I saw Martin again three days ago. This time I didn’t slink away as I did the first time when I saw him two years ago. At first I thought to myself, “what are you thinking, what if he’s violent?” But as these self-serving thoughts were doing the rounds in my head, I saw him go on his knees and drink from a puddle on the side of the road.
As I watched, memories from school came rushing back; this was the guy who had protected every small kid. He did not do it because they would help him with his math or because this would translate into free sugar in morning as we went for breakfast.
Martin was as bright as the best of them. He was just a gentle strong man. And here he was drinking dirty brown water.
His hair is still matted as it was last year. His body has obviously not been scrubbed in months, maybe years. He walks around in a daze, blood-shot eyes staring at nothing.
This time, because he had on pants, I thought there could be a chance to get through to him. The first time, he was naked and he had no care in the world. Seeing Martin drink the water made something within me break. I didn’t care if he was violent or not, I had to get through to him somehow. I quickly went to a nearby shop, bought a bottle of water and as I came back, bought two big bananas.
I felt strange, of course. As I neared him, I could see the many faces that turned away from him. No one wanted to stare at the mad man. The women steered as far away from him as possible and that was probably a wise thing.
So there I was, standing in front of Martin Aliker, holding two bogoyas and a bottle of Rwenzori mineral water.
“Hi, Martin. Want some water?” I started. That didn’t sound right by any measure. The boda boda man who was driving past suddenly had something to look at. Probably he was thinking, “Poor sod, you are going to get beat and it’ll serve you right.”
He actually came forward. When I asked if he remembered me, “We were in school together…,” he smiled thinly.He grabbed the bounty and walked over to the low wall. We were standing just outside Bat Valley primary school. There’s a low wall there on which people usually sit. That’s where Martin had been sitting. Occasionally, he’d walk over to the road and drink from the puddle.
He chucked the stuff over the wall. Calmly.
Whoever had taken over his head was telling him something. They were having a silent conversation and my intrusion was treated as such.
He doesn’t remember me. I would like to say it’s because it’s been years since we were in school together but I know better.