in Short stories

Thursday, 21 May 2020

HOW TO LOVE A VILLAGE BOY WITHOUT BURNING

Beautiful black girl

This story you are about to read was my Entry for the Afritondo short story prize. I wrote it and got ready to send it the next morning when I noticed I had misplaced the deadline with another writing contest.
I was a day late. I couldn't submit. Felt bad, but we move. Read. Then tell me how you feel about my story.

HOW TO LOVE A VILLAGE BOY WITHOUT BURNING


"Now that a part of your face is gone who will marry you, They say they can cover it with plastic. But who will marry plastic"  
Mama said with trauma in her eyes.

 Emeka was fine in a way village boys were fine. He had bright yellow teeth and a mustache that exaggerated his cupid bow. His hair was neatly shaven at the back, save for the small chunk left in front. He called it ‘punk’ with his Igbo baritone accent.

 You met him first at his stall; he sold fabric and rubber sandals at the main market. Mother said he was the honest one in the business because he sold at a fair price unlike other area sales boys in Onitsha market. He was the only one she bought Ankara from and he soon introduced you and your mother to rubber sandals.
‘’this one is like leather’’ he bragged, he said it was stronger than the Gucci slides you had on.
‘’ Na tear rubber, wear and tear!’’ he yelled with a smile that celebrated the gap in between his tooth. You bought rubber sandals from him even though you knew you would never be caught dead wearing them.

When you started going to the market just to buy a bar of soap or one box of matches which was easily sold across your street, it became obvious it was his company you enjoyed.

He gave you a wooden stool to sit on and teased you for being too oyibo for the market sun, never mind that you were almost as brown as the palm kernel nuts he served you with garri.

Had anyone asked your mother why you went out every afternoon, she would say it was because you had been away for a long time, that it was only normal for you to go out and get accustomed to the hustle and bustle of town. It would have been true except, you kissed  Emeka on his rough cheeks and he pecked you back.
It became normalcy to stay with him till he made his sales and misspelled the sum total in his 2A brown covered notebook.

Rubba sandals – 12,500
Hollandia wrapper – 20,000
Lianin-5000
Total = 43,000

He would smile and tell you how proud his Oga Festus must be of his big sales that day. You just stared at his short fingernails and gave him a nod. His nails were very short and they were chewed due to shyness. You wondered what Chizalu your twin sister would say if she found out you were making out with a grown man who could not keep his fingernails out of his mouth.

Her boyfriend Bokamoso was from Germany, his mother was South African. He maintained a clean shave and had well-manicured Fingernails. She was going to bring him home and hope that mother did not have a heart attack because she made it clear when she sent you both to Oxford that the only thing you should bring back home was a degree and an Igbo man ready to settle down. They had been dating for a year now, and from the picture of the ring Chizalu sent you, Bokamoso was now ready to be a husband.

Emeka’s shop was closed that afternoon, his neighbor Chude said he closed early the previous day. You didn’t know why you asked for the address, but you knew your heart would not stop racing if you did not ask. It was the same feeling you had when you suspected Taylor, your ex-boyfriend was cheating on you and you did not ask or confront him till you found them smooching in your bedroom.

The ear-deafening sound of an overused I pass my neighbor generator welcomed you into the compound.
Emeka lived in a small room at the extreme of a large face me I face you public yard.  He had a flat mattress in the corner of his room. And a  small stereo that blasted tracks from famous Oliver de coque beside his flat pillow. His face lit up when he saw you, like a child tasting cotton candy for the first time. This was also the first time you saw him shirtless. His firm muscles glistened as sweat fell from his chest and brows.

The yard people could not afford electricity, so he had two handmade fans on standby. He used his fingers to make circles shapes on the concrete floor when you offered to give him aspirin and caressed his chin.

‘’ I fall for ground from warehouse’’
‘’ oga give me one day off ’’ he said calmly as you pressed his body with warm water.

You wondered which one was more absurd, that a master’s degree holder from Oxford had feelings for a sales boy without a first school leaving certificate or how one day off was enough to heal from a swollen head and foot.
He told you that Madam Nkechi the market trouble maker had paid him for two wrappers and he must deliver today or she would call him onye oshi, a thief.

 You said nothing but if the air was a canvas and your eyes a paintbrush, it would say a thousand words because there would be a perfect painting of Emeka stark naked from the way your eyes xrayed his body.

It was the little things that caught your attention, things like the bridge of his nose, his unshaven black armpits, and the outline of his knee cap. Everything was good.
Mother said it was desperate for a woman to woo a man, that a woman must be sought after and the bible said ‘he that findeth’ not she.

You were lost in thought until Emeka shrugged noisily; you forgot to put the towel down. It was dripping on his face as you held it loosely above his head, submerged in your imagination.
‘’Chika water has full my nose’’ he beckoned and you both laughed heartily.

It surprised your mother how the people greeted you at the market. How the market children dragged you by the arm and called you auntie.

 How the barrow pushers smiled at you and asked ‘aunty how market’ some of them beckoning from a small shed ‘my color, my color.’ Madam Njideka praised your mother for training you well. She said she expected your tongue to forbid native delicacies, yet you devoured her Ofe akwu and rice like a hungry lioness. Mother played along. She smiled and said that it was the lords doing.

 What must have struck her was the manner in which you looked at the measuring tin cup when she asked you to buy boiled groundnuts. You took the cup and looked at the ‘bum bum’ like Emeka taught you. The groundnut sellers hit the bottom of the measuring tin cup with a stone so that it would have a bulge on the inside and a little amount of groundnut would fill it up to the oblivion of innocent buyers.

Emeka had the same kind of cup in his shop. He insisted each time that the seller used his own to measure and you marveled at his wisdom.
Your mother gave you the side-eye. She looked at you in an unassuming way, as though she was sure you were lying but unsure whether the lie would be anything she had to worry about.

She knew you came to the market often but she didn’t know you were equivalent to a salesgirl, that Oga Festus now told his fellow market men that the sandals in his shop are imported and you are the sales inspector from America. And very soon his business will become international, or that Emeka asked you to be his girlfriend and you agreed.

If you told her that all the times she sent you to go for night vigil and pray for a husband that you were only really watching Emeka breathe in his sleep, she would not understand. You told her the market people were only exaggerating, that you had only come to buy Shea butter and kinky weaves thrice.
That you only tasted Madam Njidekas Ofe akwu once and you hated it, surely she must not trust you if she believed that you of all persons enjoyed ordinary spiced palm nut extract, you that even hated tomato stew and Egusi soup. She should know Pasta and broccoli was your thing.

For a woman who lost her husband to the bomb blasts in Kano, and possessed two Samsung tablets your mother was quite naïve. She often acted passive and oblivious, in a way that was very mundane. She should have suspected the disappearance of her yam and plantain, the new collection of rubber sandals you now had, the many Ankara wrappers you now tied around your waist or the telephone calls that made you laugh like a hyena in the middle of the night.

But she didn’t notice, you would know if she did. when she saw a picture of Chizalu and her charming red-haired Hispanic project supervisor on Facebook, she called Chizalu and asked her if she wanted to send her to the grave, that the land she sold to send her to school was not to go and be mingling with foreign men who grabbed her waist as if they knew the cost of bride price.

When Chizalu lied that the picture could not be removed, she called Dede from the computer village and asked him if he knew the owner Facebook. He called her mama America! To him, She was the only woman in the village who had the power to send all her children to school abroad.

You desperately wanted to tell them oxford was not in America but the last time you tried, mother shunned you. She said you should wash your mouth, that what an elder sees sitting down even if you traveled oversees or oxford you can’t see it or understand it.

  Chude was caught having sex inside his Oga’s cosmetic shop. His Oga already beat him black and blue. Emeka said he will soon start seeing kiri kiri star because his eyes were swollen shut.
The market people gathered around them and rained abuses.
‘’ I am not surprised is it not Jude’s daughter again’’ A middle-aged pepper seller yelled.
 ‘’What else can one expect from the daughter of a man who sells underwear and bum shorts’’ A woman with skin the color of burnt plantain retorted.
‘’ Ashawo! Akunna! Prostitute’’ They howled at her, others threw rotten tomatoes at them.

Chude cowered out into the streets leaving the girl to the mercy of sellers and bystanders. You hated the market after that day. You told Emeka you will not come to his shop again. He begged you and promised to Cook special food for you. You told him you were scared because one day it would be you at the hands of those people. Nwaanyi garri that sold foodstuffs near the gutter said it would soon be your turn. She said there was no mercy even for Americana’s who had forgotten their roots.
‘’sin is sin, in-mo-ra-rity is in-morarity’’ she said in her failed attempt to put up an accent.
Emeka’s room became solace; you stayed there more often than you stayed in your mother’s house. You told her you were working on a project for the American embassy so you needed to spend more time at the cyber café.

 Emeka made you play hopscotch with him in the dry harmattan sun, your legs cracked and covered in dust. The yard children joined sometimes, other times their mothers sent them away to allow you to play your love play. During the mango season, Emeka plucked overripe mangoes and covered it in a bowl.

He allowed them to become almost rotten and he urged you to eat it, according to him it tasted better than palm wine. The sourness of the mangoes irritated your tongue, Emeka was used to it.
He waited for you on the long line leading to the pit latrine and when you could not endure the stench and the buzzing of flies, he took you to a nearby bush. He cut large plantain leaves for you to use and he told you stories as you eased yourself.

He looked away when he told you he did not know his parents, that even his grandparents did not survive the Biafra war. He lived with different families until he was considered too old and thrown out. Oga Festus picked him up. He told you about his formal girlfriend, Nnedi. She got into the university and stopped talking to him. He was now too local for her.

 It occurred to you that Emeka was only a small boy, your younger brother’s age mate had he not died at childbirth. How was your mother going to take the news of her thirty-year-old daughter, madly in love with a boy who was barely twenty-five? You would not worry about that, instead, you asked Chizalu to buy you Anti-aging cream on her way back. She was coming home in a week with Bokamoso to try and get mother's blessings.

You would pray for her because to get mother to accept a Nigerian man who was not  Igbo was futile, let alone one who was not  Nigerian. It was like frying Akara and expecting it to taste like puff puff.
The atmosphere was covered in smoke and a beautiful aroma. Mother cooked almost everything, she made the dining table look like a buffet and she told the neighbors that her second daughter was bringing an Igbo man all the way from America. The plan would have been to deceive mother into thinking he was Igbo but the last time you spoke with him on the phone, he pronounced Kedu as Kiddo. It was not going to work.

You planned to sit in a corner and watch mother rain fire and brimstone. You would also have Emeka’s wheelbarrow on standby in case she finally had the heart attack and she needed to be taken to the health center.
Emeka gave you rubber sandals and wrappers for your sister and Bokamoso. He had been saving his lunch money to buy it from his Oga’s shop.

They arrived in a Taxi. Everyone waited in a horizontal queue outside the gate to receive them. It was as though the Queen of England was paying a courtesy visit and you all came out to pay homage. Chizalu ran out of the vehicle before it stopped. She ran to embrace her mother.
‘’ where is our husband?’’ was the first thing your mother said.
Bokamoso was already red from the scorching sun. He looked pale. Just one night at a hotel in Onitsha and his skin was full of rashes and mosquito bites. He was decked in his carton colored shorts and a safari shirt.

‘’ this one is albino?’’
‘’ where is he from’’ mother asked but Nobody answered her.

The table was set and it was time to eat. Mother started a long prayer, exalting the lord for journey mercies till the food was almost warm. She said she understood how difficult the journey was so she served Bokomaso goat meat Pepper soup and Agidi to calm his nerves. He exchanged awkward glances with Chizalu.
‘’ He is vegan and he is allergic to pepper’’ Chizalu mumbled.
‘’ Ehe, I heard the federal government have increased minimum wage and reduced the market taxes’’
‘’ Even the price of kerosene has reduced’’ you said trying to cut the tension at the table.
Your mother's face was clouded with anger and confusion. She brought another plate and she served him, Abacha.
He didn’t make it past two spoons before he spat it into the serviette.

‘’where is he from!’’
‘’ What type of child is allergic to food from his motherland’’ your mother Puzzled.

She had a special kind of oblivion for the obvious. She could perceive anything from a mile away but the one happening right under her nose; it blocked her sense of smell. Had her eye problem gotten worse? Could she not see his blue eyes, ginger hair, , and silky chest hair?
You wanted everything to be over with.

‘’Germany’’ Bokamoso said proudly
‘’ I knew it! I knew it the moment he did not remove his cap for prayers’’ Mother yelled with hands Akimbo. She didn’t want you to marry and mingle with people from other tribes, let alone continent. She said Shekau your father’s bosom friend in Kano personally cut off his head during the massacre.

She was convinced Chizalu had signed her death sentence if she decided to marry Bokamoso.
‘’ Is he even a Christian’’
‘’No, we are open to anything’’ Chizalu retorted.
‘’who is we, who is we!’’ mother screamed and rolled on the floor with hands akimbo. She said the gates of heaven will close on them since they were open to anything. Bokamoso ran to her.
‘’ mama kiddo, mama kiddo’’ he couldn’t even pronounce the only Igbo word he learned.
You wanted to tell him that Kedu meant what and Ndo- sorry was more appropriate if he wanted to console her. They left for a guest house that evening.

Emeka chuckled when you told him about the incident. He thought that meeting your mother would make her happy because he was a true Igbo man. But ethnicity and tribe were as much a problem as poverty for your mother.

She sold gold to big madams in the village and she was the head of Umuada- a coming together of daughters in Igbo land. She worked hard and it would be over her dead body for her daughter to marry a rich foreigner or a poor native. You decided to tell her about you and Emeka. You would tell her how he made you happy and treats
you like a queen.

You would tell her that age was just a number and Emeka was hard working. He was the best sales boy any Oga could ask for and he was going back to school to study business administration. She should be happy that you were offered a job at a publishing house in lekki and you were moving into a self-contained apartment with Emeka.

You planned to tell her but you came into Chizalu kneeling down in the middle of the sitting room surrounded by the Umuada. They looked like people who had resigned to fate. One of the women asked Chizalu if her children will learn how to speak Igbo and how often she was going to come home.  Chizalu had gotten married to Bokamoso in a registry before coming home.

Mother said love without a blessing is a curse and they needed to stop the marriage. As though the marriage was a TV show and one could press pause at any time.

‘’ We are legally married’’
‘’ And we have chosen not to have any children’’ Chizalu said wiping mothers' tears with her tattooed fingers. You didn’t want to cause any more sorrow so you kept mute.

It was the morning before your sister was to travel back to London with her husband Bokamoso. He was a journalist and he worked with the BBC. You promised to take them around the market to buy clothes and foodstuffs.  It had been a while since you visited the market.

These days  You met Emeka everywhere except the market, so you hoped for goodness sake the area boys had not displaced the market women to another location in the name of sanitation.

The kpomo seller sold near a wall plastered with the campaign posters of the local government chairman, Ego the bald woman who sold soup ingredients with a child always clinging from her breasts was just beside her, you got to all these places by counting ten stalls behind Emeka’s shop and crossing the big gutter. You wouldn’t know the way if the market arrangements were changed.

Chizalu was decked in her favorite denim bum shorts and a white polo. Her hair was messy and she wore your rubber slides. She looked like a top model in that body of hers but you had to tell her to put on proper clothes. The hot weather will not kill her and it was better to soak in sweat than to have a bandwagon of nosy market women run out to cover you in wrappers that smelled like spice and ice fish.

She went in to change and murmured about how she missed the privacy abroad. You didn’t tell Emeka you were coming to the market, you were going to surprise him. Bokamoso insisted he was coming along, you were not ready for the attention and stares he was about to cause. He just wanted to take pictures of the market place for his new article ‘’ The archaic life’s of the inner African people.’’ The title annoyed you and you taught of him as racist for a moment.

It was typical for people to shout and gather in Onitsha. Sometimes it was because a popular person had passed other times, it was a festival. The streets were packed and the atmosphere was disturbed by uproar and wailing sounds. Chizalu said she overheard a woman praising God that she fell ill and was unable to go to the market.
The road was packed and vehicles were filled with gallons of water. Everybody was headed to the market. Bokamoso and Chizalu had to share a seat on the bus, while you shared a seat with the driver. The uproar confused you.

  There were no firefighters at the market. Just local news reporters and people wailing as they mixed water and detergent to quench the fire.  You could not see clearly from the dust and smoke all over the place. The smell of meat, money, and goods pervaded the air and you hoped it was the butcher’s meat that was burning. You were too blind to see the burnt bodies around you until you got to the pile of ash that once stood as  Emeka’s shop.

They said the tanker fell at the market square and nobody knew how the fire spread. Oga Festus had his monthly sales locked in the shop. You had never seen a middle-aged man cry the way Oga Festus did. He said he would kill Emeka for not going to the bank earlier to deposit the money. His demeanor irritated you.
Your head was starting to spin from inhaling so much smoke.

People had just lost their livelihood to a fire. At this point, Emeka was all you wanted to see. You caught a glimpse of Bokamoso in a heated argument with an angry mob. They had thrown his camera into the fire for filming burnt bodies and were now threatening to beat him. You hoped Chizalu would find him before they beat him and burn him.

 You called Emeka countless times but his line was not reachable. You were going to tell him to pack his bags before Oga Festus came to harass him.
 The fire was starting to reduce. The late firefighters just had few shops to quench.
You met Madam Ndjideka sitting on the gutter with a cooler that was burnt halfway. Her eyes were heavy, they looked like they were going to explode.

You asked her about Emeka and she started to laugh. She took your hands and she walked you to the fence and when you got there you too began to laugh.

The funny thing was, Anybody could have that Chelsea jersey and anybody could wear black rubber sandals but not everybody had the Cartier bracelet you gifted Emeka from your silver collection or the childhood passport in his wallet with the ugly skin cut. His belongings were littered and burnt in bits including his smile. you starred at his gory face wondering if it was a dream.

They said he ran with fire burning on his back and nobody could quench it because they were too busy trying to differentiate horror from the spectacle, they let him burn, as though his wailing was rehearsal for a horror moving casting. You could easily move on with your life but something in you told you couldn't. You turned around and walked into the nearest fire. Hoping to wake up in Emeka's arms.

The needles woke up from your Coma. Your body was wrapped up like Lazarus.  Mother and Chizalu sat at the foot of the bed.

"Now that a part of your face will is gone who will marry you, They say they can cover it with plastic. But who  will marry plastic"
Mama said with trauma in her eyes.

The pain made you motionless. You didn't ask about Bokamaso. Chizalu's stillness explained it.

Congratulations to Jarred Thompson for winning the 2020 Afritondo short story prize.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

LET ME DROWN MY BROWN SKIN


Let me drown

 The hotness of the shower burnt my brown skin. It peeled off the first layer of my expensive skin but I sat still, drowning slowly in my tears and stale flesh. Minutes turned into hours and then to days since I went on dry land, the shower has been my solace because I was too bruised to throw myself into the ocean. 

It’s not that I have not tried but each time I went in to drown myself someone saved me. I would then have to Inhale the stench of hospital antiseptic for days. I am fortunate not to be locked up in a mental asylum because I know I am stable, And I tell doctor Rida that I go to the beach to practice the swimming lessons I learned online, the multiple folds that sculpt her forehead show that she doesn’t believe me but she let me go anyway.

Today I have blocked the bathroom pipe and I shut the doors, letting my beautiful body rust in the bathtub. I let my phone ring because I wanted to see the endless numbers of people who claimed to care.

 Chuma has called twelve times in the last one minute and I don’t understand why, what does he want now, he broke off our engagement last week, he had no right!
He said I was selfish, that I was strange and very defensive. I was innocent of these accusations, I was only trying to protect him from himself.

He had just lost his mother and was crying his eyeballs out in immense pain so I cut his wrist with a kitchen knife so that he could forget the loss of his mother and feel a different kind of temporal pain, pain that will lead to relief.

Salty Blonde Oil Print, oil painting beach fashion portrait

When I lost my job I scrapped my heels till I saw blood flowing from my veins, It didn’t bring back my job but it took away the heaviness I felt in my soul.
It moved the pain to my foot and I focused more on healing that I soon forgot I was Jobless. So I don’t understand why he ran out of my apartment that night, screaming.  He called me a raving lunatic when I only wanted to take his pain away; people are so ungrateful, to say the least.

Even grace has called me multiple times! I don’t know if I should hate her or not because I never told her what happened the night she took me to the club, but she took me to the club that is all that matters right? It is her fault I was drugged and gang-raped. Again I do not know if it was rape or not because I didn’t resist any of them, something in my head tells me I wanted it, that the numbness I felt on my hands and toes was just an illusion I made up to enjoy multiple rounds of sex.

They dumped me near the gutter and Grace found me, all she did was scold me for getting drunk in the club. She did ask if I was hurt but I said nothing, she should have freaking pushed harder!

I grew a fresh kind of resentment towards her; it is the same Kind of resentment I had for my father when He abandoned me after my mother died from breast cancer.
Grace traveled to Greece two weeks later. It is funny how people move on with their lives even when you are in close contact with death.

My skin is starting to feel like soft pudding and my legs are swollen, one would think that after my numerous breast implants, liposuctions and skin-tightening procedures nothing could damage my skin. I watched everything decay slowly.

I remember growing up in my neighborhood with many children my age, all of them had curves or full breasts and really lovely acne free face but I was different and I was insulted for It. Before mother died she said I was a Late bloomer just like her, she said I will grow into a lovely shape In my twenties so I endured the body shamming from the children till I was twenty-one and I had my first butt Implants.

I still did not feel better with the curves and I never appreciated myself till I met Otti, my first boyfriend. I felt grateful that he chose me. I thanked him and kissed him on the forehead each time he beat me or smashed my head against the wall.

The first time it was because I forgot to charge His Phone and the last time just before we broke up was because I squeezed the toothpaste from the middle.
He said he was tired of my Indiscipline and that the three babies he forced me to abort were never his. He called me a slut even though he was my first.

I killed our children before they got a chance to see the world. I am a bad person and I deserve to drown.
My apartment was already flooded with water and It had started to leak out to the door but I am sure my neighbors are too carried away by the hustle and bustle of Lagos to care over water coming out of a snubs apartment. The tap had been running for hours, I don’t know why It won’t just drown me as fast as the ocean nearly did.

Josep Moncada Juaneda.
Photo By Josep Moncada Juaneda.

It is almost time for my appointment with doctor Rida and she has called thrice.
 I never gave her my residential address but she said she would find me if I missed my appointment. I hope she finds me when my soul has departed because this process is taking longer than usual.

I hate that she asks me questions about my past, I hate that she wants me to open up and let it go, I hate that she says nobody owes me anything.

What kind of psychiatrist is she? Of course, the world owes me. The universe and the people in it need to suffer for destroying me and if I can’t destroy them, I will destroy myself.
I could just hang or stab myself but chuma removed all the fans and hangers, He said he wanted to replace them; he took all my kitchen utensils away, now my house is empty.

 It was either that or he would report me to the police; I guess he forgot to cut my water supply too. He was so foolish.
My body feels so weak and I am in serious pain, I see myself hanging on the air and I am slowly slipping away.

The voices in my head tell me to soak my head fully into the bathtub but I am too weak to move.
 I think people are knocking and shouting at the door and I hear the sound of an ambulance.

"Azilla, Azilla " is all I can make out, only Grace calls me by my full name but she ran off to Greece.
It must be my Imagination.
They are trying to pull my door down and I wish the water will consume all of them.

‘’Illa why! I love you" that must be Chuma's voice

"move her in, now... One, Two, Three... Press it in...Let her breathe" I hear Dr. Rida dishing out commands to save a life that I want to be lost.

I thought I had closed my eyes forever but I opened it in the general hospital with that familiar unpleasantness of mint and antiseptic. I opened my eyes to Grace, Dr. Rida and Chuma staring at me with pity and hope. I do not speak to them.

I think mental health is something we must all take very seriously. We are in the middle of a pandemic and this can make a lot of people panic. Learn to check up on people. Tell me your thoughts and experiences on mental health. Have you ever experienced it? Do you know someone who has?

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

DIVORCE IS FOR SCORNED WOMEN

                         
Domestic Violence
Image by Gregory pappas

  Last night I  lay on my sleepless pillow because I had become a watch woman for my mother’s pain. I watched her smile intently at the broken mirror on the cracked wall that demarcated her wedding picture from the remaining photographs, she observed dryly this lonely version of herself.

Mother spoke very few words especially when father was around. She would send me to find out what he wanted to eat and how he wanted It to be prepared because the Last time she made the poundo yam she got from the supermarket he rejected it and added that she must pound the yam, then roll into tiny balls before he could eat it. He made mother quit her Job and he embarrassed all her university friends.

Mother cooked like her doctorate ended in the kitchen. Perhaps to her it was therapeutic  or It was just another means for Aunty Okwi to give her usual half-baked advice and go home with a cooler of ofe oha. Aunty Okwi had battle scars and black patches on her yellow skin, she tells mother that it is a badge of honor and her husband’s love language is physical touch.

She tells mother that divorce is for scorned women who do not understand the true meaning of womanhood. She said mother must submit even though her elder brother is a brand ambassador for all the brothels in town.

‘’At least he is not beating you and he is giving you feeding money.’’
’Onweghi ihe anya huru gba Obara’’ there is nothing the eyes sees and cries blood.
  Aunty Okwi howled because my mother said she wanted a divorce.

 It was not long before aunty Okwi was admitted to the general hospital. She had lost yet another pregnancy and she told the doctor she fell face down while running at the gym, never mind that aunty Okwi was a voluptuous plus-sized woman who panted like a hungry bulldog each time she tried to climb the staircase let alone the treadmill. I pitied her but it seemed like she had resigned to bad fate and she was not my concern, my mother was.

 The frustration of being unwanted by a man that swore sacred vows to you on the altar is a different kind of betrayal so it's little  surprise that my mother began to pray naked every midnight with candles and ashes. she drew the names of Father’s mistresses from her weary tongue

"Prisca may you be scarred until you leave my husband...’’

"Blessing May you be cursed for life’’

"Angelica, you foreign husband snatching demon, let your coven catch fire!....’’

I  prayed with her once before I rebelled because I wondered why she didn’t pray for father's penis to rot like the one I watched on African Magic. Was it not him who met the women in the first place?

Mother paid no close attention to me so she didn’t know when I saw my first period or that it was Uncle Eke – father’s drop out younger brother that bought me sanitary towels after he licked my lips. This was not the first time, the other day he came around he took long minutes to study the lines and curves of my body with his sinful hands and he promised to teach me what it meant to be a real woman. It felt right to meet him when I saw the bloodstain on my dress.

Father’s bloodline was dented with promiscuity but I didn’t complain, uncle Eke and I touched each other whenever he wanted while mother said her lengthy prayers thrice a day.  Father was not a good man but I thought he was a good father because he bought me gifts so I felt I betrayed my mother by letting her marinate in her misery.

I wanted her to live a little and explore the world but I overheard Aunty Okwi say that men are naturally polygamous and it is a woman's divine duty to tame them with bottom power but father no longer found Mother attractive enough to share his bed.
*
‘’Ada... and that prophet said I lacked the fruit of the spirit, especially long suffering’’
’mua nka....mua ‘’ me..me, in particular, she yelled as she barged into the house with a bitter snare in her eyes.

Father had not come home in weeks, apparently, he had traveled to America with Angelica. A truck came to pick father’s things from the house and his things were everything except our underwear and some of our clothing.

 Our flat Echoes due to emptiness and mother now goes to 'Restore the mantle ministry' where she ties a suede turban and sings hymns on the pastor's thighs as he rubs her buttocks in Holy Communion. 


What do you think of the characters in this short story?  Who do you hate, love, pity etc? Tell me

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

MAMMON

 
Mammon
Image by pawel czerwinski via unsplash

It was not weird for you to have an affair with your fathers' age mate, as a matter of fact to you it was the same thing, the only difference was that one was purely biological and platonic while the other was just erotic and beneficial.
  He sipped the freshly squeezed orange juice like the straw was a pole and his tongue was a stripper.
It always fascinated you how modern and energetic he was at that old age. He was nothing like your father, the legendary Pa James, old and grey with a mustache as thick as those of the colonial masters you saw in his old history books.

Your father drank from a square stainless steel mug and he gulped whatever liquid it contained with no care for class or sexiness. it was easy to see why Chief became the ideal father figure for you. After all who wanted to have a man who wrapped faded tie and die material around his crotch and sat on a cane chair all day long as a father.

The smell of cigarettes, alcohol and cheap perfume pervaded the space with the harsh stench of weed wafting through your nostrils. But what more could be expected of a club packed with Jobless boys and cheating men?
It was the only club in the neighborhood and certainly not a safe place for a girl considering the number of rape cases vaguely reported on daily times. You knew your mother would turn in her grave if she saw you, scantily dressed with slits as high as the slave walls in Badagry. but the disco light flattered your skimpy neon dress and you liked the strut you achieved with your toned thighs. Your mother could summersault in her grave if she wanted to.

Women as modest as she never remained the only wives of their husbands and the younger women that stole the attention of their husbands were brainwashed daughters of the high chiefs or whitewashed African waitresses who were really just glorified prostitutes.

The foreigners found them attractive thus they became the hottest assets in the market for local men to price and pride in.
You scanned the room for chief but he was not at his regular VVIP lounge. He sat loosely at one corner with four men and a swamp of desperate girls, you knew how to swerve his attention so you walked over to the table and twerked to the beat of ‘Lady by Fela Kuti’ as his caressed your butt cheeks in ecstasy.
The drunken men cheered at your sensual talent and they hailed chief for the good catch while bickering about making money from the new government.

’ you know we are not truly independent’’ The Oldest man in the group yelled, a dry-looking retired university professor who in your opinion had been deeply submerged in theories that practical things became nothing short of fiction to him.

His glasses slipped down the bridge of his flat nose and it intrigued you how this man presumably in his late sixties found solace in seven bottles of whiskey but you ignored him this time. The men laughed at him and cheered prof! Prof!

‘’why didn’t you leave with the colonial masters, so that you can go there and continue to serve tables and kiss feet’’ another retorted.

‘’The left us brainwashed, now we are going to chase after what we have chased away ‘’ Prof yelled caressing the long weaves on a girl's hair; he made jokes about not wanting to spending the night with her because the real owner of the hair might come to interrupt their copulation.

You were uninterested in the conversation and Chief perceived it. He knew you hated their company but according to him, a woman as intelligent as you were deserved a sit at every table.  He held your waist to a stop as he whispered for you to continue in his motel room. You stood up to leave and the old men looked at you hungrily in the same way your father looks at overripe paw before he plucked them from the tree.

You swayed your hips to announce your departure when the prof hit your buttocks. Just  as the white men did with their canes when trying to get natives to twist their tongues into syllables their ancestors were not even familiar with. The audacity of man!
You slapped him to the surprise of everyone at the club. He remorselessly gave you a harsh snare and bantered loudly about the calamitous arrogance colonialism has brought to African women.

The men yelled distinctly, calling you prostitute and all sorts as you walked away with chief but prostitution was far from your job description. You only slept with the men you dated and when you met Chief he became the only one.

    It first started from the famous Campus in Lagos, you had just one year to finish your degree in literature and your father could not afford to pay the tuition after his cocoa plantation was burnt down mysteriously.

As if wearing cheap clothes and being broke all the time due to the meager amount given to you per semester in a parcel from the village as pocket money was not enough suffering, he wanted you to become a dropout and marry Emekus, a trader in Onitsha with a very thick Igbo accent that made your name sound like a vocal expression of peppery sewage and slime as opposed to Cynthia.

 According to your father, he was well to do and he would open a provision store for you in the market.
 Chief saved you from this misery. He saw you dancing at the club; you had to be wild about your last days so you effortlessly landed on his bed that night. He must have really enjoyed himself because he called you every weekend from that day and he even helped you secure a Visa at the embassy so that you could keep him company in Europe when he was bored of his wife and three children.

You spent fewer holidays in the village with your father and when he asked about your refusal to come home you told him you had to stay back in school because of the bulk of your course work.

The girls in your hostel thought chief was your father because it was very uncommon to see a man possibly in his early seventies with a girl who was barely twenty. but he was better than the small campus boys who wore long chains and tried to sound like 50 cents just to impress girls.

It was not weird for you to have an affair with your fathers' age mate, as a matter of fact to you it was the same thing, the only difference was that one was purely biological and platonic while the other was just erotic and beneficial.

Your roommate lotanna was a bright student of international relations and she was not very pleased with your open lifestyle. She was also very religious because you had lost count of the times her songs of exaltation startled you out of your hangover. It sounded like your fathers' incantation when he poured dry gin on the soil of the dilapidated shrine beside the yam barn in the village.

 The same one your mother destroyed many times because she said the white priest taught them about a man who will come to save the world from sin.

Father knew some scriptures too but he was not obsessed like your mother or at least he was taught during the adult education classes he had to take to become a cashier at the post office. The only scripture that escaped his lips when mother called out his supposed heathen behavior was ‘ give to Ceasar what is caesars and to the gods what belongs to them.’

God! God! Not gods’ mother would yell. She said you were worst than your father at least he believed in something but you didn’t.  She told you it was better to be swayed by every wind of doctrine than to be out of tune with the entire belief systems of the world.

When she caught you with Jon the elementary school teacher just before you gained admission, she held your hands and gave you a sermon about being unchaste and how it demeans a woman’s pride and reduced her bride price. You barely listened.

She asked you to stop before you get possessed with the spirit of polyandry like your grandmother. She looked at you like a rascal in need of dire redemption just the way Lotanna looked at you when you told her you were traveling with chief so that he could see his family and you would keep him company. She disapproved but she said she would ask God to forgive you, you liked her because unlike the rest of the religious people you met on campus she was the most spiritual and the less judgmental.

She would look at you with a forced smile and say
‘’you know for someone who is not studying international relations you travel quite much’’ and then she would hug you goodbye.

Chief wanted one last night at the club with his friends, the ones he knew you despised so much. You were not really the wild girl chief was smitten by, the club was just a  place where people converged to blow off steam, a crowded gathering of different personalities with diverse motives.

You told Chief his professor friend was a rapist
that was not professor Ike’s intention’’ he yelled with mild irritation  removing your hand from his boxers
‘’All I am saying is that it is hard to decipher the true intentions of a man who touches a woman’s body without her consent’’ you said apologetically.

You left for the club with chief, at the round table they were fewer men than there ever was. They said the professor got a job offer from Cambridge and another man who you never paid much attention to was found dead in his motel room.

It was obvious he died on top of a woman. The local security went looking for her.  You wondered if it would ever happen to you and chief, for once you considered his family.

From the photograph in his wallet you saw the innocence in his last daughters' eyes, the fierceness in the first, and then his son; a fine young gentleman in his early twenties. Didn’t they know their father was a womanizer? Did his wife just trust him or did she just buy the idea that all men are polygamous and shoved it aside? Was it because he was rich so she chose to ignore his infidelity because surely she would have suspected the late-night calls chief received from various women even when he was with you.

The flight was going to leave in about eight hours you didn’t want to leave, this was not the first time you flew across borders with chief but this time it didn’t feel right or maybe it was because Lotanna said that God showed her in a vision that the plane crashed.

You were not one to believe the visions and dreams of religious fanatics but indecisiveness left you open to any consideration that could solidify your uneasiness. Chief hates to waste his money and he beat you once when he paid for two nights in a guest house and you didn’t show up because you were not in the mood. He never beat you after that day but you saw the tendencies in his eyes.

You did not travel and the plane did not crash as prophesied. You waited for the chief to come back from his trip so that you can apologize. It was very easy to apologize chief was easy to please, just five minutes of mild foreplay you could get him panting like a bulldog and singing your praise as an indication to stop. He was just a very perverted old man if not, wisdom entailed that he be fully retired and stayed home with his family.

You hear his first daughter is a lawyer that walks for shell and you wondered if there was a provision in the constitution that tried adults for infidelity and fornication. He didn’t show up that night nor the night after neither did he call. You used your savings to rent an apartment off-campus because chief said he was tired of motels and brothels.

You changed your wardrobe too because a free graduate like you had to keep away from campus trends especially those jeans that fitted tightly at the waistline became extremely triangular and lose at the end. The last time you made such extravagant expense chief covered for it. Had he not suggested refunding you after his trip you wouldn’t have bothered with house hunting let alone gone on a shopping spree?

A parcel came from the village. This time it was typewritten and Pa James was not known to punch hard keys to the detriment of his wrinkling fingers. He wrote on, no matter how long the letter. Cell phones were very expensive and only a few city people owned it, even if you bought one for him he would not be able to use it, not because he couldn’t learn how to control the white man’s gadget but because there was no network reception.

 After the vacation of white men from the villages, the mast was brought down mysteriously and it took sweat, tooth, and nail to build it in the first place. If your father asked the local typist to type this letter then there was a problem. You decided not to read the letter.

Chief came by your house and was impressed with the furnishing of the one-room apartment. He didn’t seem angry at all and he didn’t apologize for disappearing for a month and putting you in a position where you had to cook your meals and sleep with a random man at the club in order to conserve costs and pay your bills, but you forgave him. His visits became more frequent, each time he came it seemed like he wanted to salvage what he could before vanishing again.

He didn’t last five minutes again, he would go multiple rounds of pleasure and ask that you cuddle. He said his doctor added energy-boosting supplements to his blood pressure dosage He told you that there was a problem with his account officer and he was buying shares so it was hard to withdraw cash and that’s why the cheque he gave you bounced four times.

You believed him knowing full well he had a lying tongue because it was easy to bask in the uncertainty of a lie than to face the harshness of the truth in your disbelief.
One month had passed since the letter.

The cheque continued to bounce. You sat up and wondered about your life, how you became so dependent on a man for upkeep. It seemed like you stuck with him to keep up with the expensive lifestyle of rich girls in your town and you had not thought about savings because cash was always a booty call away.
Tufiakwa!’ God forbid, you would often yell after two hours of deep worrying and a rush of goosebumps.

The first time you stole money, it was from your mothers' hymnals. You overheard her say that she had gathered money for her tithe and you were perplexed. The Family fed from hand to mouth yet she was willing to give away ten percent of the proceedings from her small stall. You didn’t understand how your mother could be bought into that sort of foolishness.

It was better you spent. the money than for her to give it to an Invisible God that only existed in her naivety. She punished you for stealing and made you kneel for two hours as she cried and prayed.

She anointed your head with oil that smelt more pleasant than the regular kernel oil used to eat roasted yam. She poured what he described as holy water which was just normal water from the borehole which she refilled and took to the parish twice a week for blessing and asked you to drink.

It was the holy water that would wash away all your infirmities. You never stole from her after that and this was not because you repented but because of the emptiness and fear in your mother's hollow eyes when she held your shoulders, shook you vigorously after the deliverance session and yelled

‘’ My child you will burn  because you cannot serve God and mammon!’’

Insomnia was not a condition you thought you could suffer because you always slept like a baby regardless. But for three nights you sat on your sleepless pillow replaying your life as though you were in a theatre and all the mishaps were just rehearsals for the grand show.

Chief Oladeji Olukanmi had just told you, Cynthia Nwakeogo Nnamdi, that he wanted a new life and his family was moving back to Nigeria. He callously spewed the fact that he could no longer afford you like you were some overpriced piece of figurine he had to dispose of.
’Baby  Cy you must understand the effect of the new government on the economy and my family ‘’ He said still panting from pleasure.

‘’My wife and children must not know about our flimsy friendship’’ your heart raced to wait for the bottom line.
’sorry I don’t have any more money to give you, but you know you are a sharp girl, I am sure you can find another man to leech unto’’ He said as he smiled and put on his agbada.

You watched him leave without uttering a word and since then you had spoken only a few words. As you sat sleepless on your bed you picked up your father's letter. Two weeks had gone by and you thought to do him the courtesy of at least reading it. He didn’t write the letter but they were his words. He had just been diagnosed it a heart disease and he wanted to see you before he passed on.

You didn’t know what to do with that information. once you thought of praying but to what, to whom? You understood for a fleeting moment what hope meant. You felt what it is to believe in something even if there was no guarantee the pain would pass, just the feeling that something divine was at the helm of affairs was a ray of hope.

You didn’t know whether to call on Amadioha and the ancestors like your heathen father praised who for some reason could not heal your father or strike chief down or to pray to the God of your mother and speak in unknown tongues like Lotanna.

Your mother died trying to birth another child because she said she must bear your father more children unless his seed would fly to various fields of desire and become a hunting weed.

None of them seemed worthy of the praise from your tongue but you were losing your mind so you prayed to both of them. You asked your ancestors to make chief pay for using you and dumping you like trash and you asked the Christian God of your mother for strength and prosperity.

Lotanna came to pick you up with her husband’s beetles. It had stickers, flyers, and posters plastered all over the windscreen and rearview mirror. She was going to introduce you to her pastor who was going to pray for you and lead you to salvation. On the way to church, she told you her husband dreamt of an angel sending them a new convertible and the lord was about to change her status for good.

The service was good save for the members who screamed ‘yes sir! Ride on sir!’ after every word from the pulpit. This was not the way your mother worshipped. Hers was more orthodox and solemn. You stayed and became a member of the Gods Radicals ministry and it was not long before you started casting out demons and speaking in a language that sounded like a posh incantation.

A letter came in that your father had died and he needed to be buried based on tradition. Lotanna said the pastor must pray for God to accept him in heaven. It was a futile idea to you so you did not indulge. You went home and home felt like homelessness.

Your father's Shrine had been demolished and it became a center for block Rosary, the sofa was soaked due to the leak on the roof and the whole house smelled like decayed rodent and bush meat. You let them bury him and dedicate his corpse to the gods. It almost felt surreal if it wasn’t a sad occurrence that you were the last of your father’s name, the only surviving of your mother’s seed. It was almost heroic.

You returned to Lagos a broke orphan who believed in a new God. The new pastor said forgiveness is a necessary virtue for a Christian. He said vengeance was for God and that God always repays the best way. Now that you see chief had been arrested for embezzlement and his properties seized, you believed in this new God even more.


I wrote this story with no clue what to do with it. What do you think about this story? Criticism, appraisal, anything. 







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