Yolanda Wandawanda: Not Meant to Know

Jun 18, 2021 | Blog | 1 comment

By  Yolanda Wandawanda

The smooth edge of the couch holds my leg up as I watch the steam rising from my cup of coffee disappear into the air. I am going to die today. I know it because I have seen it in thousands of other people. When I was younger, I had detested hide-and-seek. I hated chasing after people, scared to not find them where I had expected them to be, and even more afraid of finding them exactly where I had expected. I had therefore done everything I could to always be the hider. I had once stuffed myself into my mother’s oak brown cabinet. After about 15 minutes, the darkness felt as though it was not just sitting all around me but pressing into me too. I stayed, unable to wriggle myself out. This is how it felt to see others die, and this is the dreadful fate I see for myself today.

Most fears when you are younger are tangible; you can point at them, see them, dream of them. They don’t tell us that as you get older you start to fear a different boogeyman. He doesn’t lurk under your bed or live in the unconscious dream state of your mind, gone when you awake. This boogeyman terrorizes the future. He lives in the unknown. I have never been able to have the unknown. Everything I could ever want to know could be done by observing. The world readily reveals its secrets to me. I don’t fear as others do. The pilot of the flight I currently sit on is named Joseph Lumpasha. Last year his 8-year-old daughter drowned in Lake Malawi on a family vacation. Three months ago he came home to find his wife hanging from the chandelier positioned above the stairs.

Today is his first flight since she passed. When I had first booked my flight home, I had seen it all. Joseph was going to join his wife and daughter today and he intended to take all 124 passengers with him. We are entirely aware that there are a million mechanisms that could be working against our plans at any given moment and so a spirit of easygoingness, even if just pretense, is the best defense. But we also know that one right choice, one good decision, one moment of luck, could change the course of our lives forever. This is what drives most people to practice positivity, love, and fairness. But when you know everything, where people will end up, when they will die, the things that keep them alive, it is incredibly difficult to do the right thing. When you know the consequences, you no longer fear doing the wrong thing. My omniscience makes me like God, but I have the choice to do evil and I do not know if that makes me more or less powerful than He.

The cold metal of the seat belt is a sting to my touch. My heart is beating in its regular rhythm, my breath a consistent tick of in and out. As I survey every face that shuffles past me towards their seats in the back, I see a million stories that go with each lifted eyelid. I half expect to feel a heavy melancholy filling me, knowing every last one of us will love for the last time today. But I feel nothing. Years of cutting through people and seeing into their last moments have hardened me against the sadness of death, even for myself.

I close my eyes to give myself the rest I so badly desire. I try to think of a song I love, something easy to hum. I suddenly feel a slight tug on the edge of my jeans followed by a warm hand a few centimeters wide placed on my knee. I meet the eyes of a girl not more than three years old. She is firmly gripping the Doc Mcstuffin backpack she just picked up from the hard carpeted floor. She offers me the softest smile, some of her teeth crooked, others not yet formed. I immediately turn to the window and try to muffle my soft cries in my coarse denim jacket. The sweet-looking man sitting across from me with round glasses and a shirt one size too big worriedly taps my shoulder asking “are you okay?” I couldn’t start to tell him all the reasons why I wasn’t so instead I sat up straighter in my chair and dried the tears that had begun to cluster in the dimples of my cheeks.

When the front of the nose of the plane first pointed downwards, everyone had a weird look on their faces. We were all frightened beyond comparison but no one had the heart to scream, to actualize their fear of dying. But when our stomachs started to rise into our throats, there was no more room for pretending. Some people screamed for the air hostesses, others screaming inaudible phrases, and others mumbling their prayers. I tried to close my eyes hoping it would make it less terrifying, but when I did, I kept seeing all the faces that had passed me as they walked to their seats. I looked out the window to see a sea of green approaching quickly. Then I could make out the shapes and figures of the trees and then nothing.

Death comes at us unexpectedly. We move through our lives ignoring that simple fact until it sits right across from us and looks us directly in the face. I could have not gotten on the flight and prolonged my life. But maybe afterward I would’ve been set to die the next week from liver failure or get hit by a car on my transit home. I chose to get on that plane because other people don’t have the choice. Sometimes we know that following our mother’s instructions would be the worse option. Sometimes we listen to the questionable voice of authority because we understand that there is a certain comfort that comes from destruction after obedience than after disobedience. Certain forces in our lives are incredibly difficult to disobey. The force of mortality is one of them. So when I clenched my fists and opened my eyes for the last time as we struck the ground, that is what I thought of. That the fear of the unknown will forever be linked to mortality and even when you know it all, it often forces us to surrender anyway

1 Comment

  1. Kwawachi

    This is extraordinary😭🤝🏽🔥


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