He came into the world when she was thirteen, alone and friendless, the midwife hurriedly turning her back on the mud walled hut. She held him scared and nervous as the last light filtered through the open plains of the delta, serenaded by the hyena’s call and thrashing legs through grass. She thought his face beautiful, handsome.
“You are loved Tsabo.”
He was four when she found him naked and silent on the ground, Milky Way a warming blanket to her spirit in the still autumn night. She lay next to him staring as if the heavens could bring back her people, his father, her lover. What more to life than this, a strange child, a strange universe, a riddle without clues?
“You know they will not let me be mother.”
“I have waited for your first words. These were not my hope.”
“They are what they are. They are for you alone.”
“We still have time?”
“We still have time.”
When he was seven they returned him as fast as he left. She read fear on their faces.
“There is nothing for us to do Anna, nothing to teach.”
“Is not my son smart?”
“We have nothing to give he does not have. He is our equal and more.”
Tsabo sat silent cross-legged on the dirt, the baked earth’s dust a thousand lost dreams rising, swirling.
“Then what is to become of him?”
“We have filled the papers, he has passed the school. As the lower, the higher. What more is up to him.”
Tsabo stirred. “Do not concern yourself for my sake. The blind may only teach the blind.”
He was ten when he came to her restless and troubled. They sat as mother and son, adult and child, pupil and teacher.
“I must leave this place.”
“There is more to this world than the limit of your eyes mother.”
“May I come?”
“If you wish.”
When he was twelve the reek of butter and goat milk clung to her, sandalwood ash floating down to the stones on which she lay. Five days and five nights he sat unmoving as the mandala was made and unmade, chants sung and unsung.
“… eternal unbound, the shell an illusion the dream reality.” Lumbum whispered to her.
“To what end? If the I dissolves then the I will fight.”
“As it must, yet the I must conquer the I, a sacrifice to itself, an eternal stream of consciousness, rebirth and redeath.”
Tsabo stood. “If you look inside you do not see without. If you look outside you do not see within. To see everything you must not look at all.”
They bought him back when he was twenty as they had taken him. Unforced, unshackled, silent. They stood back respectfully, persecutors and victim, captors and prisoner, weakness and power.
“We are deafened by his silence. We are weakened by his submission.”
“What have you done to my son in this year you have stolen from me?”
“Nothing he did not allow.”
“Everything mother. Strength flows only from weakness, dominion from servitude.”
They scorned him when he was thirty, denying him power and authority he never sought. For fear of the world they embraced him; for love of themselves they rejected him; their self-loathing sent him away. They turned their faces rich from poor, powerful from weak, disease from cure.
“You are not for us so you must be against.”
“You say nothing against us so your heart must condemn.”
“The people hear you so your words must be lies.”
Tsabo wept. “A mirror held to the world sees the truth; the world sees only the light it chooses to cast.”
He was thirty three when they came for him in the evening desert coolness. The old one of full beard and missing eye; the youthful one with blue skin and seven snakes; the one of saffron and buttered skin; the one with pierced hands. She searched their eyes as they searched her heart.
“What is it you will make of him?”
“Nothing he has not made of himself.”
“And why do I see my son in your eyes?”
“For the reason we see him in all. The circle is completed.”
“The beginning is as false as the end. The illusion of time itself an illusion, the stream a point, the many the one.”
The light burned from five as one. As the light increased the stars faded to impenetrable eternal dark.
“Come to the light mother.”