Going down this path won’t be easy. But the debt I have must be paid. There is no other way.
Growing up, I see now, most of the time spent with my father was time for lessons. One that stayed with me is I must be a man even if there’s nobody watching.
I’ve acted as a young man for a long time. Even after being a man was required. By now it doesn’t matter anymore. The man I am has come forward. And for the rest of my life, I’ll stand as a man.
But in the time I was wondering, I haven’t always acted right. Not even decent. So now it’s time to pay an old debt. One I run away from in the last few years. I made the running be easy by making excuses. Almost true excuses. The kind to fool even myself.
In case you were wondering what I’m rambling about I’ll tell you. There’s a boy in Stakron. He has no father. He never knew one. And that is my fault.
I started the evening early, spending most of my time at one of the card tables. I was getting good at this game. and I was still smart enough to know when to leave. While I was playing I only had one glass of firewater in front of me. To help me concentrate.
This particular evening I was doing very well. The money stack sitting beside my glass was growing. My table partner appeared to have no fortune by his side. And by the looks of it, he should have left a long time ago. He was drunker than I’ll get by the end of the night.
He threw his last money against the man dealing cards, requiring his bet to be made. The next moment his money was gone. He got up to leave, stumbling, started towards me and that seemed to be it. I turned to face the table again. That’s when a hand came from behind. Took a chunk of, now consistent, the pile of money in front of me.
As a young man, my reflexes were fast. So, I was on my feet in no time. I just needed to put my leg in front of him.
Now he was laying on the floor. The look on his face was one of surprise and confusion. I bent over, picked up my money, and hopped that will be it.
And it was so until I decided to end my night on the town. It was two hours past midnight. My good luck attracted one of the regular girls of the place and I decided it was as good of a night as any to have some fun.
We were walking down the main street of Stakron when the guy who tried to steal from me jumped in front of us.
Somehow he managed to make himself even drunker. I would’ve not thought it possible, seeing him earlier. He was holding a long blade knife, like that of a butcher, waving it in front of me. The girl by my side started screaming, and the next moment she was gone.
I was still calm. Maybe a bit irritated. I was in no mood for this. But this fellow needed a lesson, and now he will get one.
-Mister, I don’t know who you are and what you want from me, but you should turn around and see your business. I sounded relaxed, even if my senses were all awake.
-I am Wale Apu and you’ll pay for making me look like a fool, he said, still waving the knife and trying to keep balance.
-You did that all by yourself and continuing to do so now, I said preparing my defense. The girl’s scream attracted the crowd. We now had spectators. My last chance to avoid this was gone.
Caught in my thoughts I lost sight of my dance partner and it almost cost me. I saw the movement of the knife before it was too late. I had time to step back and sideways, almost losing my balance. He turned around grinning. I needed to end this soon. I was now prepared for the next charge. When it came, it did so slowly. I avoided it with ease. I did the same with the next two attempts. On the third, I sent him down in the dust.
I was trying not to hurt him, though I knew I had to, in order to finish this mess. The next time he charged me, I moved aside while my right fist hit just below his chest. When he bent under the impact of the hit, my left fist came on his temple. He was down. But he was a big man. I’ll need to keep going.
He was growing tired, but angrier. My dance and the ease with which I hit him might’ve been the source for this.
On one of his useless attempts to cut me, I saw an opening, and when my fist connected under his chin, he went down. I hopped it was for good. I was getting tired too.
I hopped this would be it. But he was a big man and he got up. And in the rush, I haven’t taken his knife away. That was a child’s mistake. One that could’ve been easily avoided.
When he got up I was walking away. My back turned. I heard more than saw the knife coming at me. My instincts kicked in, and my years of training took care of the rest. I moved from the blade at the last moment. It was so close that the tip scraped my left side. I grabbed his hand, pulling forward. When I felt his balance gone, I turned the blade, still in his hand, towards him. Next, there was a muffled sound, like a watermelon bursting, and the knife went into his chest.
Only when he went to the ground with blood flowing around the knife I understood what happened. And I froze. This was the first man to die by my hand. Not the last as life will prove. All my training hasn’t prepared me for this. I felt my heartbeat in my ears and my breathing picked up. For a moment the time stopped. Then I heard the noise of the crowd. They seemed to be satisfied. There were just a few faces shocked by what happened. The rest were looking like this was something they’d seen before. Something almost normal. As I would find out, it was a frequent occurrence.
When I woke up from my shock, the guards of the city were making their way through the crowd. For a moment I wanted to run. But then I remembered my father taught me a real man always takes responsibility for what he does. Good or bad.
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