I’ve been having these dreams about my friend Mark.
A series of them, of differing themes, but always, just before I wake up I see him, he is alive and all is well. Laughing. And I wake up, so relieved.
Just for a euphoric split second though.
Because then I realize it’s not true. Yes he is still dead.
And I have this Dylan song playing in my head
‘I’ve been thinking
Of a series of dreams
Where nothing comes up to the top
Everything stays down where it’s wounded
And comes to a permanent stop’
And I switch on the car radio. And its playing.
I met Mark in the early 90’s. He was sitting at Wildlife Camp bar, chatting to the barman in chiNyanja. For some reason there are not many wazungu* in Zambia who speak a local language and this was like a special, secret bond between us.
We worked together for two years in sister camps off in a remote part of the park. And became fast and firm friends.
Too many memories to put down.
Later, my dad bought a plot of land from him on his farm just outside Lusaka, and they became neighbours and good friends. So it was weird going back to Zambia. Driving past his house, less than a kilometere from my dad’s. And knowing that he wouldn’t be popping by later to see me.
And going to his house. Walking up the driveway, past the bourganvillea and he doesn’t come out the house with the biggest smile and the hugest hug. (He always did give the best hugs). No playful “ulibwa?’ Chuckle chuckle. Instead I see his 4 year daughter playing on the trampoline and his 2 and a half year old boy naked playing in the sprinkler. And he looks up at me and.
I am winded.
Yes Mark is here after all. Just different.
I try not to cry. I really try. I don’t know why. I suppose I want to savour the moment. Pretend like its not true. Like I’m just popping in as I always do.
His wife is not there so I try to leave, like if I go away, start over, the result will be different. But we meet in the driveway and still I try not to cry.
But it doesn’t work.
I somehow felt like I was on a different time zone to most other people in Lusaka. On a different schedule. Not to his wife who says now is worse than ever, and I didn’t see his sisters or parents, but…. I can’t really explain it. I had been in Tanzania when he was shot (he’d been on his way to pick up his daughter from school in the middle of the day, just a couple of kilometers from his house. The site is pointed out to me. It looks so normal) so I had felt somehow removed. I had cried. Oh yes I’d cried. Suddenly and unexpectedly while driving in the traffic. Washing the dishes. At baby bath time. Ground swallowing sobs that didn’t want to stop. But I hadn’t really been there to mourn, with his family, his other friends. Hadn’t been to his memorial. Hadn’t driven past his house. So it was like it had suddenly, shockingly, hit home.
He’s not coming back. And when I go back to Lusaka, he won’t be there.
So I cried some more. And some more.
And that night I dreamed about him again. But when I woke up he slipped out of my grasp. Clutching frantically at smoke. I know I dreamed about him. But this time I knew that he was really dead.