This is how you move through the world when you’re a young boy: you just move.
Forward and back, side to side, and up and down. You climb trees when the days are fat with sunshine. You stomp down in muddy rain puddles. You splash in the bracing sea water. On the elemental margin where water, sand, and air meet you are the fourth: fire. Uncontainable and eternal, you are youth personified. You move because movement is a muscle and you relish in training it every day in every way, stretching it, making it stronger.
When your movement is restricted, or when there’s an obstacle you can’t move with your sheer presence, it’s moved for you. Your father paves the way to masculinity for you; your mother walks you along its path, holding your hand. Trails are bravely cut for you. Roads are laid down at great cost. Bridges stretch themselves to make sure now and tomorrow are never too far apart.
This is how you move through the world as a girl: you don’t.
You sit and watch the boy.
This is how you move through the world as a teenage boy: you go wherever you please.
You amble across Amsterdam. You roam over Rome. You strut around Stuttgart. You saunter. You stroll. You traipse. You even perambulate. There’s a verb for every movement you can possibly make when you’re a teenager: the lean back, the Crip Walk, and the bounce. You can two-step, shuffle and slide, or walk-it-out, walk-it-out, walk-it-out. Whatever you choose, however you move, a dance floor and destination presents itself. Your feet, dancing or trekking, are everywhere, any time.
Your fashion finds you a tribe. Your music tastes secure easy citizenship. You say whatever you want to whoever you please. Any trifling that was denied you when when you were a young boy was being withheld until you became a teenager. Now it’s all yours. You don’t have to share. Nothing remains out of reach for long. Your curfews extend with your shin bones. Your attitude becomes rough and unkept like the straggling moustache trying to herald manhood on your weak upper lip. Your voice breaks. It used to have sweetness in it, it used to say please and thank you. Now it deepens with command and frays at its edges with husky frustration when things aren’t done quickly, when your wishes aren’t acquiesced to. Your recklessness is emboldened along with your swelling muscles. Wherever you go, the world squeezes closer together to make space for you.
This is how you move through the world as a teenage girl: you don’t.
You watch the teenage boy enjoy freedoms you’ll never taste.
This is how you move through the world as a young man: you say whatever is on your mind even when there’s nothing on it. The rules are clear. If you say it then it must be so. Red is blue, and yellow must be green. The sun rises and the sun sets—but not you. Your shine is forever. Your words echo and ripple, running down the hollow chambers of the world and being amplified, brushing up against foreign shores. They’re a clarion call to alienating brotherhood, fraternity for the directionless. They polish shields and shine swords, they call to arms, marshal troops, and prepare to launch their assault on the world.
When you move through the world as a young man, everything is a challenger, and you’re bound to vanquish each and every foe, domestic and foreign, real and imagined.
This is how you move through the world as a young woman: you don’t.
You stay still, try not to attract attention to yourself, the camouflage only works if you don’t move. The wolves will move on if you just remain silent and resist the urge to run.
This is how you move through the world as a man: you don’t have to move through the world because the world revolves around you.
Physics breaks its own rules to satisfy your world-shaping, galaxy-altering biology. The universe waits for you to blink it in and out of existence. You can snuff out all of creation at a whim, a threat you brandish whenever something displeases you. You were raised to have the world at your feet. That’s why you expect everything and everyone to bow, kneel, and kiss the ring. Anything or anyone that doesn’t is destroyed and discarded.
You have the eternal high ground, moral and otherwise. You strike down at everything and anyone that tries to supplant you. From your vantage point as the captain of your ship you steer towards your pleasures, avoiding the lesser compass points of generosity. You push on through storms against which you were warned, you row the crew ragged in search of buried treasure.
This is a man’s world, and now that you’re finally a man, the inheritance of the Earth is yours.
This is how you move through the world as a woman: page 3 (if you’re lucky); headline (font size 14)—Woman Raped/Woman Killed/Woman Disappears. Something bad happened to you and it was probably your fault. You’re sending out APBs for calamity. Your being is a sitting target for sinister sonar. You’re lucky if you’re summarised into four paragraphs. But that’s it—you’re a blurb. Take it or leave it. Choose quickly, there’ll be someone along to take your place shortly.
This is how you move through the world as an old man: you don’t.
With your life lived, you get to sit and laze the days away.
This is how you move through the world as an old woman: you get up and wait on the old man.
This is how you move through the world as a dead man: you become a memory, venerated.
You’re a watchword, a fountain of wisdom. Your second life is even more glorious than your first because in this new ancestral plane your slate has been wiped clean, burnished until it’s blinding to everyone, even you. You’re quoted. You’re credited with discoveries. You’re used to silence dissent. When you’re dead, decaying and decomposing, you realise your whole life was lived for this moment: to live on in memory, loved, adored, praised.
This is how you move through the world as a dead woman: you don’t.
Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian novelist, columnist, essayist, short-story writer, and photographer. His debut novel “The Eternal Audience Of One” is available from Blackbird Books and Amazon. He also writes for brainwavez.org, a writing collective based in South Africa. He is the editor-in-chief of Namibia’s first literary magazine: Doek! His short stories have appeared in Litro Magazine, AFREADA, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Amistad, The Kalahari Review, American Chordata, Doek!, and Azure. His short story, “From The Lost City of Hurtlantis To The Streets of Helldorado (or, Franco)”, published in American Chordata, was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines in 2019. More of his writing can be read on his website: remythequill.com