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By Sunday Eyitayo Michael

Copyright 2019 Sunday Eyitayo Michael

Smashwords Edition

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I walked on so many corpses. Five thousand, I guess. If not five thousand, it should be more, definitely not less. Each step I took was over a butchered father, son, daughter or mother that was ill fated to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Channels TV said seven hundred though, but I am so sure it’s more. Do they know what it means to walk purely on corpses unceasingly for eight hours? Anyway, who would have counted it all without breaking down or even losing his soul? A lot died in me that day. That’s not what I planned to converse with you anyway. Let’s talk life.

Yesterday, I was at my elder sister’s house. She had just given birth to a gorgeous girl with russet brown skin. She has almost as much hair on her head as I have on my palm. I bent over to admire the purest stage of human and the beauty in its purity. I marveled. I watched as she struggles to open her eyes. Opened faintly, and then closed hastily, persistently until she succeeded in seeing her first light. She is a fighter. She wiggled her toes about, in eagerness to explore the world she had just arrived. A world she is utterly naïve of: of the current recession in the country, of the pipelines bombings by the avengers in the South-South. Of the Biafrans protesting for their independence in the South-East. Of the Fulani, who no one knows the reason they just kill, or even the two hundred and seventy-six Chibok girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram in the north-east. No, not those, they will sure be short-lived. At least the governments are already making serious efforts towards making peace with the militants to stop the pipeline’s vandalization, efforts to rescue the Chibok girls who have stayed in that Sambisa den for more than two years. And the Biafrans, well, who knows? All those will be stories, or still reality when she’s all grown up. She chuckled and threw a golden smile. I smiled back, though mine was copper. Two and half decades ago, I was just like her. But I can’t remember ever having a smile so bright, so genuine, devoid of hate and envy and of fear since I knew my left from right, after the pains of growing up as a human, a girl, and a daughter in a world that soon forgets what you are. The pains of being afraid to sleep, only to be woken up by a hand and a body that pummels me like a dough preparing to be baked. The same fist I had thought would guard me from the world as I scream nights after nights to deaf ears.

Alright, let’s not get all that sad right now. My experience is my experience after all. Even in my experiences, there were good moments too. Moments that made me laugh so loud that I thought the next minute, I would spit out my lungs. Moments when my heart skips a beat, paused to the rhythm of melodies of the echoes of his voices in my head, and I would lay there, on my bed, pillow pressed upon my breast, smiling to myself in the dark of the nights.

Moments like, when I was fifteen, in SS2. My bosoms were evidently bigger than any other girl’s in my class was, but it wasn’t big enough to cover for my square chin and wide nose that made me look mannish, facially. A trait I got from dad. Amaka’s thin lips and oval face did the work my bosoms couldn’t, and she got all the boy’s attentions in the class. All I needed was just one attention, she could keep the rest. Finally, Michael caught a glimpse of what I sought to show, he loved it. I caught a glimpse of his dirty heart, and I loved it too. Who wouldn’t like a cute bad boy anyway? He always spoke to me with honey dripping down his lips like melted ice cream from a cone. I loved it when he slides his fingers through my scanty brownish hair and whispers, “you are indeed an angel”. The mirrors said otherwise, but then who cares? After all, they said beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Perhaps he’s my beholder.

Moments I sit, eyes widened, ears attentive as the hands of clocks freeze to listen to mum’s spellbinding stories that she expresses with a lot of demonstration spiced with vigor. When she tells a sad story, you would definitely find tears somewhere in your eyes, but she loves to tell the story of how she met dad most often. When she went around flaunting her beautiful self in the village one day around Isanlu and an old woman saw her and told her, “We have a son. He’s your age range. He’s cute. You would be perfect together”, and she turned to the woman and replied, “Mama, you have a son, I have parents. If you really want me, you know my house”. As her pride surged down her lips, it deposited smiles on the woman’s wrinkled face. She thought the woman was joking but in three days’ time, she came with some elders. “Where’s the son?” she asked casually, and they brought out a picture. To her relief, that it wasn’t one of the men she saw with the woman and to her disappointment that she wasn’t going to see the man they wanted her to marry, yet. After they had gone, she began seeking information about her to-be-husband from people she believed should know him. People said things like, “He’s a gentle, handsome man” and “He’s the one that gave us all lights. Sunday, the electrician. Awesome man” then one asked, “Is it that guy that limps?” pausing the sweet rushing blood that already flowed with anxiety through her veins. She decided to ask no more.

One month passed and her anxiety only increased. Then one afternoon, he came together with his father. When she heard he was on his way, she rushed out only to see his legs. Normal. She smiled. Then she went straight for his face, it amazed her.

She told me that story one thousand times, unexaggerated, each time with more energy than the former.

Those were my happy moments. Moments the only sad things I knew were what we heard and watched on Channels TV, Aljazeera, or hearsays. It ended too quickly. And doom met me unprepared to face it. Then the thieves visited us. Then they raped my mum, five of them. A gun to his head and Dad watched, handicapped to the situation. Then he got cold and from that day, our whole lives changed. We only said the necessary to each other. I would hear mum greet dad and dad would nod. I was five, I knew little of physics but I knew the charge in the atmosphere of our house could light a rocket. For one year it continued. No stories, no smiles, no hugs, no kisses, no love, just four sad faces walking, eating, drinking and sleeping in a bungalow that sat in Kamazou, behind the mountain that is behind Feroro river. My grades depreciated, so did my weight, so did my mum’s.

As if that wasn’t enough emotional torture to my growing up. Rumors began to take over Kaduna when mum and me went to central market which was at the northern part of Kaduna. (The Christians were majority at the southern part and the Muslims, north.) The Christians heard their brothers were being butchered in the north, so did the Muslims. Then everyone started to react without confirmation. They both had a past though, so it didn’t surprise any. Mum grabbed a hijab and put it on. Covered me in it and we survived, walking on corpses for eight hours until we got home. Then we met dad, eating yam and palm oil, watching Channels TV news, where they were illustrating the intensity of the Sharia riot. About seven hundred people feared dead, they estimated. I was so sure I walked over more. Five thousand, I guess. When we entered, dad turned, looked at us, and then continued eating his yam. Mum, unable to contain that much, dropped all the loads and ran into the room, bolted it and began to cry so loud at first, then gradually her wailing reduced until we heard nothing. She didn’t leave the room for two days and on the third day, dad broke the door and brought out her corpse. I sat, unable to cry, unable to move, I watched as he laid her on the floor and called the ambulance. We had no idea what happened afterwards. Jemimah, who was a little closer to dad than I was with mum cried all day, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep and dad sent her back to boarding school as if that was a way out. I reacted untouched, but most of what I had in me had died. Died with the thieves raid, with the corpses we marched on, with dad’s emotional death, and mostly with mum’s physical death.

It was just me and dad left in the bungalow. A bungalow big enough to accommodate twenty people comfortably, yet it felt too tight for both of us. It was as though mum made many friends in the spirit realm and brought them all to live with us.

Then things changed again, like a dream. The first day it happened, I went back to my room to check if I would find my body lying there, helplessly, lifeless. Then it continued repeatedly until I began to confuse what was real and what wasn’t. Normally, I would be in my room all day, when dad leaves or arrives, I wouldn’t know, I wouldn’t care. Then he came to my room that one morning, smiled. I haven’t recovered from the smile when he came forward and hugged me tight. “Darling, I’m going to work. Breakfast is ready. I love you.” I stood breathless until he left. What shocked me more was how easily the words poured out. Then he came back in the evening, Suya and chocolates accompanied him home, which he handed to me. He lifted me and put me on his thighs. He talked and sang me lullaby when I was to sleep. Then gradually we talked, from one word to so many, we lost count. On Saturdays, we play pillow fights, chess, and volleyball. Sundays we visit Ostrich bakery where I am fed with all flavors of ice creams. I was living a dream with a prodigal father. I knew I was. I knew I would wake up soon. But while I dreamt, I chose to enjoy every bit of it. It didn’t change after one year, two years, three years and on the fourth year, I met Michael. I had forgotten so soon, how much of a dream I was living in, so the day I finally agreed to date Michael, I told dad. He smiled. And with my lips I unleashed my misery on myself for the second time, like the world did to itself in world war II, like Kaduna in Sharia. That night, I lay, my pillow pressed against my breast, smiling to the echoes of Michael’s sweet words when the door banged open. I thought it was a goodnight lullaby, but something felt different. I could feel the anger in the door as it almost left its hinge. I wasn’t bothered. Then the lights weren’t turned on.

“Dad” I whispered. No response. Violent movements followed the silence. My pillow was flung, but this time it wasn’t for pillow fights, but some other kind of fights I was never prepared for. My gown was stripped open and I was defiled with such violence even a whore would have rejected. I would recognize the hands anywhere, those hands strokes my feet with feigned love, the same hands that lifted me to his thighs in a cozy romantic manner just the night before, and I sat, unsuspecting as he moves his fingers on my right thigh. Sip by sip, he drained the remains of the vitality I tried so hard to preserve, after the thieves invasion, after Sharia, after mum’s death.

Forty-two times, his friend Oguche, the medical doctor, came to our house to abort the babies he planted in me. I was ruined. I watched as they both shake hands, smiling, laughing with each other like nothing had happened, and after every successful abortion, they will share a cold bottle of whisky. As if this was the real world and everything there was just normal.

Oh, I am going back to being sad again. I shouldn’t, but the world is a sad place, I can’t help it. So yesterday, I was at my Jemimah’s house, I held her baby’s toes, it felt warm. I smiled as I remembered Michael’s palm. Then her father came over and pressed his thumb on her chest softly. She cried stridently and he retreated in shock. Perhaps, she’s not so naïve after all, perhaps she has an idea of the world she was in, she was aware of men in angelic masks, like my father, like hers, Oguche’s son, but was she prepared to face it?

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