Hope Was Once a Friend (Story by Risa Peris)

It started after her miscarriage. The malaise. The moods. The lack of ability to take care of herself or her two year old child. The grandma came and yelled at Uzu. She hit her with her shoe.

“Get up. Don’t be lazy.”

Uzu fell even deeper into depression with every hit of the shoe. Uzu howled, snarled, and threatened the matriarch with death. 

A week later an uncle came. He chained Uzu to a wooden block. “You’re crazy. You don’t go free until the bad spirits are erased from you.” He spat on Uzu. 

Uzu cried. Her child was taken from her. She balled up on the dirt and cried more until mud formed. She wanted a bath. A toilet. They gave her a bucket. She laid near a tree that gave shade in the sunshine and then was lit with crystal fire when the stars filled the sky. Where there were blurry streaks in the sky she knew that was the Milky Way. It was so beautiful and the infinite filled her with some respite and graze. It was comforting to know things were larger than her own pain. 

After two weeks, a man from the capital of Uganda came in a truck. The truck was labeled – Hope For the Ill. He introduced himself as Pierre and his skin was the color of a pecan. 

“Uzu,” he said warmly. “How are you?”

Uzu was sitting on the ground. Her heart was so heavy she couldn’t stand. Besides, the heavy made it difficult. 

“Not well, Sir.” Uzu wiped tears from her eyes. 

“Would you like to see a doctor? A head doctor?” He tapped his head. “You’re depressed Uzu. Not crazy or a criminal. You should not be deprived of basic human rights. I can help.”

Uzu thought for a moment. “My baby? This chain?”

“We will cut the chain. But your baby was taken by the matriarch. We can fight her in court. But you need to get well first.”

“Get well?”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure you’re depressed. There’s medication. There are people to talk to. You can mend and live a good life.”

Uzu, with great difficulty, stood. This is the first time since being sad someone had treated her with dignity. The first time someone offered help. Uzu thought she would live her days in shadow and then become enraptured by the night sky. 

A man from the truck emerged and cut the chain. They helped Uzu into the truck. 

“Don’t worry,” said the man. ‘

“I always worry,” said Uzu. 

“That is anxiety. We can help with that too. Just have hope Uzu. Hope.” He patted her head and Uzu cried. Hope had left her when she miscarried and then was chained. Hope was once a friend. Was she coming back?