The Moment Begins Now.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Blast

It was exactly how it sounds on a video game; the explosion of a grenade.

Kigali has been under attack for the past six months; 5 grenade attack gnawing at the relative and fragile peace here like a long-shadow in the high noon sunlight. Under the auspicies of the upcoming elections, the attacks are expected to increase, both in intensity and frequency.

It happened during a lull in conversation, a break between the raucous laughter and general gallevanting that punctuated the Friday night at the outdoor bar and meat-eatery, known affectionately as Car Wash.

It was a sharp, cutting noise; an audible rumble, as if it had come from the earth. For one intense moment, I had a flashback to when the ground split in Peru; my mind dragged me back to the night when my world changed. I could hear the chaos over again, feel my feet unsteady on the cobblestone shifting street, smelling the same fear and survival that encapsulated everyone's eyes. It coursed through me, a kaleidoscope of that dark night, and left as quickly as it came; giving  me the parting gift of adrenaline, energy and action.

I appraised the situation. There were well over a hundred people in Car Wash, many of whom either did not hear the loud burst that punctuated the night sky, or simply ignored the noise altogether. My friend later told me,

"Like most of the other men in here, I have heard hundreds of grenades before. I've been to war and it makes you immune to noises like that. Sadly, it also makes you immune to much of humanity."

I noticed he was suspiciously active in the few seconds after the grenade, getting up and dialing on his phone while shooting me a look that inspired confidence. The look said if anything happened, I would be safe with him. It was a stone-cold look that showed no fear, no hesitation and only action. I rose with him, instinctively thinking of helping anyone who was injured, that was what I could offer. I followed him to the main gate where a dozen curious and scared people had gathered. People pointed and chatted excitedly as to where they thought they had heard it.

Within minutes, the silence in the surrounding valley prevaled and left many Rwandans dismissing it as a flat tire. As we returned back to our seats, I asked my friend if that was a grenade. His answered yes with his eyes but betrayed them unconvincingly with a wave of his hand and a simple, "You know," his thick Ugandan accent adding a tilt to the tone of his voice, "it could have been anything."

The combonation of the oversized glasses of delicious Mutzig, a quickly departing and exhausted hormone release and a long work week willed me to arise from the table shortly and grab a Moto to the relative safety of our Nyamirambo home. As we zipped and zagged home, we passed a few convoys of military personnel, preparing for their night watch, armed to the teeth with large weapons belts, radios and semi-automatic weapons. These soldiers, previously feared, have become a pillar of comfort and safety, and I took heart in seeing them posting up for the night, as I layed my head down to sleep in Kigali.

The grenade was not reported on any media outlet or government news source, and the facts muddled and mixed in my head. East Africa was full of contradictions, inconsistincies and half-truths and this experience,  left me asking the pivotal question once again;

"What the heck really happened that night?"

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