Okot shifted in the chair. He had been waiting for at least thirty minutes. A long time when all he had to keep him company was Nakirya whining in his ear.
She noticed him fidgeting. “You should sit back and relax. It’ll be over soon.”
Okot stopped moving and attempted to fix her with a withering stare. “It’s been ages. When is the doctor going to get here?”
“When I had it done I was waiting for two hours.”
Okot gave a small sigh. “Yes, well, you wanted the operation and I don’t.”
“You’re doing the right thing,” her smile was open and honest, “and besides it’s the way things are.”
“The way things are?” he let a tut slip out. “That never seems like a good reason to do anything.”
His friend stepped back and tilted her head to one side. “You’re scared, aren’t you?”
“I am not!”
She continued to watch him, concern in her eyes. “Seriously, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You know every sixteen year old goes through this. I’ve had it done, Namuli and Hakim were here only two weeks ago. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“I’m really not scared.” His voice had raised a pitch.
“There’s no pain and look,” Nakirya tilted her head so he could see the top of it, there was nothing beneath the dark red dreadlocks, “not a scratch. Honestly, this isn’t the twenty first century you know. They’re not going to drill holes in your skull.”
Okot did not meet her gaze as she straightened up again. “I know all of that and I know it doesn’t hurt. I just don’t see why we have to have it done. Teenagers on other planets don’t.”
“Yes, well, they aren’t part of the Order.”
“Not everyone in the Order goes through the procedure.” His reply was quick and thoughtless.
“Don’t bring up the Grey Shards.” Nakirya’s voice had taken on an icy tone. “Do you really want to throw yourself in with that lot?”
“No, of course not.” He knew he should never have mentioned the sect. “I’m just saying, it’s taking away something we’re born with.”
He was not helping himself. Now he was going to suffer a lecture.
“Born with!” his friend repeated. Her eyes bored into him as if they were trying to impart some sanity. “Have you forgotten that Humans never had the nodes? They were added back in the Days of Hedonism.” She very nearly spat the last three words, just as the priests did. “You do know that if it wasn’t for The Order outlawing genetic tweaking we wouldn’t even need this operation?”
There was no countering her belief. He gave in.
“Okay. I’m just saying, it’s not the same everywhere.”
Nakirya relaxed her screwed up face. “Don’t worry, I know how nerves can get to you.” She gave him a wink.
He was about to reply when she added. “Oh, and it does hurt; quite a bit.”
Okot’s eyes widened. For a moment he was lost for words. Then he saw the grin creeping in at the edge of her mouth.
“Oh, drop it, I know when you’re messin’ and besides I’ve read the …” He was cut short by the sound footsteps behind him.
“Mr Lukabyo, are you ready for the procedure?”
Okot looked up at the doctor and gave a quick nod. The man was dressed in a smooth white tabard. Three loops of black beads hung loose around his neck demonstrating his standing in the Order. They clicked together as he moved.
“Good,” the doctor said. “This will only take a few moments and then you’ll be free to go.” His voice switched from a brisk tone to a smoother, more reassuring one. “And don’t worry about what your friends have told you; everyone is nervous.” He indicated to Nakirya. “When this one came in she was almost in tears.”
“I was not,” Nakirya started, then gave up and looked at the floor.
Okot was about to make use of this new information when he felt something settle on his head.
“If you can keep still for a moment it will make things easier,” the doctor told him.
Pads touched his hair and Okot thought he detected a tingle. Somewhere above him there was a faint click, then the cap was rising up again.
The doctor gave him a broad smile. “There. All done.”
Okot stayed in the chair for a moment, letting his mind wander and feel the difference. The collective consciousness that had hung on the edge of his perception, tickling his mind with its many fingers, slipping into his dreams and offering a vista beyond anything the world had to give, was gone. He was alone with his thoughts.
11 December 2009
Uganda’s parliament has unanimously voted to outlaw female genital mutilation, imposing a ten year penalty for any undertaking the operation and life in prison for any who physically force a woman to submit to the act. At the same time there is mounting pressure for Uganda to drop the draft ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ currently being considered by the presidential affairs committee of parliament.
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