2 Omekono revisited
“I resented it when he was made chief ……”
Tarzan sat across the campfire from the brother. It was late, most of the village was asleep. Both of them had eaten well. There had been plenty of strong liquor. In the stillness, darkness only illuminated by the fire, the brother was in a mood to talk.
“After all, I am the older brother .. by three years. When our father died, the mantle of chief should have passed to me ……”
Tarzan watched as this strong man sat and poked life into the embers of the fire. Like he meant to keep talking and they’d need light.
“But you’ve seen him. You’ve met him. Before. You remember what he’s like ……”
The man paused. He looked at the third figure by the fire, Omekono, his younger brother.
“Or … what he WAS like …..”
The brother gazed over at Omekono. His eyes full of affection. But Omekono sat huddled up .. locked inside himself .. now he was always locked inside himself. Staring into the fire. As if no one else as there. As if they were not talking about him. As if he himself was not there either. Lost in another world. Beyond awareness of the here and now..
“Handsome, you have to admit it. Striking physique. An astonishing presence.”
The brother shook his head as he looked with sadness at his young brother. Mourning the loss. Grieving. As if Omekono had died.
“Full of life. Life shone out of him. The world lit up when he entered a hut.”
Tarzan’s gaze had followed. The younger brother, once proud chief of this proud warrior tribe, sat bunched up, looking lost. From the side his shoulders still displayed that muscular strength. Rounded boulders of solid muscle. Huddled up, Tarzan couldn’t see the powerful belly. Folds of skin that hid not an ounce of excess fat clung tightly to chiselled muscle. A carved statue, an effigy to male perfection. An image that projected the vibrancy of the virile male. But it was gone, all gone. Omekono’s light had gone out.
“We are a warrior tribe,” the older brother, now himself chief, continued. “We extol manly virtues. Our songs resound with tales of the doings of feisty strong warriors. Singers extol the might of powerful chiefs. Mighty, muscled, leaders whom the tribe would follow into the fires of death. The singers laud legendary brave heroes who looked just like him.”
The brother’s eyes lingered long and sad over the godly effigy of his brother. Hard-muscled across his broad back as he sat hunched together and lost by the fire.
“You knew him. You met him a year ago, Tarzan. Was it only a year ago ……? Before this …..?”
Tarzan could have sworn he heard an unmanly tremor in the new chief’s voice. Betraying the emotions on his face that were hidden in the darkness.
“My brother … strong, brave, proud .. enviably valiant. Omekono in his prime.”
Tarzan did not intrude into the deep sadness as the chief looked over his young brother. He kept still. Wondering at the contrast .. this powerful, muscular body .. the loss of life’s flame.
“Any wonder .. really ….? When our father died .. that the tribe chose HIM for the new chief?”
His eyes invited Tarzan’s gaze to travel over the broad shoulders, the hard-packed chest. Huddled up, Tarzan’s eyes travelled along the length of Omekono’s thigh. Solid with muscle, deeply defined. Muscle that could run for hours pursuing a prey in the hunt. A man, Tarzan would have said a year ago, a man that warriors would have followed into the jaws of death. He would have been leading, strides ahead, fearless. And warriors would have been on his heels. Inspired. Shot through with the fire of his energy. Where was that man? Where had that spirit gone? What had happened to him?
“Look at him. Our legends extol just such a man. Every warrior’s image of perfection. The tribe’s ideal warrior-chief.”
With bitterness, the older brother growled.
“What did those devils do to him?”
Tarzan had met the younger brother more than a year ago. He remembered him. That young Omekono was a man you could not forget. His energy, the dynamism for living .. the vigour with which he was open to every challenge in life .. few men Tarzan had ever met had made such a vivid imprint on his recollection. It was the reason he had diverted his journey to call in and meet up that striking young man again. But THAT fearless young man had gone.
“The perfect warrior chief. The stuff of legends.”
The chief now shook his head in sadness at the hunched-up figure seated with them. But Omekono’s mind was somewhere else.
“I hated it when the tribe chose him. Selecting HIM .. that was a massive offence to me. Hard to swallow.”
Next to him Tarzan heard the older brother swallow his emotions.
“I hated him. He had what was rightly mine.”
Tarzan could have sworn that, if he could see through the darkness, he’d see a tear form in the older brother’s eye.
“NOW … I’d give up everything. He could be chief again.”
Tarzan heard in the darkness a massive sigh.
“I just want my brother back.”