…taxi…

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I hold my heels in my hand as I wait for the taxi I’ve just booked. I can feel the wind against my face as it begins to dry the tears resting on my cheeks.

He should have been standing with you now, taking of his jacket to keep you warm. I guess that only happens in movies…you watch too much movies Urunwa. The voice in my head says derisively.

I hate her, the voice; it’s constantly there, constantly mocking me as it follows me everywhere, like a bad body odour. I can’t remember when I first heard her or when she became a tenant in my head, I only know that she had chosen me, and will only leave when I leave.

The taxi finally arrives and I look at the driver warily, as though by doing this I can tell if he is a serial killer.

‘I’ve been waiting for a while’, I say to him as I get into the London black cab.

‘I’m sorry about that, it’s been a pretty busy night’, he replies smiling as he looks at me through his rear mirror.

I let the image of his smile loiter in my mind as he begins to drive. He showed off a set of perfectly arranged teeth and a gap tooth colonizing the front of his upper tooth. It seemed genuine, yet forced.

You should talk to him, she starts again, he’s probably not going to hurt you like…

‘Shut up!’ I whisper.

‘Did you say something?’ the driver asks and I realise I’ve been heard speaking to myself…her.

‘No not you, just reading something’, I lie.

‘Oh alright. So have you had a good day?’

‘Sort of…I guess it’s been an alright day’

Sort of? What do you mean sort of? You stupid girl! With all that’s happened today you should be excited about what you’re going to do tonight.

I ignore her again, even though I know what she’s talking about, ‘I mean, it’s not my best day…Valentine’s Day is never my best day’.

‘Me too’, he laughs and this time I can tell his smile is honest.

‘How about you? How’s your day been?’

‘I guess it’s been an alright day’, he says intentionally, using my own words, ‘just can’t wait to get home, this will be my last job for the night so I can go home and enjoy the night’.

‘That’s good’.

‘Not as good as it sounds…I mean it’s good when you’ve got someone to go home to, especially on Valentine’s Day’.

I stare into the rear mirror and look at his eyes glistening with tears he tries to hold back.

‘You’ve had a terrible day’, I whisper thoughtlessly to myself.

‘You talk to yourself a lot don’t you?’ I can hear him laugh and I realize I’ve spoken out loud to myself again.

‘You’ve noticed’, I smile back, ‘tell me about her’.

‘Who?’

‘Her…you know she’s the reason you’re having a terrible day, so tell me about her, that is if you don’t mind’.

‘We’re almost at your destination though’.

‘You don’t want to go home just yet…I know that because I’ve seen the way you smile when you say you’re going to enjoy the night. Plus this is your last job for the night right?’

You’re going to ruin our plan for the night Urunwa!

‘Don’t you have plans for the night?

Yes we do!

‘Nothing that can’t wait. You never know I could make your night better if you’ll just tell me about her, besides I promise you’ll never see me after today, so everything you say will die with the stranger you met on valentine’s day’. I smile, the only honest smile I’ve given all day.

Don’t ruin tonight you stupid girl! We’ve got business we’ve got to finish tonight!

We come to the front of my apartment and I see him reach for his pocket.

This is even better than I thought; he’s probably going to make things easier for us tonight! If he brings out a gun you better not try to stop him! She says and I begin to think how stupid I’ve been the whole night, as my heart beats harder.

‘Her name’s Hanye…Hanyechukwu’, he says as he gives me the photograph he’s pulled out from his pocket.

I take the photograph of a young lady with skin the colour of almonds, her oxblood box braids are perfectly put in a bun and she smiles, showing of a set of teeth similar to the driver’s. She looks like someone I’ve met before. My eyes whiz from the photograph to him as I stop myself from asking any questions beginning to flood my mind.

Stop! she says very irritably.

I pull out the bottle of white pills hidden somewhere in my bag, I let one pill dance down my throat with a bit of water. The voice is gone…gone for now.

‘I’m listening’ I say as I put my legs on the grey seats, getting comfortable for a long night.

 

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLIND SIGHT BY OZI EGBUONU

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freshest akara…the writer

Hey guys! so this amazing writer and the freshest akara of all times has been so kind to give a lovely poem! Ozioma is amazing y’all!

 

 

Blind Sight…

I thought I had eyes.

I thought I could see.

I thought I was alive.

I thought I was free.

 

NOT…

 

My eyes were tied

By stereotypes within

My sight was blind-ed

By society deep-in

 

TRUE…

 

My blood loved me

And took care of me

At the same time, my blood poisoned me

And took hold of my ‘see’.

 

AND NOW…

 

Cold nights

Mind fight

Old lights

Blind Sight

 

 

…iyawo copa…

Way before the seeds on my chest had turned to ripening fruits and the monthly visits of cramps and bloody streams started, nne had never failed to lecture me on the ‘horrors and pains’ of sex…well pre-marital sex. She took this role very seriously; so serious that once, after seeing Chima, our landlord’s son, and I holding hands, she used my ears as a leash to pull me back home, and put the fear of herself in him by reigning threats on him if I should get pregnant.

By the time I was 12 years old, nne had managed to drive away known wandering eyes from me.

I couldn’t really blame her for her irrational approach to building a wall between the male specie and myself. It was her way of avoiding a repeat of the past.

If I close my leg when I dey young, shebi I for finish school, get better job, come marry, come have you. But na because I go look for wetin big pass me, now na akara I dey sell’, she said quite too often and my heart would be full with pity for her.

So, to prevent my mother from experiencing another heart break, I avoided asking boys for pens in class, or shaking hands with any of the ‘brothers’ at church, or welcoming any conversations with the ‘uncles’ in our neighbourhood.

But when Corper Jide moved into our compound, nne seemed to accept him. So accepting of him was she that she allowed him help me with my assignments every day after school. She would put two dinning seats out at the veranda even before I got home; one for him and one for me.

Nne Amaka’, he would say almost every morning, as he stood by her akara stand watching her turn the browning beans cake swimming in hot oil, ‘how aburo mi dey, she done go school?

Copa! I don tell you say I know dey hear this your Yoruba language o!’

But I don tell you say aburo mi means my sister’, he would respond, reassuring my mother he wasn’t using his language to throw insults.

My mother loved hearing that, it made her happy that she could trust another person with her daughter, it made her even happier that the person she could trust spent hours every other night cabashing and praying down the compound. Corper Jide, to her, was like the brother of Jesus. Not only did it please her that he was from a rich home yet clothed himself in humility, He didn’t allow girls into his one bedroom apartment and definitely didn’t accept their hugs. He always held a worn-out black leather bible under his right armpit, even on days where he had no church service to attend and he ended every conversation with ‘God bless you my brother or sister’. The other corpers in the neighbourhood referred to him as pastor or the man after God’s own heart.

So when nne noticed I had not asked her for money to buy sanitary pads for two months she prayed so hard that it was not Corper Jide who had stopped me from buying sanitary pads.

Na who you say give you this belle?’ she asked rather too calmly.

Copa’, I stammered.

See this pikin, shey I don warn you make you no dey lie! I say na who you say give you belle?’ This time she didn’t hesitate to hold my blue and white strip tank top firmly, preventing me from trying to escape her soon-to-come wrath.

Nne na Jide, I swear! Jide got me pregnant!’

I probably should have told her I did not know the father, because this information blew the flame of her anger even more and caused her to burn outrageously, and so with rough palms remodelled by years of hard labour, my mother began to pour out slaps on my face and wherever she could on my body.

Other tenants gathered to rescue me from the beatings, including Jide. That was the worse thing he could do, because my mother turned to him and let her anger get to its peak, as she took an empty Coca-Cola bottle and smashed it on his head.

Jide isn’t dead, and it’s a good thing he’s not…I’m not sure nne would ever be able to survive in prison. He carries a scar on his head though, one which is as bared as my protruding tummy.

Iyawo Copa’, a neighbour says as he locks his front door, ‘when your husband’s people dey come?

‘This weekend”

Your mama for wait na before she pack your things come dis side, no be say the boy refuse the pregnancy, and na better person sef, as my guy come hold money for pocket’, he continued as though his opinion made any sense to me or my mother.

It didn’t matter to me that Jide was ready to take responsibility for the pregnancy, or that he said he honestly did love me. I wasn’t concerned about his money. I had broken my mother’s heart and that was enough to cause me sadness for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHUT UP!

My mother’s favourite words have always been ‘shut up’. But as she stands dressed in her beaded, white lace top, motif red horses riding on the mustard vlisco hollandaise wrapper tied around her waist, and eyes filled with rage and confusion, I can tell that silence is the last thing she needs now.

Quite often, the words would roll off her lips without hesitation, and most times they were hurled at Brume, my younger sister.

‘Dear I’ve told you to stop saying that to these children. You’ve already rendered one of my daughter’s almost dumb with this your shut up’, daddy would say without really paying attention to what was going on.

Brume would let a smile crawl on her round face whenever he said this. It amused her that daddy indirectly referred to me, the quiet one, as almost dumb.

My sister and I didn’t share much in common especially when it came to talking. I was born eight years before her and so as the first child, my church loving, military-tailored and over-disciplined mother found it necessary to bring up a child in the way of the Lord.

I remember Aunty Efe sitting on a decaying wooden stool one evening, feeling sorry for me as she pounded freshly boiled palm fruits in the poorly lit backyard. She’s my mum’s first cousin and the only family she never referred to as a witch, well not until today.

‘God’s probably closed her womb till she’s ready to drop her wickedness’, Aunty Efe muttered after she watched my mother marinade a cane with pepper and dish out 6 strokes on my bare bum because I had failed to greet the pastor properly.

Aunty Efe was right! A month after that incident my mother spent most of her time fasting and praying more than she ever had and things begun to change. It was as though God had revealed to her that shouting at me less and buying more butter-mint sweets for me was the solution to her closed womb. So even when she gave birth to Oghenebrume, she adopted the words shut up, rather than the use of canes, or belts or even the garri turna (wooden spatula) she usually kept in her bedroom.

Now, my mother stands, her christian-mother arms form a 45 degrees angle as her palms rest on her waist, she taps her painted toes on the brown tiles continuously and follows a consistent rhythm.

‘Uloho!’ she screams at my father and it’s the first time we’ve heard her call him by his actual name, ‘this better be a joke! You better be joking o! Who did you say is moving into this house?’

Three neighbours are standing in the living room as the commotion has sent out an unwelcoming invitation to those in flats around us. Mama IJ and teacher Sunday, the residents of the two bedrooms flat below us, take their position beside my mother. Already they have been able to block most of the slaps directed at my father who stands in front of aunty Efe, as though he is her bulletproof jacket.

‘But shebi I told mummy that it is not good for a grown woman like aunty Efe to come and be visiting every weekend, even on weekends that she’s at night vigil praying’, Brume attempts to whisper to me, speaking in a low voice is not a gift she’s blessed with, ‘now while she was praying to God, this one was playing with her husband’, she continues.

My mother turns and lets her eyes drop from Brume’s head to her legs continuously.

‘Ahn mummy it’s not me you should be eyeing o’, she grumbles as it is now clear my mother has heard her side comment.

‘Will you shut up!’ it’s a demand, not a request.

I look at my mother and begin to wonder if I should be completely sorry for her, after all on two occasions Brume had called my attention to the sound of late night giggles coming from my parent’s bedroom on nights when my mother was not at home, we had also seen our father and aunty Efe share more than a peck on the cheeks. Brume, being the talkative one had tried to inform my mother about the incidents, but always failed to complete her report as my mother demanded her to shut up and stop letting the devil use her to tell lies against her aunty and father. My eyes move from my mother to the pregnant woman she once trusted standing behind my father. She seems to be enjoying the pain and anger in my mother’ eyes.

‘Dear please forgive me’, I can hear my father say.

‘He’s begging now, when he was depositing seeds into this witch he did not know he will beg…’ Brume helplessly renders another side comment.

‘I say shut up!’

‘It’s this shut up that got you were you are mummy, let this girl talk! At least in the multitude of words that come out from her mouth the truth is found there’, the words spill out of my mouth like one who sneezes without control.

I watch as my mother’s jaws give way for more air to enter her mouth and my father’s fear is no longer based on my mother, but on me, the dumb daughter that now speaks.

 

 

 

 

 

…stained walls…

The smell of heated palm oil lingers in the kitchen.

Ore mi, not to be rude or anything but what you’ve just said is foolishness o’, Jumoke says as she begins to fry the egusi paste, ‘I mean, have you heard yourself, who go believe this kind thing wey you just talk’, she continues without looking at you.

You sit on the small wooden stool, unmoved by the words of your best friend, unmoved by the burning in between your thighs. Your eyes are focused on the red stain on the light blue painted wall.

Why on earth did I pick that colour?’ you whisper unconsciously.

‘Are you listening to me at all Anjiola?’ Jumoke turns to you with confusion and a little irritation in her voice.

‘Yes I am’.

‘When does Femi get back?’ she changes the topic.

‘Past 6’

‘Go and have a bath while I finish the cooking’

‘I’ll have a bath later’.

How foolish of you to think that Jumoke would understand, you think to yourself…how foolish of you to have picked the light blue colour.

The kitchen door is opened very gently and Femi stands dressed in a purple shirt and black chinos with his tie loosely hanging from his neck. Underneath his light brown eyes are dark circles, and though it’s easy to tell that he is tired, with a smile on his face showing of a gap tooth, there is no doubt that he is a handsome man.

‘Ahn Uncle Femz welcome o’, Jumoke says excitedly, and you wonder why she has chosen to betray you by welcoming him with so much joy.

‘Jummy Jummy’, Femi says warmly, ‘how na? This one wey you dey our house today, it’s only when your friend is on leave you remember us’, he continues.

‘No o it’s not like that o’, she laughs, ‘I come o but you’re never home, I’m even surprised your home early’.

‘I was missing my baby’, he walks over to you, with eyes full of what seems to be love, ‘I thought she would be really lonely’, his lips rest on your forehead for a few seconds, and then your own lips and for a minute you wish this was real.

‘Na wa o, this kind love!’ Jumoke teases as both lips unlock. You all laugh… your laughter seems to be the loudest- the saddest.

Eventually Jumoke leaves and you both walk into the living room, holding hands as though you are in love.

‘Why aren’t you clean’, he lets go of your hands, his eyes no longer have love in them as they did a few minutes ago.

‘I didn’t know you were coming home early’, you let your head drop towards the ground, like a child being reprimanded.

‘Go wash up’, he commands.

As you walk up the stairs you can hear him walk behind you. Like a prey knowing it’s being watched, you walk faster as tears begin to run down your cheeks and your heart beats faster. Like a tiger ready to take down its prey, he pushes you to the wall, pinning you down with his well-built body.

‘Femi please’, you cry as you try to break free from his firm grip, ‘Femi you’re hurting me’.

‘Look at me’, he whispers, the smell of egusi soup lingers on his breath, ‘look at me!’

You open your eyes and look at him, how could they not hold love for you anymore, you think to yourself.

‘I am your husband! I paid your damn bride price! I’ll have you when and where I want.’

Forcefully he turns you around, pushing your head to the wall. The sound of his belt being unbuckled rings in your ears. Your eyes are fixed on a red stain on the wall, a stain similar to the one in the kitchen. Like the light blue walls, perfect and beautiful, your life has become stained with pain and sadness.

‘There is no such thing as your husband raping you’, Jumoke’s words echo in your head as his hands grope your buttocks. You try to convince yourself that your friend is right.

Femi finally let’s you go, he turns you around once more and wipes your tears.

‘I love you’, he says as he places a kiss on your forehead. He walks away in guilt, guilt that means nothing to you now.

You focus on the stained wall, the burning between your thighs is worse than ever and is hard to ignore.

‘I’ll clean them up’, you whisper unconsciously as you walk to the kitchen… ‘I’ll clean them all up’.

 

 

Tagged ,

…the prodigal daughter…

‘Madam we go soon reach o’, the taxi driver says as he turns back to meet my eyes and gives a smile that proudly shows of his gap tooth.

I smile back at him; not just for courtesy’s sake, but also for the fact that I like him a lot. His wide gap tooth reminds me of Idris, and so does his never ending questioning.

I remember what his voice is like as I look out the window, ‘why is your hair so long? Why don’t you talk to anyone? Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Would you ever leave mum and dad? Why does Obi always hit you? Why does mum hate you? When will you come back? Would you come back for me?’ he never seemed to stop asking.

‘Madam we don reach o’, he says pulling me out of memory lane and saving me from my own tears.

‘Danjuma’, don’t leave this place till I tell you to do so’.

I walk into the huge compound trying to convince myself not to turn back and leave before anyone will notice my presence.

‘My prodigal daughter has returned!’, I can hear my mother say as she dances into the veranda. She’s grown older in the past few years, much older than I expected.

Idris runs out of the light green bungalow. He too has grown older, his chest is broader, his legs are longer and those eyes that once held excitement and innocence in them now seem to show a hidden anger…a hidden sadness.

I can’t help but cry as he begins to walk to me with tears rolling down his chiselled face.

‘Where have you been?’, he struggles to say, pulling me closer to him and holding on to me as though he wasn’t going to let me leave again.

I’ve missed you’, I respond as I place a kiss on his forehead.

‘We’ve missed you too’, another voice from behind says and my heart skips three beats as I recognise who it is.

I turn to look at him. There he is, standing with all pride, holding his head up high as though he has every authority to. Mother beckons on us to all come into the house and I can tell that she senses trouble already.

‘You look beautiful’, Obi says as we sit, waiting for father to come out.

‘Won’t you tell your brother thank you’, my mother doesn’t fail to show her irritation of my silence.

‘I’m not here to receive compliments, I came because Nwadi said Idris was in trouble’.

‘So if I or your father was dying, you wouldn’t come if we requested for you to come?’

‘Mum please’, Idris whispers, ‘she’s here now and that’s all that matters’.

‘His right woman’, my father says as he enters into the living room in the wheel chair Nwadi got him a few months ago. She had shown it to me, expressing how disappointed she was concerning my lack of communication with my family, even after my father had a stroke.

‘How have you been Ijeoma?’ he says, trying to avoid any form of eye contact.

‘I’ve been well sir’.

‘So now she doesn’t know how to greet? All respect has been thrown to the wind just because you left this house 12 years ago!’

’15 years ago actually’, I can’t help but enjoy the irritation in my mother’s voice. ‘I have a taxi waiting for me outside, I just want to know what trouble Idris is in?’

‘I’m not the one in trouble’ Idris says with his head bent towards the brown tiles, ‘he is. He’s raped another girl and got her pregnant. The family of the girl says if we give them money they’ll let the whole thing go, otherwise he’ll be locked up for good’.

‘We were hoping you could give us the money’, Obi stammers, with tears in his eyes.

I begin to stand from the brown leather settee and walk to the door. How dare they expect me to be his messiah!

‘Where are you going?’ my mother asks in shock and anger.

‘Back to where I came from’.

‘Look at this stupid child o’, she says and I’m not surprised out how she switches from a mother happy to see her child in so long, to the one who hates her only daughter. ‘Are you mad?! If you walk out of this house without getting your brother out of this mess, never come back here again. I am your mother! I breastfeed you with these two breasts don’t forget that and I can curse you!’

I look at her and start to laugh at the average heighted woman who stands holding her sagging breasts before me. ‘This is how we are going to solve this mess, call the girl that was raped and tell her how God demands that we forgive no matter what, tell her if she doesn’t forgive your precious son she will be condemned to hell’.

My father begins to cry as I say those words, the words he’s heard my mother say to me before. ‘I’m sorry’, he sobs, ‘I’m so sorry’.

‘Curse me’, I say moving closer to my mother, ‘curse me! You already cursed me the day you let him get away with everything, so go ahead curse me!’

My mother stands bewildered. I run out of the house without looking back, without answering to Idris plea to wait for him. My legs seem to be controlling my entire body. I get to the rickety blue and white taxi parked outside the gate, Danjuma isn’t there; what a stupid boy, I think to myself.

Idris finally catches up with me and gently pulls me closer to him as I cry out louder than I ever have.

‘Can I come with you, he asks as I begin to calm down, ‘I’ll be your protector this time…your messiah’, he smiles and I look at his gap tooth. I manage to giggle and nod.

As we walks through the rusting gate to get his things, I let my fingers trace the patch of wrinkled skin on my right arm. I shut my eyes as the wind carries memories of Obi’s voice threatening to kill me if I don’t spread my legs, telling me how beautiful I was as his cane flogged my thighs and I wept in pain, repeating how I was his and his alone as he took the hot iron scarring my right arm and the voice of my mother preaching to me about forgiveness so that the sins of her precious son would be covered…his sin covered but my wounds left opened.

Tagged , ,

…where the problem lies (1)…

He didn’t have the bulky arms embraced by muscles, neither did his smile stir up any kind of emotions in me, in fact I’m not sure it did to anyone. His two front teeth were aligned diagonally and I could only imagine how he had managed to chip them in such a pattern. His body seemed to be a hair magnet and every time his skin brushed mine I wondered if this is what Esau in the bible looked like. He was tall, dark and lanky and his glasses didn’t give him a flattering look.

‘I’m so sorry, would you mind telling me your name again’, he said 10 minutes into our very first discussion.

‘The name’s Ndidi’, I responded with a smile.

I noticed that too often he requested that I repeat myself.

‘What a mess’, Kelechi said as the lecture ended and Temi vanished into the crowd of students trying to hurry out of the lecture hall.

‘Don’t say that Kelechi! I think he’s really nice’.

I could sense her rolling her eyes as we stood to leave.

********

‘Recall the events to me again’ the sturdy inspector says jolting me back to the present.

‘I’ve already told you sir I walked into our room at 2.37pm, Kelechi was sitting with my boyfriend Nengi, who told me he was out of town but I’m guessing he wanted to surprise me. I got excited, jumped on him and as we were in tight embrace Temi came in. I never knew he had feelings for me, how was I to know that. I mean he could have said it, we see each other so often. Not that I would have broken up with Nengi but I would have explained things to him. Nengi and I have been through so much together so it would have been impossible that I would leave him for Temi. Like one time…’

‘Shut up!’ he screams, ‘young lady you are saying a whole lot of rubbish I do not need to know. Just answer the damn question!’

‘I’m sorry I’ve made you angry, please don’t be angry at me’, I suddenly begin to cry as I can sense he’s losing his patience.

Mr Inspector stands like he is a statue and looks at me as though I’m a mad person sitting before him. He pulls out his phone from his pocket.

‘Get me the girl’s family’, he says, his voice no longer expressing anger but worry, and I begin to wonder why he suddenly sounds exactly like everyone else…

…things we cannot see…

I open my eyes to the image of her well-rounded bum swaying as she sashays seductively towards the bathroom.

Femi you have no shame, I can hear the voice again in my head. It’s a voice I’ve become too familiar with in the past few months; a voice I have come to hate and hates me even more.

She returns with a wrapper tied around her waist. The light from the bathroom makes it possible to see it’s the red one with the motif of black curled branches; the one she wears almost every morning to clean.

‘Tell me something I don’t know’ she whispers as my lips leave hers, and moves to her neck, leaving a hickey to show it’s been there.

‘I love you’, I whisper back and we both seem to suck in those words as though they have been forbidden for so long. It’s the first time I’ve told her that.

‘Were you waiting for her to leave before you could tell me that?’ her voice presents some form of sadness or anger… I’m not sure and I don’t know what to say. ‘I should go clean up it’s already 4am, besides today is a busy day’, she breaks free from my arms wrapped around her, pulls her mint green tank top over her head and walks out of the cold room avoiding any eye contact.

Today of all days, can’t you control yourself? Today is no different from other days, I whisper to myself…to the voice. Son of a bitch, you ungrateful church rat! Who sleeps with a whore the night before his wife’s burial, the wife that made you who you are?! She is not a whore!

I rush out from the room as though I can escape from this nuisance. Sopuruchi’s eyes are fixed on the cream tiles enjoying the swishing movement of the mop. She’s beautiful in the dark, but even better in the light. Her baby-face holds almond eyes that always seem to twinkle and a well formed pointed nose. Her cupid bow shaped lips are perfect and so is her skin, the colour of roasted cashews.

I can read the emotion on her face and this time I’m pretty sure it’s sadness. She moves towards a vintage framed picture of Feyi hanging on the sky blue wall, and as though she is being haunted by the deep set eyes featured by russet iris, she turns her head away towards the ground.

Feyi loved that picture. She would say in her mixed Nigerian-British accent as she smiled proudly showing off a gap tooth, ‘just look at how that picture shows off the beauty of my eyes. I love it even more because they show off my love for you’, then turning to look at me as though to assure herself that my eyes also told of the love I had for her, she would conclude, ‘and if you ever stop loving me I will kill myself’.

In all honesty her eyes showed her love for me… at the time the picture was taken… and two years after that. But the emotion in them slowly turned into something less of love and the woman standing before that picture became the one with eyes that showed love for me.

Things began to change when Feyi started to come home late. Night after night I sat outside looking at the sky and wondering how many stars I could count. Sopuruchi often joined me; not to count stars, but to talk about the first lady’s shameful yet comical campaign speech on the awaiting downfall of the opposition party, or the views of Chimamanda Adichie conveyed in well-structured stories or speeches. She spoke of the country’s disgraceful political system and provided remedies. She knew a lot about the international community and showed her interest in the strength of America perceived by others yet its weakness in protecting its own people; ‘the black mass’, she would say.

I loved the outspoken part of her, it surprised me that someone with a little level of education enjoyed the feel of a newspaper and the company of articles and book. The other side of her was silent and timid. Like a coat, she put it on whenever Feyi was home and I could understand why.

‘I’m too tired Femi’, Feyi usually whined as I questioned her about coming home late.

‘Don’t you want to have babies?’ I knew her reason for her actions.

‘Babies can wait my love, besides we shouldn’t be making love just to have babies Femi’.

‘Five years Feyi! Five years of marriage and we’re still putting having children on hold’.

‘This is the reason I stay away from this damn house. You are getting on my nerves!’ her accent would switch from the normal Nigerian-British mix to a pure British one as her anger escalated.

She used to take out her anger on Sopuruchi, either lavishly serving the hot food given to her on Sopuruchi’s body or presenting her with a slap as she cussed.

‘Don’t worry about it’, Sopuruchi said on one of such nights. Her ‘madam’ had slapped her, this time targeting her eyes, ‘madam is just really angry’, she said displaying her loyalty as I touched the reddened area, looking into her eyes. She looked to the ground and I couldn’t help but gently lift her face and kiss her cheeks as though my lips would soothe her pain.

So you let the handshake go beyond the elbow and made love to your maid?! There it is again, needing no answer. You killed her you know…you killed her. I didn’t! I can swear on my life I didn’t!

You see, people don’t stop loving each other over one thing, in our case it wasn’t just the babies, it was nothing to talk about when it was just the two of us, it was her disappointment in me for leaving her father’s company and turning to photography instead, it was the realisation that the love in her eyes dimmed every day.

That’s you’re excuse to sleep with your maid, to get her pregnant and be proud of it? The pregnancy. There was no plan to get her pregnant but I loved her the more as she announced to me with fear in her eyes, that she was carrying my child.

I open the door to our bedroom, refusing to fall into guilt. Like a painting, traces of her blood still embrace the cream tiles, even though Sopuruchi scrubs them every morning, or maybe it’s just our imagination. I walk to the king sized bed and sit in the exact spot we had our last conversation.

‘You don’t love me anymore?’ Feyi asked with her teary eyes focused on the wall.

‘We both know we’ve fallen out of love’.

‘You love her instead?’ she voiced her suspicion.

‘No Feyi, Sopuruchi and I have nothing’, I lied, ‘we just need to end this marriage’.

I remember walking out of the room after a long silence and as I shut the door I heard a gun jar. I opened the door with caution. With a gun beside her and blood spilling from her head, Feyi was gone.

You killed her you know. As I look at the black caftan, spread out on the bed, I can’t help but agree with the voice, finally letting it push me into the arms of guilt… in some way I killed my wife.

…the APOSTLE…

Chinwe had no control of her body. ‘Leave me! Leave me!’ she screamed, as her baby pink chiffon dress was ruined by the dirty tiles she was rolling on.

Her voice was unrecognisable. On a normal day her voice was silvery, but this wasn’t a normal day.

‘That’s the demon speaking!’ the apostle screamed into the microphone, and I wondered if he knew the function of the equipment in his plump hand that lacked the touch of lotion.

‘Come out, come out!’ he spoke to her but commanded the ‘evil spirit’ in her and her rolling became more intense.

I worried that, with her eyes closed and her uncontrollable movement, she would hit the standing fan and get hurt. I worried more that the congregation believed that there was an evil spirit in her.

My eyes only went shut when my head felt an unexpected pain inflicted by my mother. ‘Do you want demons to enter you?’ she said through clenched teeth and let her knuckles drum hard on my head again.

I only started to come to church with my mother three Sundays ago, because she was tired of having to live with an ‘ungodly child’ who would rather sit at home with her ‘ungodly father’ on a Sunday.

For three consecutive Sundays, I remember the church secretary announce the coming of ‘the apostle’ as though he was the Messiah himself. ‘Praiiiseeeeee da Lord somebody’, his lips grew longer than they already were, ‘I said praise, praise, praise da Lord brodas and sistas’, he called again as though the first ‘hallelujah’ response was not loud enough. ‘I know we are all preparing for an encounter with Master Jesus! Don’t miss that encounter, tell your neighbour don’t miss that encounter’, and the congregation did as he said. ‘The Apostle will be in this auditorium with us, come with your handkerchiefs, your pens, your cv’s. All your problems will be gone in Jesus name!’ the congregation screamed back ‘amen’ in excitement. All I could think was how long his dark lips were, and how the letter ‘r’ turned to ‘l’ when he spoke.

I didn’t like the apostle much, I don’t think I liked him at all. He always wore a different shade of brown short-sleeved suits like that was the only outfit he allowed into his wardrobe. His expensive gold watch and rings made me wonder how much of the people’s offerings he shared with God. For someone with two decaying premolars, he smiled with so much pride.

‘Three years ago, this woman came crying before the Lord in search of a child!’ he pulled a sweat stained handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his furrowed forehead. ‘After we prayed for her God gave her a child. Now three years after and the devil is fighting again! Devil today this war is over I command you to leave this woman’s womb in Jesus name!’ His screaming became louder and Chinwe’s turning became furious again.

I remembered Afam’s dedication ceremony…. Chinwe was the happiest I had ever seen her on that day. Uncle Fred’s family had made life miserable for her during her ‘barren years’, sometimes locking her out of the house when they came to visit and he wasn’t home. Our home became a second home for her…who else would have understood the dilemma of a barren woman than the neighbour who had experienced the same?. So when Afam was born it was a break from the wahala. Recently though, the in-laws started to wag their tongues again on her inability to give their son another child.

All too suddenly, the apostle’s binding and casting was brought to an end by the sound of a gunshot at the back of the church. No longer were the church members focused on Chinwe, rather everyone begun to pray for their own lives as confusion arose. Even Chinwe had stopped rolling and her eyes were wide opened filled with fear as she saw her husband walking down the aisle with the gun in his hand.

‘Get up!’ he commanded her with bloodshot eyes, ‘get the hell up you stupid woman!’ he expressed his irritation in her reluctance to stand.

She stood with her head facing the ground like a child being reprimanded.

‘Everyone sit down, nobody leaves this building!’ Uncle Fred now turned to the congregation. In a few minutes everyone had sat without thinking twice.

I turned to my mother and I could see her confusion. I could tell she wanted to walk up to him and slap him as though he were her own child. He was, in a way, her child. She had known him since he was 13 and often people referred to him as her son. History has it that my mother and his family had always been neighbours and in her free time she was always at their house, helping out with the chores and being a nanny to Fred and his three younger sisters.

Uncle Fred avoided my mother’s deep eyes by all means. ‘Chinwe tell the church who the father of your child is!’ Chinwe looked at him in shock. ‘Are you looking at me?’ He asked calmly and then asked again when she refused to speak.

‘You are’ she stammered.

‘I am’, he said as though he was in agreement with her.

The congregation gasped as Uncle Fred unexpectedly slapped his wife sending her back to the ground.

‘Get up!’ he commanded and she obeyed in a hurry, ‘Chinwe tell the church who the father of your child is!’ He said again as he was losing patience.

‘My child’, the apostle begun to interrupt, ‘please don’t let the devil use you this way’, his voice could hardly be heard and I wondered why he couldn’t cast the evil spirit from the man with a gun.

‘Mr Man, if you talk again I will send you to meet with this Jesus you say you serve’, Uncle Fred threatened.

‘Chinwe who the hell is the father of your child! Because it can’t be me! I was told today that my sperm count is too low for me to father a child! So who the hell is the father of your child?’

‘Brother, can’t you see that God did a miracle for you? Or are you trying to say that God is not above a low sperm count?’ The apostle pushed his round rimmed glasses up as he spoke in fear.

At this point, people no longer sat in fear but with anxiety and intense interest, waiting to hear Chinwe unravel the mystery behind the father of Afam.

Uncle Fred roughly pulled Chinwe closer to himself and pointed the gun to her head.

‘He is!’ Chinwe screamed as every head turned to the direction to which she pointed.

‘Ahn! I Bind you in the name of Jesus!’ the apostle said as all eyes focused on him,’ this is a lie from the pit of hell. Your wife is possessed’, his sweating became profuse.

Slowly Uncle Fred moved closer to him, this time letting his eyes meet my mother’s.

‘Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm’, the apostle managed to say as he feared for his life and the congregation burst into laughter.

‘Tell the church how you got my wife pregnant’, Uncle Fred ignored the laughter as he forced the heavy man to his feet.

‘Brother…’

‘Will you shut up?! Do I look like your brother?! Tell the church how you got my wife pregnant!’ this time he put the gun to the apostle’s head.

‘She needed a child!’ he begun to speak as his fear caused him to wet himself, ‘am I God that gives children? I’m not. I only tried to help her out in the way I could. I’m not God that gives children na!

‘So you performed your own miracle on my wife and slept with her’, Uncle Fred said laughing.

My brother wetin I go do, the people want miracles. Please no kill me I dey beg’. Uncle Fred looked at him with disgust.

‘Behold your apostle!’ he turned to the congregation and said mockingly as he pushed the man to the ground. ‘When you get to the gate, you’ll see your bags there. By Monday you’ll get your divorce papers’, he said as he turned to Chinwe.

Uncle Fred begun to walk out of the church and my mother didn’t hesitate to pull me out of my chair and drag me along as we walked out too. One thing I was sure of was that, we were never coming back to this church. I wasn’t sure however, if our home would be opened to Chinwe ever again.

Tagged ,

…across the room…

She looks across the room again. Her heart hungers to wrap her hands around the thin, fragile neck and squeeze the life out of the grey haired woman. It wasn’t a thought of wishing she could just release her of the pain, it was a thought of erasing her from the surface of the earth as soon as possible. This thought had, for more than half of her life, been her best dreams in the midst of her cruel reality.
‘Adunni!’ her voice betrayed shadows of anger and aggression yet she remained poised, ‘you will do as I say! I did not give you any options my dear child, I have told you what you will do. Go and get dressed you are going for dinner’.
Her eyes welled with tears, tears that her mother never acknowledged. She fixed her eyes on the large portrait of her father, a gap tooth was displayed as he grinned. She remembered him hanging that picture on the cream wall a week before he died. She had told him she hated her dentition and wanted braces as she watched him try to perfect the position of the frame.
‘Get braces and close that gap tooth? Hell no! Don’t you know you are the image of your father and I don’t want that to change? If no one loves you that way I do baby’, he said jokingly as he stretched to place a kiss on her cheek.
‘Adunni I said go and get dressed!’ her mother screamed pulling her out of memory lane.
Now in the room brightly lit by the proud sun, she looks as the pastor holds her mother’s hand with finger nails the colour of red roses and fails to respond to every ‘in Jesus name’. The last ‘amen’ is said and her eyes meet the apologetic eyes of the woman who birthed her, the same eyes that silenced her.
Morolayo looked at her daughter with all diligence, making sure the dress was tight enough to reveal her curves. She wanted the best for her daughter, every mother wanted that. And so the best for Adunni was to get her married to Abioye, a young man of social status and wealth. For four months she had planned dinner for the three of them and sometimes his family had been invited. Dinner, however, was meant for just the potential couple that night.
‘Stay there till she’s ready to leave’, her instructions were clear to the driver dressed in a red and orange African print shirt and jeans which longed to retire.
‘Yes ma! But madam you no dey go? Dat boy no look like good pesin o’, his eyes widened as he spoke.
‘Shut up and do as I have told you!’
‘Yes ma!’ he stumped a foot on the fancy light blue tiles and stood erect, raising one hand to the top of his forehead as he threw a salute.
Silence. That was all she was expecting for the night as the vehicle left the gate. Morolayo welcomed the thought of a fancy wedding for her daughter. She envisioned her smiling and mouthing a ‘thank you mum’ as she took her first dance with Abioye and yet she felt the very presence of fear and disapproval. Managing to dispose of the guilt of what she had planned for the night, she closed her eyes inviting the peace sleep brought with it.
‘Mummy!’ her wailing became louder as mother ran to child just past midnight. Her eyes fell on the torn dress and the laps of her child generously greased with blood. ‘Mummy he raped me!’ Adunni waited for the warmth of her mother’s hug.
Morolayo stood across the room, her eyes full of emotions Adunni could not explain as she looked up and let out quieter sobs.
‘Mummy I’ve been raped’, a puzzled look fell across her face. She wondered if her mother stood in shock, she wondered what action she would take next.
‘Shut up Adunni!’ Morolayo’s eyes portrayed anger, ‘you were not raped. Abioye is your husband and has every right to make love to you. Did you hear me?! He did not rape you he made love to you!’
With blood shot eyes and the throbbing pain in between her legs, she walked upstairs to get clean as her mother had commanded and as she settled in her bath tub, steam rising from the foamy hot water, she wished her mother nothing more than what she deserved, she wished her…
‘Adunni’, Aunty Lara’s high pitched voice comes bursting through her memory bringing her back to the moment, ‘you’ve stood across this room all this time. Won’t you at least come and greet your mother?’
Her aunty moves towards her reaching for her hand and trying to pull her out of the corner where she’s stood all morning.
‘I’ll rather stay here aunty…let me know when you’re ready to leave and I’ll drive you home’, her words are enough to let her know she’s fine with where she’s been.
‘Adunni’, the voice of a frail, sickly woman calls…
‘Adunni go to your home’, she remembered her say to her with those eyes that never showed any emotions.
‘You’re not listening to me!’ her throat seemed to crack betraying her emotions of fear and sorrow, ‘he beats me till I pass out, he dictates what I wear, where I go and who I talk to, I’ve become his whore and not his wife!’
‘Your marriage is what you make it!’
‘Your husband should treat you right! The bible says husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church!’ boldness began to slip through Adunni’s tone.
‘The bible also says wives be submissive to your husbands. Now go to your home and do just that’.
‘I’ve lost three babies because of him…I’ve lost two babies because of you! I want out of this marriage… daddy never treated you this way, I won’t be treated this way too…at least not anymore!’
‘You take your boxes my dear child and go back to Abioye and if you do not go to your home don’t you ever come here again’, Morolayo said calmly yet firmly.
‘This is my home mummy, please, you can’t let him keep hurting me’, tear drops formed patterns on her cheeks down to her aching chest.
Morolayo stood and walked to the door without sympathy for the one she called child, the one she had forced into a marriage of slavery. Opening the door she said, ‘Abioye is a good man, he doesn’t cheat and he provides everything a woman could ever need and want. You are the one who gets him all worked up and angry, do as he says and you’ll be a happier woman. You either go to your home or you chose to live this life on your own’.
‘Adunni’, she calls again unintentionally drawing her from the past, ‘my dear child…’
‘I am not your child!’ Adunni shoots back in anger.
‘Don’t talk like that Adunni’, Aunty Lara says as she tries to convince herself that Morolayo deserves some form of respect but fails to.
‘Aunty meet me in the car when you’re ready’, her heels begin to click as she walks towards the door, calmness ensuing her at the voice of the only woman who had ever truly cared.
‘Adunni, I thought I was doing what’s best for you’, Morolayo begins to cry, ‘please you can’t leave me like this at least let me spend my last days knowing you were here, please don’t…’
‘Did I tell you how Abioye would wrap his hand around the thick mass of my ponytail and drag me into the bathroom? He would command me to get into the bathtub and I would because, as you said, I had to do as he said. Maliciously, he would stick a hanger inside of me, twisting and turning till my growing baby would come into this world as nothing but blood. And then he would bathe me, giving me all the reasons why we weren’t ready to have a baby, telling me he knew what was best for me. You two seemed to share a lot in common. You will die a lonely woman, you will spend these last days knowing I’m not here with you and thinking about how I just stood across the room. See, you’ve always left me in that position, standing far from me and never caring, now I’m leaving you in that position. You’re the one across the room with no child to care’, her voice clearly shows hatred yet is camouflaged with perfect calm, ‘Aunty, meet me in the car when you’re ready’.

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