Friday 27 February 2015

The Camp

by Diana Gitau

There were large tents in the middle of the compound surrounded by a high electric perimeter fence with barbed wire. The main gate was the only entrance and exit point and it was heavily guarded by the military with machine guns and two guard dogs. They kept telling us that we were not prisoners but at the same time, they emphasized that we should never even attempt to leave the compound. I am not sure how different this is from a prison. 

We wake up every day at 6:00am and have breakfast in one of the tents with long wooden tables and benches. Other meals are lunch at 1:00pm and dinner at 6:00pm.A guard stands and watches at all times. They still insist that we are not prisoners.

I have to stay at the camp for as long as it takes my embassy to get me out of this god forsaken country. You see, this is what they call a deportation camp. I was brought here a week ago in the cover of darkness. They didn’t allow me to carry my personal items from my hotel room. In addition, my passport was taken away from me.

The air around the camp is heavy with the smell of desperation and death. I had seen people brought in on their death beds. If you are seriously sick especially with any ailment considered communicable like tuberculosis, you get deported. There were other people who were at Halushi illegally having sneaked into the country by the sea. An oil rich country was a dream come true for most people. I saw a man at the camp who had lost his mind, it was rumored that he had amassed massive wealth at Halushi but his business rivals had found a way to get him deported. The camp was where they dumped people like us.

I don’t want to leave this wretched country. It’s not because I’m enchanted by its scenery, riches, great people or wonderful life that I had here. Leaving this hell will mean leaving Zuhura behind. I keep thinking of the day they took her away from my hotel room. I remember her eyes when she looked back at me, sad and defeated. They roughly pulled her away in handcuffs and reserved to her fate, she didn’t fight. 

In Halushi, they have both regular and moral police and we were found guilty by the moral police. I haven’t spoken to her since that evening. I wonder what they did to her. Halushi is home for her so unlike me, she will not get deported. I had no idea how the laws of the moral police operated.

I met Zuhura four months ago. She was a nurse at the hospital where I was volunteering. The first time that I saw her, I felt something that I had never felt before. Something inside of me stirred and when she smiled at me, my heart leapt.
“Is it a cultural norm from where you are from to stare like that?”

She teased and I stood there like an idiot with my mouth agape lost at the sound of her voice. She spoke English with a tinge of Arabic. Something about her made me want to learn Arabic so I could seduce her in her own language. 

I felt like an idiot when I realized that I was staring. I quickly mumbled something and rushed off. However, I was lucky to have other encounters like that with Zuhura after that. After a while, we started meeting at the cafeteria during our breaks. If our shifts ended at the same time, we would walk out together. 

“What are you two whispering about?” 

Jack was another doctor who like me was volunteering at Halushi. Despite the fact that we had a lot in common, I couldn’t stand him. It was obvious that he considered himself a ladies’ man. He shamelessly hit on me refusing to take no as an answer

“You need a man like me to protect you.”A chauvinist no doubt.

 I disliked him with every fiber of my being.. Unfortunately, I could saw other women who were impressed by his charisma. He was always surrounded by giggling women. It seems I was the only one immune to his charms so I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t let me go.

“Would you like to have coffee sometime?” It was Jack again. 

This time I was walking to my hotel. Zuhura was working the late night shift so I left her behind.

“I am in a bit of a rush.”

I tried blowing him off but unlike other days, I felt him pull my arm at my elbow in a not so gentle way. Startled, I looked up at him expecting his usual goofy grin but was met with a cold stare. 

“You and Zuhura seem to be getting really cozy.” I could feel his breathe on my neck as he whispered, drawing closer to me.

“It’s an offense you know, Halushi does not permit that kind of friendship if you know what I mean.”

I felt my body break out in a cold sweat. I knew what he meant, I had been told over and over again. Not only is any form of homosexuality treated as a criminal offense, but the penalty was quite harsh. I had heard stories of public flogging and just a year before a two men had been stoned to death after being suspected to being gay. I knew all these but at the same time, I never planned on falling in love with a woman at Halushi. Actually, I had never been in love with a woman before.

Although, I have always been attracted to other women, I have never acted on it. I have had boyfriends since 16. At 23, I married Luke and got stuck in a childless union that went on for four years. I was never happy with Luke. He was a wonderful man but something was lacking. I found myself crying most of the times even though couldn’t explain the source of my unhappiness. I thought it was Luke so I had an unfulfilling affair that didn’t last a month. That is when I left Luke and decided to become a volunteer across the globe and start out afresh.

Falling in love with Zuhura was the most natural thing. It was in the way that she smiled, laughed and talked. It was also in the way that she made me feel like the most attractive woman in the world. She was exotic and so was everything about her. She loved jazz music, black coffee, colorful rags, black and white films, abstract art and sandals. I have never met someone passionate about sandals before. Zuhura was the most interesting person that I have ever met. She also challenged me to be the woman that I was meant to be. I remember how I used to dress in jeans, t-shirts and boots every single day.

“What would your wardrobe look like if weren’t limited by budget, who is the women that you admire…”
She often challenged me. With time, I let my hair grow longer, traded my jeans for beautiful long skirts and I realized that I was now happier seeing the woman in the mirror. I liked her style. I explored with music and found out that I liked the classics although for the past four years I had always listened to opera, Luke’s music. That was the amazing thing about being with Zuhura. She never tried to change me to what she wanted; instead she encouraged me to be myself.

 I wasn’t living until I met her.

“So… how about that coffee and perhaps the three of us can be friends?”

That statement revolted me more than anything else about Jack. I felt my throat tightening and for a second, I couldn’t breathe. My eyes burned with unshed tears. I wasn’t going to share my Zuhura and this I firmly informed Jack.

“You will regret this Linda!”

I got home and sent Zuhura a text message. I just wanted to hear from her. I knew that talking to her would help me forget Jack and his vile comments. An hour later she was at my hotel room with a few beers and takeout dinner. 

We drank, watched an old Charlie Chapman movie and started dancing. Holding Zuhura in my arms and taking in the scent of her hair felt like heaven to me. At that moment, I forgot about Jack, the law and everything else. My life with Luke felt like another lifetime, with her is where I belonged.

I was still holding her when they busted into my room. I knew it was moral police by the white hypocritical uniform that they wore. Frankly, it felt like they tore my heart out of my chest as well. I struggled tried to get to her but this burly man acted as a barricade between me and Zuhura. I looked over his shoulder as she was taken away, stared until a curtain fell over my eyes as tears ran down my face. They tore her from my arms and that was the last time that I ever saw her.

I didn’t want to leave Halushi, not without Zuhura. However, there was nothing that I could do than sit in the camp and wait for the dreaded day when they would take me away from her completely and ban me from ever coming back.  Nobody seemed to notice my bleeding heart on the ground; they stepped on it and trampled it under their feet. I didn’t care anymore since there was really no point of living if I couldn’t be with the one who taught me how.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

The Evolution of Love By Kindell C Lewis

The evolution of Love by Kindell C Lewis

Dedicated to Travis Graham. Thanks for letting me take “our” story, elaborate, exaggerate and just plain old make things up. I am forever grateful for your love, loyalty and friendship.


As I sit beside my mother in the town I grew up in, I can’t help but have an attitude. Begrudgingly I write the name of the sermon and nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in God with all my heart. Sermons just really aren’t my thing. I have no concerns about my salvation. After all, I am Jesus’ favorite sinner.

Like a teenage girl I begin to scribble ridiculous things where my notes on the Ten Commandments should be. Things like my husband’s name, smiley faces and hearts. This is not exactly a normal thing for a thirty something year old woman to do. Maybe technology really has rotted my brain. I hate it when my dad is right.

Right on cue the devils tool of choice for communication aka the iphone, vibrates signaling a new text message. My mother shoots me an annoyed look. I return the annoyed look and add a glare.



I smile to myself . Good old James. He was my first love and my friend of 25 plus years. James had shown me happiness that I never knew existed and heart ache that I thought would surely kill me. James is the reason that I know love can grow, change and evolve. There is more than one kind of soul mate.

I officially check out of the sermon and wander down memory lane.

1992 Gold River Middle school, Oregon. Christmas Dance

Seventh grade was rough. I was an awkward gangly girl. I had glasses, braces and very little confidence, so it was no surprise that I was left sitting on a chair by the back wall of the cafeteria. I watched the popular kids dance and laugh with each other, as Cindy Laupers Time after Time blared through the speakers.

Soon the music shifted gears and Garth Brooks Shameless was playing. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my classmate James Garrison walking through the groups and clicks, scanning the crowd. James always stood out to me and this night was no exception. He was dressed in wranglers a nice button down shirt like the bull riders wear.  a Stetson cowboy hat and boots completed his look. Despite the fact that we were definitely country folk, not many kids dressed the part. I admired James for his originality. James was cool and funny.  He spoke to me every day in math. In fact we had held hands on a fieldtrip to the Oregon caves in sixth grade.

Suddenly I realized James was now walking towards me- straight towards me, with a purpose. With a tip of his hat he asked me to dance. Had he been looking for me that whole time? I’ll probably never know.

One hour and a few slow songs later, James whispered “Alice will you go out with me”?

I blushed and nodded as James pulled me closer. We swayed together in a perfect moment. In the background Madonna’s Crazy For You played……

Back in the present moment, Pastor Matt has finally cracked a joke about how Love Thy neighbor does not outweigh the all-important Thou shalt not convent they neighbors wife. I chuckle a sincere little laugh.  Pastor Matt is no comedian but he certainly is one of the genuinely good preachers on this side of heaven.

Buzzzzzzz The Devil is blowing my phone up today! My mother glares. I up the ante and return with an eye roll.

The screen displays a new text from James. “so do you give up”

My reply is “never. More please.” This is our code that more lyrics are needed to properly identify the artist and song in Name that tune.

The next reply is verses that I recognize almost immediately. The song has tumbled through countless a.m. radio stations for decades and blared through elevator speakers all over north America.

“Tender love is blind, It requires a dedication what we feel needs no conversation. As we ride it together uh huh, making love to one another (uh huh)”

I reply “Islands in The Stream; Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers.”

Of course. Classic rock and classic country are the only two genres that James really knows. Just like our little corner of southern Oregon, James preferred to stick to the familiar. Nothing wrong with that. I, on the other hand had to see what was out there. I needed to experience new places, different cultures. In fact I only came back twice a year to visit my family, and of course James.

My turn for name that tune…what to text ..what to text…

I allow my mind to wander back down memory lane. The rest of seventh grade was a blissful blur of all things James.  Receiving a rose on Valentines Day, wearing his jacket in the cold a first kiss at a football game, holding hands on the way to class…Looking back now, clearly I was losing my identity in James.

The cutesy memories soon give way to the painful.

It’s the last day of school. James has asked me to shoot hoops with him. I find this odd, but am excited to spend time with him”

As he dribbles the ball I watch his face. James was frowning. What was this?

“Alice” James began as he tossed me the ball.

“Yes , James”? My heart was beating so fast and hard that I could taste it. I throw the ball effortlessly into the basket.

“Good shot Alley…” James did not smile. He sits down on the blacktop and signals for me to join him. I ldo.

“Alice I think that we should break up for the summer. We’ll never see each other. You’re going to New York with your folks and well….ya know, “

“ok James” I say stumbling to my feet and sprinting towards the girls room, fighting back tears the whole way. I hear James call out after me,

“Alley! can we still be friends”?

That was the first night that I really noticed the moon. I cried for hours.

Back in the present, I am surprised to find that my heart still literally aches at the memory. Suddenly I know the perfect song for name that tune. I take out my phne. My mother sighs loudly. I raise the stakes and walk to the bathroom.

I text James.

you were so blind to let me go. You had it all but did not know. No one you find will ever be, closer to all your dreams than me.


Surely this gem of Mariah Carrey’s from 1993 will have him stumped. I return to my mother, and my seat.

As I drift back down memory lane I try to recall more details about James and I, but most are not sharp and clear like the first. There’s a blurry recollection of phone calls, being asked to be his girlfriend again, me breaking up with him, James breaking up with me, and a whole lot of kissing.  I mean Serious kissing.

The next clear memory I have its summer time in Southern Oregon and it’s HOT. I am standing in my parents garage which is detached from the house staring out the window. I am 14. I watch as James comes into view, pedaling through the heat down the long driveway. James used to ride his bike 10 miles just to make out with me. That’s pretty hardcore.

My phone catches me off guard buzzing loudly causing me to jump. My mom throws up her hands dramatically. I am guessing this is a sign of surrender.

James has not only named that tune (Someday) he also even knows that it is Mariah Carrie.  Touché my friend. I smile and reply “your turn”

In high school I didn’t see much of James. There were just so many boys and so little time. With contacts and my braces off it turns out my mom wasn’t lying my whole life; I was decent looking. I recall seeing James driving around with a teeny tiny girl that wore wranglers. I remember being happy for him. I also recall driving 100 miles when I was 19 to hug James on his wedding day. I remember going to see his first daughter after she was born.

Fast forward to 2003. My mother had told me that James’ wife, who at one time was my friend had abandon him without warning. Out of compassion and love for my friend I write him a letter. I tell him that my heart has been broken too. I implore him to stay busy. I recite cliché’s about how it’s always darkest before dawn, time heals all wounds and that this too shall pass. I am not sure how to reach James so I mail the letter to his mother’s house. 508 Sunshine Ln. I will never forget that address. Two days later my phone rings. James has received my letter and would like to see me.

We are now in our early twenties. We have the bright idea to start dating. A couple of weeks pass full of forced phone calls, binge drinking, complaining about our ex’s, and a couple of awkward sexual encounters. Next thing I remember I am sitting across from James on the floor of my apartment in California at his request. “Alice- you know how much you mean to me, and I love you like no other, but….”

I can not believe that this is happening again.

Tears burn the back of my eyes even in the present day. I literally shake my shoulders and whisper to myself in Spanish “sacordadae” which means shake it off.

My next memory is of James sitting on my couch, shot gun across his lap. I am on the floor fighting heroin withdrawal. My stomach sends me into convulsions every few minutes as I shiver and sweat at the same time. There’s a knock at the door.  James jumps up to answer, casually bringing the gun with him. I am too sick to fight him.

I hear James telling whoever’s at the door.

“Listen man, it’s nothing personal but I mean it. Stay away and don’t come back. Alice needs to get off the drugs and really so should you”.

The door slams shut.

“why are you doing this to me James”? I hear my 22 year old self whine. “You don’t even love me. Let me live my life as I please”.

I will never forget the words that James said next.

“That’s where you are wrong, Alice. I love you more than you know, in a way that you don’t understand”.


The memory and those words remind me to thank Jesus for freeing me from the life of a junkie. Also I take a moment to Thank God for James.

James has text me that he can’t think of any lyrics at the moment that I wouldn’t instantly know. Of course he can’t. He only knows ten songs. He passes on his turn.

My fingers fly across the buttons as I type out the lyrics that are also a coded message just for James.

“sure I think about you now and then, but it’s been a long, long time. I’ve got a good life now. I moved on so when you cross my mind…I try not to think about what might have been . Cause that was then and we have taken different roads. We cant go back again. There’s no use giving in. And there’s no way to know what might have been.”

His reply takes less than ten seconds.

“too easy Alice. What might Have Been. Little Texas.

So wanna meet at the Park, 3 o’clock”?

“I’ll be there” I reply.

Thus ends our texting and our game of name that tune- at least for now.

*Two hours later I am sitting on a park bench where James and I once spent hours kissing and talking about everything under the sun. Today I sit next to James’ new girlfriend Lilly. I like her. She is sweet, funny and for once, age appropriate. I hope that this one really is THE one.

A few hundred feet away James and my husband Fernando are shooting hoops on the basketball court. On the surface, The two look like complete opposites. James is only 5 foot 9 dressed casual and is handsome in a quiet, all American way. Fernando is 6’5 and always dressed to the nines even to play basketball. He has southern charm mixed with Mexican confidence and eyes so pretty they should belong to a Latin miss America. Back in Texas Fernando is nick named Barbie by his friends due to his ridiculously good looking face. However on the inside, these two are very much alike. Compassionate, humble, and genuine. The two are laughing almost to the point of hysteria. After a few minutes of ease dropping, Lilly and I figure out what is so funny. Even though James is as white as John McCain and clearly my husband is half Mexican American, they are exchanging good natured gringo and Mexican jokes. This makes my heart smile.

At this moment in time I realize that I am so very fortunate. I am grateful for the way my prayers have been answered. All those times I cried out and begged God to make James love me were not in vain. James has loved me for 25 years . And I have loved him back.

There were times in the past few years  when we could have given our relationship another  chance, but then we wouldn’t have Lilly. We wouldn’t have Fernando. My oldest son would not be enamored with James’ oldest daughter . (At least I hope he wouldn’t) My younger son, and James’ younger daughter wouldn’t be thrilled to see each other if they had to hang out more than twice a year.  We wouldn’t have memories like today . After all, sometimes the deepest love is not a romantic love. James and I will always have our friendship and our ever evolving love. To me that is the greatest love James could have ever provided for me.





Sunday 8 February 2015


by Lyra Reyes

Sada walked blithely along the dark alley, her thin red heels clicked smartly on the concrete. Comfortable in darkness, her steady gait never wavered even as a cat suddenly streaked in front of her. She wore unrelieved red; with a full billowing skirt and tight bodice that left her shoulders bare and her back framed.  Unconcerned about the cold breeze ruffling her short cap of untamed curly black hair, she swung and waved her hand lightly as though leading an invisible orchestra in a silent concerto in her head. 

She rounded the corner and the alley opened up to a moonlit square. A gust of wind played with her skirt, showing short glimpses of her long legs.

That was how he saw her - billowing skirt and dancing hair - as he stood waiting beside a door across the square. Images of dark rooms and foggy windows crept into his mind as he watched her walk toward him. In his mind's eye he saw twisted sheets, tangled limbs, and soft skin. With every inhale he smelled her scent - a flowery, spicy scent that speaks volumes about the woman.

The woman, the body, is no stranger to him. But more than that, he thought, I know you

He knows that her air of arrogance is a mask to hide a sensitivity and need to be accepted. He knows that he paid with more than money for that beautiful narrow face with high angular cheekbones. He was there, a couple of years ago, tending to her and wondering why she would allow someone the power to make her want to put herself through weeks of pain for a new face when the one she was born with was already beautiful. 

He thought, I know you.

He knows that underneath the sheen of sophistication is a simple woman who finds pure happiness in a simple sunset. That those full wide lips (hers; it's the only part of her face that remained untouched) that seems to only smile slyly or cruelly can be kind. That the alabaster skin almost luminescent under the moonlight is warmer than it seems.

He thought, I know you.

He knows that she is very talented at putting up masks. That she can switch between being the angel or devil or, anything in between really, faster than it would take to snap a finger. That she can be who and what is required for her to be. Be he knows that even if she smiles and laughs all night, her deep hazel eyes will always give her away.

He knows her. Better than she thought he did. Better than anyone. Better than she does herself.

He watched as she walked toward him, his eyes racing over her; her knowing eyes, her full red lips, and the smooth valley of her skin. Every corner, every smooth plane, every soft crevice, down to her painted toenails. Exploring her. Watching her move, feeling the energy pulsing from her. 

He could almost touch her now. There was a pain in his gut that was like a longing, a memory. She stopped in front of him and looked at him with hazel eyes so full of amusement. "“Good evening, Horus.”"

He smiled and turned to open the door. His body taut, his senses intoxicated by her scent, he watched her step into the doorway, look up the staircase, and tilt her head questioningly.

"“Go on up, Miz Sada, the boss is upstairs."” And with that, he pulled the door shut and stood once again, out in the night.

Sunday 1 February 2015

A Momentous Epiphany

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

(Formerly published under the title, A Rare Epiphany, in Fitzpatrick's first short story collection, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, published by

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And perhaps because of having just imbibed my anti-psychotic medications this seemed to me like a monumental insight, a momentous epiphany. It ought to be noted, while I’m here, that being psychotic and being violent are not necessarily linked. Some of my sweetest friends have been the similar schizophrenics that I have met and become friends with in my many, many admissions to Rozella Psychiatric Hospital. But back to this revelation.
     I was at home in Surrey Hills several weeks ago, off of Elizabeth Street, Sydney, Aus, a land that must have a twin in a parallel universe because it’s so lovely. Having just taken my evening meds, I was sitting down to watch TV for a few hours while they took hold. The revelation formed of itself, and I took out my small pocket notebook, and wrote it down. Idly staring at the note, studying it for belied meaning, I soon recognized it held great implications for my girlfriend and I.
     Stately Serena has always made an effort to be different for reasons that she has never been able to define. She is of a consistent character though, never suddenly moody, and even her dyed dreadlocks are usually purple and pink. So I naturally wondered, that night, how she would take the insights being revealed by this epiphany. Would the notion that I was so forming be the one thing to blow apart her steady, stately calm? The opposite was also true though: I may be on the point of bringing Serena and I together in a way that has never been done before. There was really only one way to find out.
     And so I split up with her. She wasn’t too happy with my reasons the next day when I gave her the news, especially since we had begun talking about marriage. She doesn’t take psych. medications, but nevertheless, she couldn’t argue the central point:
     Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
     ‘We would miss each other terribly with the absence, having only to rely on our thoughts of each other, mutually inhabiting each other’s minds with our constant fond recall of one another,’ I said. ‘And never before would we have thought of each other so fondly. We’ll talk on the phone, trying to exist so completely, so closely, in each other’s heads, telling each other what we’ve been thinking about them. Later on we might be able to predict each other’s thoughts, maybe even truly begin the world’s first psychic love affair.’
     ‘That all sounds very plausible,’ rejoined Serena, tying her long dreadlocks into a bun, the better to put her counterarguments. ‘And yes, it’s all in the mind, the world is just sensations made sense by our brains. But if you really meant that we should get married it’s only physical contact that will give us children. And children I want while I’m still in my twenties. No amount of imagining is ever going to give me your children.’
     ‘I’m not so sure,’ I replied. ‘There have been several instances of zoo female animals giving birth without the usual help of the male. So the closer we grow into each other’s thoughts the more likely can a similar miracle happen for you.’
     ‘Us, Denis. Us.’
     ‘Yes, us. I’m doing this for us. I’m certain, certain that we can be the first people to become completely inhabitant within each other. We just have to trust each other to be constantly in each other’s thoughts.’
     ‘And what if you’re wrong?’
     ‘I don’t see how I can be wrong. It makes perfect sense to me, despite the mental illness: people’s thoughts are how they interact and understand their environment and we could so easily entwine our thoughts around each other, making us indeed more real to each other. By avoiding being in each other’s physical presence we could then so much the more figure in each other’s minds, the mind being the basis of Reality, how It organizes and understands Itself. It’ll become instinctive fairly soon, living with the other in our minds’ eyes. To me it even sounds like Paradise. Yes, it must be Paradise, becoming one with one’s True Love.’
     ‘Have you been taking your medications?’
     ‘I’m not crazy, Serena.’
     ‘But have you? On time?’
     ‘Yes. And just because I’ve thought up something so unusual doesn’t mean I’ve gone off the deep end.’
     ‘It’s the most ‘unusual’ thing I’ve heard.’
     ‘But I’m sure I’m right. By replacing a physical relationship with a psychic one we are sure to achieve a love unlike any other. Let’s at least give it a trial of a week or so?’
     Now I’m still at home, not having left the house since the reasoned and necessary enforced absence of weeks and weeks ago, missing Serena terribly, even though I’ve just SMS’d her. And I can’t simply just return to her because the epiphany is indeed bearing its promised fruit. Her image, her soul, her very essence, has buried itself, burrowed itself, deep into my psyche. Never before have I loved Serena as I do now. She tells me the same thing on the phone, but I’m beginning to think I’m way in over my head. How I now wish, too late, for my One True Love to be beside me, not becoming instead part of my brain function, being fused with my thoughts. Things have now got to the point where the only way that I can talk with her is if she fills every fibre of me at the same time, before my mind’s eye, another visceral part of me. I cannot see myself going back to a merely physical love, passion based on just surfaces; surface emotions, surface thoughts, surface appearances. What’s even sadder is that neither can Serena.
     Still, it’s all in the mind.


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me, which tells the story of how Tonia achieves her life's fundamental aim of having her home as a social hub, by staring at herself in the mirror. It is available as a Kindle book at Denis also has a short non-fiction book available, King Street Blues, which is an encouraging tale of Denis' willfully chosen five years of homelessness in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne. It too is available as a Kindle book at If you don't have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app for free onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer through your local app store.