16th January 2000
Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business|
Sports| Sports Plus|
By Punyakante WijenaikeShe was the only one standing still on a busy sidewalk watching life move. She and the bird perched on a high wire across the road. Motorists tooted horns impatiently, school children in cars, buses and vans striving to get to their destination. The working machine must not get jammed.
At last, a policeman blew his whistle and one lane of traffic began to move forward slowly. She could read the impatience on the faces inside the vehicles. The working machine, called life, must not be halted. It must move on no matter what. It must move on regardless.
A city cleaner sweeping the sidewalk looked at her. She looked back at the woman. In her bright orange jacket, she looked like another arm of the law. She saw that the security across the road were also watching her.
She began to pace the sidewalk slowly, up and down, up and down, pausing now and then to look at the time on her wrist watch. She was waiting for someone or for a bus. No one could accuse her for waiting on the road.
Just then she saw her accomplice walking towards her on her side of the sidewalk. She felt a sense of relief. Now they would think she had been waiting for him.
He whispered to her that her target has been delayed but would soon be arriving at the destination. He advised her not to stand still and wait but to keep moving up the road, even turning the corner but to keep coming back to where she was, that was right across the road from the target.
She stood five feet tall in her black pants and dark blue jacket with her black bag hanging from her shoulder. Her shoulder length hair hung loose like any school girl's blowing a little in the morning breeze.
They looked at each other. They did not speak further. But he must have read something in her eyes for he quickly pushed into her palm, a pill. A tranquilizer. She swallowed it without water. She began to feel calm. After he had walked away she looked up at the bird still sitting on its high perch. Such a pretty bird, a yellow and red feathered bird with a long beak enjoying the morning sun. Suddenly she wished she could change places with him. She longed to be a pretty bird preening its feathers in the sun instead of being a human bomb destined to die.
She felt like a robot, her life belonging to other people and not herself. True she had joined the movement to fight for what their leader wanted. But the sunshine and the pretty bird reminded her she was only sixteen.
She began to pace restlessly. Then she saw the police clearing the road. Yes, it was time for her to cross the road.
She looked carefully left and right to avoid being knocked down by a vehicle. She could not afford to lose her life in an accident. Her life had to be offered at an altar.
Suddenly from a robot she turned into the human bomb again.
They caught her just as she reached the gate. Three security men and a security woman surrounded her. They closed in on her.
'For what or whom had she been waiting?'
'From where had she come?'
'What was her purpose in loitering on the sidewalk?'
The only reply she could give was to blow up herself and those around her by pulling on the cord that activated the bomb within her. She had no time even to feel a moment's panic or pain. In a second she was gone and with her the woman security officer and three security men.
It was only afterwards they found her head, broken off from her strapped and trapped body, flown into the air, up into the sunshine and perched on the same high wire vacated by a pretty bird with red and yellow feathers and a long beak. It was as if her soul, set free at last, became what it wanted to be, a bird perched in the sun preening its feathers.
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