close

Story Line

Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…(8)

They say it is Ngozi, Mary’s friend that taught her the business of “sleeping around” to collect people’s money. I don’t know the kind of job that thing is, but the way people’s nose use to squeeze when they are saying it, it is like it is a bad thing. And since Pastor even says that people who do it will burn forever, it must be badder than bad.

I want Mary to stop the thing she is doing, just like I sometimes want mama not to be giving all our money and food to Pastor so that we can eat better food and wear better clothes, but…what can I do? Who will hear me? Everybody is always busy doing what they think big people must do every time, even though to me, sometimes, it is something that a goat or sheep will do—animals that don’t have sense.

So…my elder sister’s friend is a lele, and as like everything around my life that is always confusing my head, I don’t know what to do about it.

It is Aisha that taught me this word for the “girl and girl” pastor is always talking about—lele.

Pastor says lele people will go to hell, but I don’t want them to go to hell.

If Ngozi teaches Mary how to lele, just like they say she taught her how to sleep around for money, she will become a lele too, and that means she will go to hell. And, because two of us are sleeping on the same bed, she can try to lele me if the thing sweets her and it is night; I will not be able to slap her to leave me alone, and then I will have to go to hell too.

But I want to ask Pastor why he thinks the leles have to be killed on earth and burned in hell.

 I want to ask him why he thinks people like mama must come for prayers and not people like papa.

I want to ask him why he never came one day to tell papa to stop making blood come out from mama.

 I want to ask him if he had ever asked mama about Mary and me and how we were coping with having little money and still bringing things every week to come and take prayers.

I want to tell Pastor that if it was only his wife remaining in the world, mama would have died because we are not rich people that can give her something after helping mama to the hospital.

I want to tell Pastor that it is Aisha’s father—one of the people he always says are not like us in the church and so are not good—that saved mama’s life when his wife closed the door at my face, my face that was showing tiredness from running all the way to get help.

I want to ask him why the devil he is flogging out of people’s bodies have to be flogged out every week with bags of rice, beans and oil…why doesn’t the devil even die,sef?

Pastor talks like he knows everything, so I want him to answer these things for me so that my head can stop paining me with all the things in them that have question mark.

I am tired of all the kinds of things the big-big people say and do. Plenty of them are stupid, too stupid that I tell Aisha, sometimes, that I want to remain a child with her forever.

Growing…it’s like it changes people too much—it has changed Mary; I don’t see her at home too much again because she is always looking for money so we will go to school; for mama, it has made her very small, too small that all that is in her head is papa and Pastor and the market. I now almost understand why Mary said that she wants to slap mama sometimes so she will have sense, so she can be free and play and laugh and be happy like Aisha and me.

If growing up makes somebody collect food from poor people, and their money too, and keep them under the sun just to come and take flogging, then I want to remain konkolo forever.

I don’t want to be big like papa and be drinking too much of things and be coming back home in the night and be beating somebody because of food and because there is no child that is a boy. If being big means that people have to be killing themselves because somebody is a girl and not a boy, then I don’t want to be stupid like that.

I don’t want to be stupid. I don’t want to have to kill people because of who they are and who the other person is.

 I want to remain small so that I can keep having people like Aisha as my friend, somebody I can think with, laugh with and talk with though we are not “the same” according to the grown people.

So…Ngozi can continue being a lele if that is how she wants to be, but she should not force it on Mary—that one is the stupidity. It is what somebody wants that somebody will take. Nobody should force anybody to be anything because they don’t like what they are.

It is sweeting me to be small—to be able to be far from all these things these big people are doing; to not understand why they are wicked to the other person; why they behave how they like to the other person; and, why they feel better than the other person because that other person is not like them. The way they behave is so sad, so it is good to not see it in the big way they see it. I think that seeing it the way they are seeing it will soon make me too start behaving like it.

I still don’t understand many of the things Pastor says and does, or if being a lele is actually good or bad, or where the blood from mama’s wrapper came from, or why they will sack papa from his job the way they did, or why he will beat mama like that every time, or why Mary is doing something that is making people squeeze their nose when they are saying it, or who owns the babies she said papa killed…I do not know all these things, but I am happy that I don’t have to understand the world the way they understand it, the annoying way they understand it.

I am okay with the small-smallthings that concern Aisha and I. They allow us to be truly happy.

Pastor’s wife has killed Pastor.

Mary says it is because she has finally known what makes women to be sweating and their wrapper to be shifted when they are coming out of her husband’s office.

Pastor’s wife is almost running mad because of the thing Mary says she has known. I don’t know if I will go to hell for it, but I am somehow happy.

Mama has no church to go to again. These days, she is even sick so she usually stays in the house. Mary says her body is breaking down. I don’t understand what it means, but at least there is no vomit to clean in this one.

Mary did not turn into a lele after all; in fact, she and Ngozi are fighting because of one boy like that—another sign of the stupidity I am talking about.

Aisha and I still love each other like sisters, and we always try to be nice to each other even when we quarrel.

These days, I don’t think of papa, but I when I see fire, I believe he is burning in it. Sometimes I see Pastor inside too, and in my mind, they are beating each other there.

Whenever I pass by Pastor’s church, it is very empty, and bushes are growing around. I usually wonder if the errand boy will find a way to share back the rice, beans, money, and whatever else all those poor people had given Pastor to receive flogging. I still wonder about the yellowgirl-boy, and the fat woman and her children. I wonder if they will still be looking for another Pastor to take their things and pray for them now that this one is dead.

I wonder so many things, but I am happy to be small, and like Mary advised me, I am enjoying it while it lasts. When bigness comes, I will have to start bothering about how a boy is different from a girl, and how this person has power over this person, and how girls like Mary have to “sleep around” so we can go to school. I will even have to know what “sleeping around” and all the other big-big grammar that give me headaches mean.

For now, my mind is small, and I am free, and I am happy.

Concluded

read more
Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…(7)

Pastor did Papa’s burial.

Plenty people did not come. If I counted them, they would not be more than 40. His friends that he used to follow to drink palm wine came, 5 of them. Aisha and her parents came. Some people from papa’s former office came.

Two of mama’s friends from the market helped us to cook “concoction rice” and fried fish.

Our neighbours came too, and I wanted to pursue them out of the house. Even in my small mind, I knew that they did not wish us well. All of them came to eat our rice, rice that we would need more than them later sef.

Pastor gave us #1,000 when he was going, and told mama to come to church for cleansing prayers the next day. Mary hissed when he said this and went out and did not come back till night. They did not hear her hiss, but I heard it.

The house was always silent now. Mama was always in church if she was not in the market. Mary did not come home too much again. People in school were saying that she was sleeping around for money, and I was wondering why people would be giving her money to sleep in their beds; is that how people don’t know what to do with their money?

I wanted them to come and give us the money if they did not have what to use it for, because our food was never enough for us to eat, and because mama was always going for prayers and she had to drop things with Pastor’s errand boy, we hardly had money.

Many times, Mary said she was adding money to mama’s money for our school fees so we will not stop school ever-ever. Mama always said she wanted us to go to school and have sense so we will not become like her, and that’s why she was always going for prayers, so that Pastor will help her daughters not to marry people that will beat them. She was praying so that her children will marry men that have money. Sometimes, I wanted to ask her why she was not praying so that we ourselves will have our money, but I never did because maybe God wants only boys to have money so that they will be giving the girls that will marry them.

Mama was always looking tired though Mary said she was not pregnant again since papa was dead. But she still went to church often, from morning to evening, staying under the sun to see Pastor and give him our food. But now, she did not come back with her wrapper shifted to one side and her face sweating like Christmas goat. That means that Pastor has bought fan for his office, I believed.

I have finished talking.

Pastor is still the same every time we go to church.He is still shouting everytime and telling us how to flog the devil so he will die.

He is always telling us about hell fire too, the place that they said is very, very hot and can jo-jo somebody forever and ever and will not allow the people to die.

Every time, Pastor will be telling us of the people that will go to the hellfire. He says it is the people that come to collect prayer and anointing for having children with only small rice and beans and chicken, while in their house, they cook onebiiig pot of food just for afternoon food. When he will say this, my mind will ask myself if he used to finish all the food the people bring every week. Is he giving the poor people or selling them to give people whose father and mother have died? I can never know, but I don’t want to go hell, so I will close my eyes tight and thank God mama gives him plenty money so that we won’t go to hell.

Every time too, Pastor is always saying that people that are “sleeping around” will go to hell. Their own hell will be very hot because they are doing it for greed and not to help people. Mary always comes to my mind when he says that, and I will then pray she will have sense and stop sleeping on people’s beds for money; she should allow them to sleep on their beds by themselves so that she will not go to a place where smoke-smoke will be smelling on her hair, and her body will be burning her and she will not be able to die.

Among the people sleeping around that will go to hell, Pastor says there are the ones sleeping around without sense; boys and boys and girls and girls, because boys are doing like girls, and girls are doing like boys—there will be pepper in their own hell fire. In fact, Pastor says that if we catch all those kind of people, we are to bind and cast them, and if the devil refuses to come out, we are to kill them.

Once in church, my mind remembered the yellow boy we saw the day mama and I went to see Pastor after papa beat her. I wondered if Pastor had been able to flog the devil out of him, or if they had had to kill him. I wondered if his father had pursued his mother out of the house later because of him. I wondered if a small boy like that will go to hell too because he liked to play with dolly-baby and walk quari-quari like a girl.

The boy was fine. I do not want him to go to where they will burn him every day and every night. That kind of place is supposed to be for people that used to steal and kill people, and for people that cannot help a woman when they are beating her—people like Pastor’s wife and our neighbours.

I wonderif papa is in the hell fire too because Mary, that day outside the hospital, said he killed the babies that were not his own. If he is in hell, I do not know if it would be because he killed the babies, or because they were not his own, or because he used to make blood come out from mama’s wrapper.

I always hopePastor himself will not go to hell for making all the women sweat in his office because he did not buy fan, till they will have to be using their wrapper to clean their face and it will be shifted before they come out of his office. I also hope he will not go to hell because people use to bring food and money for him to pray for them and flog out devils, and will still have to stay under the sun for long, and not in the church, even though they are sick, like the children of that balloon woman that day.

I hope I will not go to hell for not understanding many things, and for thinking about too many things I cannot say because nobody will hear me.

I don’t want to go to hell for not crying when papa died. I forced the tears, but they did not fall down from my eyes.

I don’t want to burn forever for not telling Mary to stop when she was shouting at papa outside the hospital till his chest started to pain him. I don’t also want my hair to besmoke-smoke forever because I did not shout to the people to look, that papa was holding his chest, and his face was rumpling,and he was falling down.

I hope God will forgive me for seeing so many things and not being able to do too many things because I am small.

They say it is Ngozi, Mary’s friend that taught her the business of “sleeping around” to collect people’s money. I don’t know the kind of job that thing is, but the way people’s nose use to squeeze when they are saying it, it is like it is a bad thing. And since Pastoreven says that people who do it will burn forever, it must be badder than bad.

I want Mary to stop the thing she is doing, just like I sometimes want mama not to be giving all our money and food to Pastor so that we can eat better food and wear better clothes, but…what can I do? Who will hear me? Everybody is always busy doing what they think big people must do every time, even though to me, sometimes, it is something that a goat or sheep will do—animals that don’t have sense.

So…my elder sister’s friend is a lele, and as like everything around my life that is always confusing my head, I don’t know what to do about it.

It is Aisha that taught me this word for the “girl and girl” pastor is always talking about—lele.

Pastor says lele people will go to hell, but I don’t want them to go to hell.

If Ngozi teaches Mary how to lele, just like they say she taught her how to sleep around for money, she will become a lele too, and that means she will go to hell. And, because two of us are sleeping on the same bed, she can try to lele me if the thing sweets her and it is night; I will not be able to slap her to leave me alone, and then I will have to go to hell too.

But I want to ask Pastor why he thinks the leles have to be killed on earth and burned in hell.

 I want to ask him why he thinks people like mama must come for prayers and not people like papa.

I want to ask him why he never came one day to tell papa to stop making blood come out from mama.

 I want to ask him if he had ever asked mama about Mary and me and how we were coping with having little money and still bringing things every week to come and take prayers.

I want to tell Pastor that if it was only his wife remaining in the world, mama would have died because we are not rich people that can give her something after helping mama to the hospital.

I want to tell Pastor that it is Aisha’s father—one of the people he always says are not like us in the church and so are not good—that saved mama’s life when his wife closed the door at my face, my face that was showing tiredness from running all the way to get help.

I want to ask him why the devil he is flogging out of people’s bodies have to be flogged out every week with bags of rice, beans and oil…why doesn’t the devil even die,sef?

Pastor talks like he knows everything, so I want him to answer these things for me so that my head can stop paining me with all the things in them that have question mark.

I am tired of all the kinds of things the big-big people say and do. Plenty of them are stupid, too stupid that I tell Aisha, sometimes, that I want to remain a child with her forever.

Growing…it’s like it changes people too much—it has changed Mary; I don’t see her at home too much again because she is always looking for money so we will go to school; for mama, it has made her very small, too small that all that is in her head is papa and Pastor and the market. I now almost understand why Mary said that she wants to slap mama sometimes so she will have sense, so she can be free and play and laugh and be happy like Aisha and me.

If growing up makes somebody collect food from poor people, and their money too, and keep them under the sun just to come and take flogging, then I want to remain konkolo forever.

I don’t want to be big like papa and be drinking too much of things and be coming back home in the night and be beating somebody because of food and because there is no child that is a boy. If being big means that people have to be killing themselves because somebody is a girl and not a boy, then I don’t want to be stupid like that.

I don’t want to be stupid. I don’t want to have to kill people because of who they are and who the other person is.

 I want to remain small so that I can keep having people like Aisha as my friend, somebody I can think with, laugh with and talk with though we are not “the same” according to the grown people.

So…Ngozi can continue being a lele if that is how she wants to be, but she should not force it on Mary—that one is the stupidity. It is what somebody wants that somebody will take. Nobody should force anybody to be anything because they don’t like what they are.

It is sweeting me to be small—to be able to be far from all these things these big people are doing; to not understand why they are wicked to the other person; why they behave how they like to the other person; and, why they feel better than the other person because that other person is not like them. The way they behave is so sad, so it is good to not see it in the big way they see it. I think that seeing it the way they are seeing it will soon make me too start behaving like it.

I still don’t understand many of the things Pastor says and does, or if being a lele is actually good or bad, or where the blood from mama’s wrapper came from, or why they will sack papa from his job the way they did, or why he will beat mama like that every time, or why Mary is doing something that is making people squeeze their nose when they are saying it, or who owns the babies she said papa killed…I do not know all these things, but I am happy that I don’t have to understand the world the way they understand it, the annoying way they understand it.

I am okay with the small-smallthings that concern Aisha and I. They allow us to be truly happy.

read more
Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…(6)

Papa beat mama again. Just two weeks later, papa came home in the night, drunk, and beat mama again.

Mary was not at home. That one joined to the reason why papa beat her. Mary left the house in the morning and had not come back to that time.

Mama had been brought home by Mama Bisi because she almost fainted in the market.

Mama could not cook any food because her body was very hot and she could not stand up. Mary did not come back from school. I cooked rice for the first time, and warmed our palm oil stew. It got burnt. When mama ate the food, she vomited and only water was passing her throat and staying down. The medicine she told me to get from the top of our spoilt fridge, she vomited too.

I wished Mary was at home. I did not know what to do. I was cleaning mama’s vomit from the ground with my old school uniform and crying. If Mary did not come soon, I was sure mama would die, then I would not know what to tell papa.

I was sleeping on the chair with mama’s burning head on my tiny legs when papa burst into the house. Outside the window was dark, very dark. But there was light, though it was low current.

The whole house started to smell one kain when he entered, and when he entered the parlour, the thing made my head start to swim, and mama began to groan.

Papa was moving from side to side and left and right as if he was dancing. He was not talking, but was squeezing his eyes to look at us.

Somehow, I could not look at his face, and something in me started to pray for Mary to come back…to be around to protect me, to protect mama…to protect mama’s stomach. Food caused the beating.

He said he didn’t want to eat rice and palmoil stew that was burnt. He wanted to know why his wife, that he married with his own money and kept in his house, could not prepare a proper meal for him, a meal that could help a poor man forget about his joblessness.

I told him, as if he could not see, that mama was sick and could not stand.

When he asked why Mary had not prepared something then, I told him, as if he could not notice, that Mary was not in the house; she had not come back from school.

He pounced on mama then. I did not know if it was because of the food or because Mary was not at home, or the two of them. I did not know anything at all as I heard the sounds of his body meeting mama’s body, and mama’s tired screams.

I ran out of the house screaming. I ran to our neighbours’ houses; to the women who had come the other day papa beat mama. I told them, my breathing cutting and cutting, that my father was killing my mother. But they were dragging their feet, saying they were making food for their own husbands and will come later to avoid trouble.

I ran to Pastor’s house near the church. The door was locked, and when I banged it and banged it, Pastor’s wife came out with her big stomach like my father’s own. She said her husband was not at home, and I should not disturb her. She closed the door before I finished explaining to her.

Aisha’s place was the closest place after Pastor’s house, though it was far small. I ran there, ran though my legs wanted to die, and I thought my heart was trying to come to my mouth.

They opened the door and did not even finish hearing me before Daddy Aisha put me in his keke and drove us along the dusty, up and down road to my house. I was breathing fast, and my mind was seeing mama in the cupboard in the ground that somebody dug.

Papa was snoring in his room when we got there. Daddy Aisha and I found mama in the parlour, on the ground, alone—no Mary, and no neighbours that had promised to come after making food for their husbands.

Mama was not moving on the ground. She looked like a fat, dead child. She really looked like my age mate as I was seeing her on the floor not moving. I almost understood Mary then.

When daddy Aisha went to her and, grunting, lifted her up and stopped, looking down at his hands, it was then I saw it. There was blood on the ground—plenty blood. Mama’s wrapper was dripping blood.

Daddy Aisha dropped me in his house as he was taking mama to the hospital. She still had not talked to me or looked at me, and plenty blood was still dripping from her wrapper, and I was wondering where the blood was coming from.

I couldn’t sleep that night, and when I started crying, Aisha cried with me. She cried like she was my sister and mama was her mother.

Aisha and I did not go to school the next day.

Her father came in the afternoon and told me mama was not dead, but the baby was dead. Mama did not have a baby, so I did not understand him, but I did not ask because I was happy mama was not dead.

I did not want to go back home. I liked Aisha’s house. Her father did not beat her mother until blood was coming from her inside, and I did not have to be playing alone outside because Aisha was there and had my time. I stayed there happily, trying not to think of papa or Mary.

But Mary herself came for me the day after, in the afternoon. She said she came to take me home, and I asked her, “where?”

On our way, she said one of our neighbours had told her what had happened when she got home that morning, and she had already been to the hospital.

 “Mama is alive,” she said smiling. “Do you want to go see her?”

I wanted to slap her and ask her where she was the other night and tell her the same neighbours giving her news had put their husbands’ foods over mama’s life.

We went to the hospital first.

I saw mama on a bed in one room like that, and if not that papa was sitting by her, I would not have known that she was the one.

She looked dead. Her face was swollen, and there were marks on her arm that I believe had been there all along but I had never noticed. It was like I was seeing her for the first time. Her hands were on her stomach, and her chest was going up and coming down slowly. She was sleeping.

Papa did not look at us when we came in. We did not greet him.

Mary was angry; I could see it from her eyes. I did not know if it was anger that made me not greet papa. I did not know if it was ever going to be him I would be angry with.

I sat on the bed where mama’s legs were, and Mary sat on a chair opposite the side papa was sitting. She took mama’s hand and held it for a long time, a very long time. After a while, she touched mama’s stomach. “The baby is gone.” It almost sounded like a question, and I wanted to nod and say, “Yes, Daddy Aisha said the baby died”.

But she said it again-“the baby is gone”-as if she was praying.

She looked up at papa, and there were tears standing in her eyes…tears and charcoal fire.

Papa stood up and left the shabby room. Mary cleaned her eyes with her arm and followed him.

I heard her voice from somewhere outside the hospital. She was shouting at papa for sure, but because she was crying while she was shouting, and because that always made her words mix together, I didn’t hear everything she was telling him.

I kept looking at mama’s face as she slept on. I looked at her face without blinking, and sat still, and wished that my body would dissolve into her legs so that I would not have to go to the house again or see papa and our neighbours anymore. I wanted to enter her so that my blood would become her own and replace all the ones that had fallen on the floor from somewhere inside her wrapper.

I sat still and kept hearing Mary’s angry, crying shouts. I made out the words “beating”, “blood”, “baby”, and nothing more, and my mind started to wonder why everything was “b” while mama was “m” and she had to suffer everything. I didn’t know why I was wondering that, upon all the things I could be wondering, but I kept wondering it and wishing mama’s legs would magnet me into her.

The shouts were disturbing the patients now-I knew, because Mama opened her eyes suddenly as if she had been dreaming a bad dream. She was looking around when I ran to go and find the doctor or Mary or even papa, to tell them that mama’s eyes were opened.

But I forgot about calling anybody when I was out of the room; when I saw what I saw and heard what I heard.

Mary was pulling at papa’s shirt till his big tummy was showing and his fat body was shaking. People were gathering and trying to pull Mary away from him, but she was still holding him and shouting.

I heard her clearly now.

“This is the third one, papa-the third baby! Why? What did mama do to you?

“Do you know how much blood has wasted from my mother because of this man, do you?” she was asking the people trying to hold her, as if they cared; as if it was their business.

“She has been killing herself and having a miserable life just to get pregnant again and give you the ‘almighty male child’. But 3 times, you punched the babies out of her…

“Are you the first man to not have male children? Are you the first man to lose his job?”

I wanted to go to her and say she should shut up and stop embarrassing papa were people were, but I was rooted to the spot. Her words were explaining things to me in the ways nobody had ever cared to before. Her words were answering plenty of my “whys”.

I heard her laugh in that annoying way she had.

“Do you even know what she went through to have these three pregnancies just to make you happy and less of a beast? Do you?”

Papa was not talking.  Why was he not talking? “Your wife went to another man to do the job!”

I saw papa’s face shift, shift in a very funny way. “You were the problem all along, papa. Mama knew but couldn’t say…after all, she is the woman and you are the ‘supreme man’. Mama gave herself to somebody else, papa, and three times, you still wasted her efforts.

“Those babies you killed weren’t yours! You had no right to kill them the way you’ve been killing mama…

“You have no right!” she said again.

Then she broke down and left papa’s shirt, and crumbled to the floor like a sack of garri.

But then, I saw papa hold his chest, and his face became somehow as if he was trying to poo strong poo, and then he was falling, falling…and nobody was holding him because they were all telling Mary “sorry”, as if that would make the babies “undie”.

Papa was on the floor before anybody saw him. I did not run to help him. I just stood there, looking at him…and Mary.

They brought a bed that had tires-small tires-and 6 people carried papa, fat papa, and put on it. When they pushed the thing past me and I looked, papa’s eyes were already closed.

When I went back inside, mama was already sleeping.

By the time mama woke up the next morning, her husband, papa-beaty-beaty papa-was dead. Mary said it was stroke and hypertension. I did not know the meaning, and I did not cry.

read more
Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…(5)

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.”
“Ehn?”
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.

read more
Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…(4)

Mama only brought one big tuber of yam, but she gave the errand boy #3,000 with it and went in to see Pastor. #3,000 was my school fees, and I was almost angry that she did not pay it to my school so that I would be there by now, learning, instead of here with her, smelling the church’s annoying smell. But then, I remembered that she did not go to the market to sell just so she could see Pastor. Seeing Pastor then must be a very important thing. I calmed down.

I sat with the boy and wondered why many women, like mama, kept their children with the errand boy and went into the office alone. I wanted to ask the boy, but I didn’t because he might not answer a small girl like me. Maybe Pastor did not want the children to see when the devil was coming out of their mothers so they wouldn’t start crying, I thought.

The boy did not talk to me, and I could not talk to him, though he was maybe just            4 years older than my sister. I prayed for the devil to come out of mama quickly, so we could go home. I was tired and hungry. But we did not bring canes, so I wondered how Pastor wanted to bring out the devil from mama. I wondered if mama would tell Pastor that papa beat her.

I heard mama’s voice just few minutes after she entered the office.She was crying loudly. I looked at the boy. His eyes were on the food things at his feet, as if I wanted to steal them and jump out of the windowless window. Mama was crying loudly, and I was hearing the Pastor’s voice, small-small, unlike his normal volume that always sounded like thunder, like God was talking to us.

But his voice now was small-small, and I wondered why mama was already crying when Pastor had not started casting out devils. When mama suddenly stopped crying, I looked towards the door. The boy looked up at me then, and told me to close my ears.

I laughed, and he laughed back. But I knew his laugh was fake, because he did not know I was laughing because he had sounded stupid. He didn’t know why I was laughing at all.

The sounds from behind Pastor’s door had changed, but I did not know what I was hearing. Pastor was sounding as if his body was paining him, and somebody had closed his mouth so that he will not cry out; mama was making some sounds that were like small-small cries of cat. But I did not know what I was hearing.

The boy started to talk to me, and made sure I answered him. I didn’t want to answer him because I wanted to understand what was happening to mama and Pastor, to know if it was the devil that was changing their voices. But the boy was funny, and I would laugh and keep laughing, and when I answered him, he laughed louder than me, with ease, as if laughing was his job. Between both our voices, the noise from Pastor’s office was lost, and time was passing.

I was holding my belly in another round of laughter when mama came out some minutes later.

I stopped laughing.  She looked different. She looked just like the other women earlier, the ones who came out with shifted wrappers and sweaty faces. Pastor really needed fan in his office if casting out devils made everybody sweat so much.

But her sweating face was different from the one of those other women. Their own had looked…somehow. But she, she looked satisfied-happy sef.  I became happy too. I was happy mama was happy now. I did not like it when mama cried and was sad and was beaten by papa. There were so many things I did not like but I could not change…or say.

The boy ran in to get instructions from Pastor when Mama came out. Mama and I were at the gate of the church compound when I heard the boy tell those outside: “Pastor wants to take a break for 30 minutes. I will call the next person after then.”

I thanked God Pastor hadn’t taken the break before mama was called. I could not imagine waiting 30 minutes longer to get out of a place we had been since morning.

Mama was singing as we went home, and I forgot to think about why the boy had kept making us make so much noise, and if the yellow woman’s girl-boy son would start behaving like a boy after Pastor flogged the devil out of him and prayed spit-spit prayer on his head.

I forgot everything and became happy like mama. Mary was at home when we got there.  She greeted mama, and mama answered without looking at her. I believed it was because papa had beaten her because of her and she was angry.

Mama went to the bathroom first to bath, before she started making food. Mary took me to papa and mama’s room— No, she dragged me there. “What happened?” she asked me.

Her mouth was smelling. I wondered if she had brushed since she left home the previous morning, but I did not dare to ask her.

“Papa beat her this morning because you did not come home yesterday. Where were you?” “Again?!” “Yes, he thinks everything is her fault.”

“How is all of this,” she swept her hand across the room, “her fault?”

I did not understand what she was saying, so I kept quiet and realized that her armpit was smelling too. “Where did you people go to? And why didn’t you go to school?”

“To church to see Pastor.” I left the second question. Mary laughed.  “Did you see or hear anything?” I did not understand her question, so I just looked at her.

“He’s better than him, that’s why,” she said. “His is working; his is not. She needs help; he likes taking advantage—that’s what’s happening.” It was like she was talking to herself all the while.

My brain was getting hot. I felt Mary had gone mad. What was all the nonsense she was saying?

I looked at her. Her face was serious. “I will tell her…if papa beats her again, I will end it all if she won’t.”

I was still confused. The way my brain was hot was not making me think well.

“Mary,” I said, calling her from wherever it was her sense had taken her, “have you brushed today?”

I regretted it before I could take it back.

The slap landed on my cheek, and it sounded in my head and in the house, the way papa’s loud beating of mama used to sound.

“Children should learn to shut up,” she yelled at me as her eyes sparked like fire and water started to fall from my eyes.

She was just a few years older than me, and I wondered if she did not know she was a child too.

I wanted to ask her why she did not know she was a child too, but the tears in my eyes shut me up.

To be continued

read more
Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…(3)

The morning papa beat mama again after the Bode “thing” is the day I knew about Pastor outside service days.

Papa beat mama because Mary did not come home at night. Papa said it was mama’s fault-she was raising whores (I did not even know the meaning), girls who will not even be useful enough to fetch him a big bride price. Papa said he won’t pay our school fees again, so I did not go to school that day. My school had already pursued me home for money two days before.

When Papa left for his job at the post office with his die-die bicycle, mama came from the backyard where she had been crying and washed her face and told me to change my clothe and tie a scarf that we were going to church.

When I asked her what would happen to her ugwu leaf she had to take to the market so they will not become dry like somebody’s under-leg, she said: “Don’t worry about it. Getting a child…a son, is more important now than getting #1,000.”

I did not understand. We needed #1,000-we always needed #1,000. But I tied my head and ear until what I was hearing became as if someone reduced the volume, and we went.

The church place had plenty people outside, mostly women. I became confused and wanted to ask my mother if the day wasn’t Monday again. But my small brain told me that these people were like mama; they were looking for great things and did not mind not going to work that day in order to get it.

Mama was given a number. Number 30! There was no list, but everyone knew who was after whom to go and see Pastor.

Many of the women came with their children, most of them looking hungry and tired of life. Their mothers were with canes, the ones for flogging the devil. And they were with things too-chickens; small bags of beans, garri, rice; kegs of palm oil; tubers of yam-things that I think their children needed more than the person they were going to give.

But I knew-we knew-that Pastor did not pray for or “talk” to any person without them giving him something first, even though the person giving already looks like he/she has not eaten for 40 days, and there might not be any strength to flog the devil when he asks them to bring out their canes.

There were only 2 men waiting to see Pastor, and they both had a goat, with the other things too. But they only brought goats; it made me think that maybe their problems were bigger than that of the women.

The church is just one building with spaces that are square for where windows should be. Then there is just one room that is Pastor’s office-that is the place the people that want to see him, disappear into and close the door.  There is one shed at the back that we call toilet, but no one likes to use because it is always dirty and is never washed. So the bushes around the church serve as toilet. So the church compound always smells bad-bad.

But it is still in this compound, outside the church, that the people wanting to see the Pastor to solve their problems stay. The young, langa-langa boy that runs errands for Pastor said they have to stay outside so that the people’s animals will not mix together, and their poo-poo will not dirty the floor of the church. But when it is the turn of somebody to go to Pastor, it is with this boy, sitting inside the church, that they will keep the things they brought and their children too.

The sun started to shine around 11:00am, two hours after we got to the place. The 20th person on the list had just gone in. She was a very fat woman, looking like blom-blom. In my mind, I believed she was also adding to the smell of where we were sitting, because she looked like somebody that will be polluting, polluting every second. She brought 3 children that were sick and were vomiting throughout.

They could not even sit on the sand like all of us, so their mother begged the errand boy to let them sleep on the church veranda that had small sand. I was pitying for the children, and so when it was their mother’s turn, I was happy for them. I believed that Pastor will heal them after he has taken healing money from their mother and poured the anointing water on their head and shouted for the devil in their bodies to die, till saliva will be falling out of his mouth by mistake. I wanted them to be well.

The woman and her children came out from Pastor’s office quicker than many of the other women who dropped their children with the errand boy did. Those women would disappear and spend more than 10 minutes inside the office, and when they would come out, their wrappers will be to one side, and they will be sweating. It made me imagine how much they must have been killing the devil with Pastor, and why Pastor could not buy standing fan if his office is like oven.

Sleep was starting to catch me, my eyes closing and my head almost falling to my legs in my front when mama tapped me. It was time to go inside.

 My stomach was making noise, and I wished I could eat someone’s chicken, even with the feathers and the blood. Only five new people were in the compound now. Nobody we had met was around again.

I looked at the new people… the five of them were women, and only one brought her son. Mama was holding my hand to go inside, but she stopped by the woman and greeted her, maybe because of her son. Mama greeted and would not continue going inside. She asked the woman what she was coming for. I noticed that mama whispered when she asked the question, and I wondered why.

“Hmm, na because of this my boy, oh,” the woman answered.

I looked at mama. Mama looked at the boy. The boy did not look sick. In fact, he was very fine-yellow, sef-like his mother. He was holding something in his hand and talking with it, playing with it.

“Wetin dey do am?” Mama asked, and I was happy she did because I wanted to know the thing wrong with a fine, normal-looking boy like him.

“Ah ah,” the woman began. “You no see the thing em hol for hand?”

We looked at him again. That is when my eyes saw that the thing he was talking to and playing with was a dolly-baby, the type that I had at home, though I could not find one leg of my own again.

The woman then told mama of how this boy always plays with the thing as if he is a girl. She said when boys his age mates were hunting lizards with their fathers, he would be crying and gumming her in the kitchen and be helping to taste stew. She said many other things my hungry head could not take. And then, when mama was still looking at her somehow, confused about what the name of this “sickness” could be, the woman took one leg of her slippers and threw it somewhere, and told the yellow-pawpaw to go and bring it.

My mouth and mama’s own fell down, open, as the boy stood up small-small, like snail, and held the baby to his chest with one hand and put the other one on his waist, and walked, one leg in front of the other, like a cat, to go and bring the slippers. I was looking at the way his waist was bending, to the right and to the left as he was coming back, and I put my hands on my head.

“Mama, take your slippers.”

His voice was high, as if they increased the volume of his throat, and blocked part of his nose.

When he gave his mother the slippers and sat down again, he crossed his yellow legs carefully and was talking to the baby again.

Our mouths were still open. The woman began to cry.

“You see. You no see wetin my village people dey do me? I know since sey dem bin no want make I see good husband marry. Now my son na girl-boy and my stomach dey reject my husband ‘things’. So I want make Pastor flog them bad spirit commot for em body, make em body dey like boy own wey God create am to be.”

“Eyahh,” mama remarked, pitying her.“But make Pastor take am easy for the flogging oh; you know sey na small pikin em be.”

“I no care for that one; make them flog the devil out of am until em well, be my own. Abi you want make my husband people pursue me commot from em house?”

“God no go gree!” Mama said and hurried us inside the church. Something told me it was so that the woman will not ask us why we came, because her eyes and mouth were already opening to talk again when mama grabbed my hand.

When I looked back at the fine boy, he was plating the baby’s hair. I shook my head and felt sorry for him and thanked God that I did not use to climb trees like a boy or else it would have been me mama would give Pastor to flog boy-girl spirit out of.

To be continued

read more
Story Line

What A Child Sees Sitting…

My elder sister’s friend is a “lele”.

I know that she is a lele, but I cannot tell my sister. I cannot tell her because she will tell me what she always tell me—that I am just 10 and so I do not know anything. But I think I know plenty things, because I see plenty things just like the big-big people also see. It is as if in this place we come from, to be small means you cannot see, or you cannot hear, or you are just one olodo ,kukuma, that God just threw at two people who were disturbing his ears with prayers of pikin.In this place ehn, if you are small, forget it…you are not even alive yet to people.

So I have known that the Ngozi girl is a lele for a long time now. How did I even get to know sef? Ehen, I remember now. It is that day that I saw her and one other senior in our school, chooking hand inside each other’s pant in that our school’s smelling toilet. When I saw it, I just jejeli did as if my eyes were blind, and I tiptoed back.

Since I am just 10, and Ngozi is a senior, I have not been able to tell anybody what I saw with my two koro-koro eyes that day. But no matter how I try to forget about it, it is disturbing my brain as if the thing wants to jump out of my head and come outside from my mouth.

It is doing me like that because when I am sleeping, I am imagining that one day, Ngozi will teach my sister how to lele, and then when my sister now knows very well, she will now lele me too in the night on our small bed.

If she starts to lele me, I will not be able to tell her that I don’t want to be leled, that I don’t want to become a lele… I will not be able to tell her because mama says we should always respect our elders so that God will not strike our anus till we die.

Mama use to say that if we respect somebody, we will not tell the person ‘no’ when the person is telling us something. But since I cannot say “no” if my elder sister starts to chook her hand inside my clothes in the night, the best option would be to tell mama from now that my sister will soon learn the art of leleing from her friend, abi? But that one is danger!

Our mother is a churchy-churchy woman. I remember those times that she will tie her head, and tie the head of two of us, till we cannot hear word well again because she has tied even our ears join, then drag us to her church. Her church is all those olden days, boring people church that like calling “fire”; they will call fire from beginning to the end of the service till small children like me will start crying because the whole place and people will start shaking as if God true-true will throw down the fire from heaven and it will land on our heads and burn all our hair.

In church, it is mama’s “fire-calling” that use to be the loudest. She will call and call and call until she starts to sweat and the cheap white powder she rubbed on her face will start falling off like small-small white rivers. And then when the fat Pastor that is always shouting with his big belly says: “bring out your cane and ‘pieces’ the devil”, mama will be very happy. She will lose the rope she used to tie our 6 fat canes together, and take two, and then give my sister and me two-two too.

Then we will flog and flog the devil till sometimes I imagine something wearing black, crying, and then I will stop flogging because I use to pity somebody quickly. I don’t want the devil to die from my flogging, though mama always says the devil is a bad devil and needs to die. One time that I asked mama how she knows that the devil is a bad devil, she told me it is the devil that is making everything that is worrying us to worry us, and so we should always flog “it” with all the anger and pain in us.

From that day, I am always flogging with all my small strength, but still, I do not flog too hard so that it is not my cane that will kill the devil, because I don’t want to be dreaming bad dreams. In all those films we use to watch in the night, when somebody kills somebody, that somebody cannot sleep in the night because that somebody that the person killed will be appearing to him everywhere and every time.

I don’t want that type of thing to happen to me, because I know that if I start to fear-fear, and I tell mama or my sister that something is pursuing me in the dream, they will not listen to me. They will shout on me that I am behaving like a child…that I should stop behaving like a child, as if before, it is an animal that I am.

Mama doesn’t hear word, especially if it is not word that concerns going to church or flogging the devil, or calling fire on somebody that is looking for her trouble. Every time, she is reading bible, but she is not reading the whole bible oh; she is only reading the book of Psalms because David that Pastor says wrote the book is like mama—he too likes God to be punishing his enemies, and so his prayers are like mama’s own: “God, kill them”, “God slaughter them”, “God, let them choke and die”.

Sometimes, I wonder if God is like all those killy-killy people in the films we use to watch that use to wear black and hand gloves and go and kill people for money. If God is not like those people killing for money, then why does mama always disturb his peace with her fight-fight prayers? Or can’t God even appear to her one day and tell her to stop telling Him to kill people? I just do not understandabeg. And of course, nobody will tell a child anything. You cannot even ask anything sef.You should just always keep quiet and be looking likemumu because you are small.

So that is why I cannot tell mama that my sister—her daughter—will soon start dreaming about girls in the night. She will soon start to think about sucking their breasts and chooking hand inside their smelling pant like I saw senior Ngozi doing that day in the toilet. My sister kukuma will not listen because she thinks she now knows everything because all those thin boys like suffering iroko tree are giving her money to make big-big hair. Even mama cannot talk to her again these days. She will be doing like something is shaking in her brain when you try to tell her that she is doing something that is wrong.

Mummy says it is her age; that when a girl or boy starts to be big like that, they will be facing problems that they cannot understand or tell anybody, and so the thing will be making them to be stubborn and be doing bighead-bighead. This one that mummy is using to explain why my elder sister is behaving like a deaf person does not concern me oh, all I know is that somebody that does not hear word is equal to a goat, that kind that our neighbour has—the one that she will pursue from her yams but will still keep coming back to eat them with its black eyes that will be looking at somebody as if it is laughing at the person.

If what mama is saying is that we have to live with my sister not hearing word, then that means she will surely become a lele soon, the kind that cannot be helped ever again. This is because when we, human beings, start something, and the thing is sweeting us, it becomes very hard to stop. I know because that is what happened, abi what is happening to mummy and my sister. The things they are doing did not start today. It just started one day, and from that one day, it has become something that is happening every time-every time now. I don’t know the day they started those things, and I don’t know the day they will end, and I cannot go and tell them to stop what they are doing—I am just 10 years old.

 There might never be anybody to hear these things, the plenty things in my mind, so let me just kukuma say them so that they will not stay inside my heart and make it dirty and black. Let us start with my sister’s own, then later, mama’s own; on the road, the two might mix together sha.

To be continued.

read more
Story Line

They Are Doors And Girls

I see the girl as I buy plantains. I see her the way we see people we do not want to see. I see her and hide my face. I hide my face because I can’t forget I had “stolen” her boyfriend, Richard.

I use the word “stolen” because that’s what the world associates people like me with.

To the effickos, I am a gold digger. To the fire-calling-praying wives, I am a husband-snatcher. And, to the elderly Yoruba women, I am the “gboko-gboko”.

I am all of these to all these people because of one man who had ditched his girlfriend to marry me.

And to add to my list of “jezebelic” sins, the girlfriend had been my friend. So, today, I jam the friend I had snatched from. She is leaning on a man’s arm, gold wedding bands glistening on both their fingers…And I hide.

I hide because it’s been five years since Richard married me, and it’s been two years since he ditched the children and me for his secretary.

I am just looking at my friend and “chooking” my face farther and farther into my hiding crevice. I cannot come out of my hiding and start to explain.

She wouldn’t understand that I accepted Richard’s proposal because he was the only one who had ever told me I was worthy of love, beautiful, and deserved the best.

My step father had treated my mother badly, and me, even worse. Richard had been cunningly wise to show me love.

I had been stupid, I admit, to have told Richard that part of me-that painful past of neglect and abandonment and child abuse I usually kept away from others, including myself most times.

And worse still, I had told him like I had always felt it-in a victimized way. His type surely knew how to speak with women like me who had opened doors in their pasts that kept them bitter by day and teary by night till they awoke to another “victim-claiming-day”.

Yup, I had been that woman-and maybe I still am-and he had talkedto my locks with the perfect keys.

She has passed. I am coming out to buy my plantains for the fatherless girls waiting for me at home, girls I will make to understand are loved, beautiful, and deserve the best.

I will tell them, so they wouldn’t have to be me one day, hiding from a person they had stolen from, just because they had always felt incomplete in themselves.

I wonder, though, if I will be enough to help my littluns from beings like their father, scattered all over the world; beings that are experts in identifying women’s weaknesses and insecure locks, and would never do good with the knowledge.

Females, because of Richard’s type, end up with many doors in one lifetime.

A woman never fully understands the world she has to live in; it’s just too “trappy” and mazy.

read more
Story Line

Tears On My Birthday (2)

I am 17 now. It has been 4 years or so since I have been living with Aunty. By the way, her name is Tricia, and…I call her mummy now. It is no longer heavy in my mouth; because I have come to understand that she needs me to call her that, to make her feel like a mother of two since her womb or whatever chi is in her spirit won’t allow her to be the real mother of more than Junior, Junior that is no more stubborn and talkative. She needs me to be her daughter so that the love that her husband clearly is not showing her, because his people say she holds him in her love spell, can be gotten from the way I hug her after painting her nails, and the way Junior holds her when he has started awake from a nightmare, and from the way we three huddle together on the parlour rug on rainy nights when her husband has been nowhere to be found all day and all week. She always knows he is with the other woman, but she has since stopped fighting over it since that month he beat her and yelled about how she owed him her life for helping her grow the wealth her parents had left her, and nursing her back to health when her brain was shaking from the trauma of their tragic death.

It was from that month Junior stopped talking like he used to talk and began running to his room when he heard the sound of his father’s jeep. It was that month that Aunty came into my room one night, with tears running down her face, and told me sternly to call her “mummy”, if I didn’t want to die. The next day, she sent money and food and clothes and a car to my family in the village, as if she bought me; as if we all were now one family because she needed me.

I have become Aunty’s daughter, and Papa is now well in the village. His spirit has smelt money na, why won’t he be well? He has also stopped toiling in rivers the greedy people have polluted with oil they export and “clean mouth”, as if they don’t know the villages they took it from should have most of the money.

Papa and mama have started a business now. Papa sells yams, and mamahas workers who pound what is left, and serve it with varieties of soups. Her patronage is the Tower of Babel’s height’s mate.

All my siblings have gone back to school.

I miss home, but I am fully employed here in the city—I am somebody’s daughter, alove substitute.

I can stay here forever and keep being what a person needs me to be, but the question is—how long before we all admit to this charade? How long before all these things we think we have, balanced like a quadratic equation, shatter into the individual pieces that they truly are? How long before money becomes insufficient to sustain these lies we call“love”?

I don’t know, and I may never know, but since life is as good as it can get at the moment, I don’t mind playing along with all our unrealities.

I turned 18 yesterday, and mummy, with smiles wide and fake, and eyes twinkling and distant, threw me a party.

He came home for the first time in weeks just as it was all ending and Junior was leaving the house to sleep over at his friend’s. Mummy retired upstairs without a word to him.

By the time I was done making the living room look like a human being’s again, I heard him snoring in one of the guest rooms.

He crashed into my room at midnight with the thunder. When my eyes flew open and lightening flashed again, he stood at the foot of my bed. I came fully awake then and heard the loudrain outside. Power, of course, was out.

With lightening again, I saw he was looking at me with something in his eyes. He seemed drunk.

I scrambled up from my bed and did a quick mental check on where exactly my strong, block-heeled black shoe was.

“I want you,” I heard him say, and wished I could chop his voice box into little bits.

In the darkness, I scuttled silently to my shoe rack and felt for the shoe I knew could cause havoc.He soon saw it in my hand and laughed.

He surely was drunk, no doubt, but to what degree?

I moved.

“I have wanted you for years, but I was giving you time to mature.”

He was coming after me, slowly but surely, as if he had been in my room many nights and knew the dark version of it like his own name.

“She needs you.”

“I don’t want her; you both know that. I want you. You know I can give you money, and you can send it home.”

I wanted to remind him that the money isn’t his to boast in anyway, but I said instead: “If you don’t want her, then why do you torture her so? Why did you marry her in the first place if you knew you wouldn’t be there till the end?”

I heard him stop.

“If you don’t do this, I will take most of what she has, tell her you seduced me, and when she hits rock bottom, divorce her.”

My mouth hung open at his callousness, and he waited for me to make a choice.

My choice haunted me throughout the night. I cried and hoped I was doing the right thing. I was scared of the next morning.

The smell of food, like a hand, tapped on mummy and I, and beckoned us downstairs, seconds after each other, to the kitchen.

He was there in his boxers, cooking something. He looked so out of place there and in the house, but the real odd thing was the smile he gave us when he turned around, and set us into chairs at the kitchen table, and told us food would be ready soon, and made small talk.

He hadn’t been home for 2 months, and suddenly, he was this on a Saturday? Mummy was smiling sheepishly at him, but I didn’t like any of it. I wanted to know what was happening.

I did, midway through his spaghetti bolognaise…

“Honey,” he held mummy’s hand over the table, “there’s this business we should do. I have checked it out—the cost and profit and…”

My fork dropped from my hand, and my mind stopped hearing.

Uh—oh.

He is doing it. He really is going to milk her dry, rip me from her heart, and then leave her!

I broke out in a sweat, and told myself to trust her, that the drugs will help her keep a clear head for once and see through him.

But I knew, even as I looked up and his eyes met mine and he smiled that knowing, devilish smile, that he had her to toy with as he liked. If only she could stop smiling so sheepishly like a hypnotized person. How bad to need someone so much!

I was gone before she or he or Junior woke up the next morning.

My letter to her didn’t mention his crash into my room nor the truth about things. I left, still wanting her clutching to the hope that, somehow, he wasn’t as bad as that. I left, helping her retain the idea of the man she loved.

Also, I couldn’t watch her hate me, while dealing with the financially bummed state he would leave her in. And, I wouldn’t know how to be her daughter—a despised daughter, now—when he finally divorced her.

The eyes at home asked me questions, but I couldn’t say. How much would they understand about feeling like a sickwoman’s shield, but then not being able to save her because she was sickly in love with a wicked leech of a soul? How much could one speak of ties that weren’t made for “forever”?

20, today.

News of her death on TV begins the day for me.

“Suicide”, they say. She overdosed on her prescription drugs.

But as the newscaster flippantly refers to her as “the divorced billionaire”, I know the suicide didn’t kill her; she had died slowly, daily, way before that.

There, of course, is no mention of him, and as I sit in the dark and watch the ugly newscaster and her screaming red weave on, I wonder if he will feel guilty wherever he is.

I sit in the dark long after the news is done and a music video comes on. I sit until something wells up in me, and I start crying, chest heaving and all.

I wonder about Junior and what he will make of everything; of the improper background he is an everlasting imprint of.

I cry in the dark and wonder if I should go back…as a witness to a murder that love, soaked in money, had committed.

I cry till my biological mother comes into the parlour and hugs me from the back to say “happy birthday”. I cry as she sees my tears and holds me…

Concluded

read more
Story Line

My Aunt, St. Humble (2)

So, Aunty Everything is a torn in the men’s flesh, and a solution is badly needed to get rid of it…what can be done?

The answer finally comes one Sunday morning in the guise of a tall, gallant, and totally different kind of dude from the ones in church. He walks in while the Pastor is preaching. He takes a seat at the back, but for some reason, everyone seemed to know that someone had entered, and so turn in their seats to lookback. Maybe it’s because of the way Pastor’s speech faltered when he saw this man. Even his gaze had shifted too. And well…people normally followed their leader. The man takes a seat right beside Madam who is fanning herself. She glances at him once and that is it.

For the first time in a long time, Aunty does not wait for the birds to flock around her after service. They see him leave first, and then she carries her past, present and future self after him. The women nudge each other, wide-eyed; the men gape, mouth open. They cannot believe their good fortune; one Sunday out of many forgone when their wives would be going home with them with ears empty of one human being’s “humble” but loaded words. This Sunday, they can eat their lunch with no fear of a hidden blade in the piece of meat. One Sunday without the absent but always present presence of one woman. Wow…God answered prayers after all!

However, no one is ready for what the Sunday’s surprise reproduces the following Sunday when Aunty and the new Mr. walk into church while Pastor is preaching again. This time, their entrance together does not just make him shift gaze and falter in speech; he stops altogether and cannot find his words until they sit at the favorite back position. And of course, everyone turns back to look. What meets their eyes, changes the life of the church forever. Bro now looks even more different from the other men than he had the previous Sunday; however, he seems one with the woman by his side.She is wearing one of her horrid looking hats that reminds one of death and hellfire. Her clothes are indescribable, honestly, so description is unnecessary and impossible anyway. He is dressed just like her. It’s crazy that they had put the clothes together in just one week of meeting!

Soon, the men start looking down at their clothes and then stealing glances at that of Mr. Aunty just keeps fanning herself, yelling her phonetic “hallelujah” periodically, while retaining a secret smile on her lips. Now, there is something stiff in the air…everyone can feel it. And, there seems to be a psychological magnetic field around the back area, clamoring for swaying, insecure and easily persuaded minds, and succeeding inch by inch in drawing them close.  Thus, the moment full stop is “heard” behind the closing grace, the church seems to part ways like the Red sea. Somehow, Mr. manages to move over to sit at the right side of the rows of chairs, and Madam retains her usual position, still fanning herself. The parting of the water brings the women to the woman, and the men to the man. The one group does not know what the other is talking about, but it is clear to the blind that things certainly will not be the same again.

Three weeks of Mr. being in church, the men have their own mission: different demands from the females in their lives; more complains; and, rising contempt for what used to be the undisputed status quo. The homes turn into a competition ground more or less—this one’s recently internalized desire trying to outdo the other; World War 3, as changes clamor for more money, time and effort to “purchase” them; wardrobes are going out, new ones coming in; freedom agenda are being drawn out; and, stress, futility, and anger problems resulting from efforts of feasibility to achieve the wanted “new life”.

Church is no different now—it is a sea divided into two genders, and then there is a silent, competitive war between members of each gender. Everyone wants to be different, to look better than the other person in acquiring the “awe-striking” personality of their mentors. And of course, the mentors keep telling of their humility, and smiling, and fanning, and coming late, and…Pastor keeps shifting gaze and faltering in his speech when two humans walk in.

The Sunday before Christmas is the day Pastor shocks the “Red Sea” with the news that Mr. and Madam are getting married and have relocated to London. Church turns into a grave yard that day, and men and women look at their changed and indescribable wears with new eyes. Eyes start to locate those of their partners, and by the time the last Grace is said, family members seek each other and hold hands. Everyone goes home early that day—no “group meetings” for the first time in a long time. Lunch is quiet; dinner, grave. The air is stiff with memories of foolish behaviors and their needlessness at the moment.

The following Sunday, everyone returns to a church that tortured the mind. They all still wear the funny, crazy, and different clothes, but there is no one to look…and nothing to prove to anybody. Pastor’s speech does not falter, nor do his eyes shift to notice anyone’s entrance. The two backseats are totally empty; but, brains are filled with the pictures of one man and woman: acclaimed demigods. The women can’t face one another; neither can the men. Their leaders are gone, but they are here, and their relationships with each other have been strained by stupid competitive ideologies and debased self-esteem. The clothes and agenda are useless now; only people remain…but, the people aren’t the same anymore, they just can’t be. They have changed, and change does not always suffice to be right.

Pastor finally addresses the church on what the problem is. Why are they all so cold? But no one knows…or maybe they can’t just tell. It would be too much to repeat the story of one’s stupidity. And so—hearts are drained; relationships strained; bank accounts compressed; but, mostly on the minds of them all, are the images of two vacant backseats…

read more