You are restless. There seems to be so much yet so little going on in your small bob-encroached head. You walk around the house, grab a bottle of ice-cold eva water and gulp in the little left of the defrosted ice. You shake the can rigorously, just a teardrop-full falls into your mouth and you scurry to the big, filled drum of water to dump the can. You would later forget about the can and the water will return to what it was when you fetched it from the tap. You hate fetching water from the tap for so many reasons; the slightest being that you see it as a masculine activity and the mightiest being that you hate standing next to the cracked, unsteady, reeking suck away pit. You hate a lot of things. You hate flowers. You hate travelling. You hate menstrual periods. The latter being part-reason for your restlessness. The cramps are sickening and painful, lethal.
You pick up your phone and call her line once again. It is unavailable. It has been so for the past few hours. You say a silent prayer for her, your mother. She’s your everything. You know she would have forced you to take pills for the cramps. Just the mere thought of pills nauseates you and makes you cringe. The sight of them makes you do worse things.
Hunger beckons like the wall gecko crawling round your meshed window. Normally, you would shout at it and cast your long arms towards it violently. The reflex action always seems stupid to you at the end of the day, though it always scares the gecko away. Now, your reflexes seem to be cramped up like your abdomen. You barely cast a look of disgust on the gecko and head for the kitchen.
There’s jollof rice in the pot. The sight of it boycotts your appetite. You’ll still force yourself to eat it. As you make to put down the pot lid and head towards the plate rack, you accidentally shove the pot. The flash of descending pinkish grains and blackened, stainless pot hits you with a huge, momentary shock. Anger and frustration replace it soon enough. You want to cry but instead, you pick up a spoon and scoop the upper layers from the floor. You shove spoonfuls into your mouth hurriedly like it’s a food battle at those childish birthday parties you attend. You avoid tasting, following the “munch-swallow” and the “just-swallow” procedures. You don’t see the circumstance as a bad omen or some ominous sign. That doesn’t strike your reasoning. What does strike is that God is possibly angry at you. You believe, just as you have always done, that you have sinned. You think of your most-immediate trespass and all you picture is your classmate’s hands on your butt the previous day. You ask for forgiveness in a brief eyes-open prayer. Then you proceed to sweeping out the rest of the wasted rice. You’re grateful that God eased your punishment by reminding you earlier, to set aside your dad’s portion in the Thermocool food flask. Your dad, you know he’s worried sick as well.
Your mum is travelling to Farga by bus. It is a day’s journey so they are bound to spend the entire night on the bus. You can’t imagine yourself cross-legged in a vehicle, head-phones positioned, bound in such a long, tiresome journey. You wonder the sort of people she’s surrounded with. You know the network on her side is bad. At least, so, you convince yourself. You imagine your mum as a student in the Good Day Secondary School, Farga. She said she used to be a head girl. You never doubted that at all. You wonder if anyone would recognize her face when she gets there to get her original certificate. At least one person should, or nobody, really. You make an unconscious vow to endeavor to collect your certificates when your time comes, to avoid future journeys like this. Farga has become an unsafe place. Everyone knows. Who knows what adjective would go along with your current city, Oja, in the future? Who knows?
Two days roll by and your prayers can be felt in every corner of the house. Your dad looks unperturbed as usual. You know he’s praying too.
Your mum returns looking normal and normal. You are happy. You feel a certain tide of freedom sweeping across your abdominal ocean. You hear the inward motions as your heart bounces back, upwards, from your stomach to its rightful abode. Your dad doesn’t smile as sheepishly as you do but you can tell the joy in his being. You could grab it beneath his cloak of machismo. Your mum gives you gala and La Casera, the best snack couple existing. You take her bags in. Her certificates are with her. Only later, do you sense something amiss. Something you can’t seem to place your hands on. You call it “bus-lag” and pray in thanksgiving for journey mercies.
Things take the forbidden U-turn when your dad starts casting furtive, accusing glances and your mum keeps falling ill. Things get to the cross roads when your dad accuses your mum of infidelity. They obviously haven’t been physically together since the new house of enough bedrooms for all. Things fall apart when you see the trailing tears on your mum’s cheeks, the sorrow in her eyes, the grieving pain smeared over her pallid skin. Things stop existing when she says, “I was violated on the night bus.” Things…things just stop existing.
Written by Mirian Okwara
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