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The Gun or the Rose, which do you choose? The Gun or the Rose, which do you choose?
by Joseph Ocen
2008-10-19 10:01:20
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“Doctor, I still can’t feel my legs. Tell me the truth, will I be able to walk again?” I asked. The doctor looked me in the eye for a time as though debating whether he should tell the bad news. He sat down by the side of the bed and said it’s still early days. “We haven’t removed the second bullet and it’s lodged near the spine. We are trying to reduce the swelling in order to operate but, he paused for a moment and took a long hard breath, even if the swelling goes down enough for us to operate, it will be a very dangerous procedure.

 Anything can happen, there could be irreparable damage to the nerves during the surgery that could lead to permanent paralysis or worse, you might not make it. It’s 50 – 50 chance Joseph, there are no guarantees. We want you to know what you are facing”. “And if you don’t operate doctor”, I asked. You will eventually end up dying a slow death”, he answered. You have to make the decision yourself. I never thought it would ever come down to this. How life takes a sudden turn. Tears rolled down my eyes and perceiving that I wanted to be left to myself to make the difficult decision, the doctor left the room.

I couldn’t reverse the past and go back to a simpler place and time, a place where there were no guns and roses. I had had both of them in abundance and now fast forward into the future that is today and I am lying down alone in a hospital bed facing a near impossible decision to make.

I hated Frankie, I hated the day I ever came held her in my hands. What had my rush to get rich quick in life using any means at my disposal been for? I repeatedly asked myself but I could find no answers. Frankie, my Russian made AK 47 had been my companion for the last 4 years in a failed state in Africa. I won’t mention the State, which I will now refer to as Hadithi, meaning the story in Arabic because it is from this country that I now write this story of mine. I am sure you have an idea as to which country I am talking about. I never asked for Frankie’s brotherhood. Love came upon us ever so slowly.

When I begun my business life by exporting khat from a neighbouring country to Hadithi. Business was so good that within 6 months, I was by most standards here considered rich but no amount of money is ever enough. I wanted more. Up until now, I had kept to the shallow waters and was contented or so I thought. Then I began to rub shoulders with the brave at heart. The men who swam in the deep waters. I wanted the kind of money and power that these men had and this would mean venturing deeper into a country that exists on paper but not on the ground. It was worse that the Wild West but with that comes an advantage of you enriching oneself quickly. Where there is no law, itself survival and enrichment of the fittest and I was definitely going to be one of them. I was initiated into the brave by first of all, learning to use the gun. I was told that no man is a real man in Hadithi unless one had a gun for a brother.

For 3 weeks I was trained and schooled to use it effectively to first of all defend myself in case of attack which was a lie and secondly to use it only when there all other possible means of discussion have failed which was the truth. I christened my gun Frankie and he never left my side.

As the days and weeks then eventually months rolled by, my love for Frankie grew. I saw the power he besotted on me. As we went into deeper waters, the both of use went on the offensive and rarely dug in to defend. He brought in the money. He was faithful and was an ever present companion by my side. When I did move walk without him, I felt lonely and insecure. I was on the always defensive and in a state of war without him. Why? I don’t know. The same went for my companions. I saw what the guns in their hands did to their mental state. We knew it was wrong, wanted to stop but couldn’t stop. It was both exciting and frightening. It was the kind mix that breeds a vicious circle.

As much as I loved Frankie, I must admit, his influence upon my life was negative. He didn’t show his ulterior motives in the beginning. True schemers never do. They gain your trust first and that’s exactly what Frankie did. He never argued with me and always did what I told me to do. He had a voice like thunder.

He could talk real slow sometimes, thoughtfully and method. He thought me never to waste my words in this kind of argument. One Bullet, one man. He could also speak rapidly with when very angry and I to fight tooth and nail to defend the both of us. Frankie’s love was intoxicating and this is where the truth must be revealed.

There are those who say that it is their right be armed and defend themselves. In a country that’s peaceful, what are you defending yourself against, don’t you have an army to do that? You see, the human nature and behaviour is unpredictable. As long as there is a source of power close by, the urge to use will over take you. After all, if you are facing a stronger enemy in your mind, why not turn the odds in your favour.

When a teenager can easily access a gun and his mind is influenced so easily negatively by all that’s going on around, what would the end result be? I know because I have been there. Hadithi descended into anarchy because guns were everywhere. What excuse do we have then to have neighbourhoods, schools and playgrounds turned into no go gun areas in a civilized country that’s not at war? We must fight hard not to allow this. Make it as hard as possible for guns not to get into the hands of just anyone. Yes, I know, the gun on it’s own doesn’t kill, it is the man who pulls the trigger who kills. So why put something in his hands that makes it easy for him to kill? I have personally seen men simply test there weapons on innocent civilians to see whether they still have their touch when it comes to aiming and hitting the target. I am talking of a human target.

These innocent people didn’t ask for this. Let the protection of the population be in the hands of the rightful authorities who will be accountable for their actions. They know their responsibilities. Why make it easy for a teenager, high on drugs to acquire a gun and who eventually uses it on others. Let’s not make any excuses. The issue must be dealt with before the allure and power of the gun takes over the mentally of the persons who have easy access to the guns.

Back to me, I made the decision to have the doctors try and remove the bullet which they successfully did after a 5 hour operation. It took me a full year to recover and in that year, I had all the time in the world to reflect on my past. How close I make to being confined to a wheelchair for life. Mine was by choice. I choose that life and was paying the price for it. Think of innocent victims who have died or been injured by these bullets. I met 2 of them in hospital.

One was a 40 year old man just coming to terms with his situation and the second victim was an 8 year girl with one question that kept ringing in my eyes. Why me? What do could I tell her? She so happened to have been caught up in across fire and took 3 bullets. She survived but is paralyzed waist downwards for life. She had the most beautiful smile and once in a while, she did flash it. The 3 of us went through the physiotherapy sessions together. We encouraged each other, cried and laughed, reminisced together but the difference was that I had a chance that I would walk again and every day in physiotherapy increased my chances of walking.

After 6 months, I walked out of hospital though on crutches. My late mother always to me that blood was thicker than water. I beg to differ. I came to know the gun and was not a blood relation to it. But as I came to live with it, I came to love it. I more I came to know and see what kind of power she bestowed on me as it’s user, I took it on as my brother. As my companion and I christened it Frankie. The brotherhood of the gun that I enjoyed with Frankie while it lasted was proof that some much potential power beside you, can lead you down the abyss.

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