“Do you realize that not everyone writes like this? You’re a gifted writer, Sun. Has anyone ever told you that?”
Sunday, or Sun as he likes to be called, tucks his head into his chest and smiles. He is quiet, always sidling up to me without a word, never stealing the spotlight.
For a moment, I watch him, marveling at what a perfect name Sun is for a kid with a luminous face. His face is always lit up like this and as we sit side by side I look to the sky to see if the sun is shining down on him. Afternoon thunderclouds have rolled in, blotting out the sun.
We work side by side on his story about his grandmother. I swallow the memories of my own grandmother that have knotted in my throat. I ask questions and Sun answers thoughtfully, pausing to be sure of his words.
He tells the story of how his grandmother saved his life by hiding him under a blanket when the L.R.A. penetrated his house. He paints in the details of the end of her life, looking out over the horizon, not meeting my eyes. I look toward the horizon as well giving him the smallest measure of privacy and holding off more questions until he turns his face toward mine.
We’ve finished talking about his story and I have a lingering question.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I smile thinking of the many children there who have answered the question of what they want to be when they grow up with that same answer: a peacemaker.
“And I want to be brave and kind and keep hope like my grandmother.”
It’s all I can do to hold back tears at this beautiful boy. I clear my throat and we finish up notes for his story.
A week or so later the time has come for me to say goodbye to my Ugandan sons and daughters, to begin my trip toward home. I’m hugging and snapping photos and saying goodbye. I feel him at my side before he speaks.
“Alicia, can I talk to you?”
“Of course. Let’s walk a bit.” We move away from the throng of kids.
“What’s on your mind, Sun?”
“I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you, too.” I squeeze him and give him a Ugandan hug, first on one side and then on the other.
“If I write a story about you, will you come back to read it?” He stares at his feet.
“Sun, first of all I’m coming back no matter what.”
“People say that and then they don’t.”
“Then I look forward to the day when I prove to you that I mean it.” I smile at him, willing him to believe me, knowing that he is steeling himself against a litany of broken promises. “Secondly, yes, I would love to read one of your stories. But, Sun, I won’t be back for many months. Are you really only going to write one story for me to read?” I challenge him.
“I think I’ve got many stories.”
“I agree. You need to write them and when I return I’ll read them.”
“You’ll return?” Sunday questions me again.
I nod. “You’ll write?”
Sunday nods. “I promise.”
I watch him walk away and can’t help but think that Uganda has a bright future. A future as bright as Sun.