L’Esprit d’Escalier: Part Six, Caaisho

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

their modest house was clean and tidy

Caaisho Warsame lived in the outskirts of Bamako, the capital city of Mali, with her husband Cheik and four daughters. The children’s ages varied from three to ten. Members of the majority Bambara people, they led a comfortable life. Cheik was a mechanic for the city’s bus company and their modest house was clean and tidy, thanks to Caaisho’s dedication to her family. The elder children attend the local school and the youngest two remained at home.

In March 2020, that all changed. Unrest was growing with the government and the army intervened. The ensuing violence and instability meant that Cheik lost his job and the family their home. Some men in the district were rounded up and accused of terrorism. They were never seen again. It was then that the family decided to leave their beloved country and head north. France was their ultimate goal.

There were stories of a Frenchman who was rescuing orphans in the North. He had long grey hair tied in a ponytail and a matching beard, also tied. They said he wore a skirt of wool in a checked pattern and a dagger in his sock. He had liberated over one hundred children and placed them with childless families in France.

Caaisho decided to make contact with the man and have her babies placed where they could thrive. All but the youngest had been “cut”, a procedure to preserve their virtue. So she kept the baby until it could be done. She handed the three girls over to the Frenchman and she, Cheik and the child set off north for Agadir in Niger.

This was where the agent sent them to meet the contact who would escort them to the coast in the north. It was a long and dangerous journey and disaster struck on the way. The convoy of vehicles was attacked by Islamic militants and their daughter was killed by a stray bullet. Cheik developed dysentery and was wracked with pain. They had to stop many times. Despite being told not to stray from the road, he had to make frequent visits into the bush when the cramps came. On one such trip, he stood on an anti-personnel mine. He was thrown several feet in the air and his left leg was obliterated from the knee.

The traffickers treated his wound the best they could and loaded him into a pick up. Caaisho was devastated at this double blow. However things were about to get worse. When they arrived in Agadir they discovered that the Frenchman had been arrested by the Malian authorities. Her daughters had been returned to Bamako and the eldest had died in an orphanage. She had no choice but to return home, leaving her husband in a UN hospital in Agadir.

Caaisho’s life had become a living hell. Two daughters lost and a husband with life changing injuries. What had she done to deserve this? She managed to recover the girls and head back north. Without the protection of her husband, Caaisho and the girls were under constant threat of violence and sexual abuse.

In a change of fortune, the wife of the arrested Frenchman arrived in Agadir. The French government had intervened and she was able to offer safe passage to the depleted Warsame family. Two weeks later, they arrived in Morlaix in Northern France. Their saviour’s name was Christine. She found them an apartment in north East Paris. It was cold and cramped but they were finally safe.

Unfortunately, Cheik became depressed at his new environment and inactivity. All he did was eat, sleep and take his frustration out on his wife, both physically and sexually. Eventually, Caaisho gave birth to twins. This coincided with a change in her husband’s moods. He believed that the twin girls were a gift to replace his two lost daughters.

There was a new calm and harmony to the family. Caaisho got to know the strange old doctor who lived on the top floor and had a surgery on the ground floor. The old man arranged to have a new leg fitted for Cheik so that he could go out to work, tending the gardens in the nearby Park des Buttes Chaumont. Relations were not always rosy with the doctor, however, as he strongly opposed the impending procedure on the twin girls, saying it was illegal in France and cruel. She would deal with that problem when it occurred, she decided.

One morning, Caaisho’s world was blown apart. She woke to find that Cheik had not come to bed. Rushing to the lounge, she discovered her husband slumped on his favourite chair. The TV was still on, and he’d removed his leg. As much as she tried, she couldn’t wake him. Dashing out of the apartment, she dragged her huge frame up the two fights of stairs, screaming hysterically. Residents of the block began to appear on the landing. She pounded on the door of the doctor’s flat for what seemed an age, untill, eventually, it opened.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Childs

    A wonderfully descriptive,imaginative and dramatic story.

    Reply

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