Marley squatted upon a cliff and gazed down on the city, which lay below him. It was a grey city full of cement buildings and concrete walkways. An uninspiring sight for him, other than the dashes of color spread throughout the faces of its inhabitants.
Since he was a child, the only thing he ever heard was ‘the city works for the people. It is the greatest place on earth’. It always made him wonder: ‘what made it so great?’ No one could ever give him a clear answer. The conversation always seemed to land on the topic of opportunity.
‘There’s no place like it. Here, we are free to follow our passions and our true calling.’ His friend Maega would always say.
Maega’s answer always made the most sense to him. After all, he was free to walk the streets whenever he pleased and pursue any opportunity he chose. However, the truth in her statement had a dark cloud hanging over it.
That cloud shed its shadow on the same freedoms, which everyone seemed to hold so dear. Yet so few could see the darkness that surrounded them.
Rain pelted Marley’s black hoodie. It soaked up the weight from the water and it piled on his shoulders. However, despite his drenched hoodie, shorts, and mud soaked feet, his gaze did not lose focus on his city.
He waited for hours, and hoped he could make sense of the events that had caused him to climb to the heights of the cliff. However, the more he thought, the more the answers escaped him.
The day sunk into the night and the clouds dissipated. He made his way to the base of the cliff under the watchful eyes of the stars. His mind still racing, unaware of the future in front of him.
Hours earlier, Marley found himself walking through the mall. Newly freed from the tedious trudge of retail life.
A jubilant spark raced through his heart, now that he had been freed from the time clock. The moment of elation faded behind the voice in head, which inflicted him with dread.
‘Now that you are free. How are you going to pay off all those bills? And don’t forget about that debt. That money you made today isn’t yours.’
Marley tried to shake the nuisance from his head, but it persisted. He unlocked his phone and sifted through the web to find some distraction only to be confronted with news of nuclear weapons, the threat of hate groups, natural disasters, and the notion that everything on the internet is a ‘must have’ or ‘best of its kind.’
T.V. pundits raged against each other on every screen he passed. They battled with their words and shaped their arguments in the most convincing ways. Each spoke as if their words were the truest blend of intellect and fact; even when the facts had little in common with the words being spoke.
It had been 5 years since Marley started working in the mall, and he never could get used to the waves of noise. Day by day they culminated into a perfect storm of distraction that left his mind embattled and his senses numb. The radius of the storm stretched city wide and there seemed to be few safe havens for silence.
He shook his head and shrugged. Realizing he was witness to the tug of war, which muddied the language and hungered for the attention of the comfortable masses.
However, even with the scatter gun of nonsense that surrounded his every sense he could not be weighed down by it all. For he did have the freedom to do something about it all. But what?
‘Excuse me, Marley.’ A voice said from behind.
He turned to see the source.
A woman stood in front of him. Her dreadlocks bound atop her head and flowed over her shoulders. She wore a flowing dress with blue and black African print. A subtle smile spread across her face.
‘I’ve been looking for you.’
If Marley’s thoughts swarmed before, now his mind was bombarded with questions.
The woman laughed nervously and held her hand out.
‘Sorry, that must sound strange. My name is Chibuzo. They call me Chi.’
Chi’s introduction did little to halt his curiosity.
‘Hi, they call me Marley. But somehow you knew that.’
‘Yeah, I know. It’s a bit of a long story. But for now, I just wanted to give you something. A gift.’
Chi reached into the purse slung across her shoulder. It took some time for her to sift through it and find what she was looking for.
‘Sorry. There’s a lot of crap in here.’
Marley nodded and lifted his eyebrows in confusion.
Finally, she pulled out a pen. It had no special qualities, other than that it had no brand stuck to it. Chi took a deep breath and presented it to him.
‘This is for you.’
‘It’s a pen.’
‘Yes, but it’s a little more than that.’
Marley chuckled and took the pen. He turned it in between his thumb and index finger, squinting to find the catch.
‘I knew I should have wrapped it. Damn. They just told me to keep it safe for you, and I keep everything important in my purse.’
‘Like I said. It’s a long story, but we’ll get to that part. For now, just take that, and I’ll be in touch.’
‘Sorry, I have to go now. But, I’ll be in touch.’
Chi smiled and made her way through a side exit of the mall. Marley stood alone as the shoppers marched by him on both sides, and the endless blare from all the speakers banged out the top 20 billboards songs.
‘Oh, Marley!’ Chi stuck her head out from the exit door. ‘That pen. You’ll us it to change the world someday. For the better of course!’ Chi grinned and disappeared behind the door.
Marley lay in his bed and examined the pen Chi had given him. He spun it in his fingertips and tried to focus his consciousness to understand the events of the encounter. However, the answers never manifested.
The bass from hip-hop beats banged out of the speaker, which lay on his desk. The passion in Kendrick Lamar’s renegade flow jumped out of the speaker and fluttered the pages of the books lined on the shelf.
Marley had always considered himself a thinker. Although he never thought of himself as a smart man. Most likely because his teacher never assigned him the label.
His quiet demeanor and shy tendencies allowed for his ideas to remain isolated mysteries within his mind. And he appreciated the quiet it provided him in life.
However, now it seemed as if someone had reached a part of his mind and dropped off a mystery of their own. It had been some time since he had written anything.
After an hour of deliberation met with confusion, he leaped off his bed and pulled out a crate resting on the bottom rung of the book shelf. The authors gazed down on him as he dug through it.
An old dusty journal emerged from the bottom of the crate, caked in dust. With one blow, the evidence of a time passed spun into the air.
Marley waved his hand to keep the dust away with little success. It crept up his nose and he conceived a sensation of being covered with the grey matter. His mind went down path the would end up with a warm shower.
He let the thought fade to the back of his mind and opened the journal. Line after line, and page after page soaked in blue and black ink. A shudder crept up his spine at the notion of reading his old thoughts. So, he flipped through the pages until he came across a blank one.
Before the pen tip touched the page, he glanced at it one last time and Chi’s smiling face crossed his mind.
Hemingway’s vibrant sun rose over my head as I plunged into the binding of my memories. The Souls of Black Folks whispered into my mind, as if my ancestors watched over my every move. Even further back, their ancestors spoke to them written in the words of Harari’s pen. The Gospel lead them from dark times, as it had allowed me to cope with the stresses of a past time. Until the change came, and the light of Islam coaxed me to lead a different path; so similar, yet so different. Marvelous superheroes peaked out from their boxes to watch these words being manifested. Still the questions remain.
Chi. Who are you? And why have you given me something so ordinary in such an extra-ordinary fashion? Have you trapped me in a riddle? The power of ideas. I have written with your gift, but still no answer. But I can’t help but feel like a desert parched by the sun that is graced with the first drop of rain from an engorged thunderstorm.
I suppose some would see the rain as sadness, but not a hungry soul like mine.
Droplets of rain trickled on the window pain. A calm fell over Marley as he stared outside and cool simmered in his skin.
He smiled and without hesitation shut the journal, and pulled a black hoodie from the closet.