As I said before, there was no set plan what I wanted to do during this sabbatical. One thing I did think off was to write a novel. A love story partially set in Africa.
I wrote the first twenty pages in the Caribbean but never completed it. Oh, and I wrote the ending too.
I don't have a plot. Not written anyway. It is all in my head. That, and the title. Here are the first lines:
At last the sun rose, in a veil of pink, orange and red, bright, and vivid. The clouds forming a low mist ring around the hills, tried to hold on as long as they could, sheltering the valleys from the warm sun to come. Wrinkles of smoke coming from some huts and villages in-between the hills mixed with the mist, creating the unique intense smell of humid wood fire –almost sandalwood - he always linked to this place. The leaves from the banana trees, the palms, the mango trees in the garden would be dripping of dew by now..
The mango tree. ‘The big one’, she called the one in the corner of the garden in his house. ‘You know, Jack, the big one, is one of the reasons why I always come here, to your house’, she once said laying with her head on his chest on the deck chairs on the terrace, ‘Him and you.. The big one always gives me shade when I want to sit here on your terrace, and you… you… give me everything else.. almost..’ Her mouth had curled into her typical mysterious smile.. Sometimes she was so difficult to follow, to understand, to grasp. Spoke in a symbolic language one moment, and was so direct in her remarks and questions at other times that it hurt. Jack remembered that moment. He had kissed her forehead and stroke her hair. The moment, that weekend had been perfect, and there were no needs for words.
The sun climbed fast, and he got out of the vehicle, looking at the sky.. ‘Where were they?’ Wagonga, from the air control tower, called him on his walkietalkie. ‘Jack, channel 14, HF’. He jumped back in the car, switched on the shortwave radio, and tuned the antenna. The background noise disappeared and he heard clearly ‘Roger Entebbe Control, runway 14, approaching and switching to VHF 118.2. United Nations UK95 out’. Good old Sam’s voice… He did not see the twin engine plane yet, but he knew which direction it would come from, and tried to focus his sight on the horizon. Once again both Jack and Sam were connected to her. Both of them had, without hesitation, taken control of the situation and done what needed to be done. ‘Lisa, my god, Lisa.’ He looked over Lake Victoria at the end of the runway, trying to spot the approaching plane, and imagined how the fishermen must be making their way for their daily catch of Nile Perch, the local delicatessen, and then tie the fish over the back of their bicycle and ride them to the market later today.
The Beechcraft plane had switched on its bright white landing lights, and for a while this was the only thing he could see, those lights, as it approached. Sam made a perfect landing, idled the pitch of the propellers and turned onto the tarmac in front of the airport building, coming to a standstill fifty meters from Jack’s car and the Red Cross plane next to it.
For a moment, there was no more Entebbe airport, no more people rushing about, getting the Red Cross plane ready. No more friends and colleagues standing around him, no more doctor and nurse walking to Sam’s plane. He just focused on the door of the plane. It swept open, and Sam, good old Sam, pulled the stairs out, and started to give orders to the ground crew. Sam came up to him: ‘Jack, come with me.’ and snapped him out of his daydreaming. No more shouting now, but a soft, considerate, determined voice. ‘Jack, she came to conscience just for a minute during the ride. She called for you. Go with her, you have my blessing. Take care of her, she is in a bad shape.’. As he turned away his head, not to show his tears, his voice broke ‘Please take good care of her, she is now in your hands. Yours and God’s.’
Jack’s mechanical and practical mind took over, as he walked to the stairs of Jack’s plane. He instructed the handling crew to take her stretcher slowly and horizontally. The nurse held the plastic bag of serum up, and slowly they moved her to the waiting plane. Before he knew it, the engines started up, and he was sitting next to her.
‘Lisa, Lisa’, was all what his heart said, whispered, shouted, cried. It was weird, she did not look different from the last time he saw her, about two weeks ago, when she left for her usual one month tour of duty in Gulu, about one hours flight north of here. A normal goodbye, a hug, a kiss, a ‘be careful’. But he forgot in this line of work, each goodbye might mean two people might never see each other again. ‘How much we all had taken life for granted. Did I really enjoy every single moment I shared with her? To the fullest? It might have all been past now, with no more future. Never a word again from her, not a glance, not a touch, not a breath’, he thought, as he touched her hand and moved a brush of her long black hair way from her face. Her face felt hot, but it looked like she was sleeping, in a soft deep sleep, resting. The doctor lifted the white sheet covering Lisa, and only then Jack saw the wound in her side, and the blood on the sheet. The deep cut from the machete.
Maybe for the next sabbatical?