Mama started to vomit 3 weeks later. I believed she was sick. But Mary laughed when I told her about it.

“It has happened again,” she said. “I hope he will let her be for now so that it can come peacefully.”

Mary was always confusing me. But I did not know how to ask her what she was talking about and why she was not bothered that mama could be sick.

Mama told papa something when he came back from work one night some days after she started vomiting, and papa killed chicken. The next day, he paid Mary’s school fees and my own. Papa was very happy every time now, and I did not know why. When I asked Mary, she said something big was coming and she hoped it wouldn’t go before then like the other two before it went.

Mary never says things to my own understanding. She likes to talk like she’s old, though she doesn’t have sense.

Mama looked really sick, but she was looking fatter. She did not cook some kinds of foods again because she said it was making the vomit want to come from inside her stomach. Sleep too, was always worrying her, and she and Mary were always whispering about something.

Mama visited the church more and more. She said it was for special prayers and to make sure the devil did not come back into her husband to torment her. She said it was Pastor’s “direct anointing” that had helped her and she had to make sure all went well.

If it was in the evening she was going, I would follow her and still meet people sitting outside as always, with food, waiting to see Pastor. Sometimes in my mind, I would imagine Pastor’s house having a room filled with rice and beans and yam and garri, and a backyard filled with animals that will be making noise in the night and will not allow him to sleep well. Maybe that was why he was always shouting at the devil—because he was always tired and sleepy and, therefore, angry.

Three months after the morning papa beat mama and we went to see Pastor, papa lost his job.
That day, he came home, smelling badly of pammy and complaining in the parlour while we three sat in front of him and did not know what to say.

He said they were “downsizing” (I did not know what the term meant), but then, the only people who were sacked were people who were not from the religion and tribe of the head of the place. He said since the man had changed the former one sometime ago, he had been looking forward to showing how he hates these people who were not like him. He finally got the chance.

From the little I understood from the talk, I started to believe that big people have stupidity in their blood. Why would you be wicked to somebody just because he or she wasn’t from your place or didn’t believe in what you believed in? Why couldn’t big people just accept each other and not fight over small things. My best friend, Aisha, is a dirty girl, a Muslim and Hausa, but I love her, and she loves me back. In school, they believe we are sisters, because we understand each other and help each other to be who we are. I wondered why grown people could not be like that.
Big people say they are big, but they usually behave like cartoon.

Papa was looking for another job but was not getting.
Papa was finishing his money, drinking with his friends; friends Mary said all had jobs.
Mama was trying her best to go to the market to sell her things, though she still looked tired and fat and didn’t like smelling many things.
I was looking at her stomach—it was changing shape. I was wondering if she was having that sickness they said used to make people to swell up until maggot will be coming from their body. When I slept, I would dream that Mary and I were looking at somebody inside a wooden cupboard inside the ground that somebody dug. I would wake up afraid and tiptoe to mama and papa’s door to make sure they were still breathing.

When mama came home from the market one day and collapsed on the weak chair in the parlour, her head hot,and her legs shaking. I believed she was dying.
I started to cry. I went to the backyard to cry while Mary was trying to make something for her to eat; I did not want to see my mother when she would die.

I cried till night fell and I heard papa come home singing a song like somebody that wasn’t normal. He did not come to look for me.
But Mary came after some time, and sat beside me even though that side of the cemented floor had green-green things.

I waited for her to tell me to shut up, or use slap to close my mouth, but she did not talk, and she did not touch me. I stopped crying by myself and looked at her. She was holding her knees and looking up at the stars. The moon was full and bright, and somehow she looked different. She looked like me…she wasn’t crying or small like me, but she looked like me. I could not explain it—it was like I was seeing my face on the side of her face I was looking at.

“What of mama?”
“She is sleeping.” She was still looking at the stars.
I looked at them too and tried to see what she was seeing. I didn’t.
“Is the sickness going to kill her?”
She looked at me then and laughed. There was something in her eyes. It was shining like twinkle-twinkle little star. I did not know what it was.

“Mama is not sick. And the thing in her, hopefully, will give her life; at least any hope she has of living in peace with papa.”
She looked at the stars again. I did not know how to ask her to explain what she is saying.
“Why is her body swelling up?” I asked to help myself
She looked at me and smiled. I saw what was in her eyes now, and I knew they were ready to come down soon—they were tears.

“Mama is pregnant. You are going to have a younger one;” she looked away, “hopefully a brother, for mama’s own good.”
I did not know what to think. I was happy mama was not sick, but I did not know whether to be happy or to be sad about having a baby after me.

“But why does she look sick every time?” I still wanted to know.
“Pregnancy can be like that for many women. But mama is stressed too, physically and mentally.”
The grammar was too much, but I did not say so.

Tears were on her cheek now, and she looked very small, but I did not ask her why she was crying, and she never told me to this day.
“Do you know how babies are born?” She asked me, just when I thought the talking was over.
“I don’t know. Sebi it’s inside the belly that they stay? Ehn, that means it’s from there they will come out na.”

Mary laughed again and wiped her eyes.
“It’s really great to be a child; to not know things, to not see things, to not understand things in some certain ways.”
But she did not repeat or explain herself.
“Papa is jobless and always drunk, and mama keeps getting pregnant in funny ways.” She laughed again. “It must be great for innocence to cover up the meanings of those things as they truly mean. It must be great to be a child.”
She stood up and dusted her behind. I wondered if the green things had stained her cloth.

I stood too. “But you are a child too. You are just 4 years my senior.”
She smiled at me, her face looking very, very sad.
“Inside here,” she touched her chest, “I feel like mama’s age mate. Sometimes I want to slap her so she will have sense small, though I know that I don’t have too much sense too.”
I was looking at her as if she was mad. Surely she was.

“Mama is not your age mate!” I sounded angry, I knew. “And if I am a small child, then you are too!”
I expected a slap, but she just laughed and yanked at my hand.
“Let’s go inside, joor. Better enjoy being a child while it lasts. Many want to go back to that time again.”

Papa was snoring in the room when we went in. Mum was still on the die-die sofa she had collapsed on earlier. So we were three sleeping in the parlour that night. I wondered if papa had even bothered to know if mama was okay before falling asleep.
I wondered many things I couldn’t say.

Leave a Response