that God had His perfect plans for me. Perhaps if I did not break my leg I would have suffered to the end or even been killed.
Despite rampant theft, I was able to return to Gambia quietly.
No one was there to pick me up at the airport. I was tied down and did not know what to do. My partner had her own plans.
I made a phone call after I secured a ride from the airport to my house. I was told not to go to my house.
While I was away, my older brother had come to my house on vacation. My house was expensive, but I managed it with difficulties. My brother and his family had left my house after a fight with a tenant. He thought I was aware of the disgrace meted on his family, but how could I have known?
Theresa said, “Please don’t come to your house. There was confusion. You may go there, but there is no place (for you).”
“Where do you sleep?” I asked her.
“Well, my sisters in the U.K. sent me money, and I am renting elsewhere. Some close friends and neighbors said I should break up with you and live on my own,” she replied.
I left the airport and decided to see my friend Medlove Brima, who had already had a child with my younger sister, Rachael Kanjia. I met and became friends with Medlove because his younger brother was my classmate.
Medlove had helped me in the hospital in Banjul. He accepted me into his home, allowing me to use one of his two rooms. He did this because I had kept him at my house when he fled from Sierra Leone as a refugee.
I took my handbag, which contained books but no clothes, and my toothbrush. My clothes were either stolen or too old to bring back to Gambia. The clothes I had in Gambia were either stolen or given away by Theresa. At this point, my friends started talking about me and pointing fingers at me for losing my house and having very few clothes to wear.
I had no job and no house to call my own.
To get back on my feet, I started writing articles for the BBC African Service. They were aired on the weekends. I made £48 (pounds), which was good money converted to the Gambian dalasi. Writing was also the way people knew I was around again.
I began settling in little by little. Some friends from the Point newspaper started visiting me and writing about my trip to Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, I called a few people and asked them to ask Theresa what was going on between us. She did not want to see me, even with our little loving daughter who looks very much like me. Theresa said angrily that her family felt she should not stay with me if we were not married. But I noticed that was not the underlying factor.
Theresa had decided to get a degree in computer networking. My sources very close to her explained every bit to me, and I was not disappointed. With the many troubles I had been falling into, and the lack of money to support myself and care for my broken femur, it was anyone’s guess why a woman would stay with me. I had no doubt that her sisters played a part in Theresa’s new attitude.
Also, according to my source, Theresa had fallen in love with her instructor, a young man who was preparing to go to England for an exchange program. They were on track to be engaged when I returned.
Theresa did not go to live with her mother. She stayed with me in our new house even though my presence rang a bell in her mind. Indeed, I was not a bad man. I was too gentle and loving; she knew it.
There was no doubt that I was on the market and that I was also very vulnerable to falling in love and marrying good girls, too. However, thoughts of my daughter made me keep quiet.
Theresa’s new boyfriend returned from Manchester, England, where her family lived. The man was called John Kamara. My sources told me that he posed as a Sierra Leonean but was really a Nigerian who used John Kamara, a Sierra Leonean name, on his passport.
John, or whatever his name really was, was a crook.
The change of nationality by false pretense was only to let him travel; a Nigerian would have trouble travelling to the U.K. and United States. John brought a lot of goodies for Theresa’s family, including a CD player, mobile phones and a good sum of money.
John and Theresa agreed to put the money in John’s account, as a couple. As God may have it, John absconded to England with a huge sum of money from the school. I pretended not to know what was going on, but I knew it all.
Theresa wanted to talk to me again. She was adamant about it. The whole thing was a sad episode as I was managing to get back on my feet again.
I finally said to Theresa one day, “Why can’t we bless our marriage in church? You have learned your lesson and you can lick your wounds while I am around you.”
She was furious and did not want to hear that. She argued bitterly, blaming her predicament on her parents in England.
Meanwhile, one of her brothers, Patrick Johnson, thought I was responsible for misusing his sister’s money. I kept quiet, but he did not relent. Whenever he saw me he threw verbal blows at me, including making fun of the new way I walked.
In the end, I realized, my proposal was only for her. But by now it was clear that if we were going to be married, now was not the time
Around the same time, I was grappling with the police, who kept arresting me for lacking a permit to live in Gambia. I was caught several times, and I told them I was just discharged from the hospital and was not yet gainfully employed.
The police asked me where I worked. I told them I used to work with the Catholic mission schools, but I broke my leg and left teaching to cure myself. This did not work.
The police took me to the station for me to defend my name and tell them I was no longer writing for any newspaper. But I was still writing, using a Gambian pen name, Manlafie Badjie. It turned out that I was quite smart, even smarter than the police.
I was invited to nearly all the police stations in the city area. This gave me a way to get more news about them and their prisoners, and gave insight into the community and activities going on.
My intention was to do my best and get money again to feed my family and dress well.
Life was returning to the normal huddles that I had always enjoyed with caution. Many friends told me it was dangerous to write for a newspaper — that I should call it off, relax, and become a teacher or do different stuff. But I kept writing and having my investigative journalism published.
I managed to care for my daughter and we became buddies; we did not miss her mother in any way. Life did not become a bed of roses, but God was with me.