A few weekends ago, I strolled out of my nest to see a barber at Chigoneka’s small market square in Lilongwe’s Area 47 Sector 2.
As usual I went full throttle, mocking the barber about his team’s misery on the local football scene.
As the hairdresser paid his usually exaggerated attention to my intermittent hair, a shabby looking girl appeared like lightning by the barbershop’s door.
She smiled, unsolicited, to reveal her yellowing teeth while running her left hand against her thick and oily short shrub of hair.
Her bony and trembling right hand was stretched in front of her in the direction of the barber.
Trembling like a reed by the fiery flowing river, she did so little to attend to her running nose.
With her eyes threatening to pop out any minute, she was the sight of a once beautiful girl now reeling under a seemingly strong spell of psychological nature.
‘Man, auze Big Man atitchule kenakake [Man, tell the Big Man to help with any little amount he can],’ the girl said.
With her words flew out a cloud of a tobacco-dominated disgusting odour.
Before the barber could utter a word, the girl invited herself in and sat on a wooden bench that ran the length of the barbershop.
The whine of the hair clipper seemed to burrow deep into the girl’s veins, sending her coiling like a disturbed caterpillar, before she burst into a command:
‘Amwene, simunga thimitseko chometeracho? Chikundisokosa! [Barber, can’t you turn that clipper off? It’s burrowing into my nerves!].’
The barber turned the clipper off.
My eye’s and the barber’s met, only to be interrupted by the girl’s actions.
She was now up and smiling at posters on the wall. She seemed to have remembered the stars in the pictures from a meeting they might have had somewhere along her dreamy psychological trance.
‘Mafana dyerera awa! [monied kids!],’ she said of the football players she saw in one of the sports magazine pages plastered on the wall.
She took a deep breath and with it seemed to sink her mind. She sat down on the bench and clamped her head between her knees, breaking into tears.
‘Komano nkhondoyo ikatha asilikali ambiri abwerera [but when the battle is over, many soldiers shall return],’ she said, to the bewilderment of the barber and I.
‘Mudzanditenge. Ndatopa ndi fodya ndima drugs! [Come pick me up, I’m tired of smoking and doing drugs!]’ She said as she stormed out of the barber shop.
She turned a corner and she was out of our sight.
The barber and I were left dumbfounded.
‘Koma ana awa akudzionongeranji? [why are these kids wasting themselves?]’ the barber wanted to know.
I had no answer.
There is a war sweeping over the youth, dragging them to the telling depths of substance abuse. It is a war our society has chosen to fight with inaction.
In the corner of my mind, I imagined the war in the girl’s mind. I saw evil soldiers stamping their feet against her part of brain responsible for rational thought.
I longed to see a day when her psychological war would be over. I longed to see our society pick up our armoury to confront this problem head on. n