Uwi and Kay

UWI AND KAY (Part 1 of 6). I stormed out of Kayumba’s room. After twelve years, I couldn’t believe this is how things were going to end between us. “Uwi, let me explain — “ he tried as he ran after me. “Explain what? That everything we’ve shared since we first left home when we were eight was a lie? That you’re not just going to marry a pretty little woman your family picks like an obedient Rwandan? Or that your family didn’t just call and ask if they should begin negotiating the bride’s price? Are you that stupid that you thought I’ll never find out?” I screamed. I didn’t care that people in the university corridors were staring at us. “Ask me which family mine is about to speak to,” Kay said calmly. At that point, I thought I was going to attack him. Was he really asking me to ask him about the girl he was about to marry? “Fine, I’ll just tell you. They’re a small family back home in Rwanda with the most beautiful daughter in the world — “ Kay began. “So you KNOW her already?” I screamed. He was really asking for it. “Uwimana, will you just listen to me please? I don’t really know the family, but I do know the daughter. In fact, I met her in a science class when we were made lab partners. And she’s had an unbreakable hold on my heart ever since.” I paused, confused. “Even though we were in a different country, with her around, I never missed home. Over the next twelve years, she became my first thought as I woke up each morning and my last thought as I went to bed each night,” Kay continued. “Wait. So unless you’ve had another woman in your life this whole time, the person you want to marry is — “ I began. “You, Uwi,” Kay finished, “but I wanted to do it right, which is why I was speaking to my family about speaking to yours. I think it’s time they met, don’t you?” I blushed. Uwi reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a ring made from a copper wire. “It’s always been you, Uwi. I knew it right from that time we made those circuits together in lab, which is when I stole this wire. I’ve kept it with me all these years, waiting for the moment I could put it on your finger,” he said. “And then replace it with a real diamond, I hope,” I said playfully. “And then replace it with whatever you want, starting with all the happiness in the world. If only you’ll let me,” he said sweetly. “You really are stupid,” I said as I put on the copper wire, which I really couldn’t believe he’d saved #LumLoves

Uwi and Kay

Trigger warning: Violence UWI AND KAY (Part 4 of 6). Gahi and Duku excitedly opened up their bags to show me their loot for the day. I tried to drown out their commentary as I read about how we could get an international organization to intervene and stop this insanity. “She was hot. But also stupid,” Duku said. “Yeah who gives up all their money and diamonds to hold on to a copper wire,” Gahi snickered. I looked up from my reading. “What did you just say?” I asked, careful to control my blood pressure. I hadn’t hurt a single person in the war so far, and I certainly didn’t want to start with my ‘friends’. “Oh she was smoking hot. We scored her in our Hutu land, probably on her way to that stupid mosque hospital. She gave us everything and wanted to leave without trouble, but then Duku saw this worthless copper wire ring and asked for that. That’s when she lost her mind and started attacking us. So we pinned her to the ground and made her pay appropriately. Wasn’t easy thought. She had a lot of fight in her,” Gahi said. I could feel my blood boiling. “Give me the copper wire,” I breathed. They looked at me, clearly confused. I had never asked for any of their spoils before. “Give. It. To. Me,” I repeated. I was so angry that I felt all my senses beginning to numb. A few hours later, I threw Duku and Gahi’s tied up bodies onto the door of the mosque. It had taken every last bit of my self control to leave them breathing, but I knew that they would only survive long enough for Uwi to arrive and see them take their last breaths. I then drove into the Tutsi camp, straight to Uwi’s house. I climbed up into what I hoped was her room, and saw her lying down motionlessly. My heart broke as I placed the copper wire ring on her dresser as quietly as I could. “Kay?” she mumbled, clearly fiddling around for the light switch. I ducked out of the window before she turned on the light, jumped down, and ran into my car as quickly as I could. I think she came out to her balcony to look for me. I accelerated. I didn’t have the courage to see her, or to let her see what I had turned into that night #LumLoves

Uwi and Kay

UWI AND KAY (Part 2 of 6). Uwi and I walked through the field on the way to my house. So much about Rwanda had changed, yet so much was still the same. On one hand there were French and Belgian signs cropping up everywhere; and on the other, traditional radio stations still boomed through the fields. Uwi was exceptionally quiet through the walk. Uneasy, almost. “Don’t worry, my family will love you,” I said, lightly touching her hand. If people saw us engaging in any public displays of affection, I would fear for our safety. “It’s not that,” Uwi said. She looked around nervously. “Is everything okay?” I asked, obviously concerned. “It’s just all this talk about cockroaches and going to work is making me nervous. I’m scared for our land. Just listen to the radio all around us,” Uwi said. That’s when I heard it. One clear sentence. “Cut the tall trees.” Our war command, to finally get rid of those arrogant cockroach Tutsis that ruled over us for so long. “Finally!” I said, as I saw Uwi turn pale, “Don’t worry, I will destroy them and return victorious in time for our wedding.” Uwi looked at me, with fear in her eyes. Oh no. She couldn’t be... “Uwi, show me your national ID card,” I said hesitantly. She didn’t move. “Uwi. Show. It. To. Me,” I repeated. She hesitantly handed me her card. A giant sun was stamped on it, with the word “Tutsi” clearly inscribed. How had we not thought to check our tribe... I guess our cultures were similar enough that we must have just assumed that we were from the same one. But the fact was, that we weren’t. She was Tutsi and I was Hutu. I looked around me as families ran into the streets with machetes. My heart sank, as I reached into my pocket and pulled out my gun, aiming it straight at Uwi. I blinked back the tears and tried to steady my hands as I watched her reach for her gun. Neither of us had ever missed a shot. I watched people run past us, as we stood in a deadlock with guns pointed at each other. For the first time ever, I wanted with my whole heart to miss #LumLoves

Uwi and Kay

UWI AND KAY (Part 5 of 6). I rolled my eyes, but was secretly glad on the inside. The Hutus were not going to show up to a “peaceful” secret brainstorm session about how we could seek international aid. Twenty minutes later, they showed up in a massive contingent filled with some dangerous killers. And Kay. I walked past him to welcome the Hutus in, trying to be indifferent. Only he could see me failing. Thirty minutes later, the “discussions” began as the spies and assassins on each side glared at one another, ready to attack at the drop of a hat. I avoided eye contact with Kay, but kept my eyes fixed on the woman next to him so he remained in my field of vision. Forty minutes later, I received a note from one of the neutral negotiators with instructions to go to a deserted part of the nearby compound. Kay. Or so I hoped. I hesitantly excused myself and made my way to the designated spot. Kay was standing there, with his back toward me. I stood behind him for a few seconds, and finally mustered up the courage to tap his shoulder. He turned around slowly, with tears in his eyes. In that moment, I knew he felt exactly what I felt — that all hope was lost. For any sort of an agreement — for us — and for Rwanda. His eyes woefully traced my new scars as I tried to slip off my copper wire. Unable to look at his face, I quickly shoved it in his hand and walked away. As soon as I was five steps away, I couldn’t take a single more. I ran back to him, gave him a tight hug, and let the tears flow around what we almost were, and what we could have been #LumLove

Uwi and Kay

UWI AND KAY (Part 3 of 6). I walked into the Masdjid with my first aid kit in hand. So many wounds, so much pain. And the crippling reminder that I probably couldn’t take most of it away. “I still don’t understand why you come to this place Uwi,” my best friend Nadine grumbled as she handed me my gloves, “it’s filled with Hutu dogs mixed with us Tutsis. Why can’t we just go to a Tutsi camp and help our people.” I put down my kit and scrubbed in, trying to drown Nadine out. “I mean, don’t you remember what we learned in school? These Hutus drove our people out from our own lands! Your family was literally the first to swear revenge on every last one of them. And now here you are, walking through dangerous Hutu territories everyday to get to this broken down neutral ground and save their lives? You have lost your mind,” Nadine reminded me for the tenth time. “No, I have just found my humanity,” I whispered silently as I dressed a Hutu man’s wound. The truth was that when Kay pretended to drag me off at gunpoint so no other Hutu would get to me, I felt like I was more than a Tutsi chief heir — I felt like I was valued for the human I was, beyond just my social standing. Somehow, having a Hutu save my life — even if it was the man I loved who I could probably never see again — took away my generations-long internalized thirst for Hutu blood. But I couldn’t tell people that. Just like I couldn’t admit to anyone that I wanted to help because these were Kay’s people, which made them my people. Just like I couldn’t admit to myself that maybe the real reason I went there everyday was to confirm that my recurring nightmare of seeing Kay lying in one of those beds hadn’t come true just yet #LumLoves

Uwi and Kay

UWI AND KAY (Part 6 of 6). I ran out of my house. It was almost sunrise. By the time I reached the mosque, I was panting. I wasn’t as fit as I once used to be. I stood in my usual spot by the giant tree, tucked away in the hustle of everyday Rwanda right outside the mosque. I had no way of knowing if I had arrived in time, so I waited patiently. I was getting better at waiting without complaining. I felt like I’d had a lifetime of practice. Thirty minutes later — and a full fifteen minutes later than usual — my sunshine walked out of the mosque. She sat by the marble staircase and looked at my reflection in them. Just like she had done every day for almost twenty five years. That day was the 25th anniversary of our engagement. I closed my eyes. Uwi was walking towards me. Just as she passed me, she “tripped” straight into my arms. I quickly whispered ‘happy 25th anniversary’ to her as I helped her straighten herself back up. She smiled, said thank you, and walked away — knowing full well that I could live out another twenty five years in the warmth of that embrace. I opened my eyes. Uwi was still sitting on the staircase, looking at my face in the marble with tears in her eyes. I shook my head and smiled at her. She smiled back through her tears. We didn’t have much time — probably another second before people would begin to notice. In that second, we locked our gazes in the marble and smiled as we saw our lives pass by. All those moments in the lab. Those stolen kisses at university. The proposal. The future we dreamt about. The reality we came back to. The hope we watched die. And the love we silently held on to. Nadine walked out of the mosque. Our time was up. And then they both walked past me without even looking at me, as they did everyday — knowing full well that I could live out another twenty four hours in the second we had just shared; and that I could live out an entire lifetime in the memories of those few seconds I spent an eternity waiting for each day #LumLoves