My Stories

Hopkus

Thinking of you, E.

Yes.

Hopkus.

Laugh.

Be well.

market-women

It’s been ever since that accident in which she said she died and came back to life. An unruly driver reeking of alcohol,  manning an unruly bus requiring  much needed repair, chasing an unruly market crowd. My wife was among the victims: the Living who all claimed the bus killed them, but somehow, were brought back to life by a higher power who still had plans for their lives.

But the fear of death, this higher power forgot to take;  for Yami, she now wears it like a cloak. She wears it to bed. It pursues her in her sleep. Last night, she dreamed of eating a boiled egg. It choked her, she said. It choked her to death, she said. Two nights ago, it was a woman chasing her with a broom. She beat her with the broom and it was painful. So, Yami urinates. Like the borehole in the market place. Free flowing water for all community needs.

We have done what we believe is everything to stop this. But she gets worse. The fear won’t go away. It’s her shadow. Her best friend. Her worst enemy. The doctors at the community hospital cannot help. The city doctors cannot help either. The elders, they tell us it’s a sacrifice we must perform.  We have offended certain ancestors. We have completed the course. All levels. And every time: Nothing.

Give it time, our physicians, both traditional, and non-traditional tell us. This problem takes time to solve. Give it time.

Time is not something we have. Not when the problem we have is the epitome of embarrassment.

So, we cover the mattress with old wrappers.. We dare not spread it outside for fear of the neighbors. Why are they always drying their mattress outside, they would say. And with that, it won’t take long, even for the village idiot, to  figure things out.  Oh, did I mention that sometimes, we use the iron to dry the sheets? That’s on days when electricity is available. It’s not often. The sheets turn brown…light brown. Like a white man’s toasts. Crisp. All from ironing out pee.  The ironing works best especially when we are out visiting family in the city. It’s not often. When we are in our home, we use the old wrappers to cover the wetness, then Yami lies back on the spot in which the deed was done.

By morning, it’s dry.

We are running out of old wrappers.

The smell? I do not notice odors anymore. I am used to it. I smell nothing. It’s all air to me.

So, imagine my surprise when Kuna comes by tonight. She says our house smells of dead owls. She’d come by to wait for Yami. But of course, Yami is never home when she is needed, not even when she was the one that had informed her busybody friend from the market to wait for her in the house at this almost ungodly  hour so she could return the money she owed; to wait for her in the house, because her husband with nothing-else-to-do would be there in the house too.  So, Kuna comes by…and not just by herself. She had to bring  that morbidly, built-of-lard  baby with her. The child had fallen asleep in her thin-like-rake arms while she nursed him;  and she, while covering her nose with one hand,  had asked to lay down the child in the only bedroom in the house. Our room. And I, out of the kindness  of my heart, had pushed  dry wrappers out of the way, heaping them to one side of the bed so as to create space for the infant, only for Kuna to look at me and then say the unthinkable: Our room, in fact, our entire house, the whole house, smelled of dead owls.

And I’d laughed to hide my shame. The shame of the man married to the woman who urinates on the bed like a toddler.

One pointed look from her, with one hand still holding said nose,  and she goes, “What?:

“How do dead owls smell? Have you even seen an owl before, talk less of a dead one?”

Another pointed look. A long stare. A long, quite offended stare.

“What?”

“I have seen an owl before,  Yayi. Thank you very much.”

“Where?”

“In a zoo. Market women do know zoos, Yayi.”

That would have to be debate for another day. “But a dead one?”

“Yes. A dead one.”.

And they smell like

“Like your room. Your room, Yayi.  Your house. Your whole house, Yayi”  She replied, before I could voice the question in my head

“Lay the child here, “I say, creating more room on the bed.

She holds the child tightly to her bosom.

“ I am telling you, Yayi. Your room smells of dead owls. You need a cleansing.”

What?

“A cleansing. It’s what the big Samuraye do from the other village…when there’s an evil spirit in the house. They come out with their pots and with boiling hot water. Then,  they cleanse the room and rid it of all evil spirits.”

“Boiling water?”

She gives me that long offended look again.

“Leave my house alone, Kuna. I am okay with the way it smells. I don’t need the Shama-“

“Samuraye.”

“Whatever. I don’t need the Samuraye or shama shama or whatever here in my house.”

“But Yayi-“,

“No buts. Leave it alone. I don’t want some hopkus shit doing any hopkus shit in my house. Let it go.”

Yami enters just then. She gives me a look, then turns to her market woman friend. Me. Then friend. Me. Then, back to friend again.

“All is well?” she asks Kuna, who is a funny sight, what, with one hand on nose, one hand clutching enormous baby to chest. .

“ You have evil spirits in your house.”.

“No, it’s dead owls, “ I counteract – my best attempt at sarcasm – way before Yami has the opportunity to comprehend Kuna’s announcement.

But Kuna is not to be deterred easy. “I tell you Yami, You have wicked spirits here in your house. In fact, your entire house.  Better call the Samuraye. From the other village. Let them help you get rid of them. I have told Yayi. He doesn’t believe me. He thinks I am stupid.”

Yami makes a sign with her eyes to caution me not to say anything further. She is not really looking at me though. She knows what this is all about now.

“I will give you your money now. And you can go.” Her demure tone is quieter than usual.

Kuna looks at me, then goes back to Yami. “But what about your house? I can help you get the Samuraye here.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Yami replies. “I have everything under control . How much do I owe you again?”

Kuna tells her. Yami dips her hand inside her bra and retrieves the notes. Market money. Sweat-bathed money. She counts, and hands it over to Kuna.

“Thank you,” she says.

“What about the Samuraye?”

“I told you, it’s under control. Best be going on your way now.”

Yami walks her friend to the door. They exchange looks.

Kuna tries one more time. “You sure you don’t want_”

“I am sure, “Yami cuts her off. “I am very sure. Good night.”

Yami closes the door after her. She turns to face me.  I want to tell her that it would be best not to invite anyone to the house again. But that’s not what I am thinking when she turns to me.  Her eyes are lowered; her face pale with the palpable shame that wraps her.

She nods at me once as she heads for the bedroom. She is thinking what I am thinking. It’s settled. We shall reach out to the other village in the morning.  One more attempt to chase away Yami’s spirits that torment her so.  Yes. One more round of hopkus shit. Or healing.

It really could go either way.

Categories: My Stories | Tags: | 2 Comments
 
 

The Note

dead roseEfosa. My bride. My riddle.

Her note lies on the palm of my hand. I read, and imagine her voice speaking from the grave.

The world hurts. So much pain.

It’s a myth – this belief that life gives you what you deserve. It’s not true. Life gives you even those things that you do not deserve – both the good and the ugly. My pain clings to me; I try to shake it off, but it’s heavy and relentless.

Yet you handle my pain, my distress, but you too are part of the myth. My myth. And I am the empty cloud that ushers you in.

Let go. Don’t stop. Wait a minute. It’s the pain.

Are you still there?

You call me mad? Well, the world has gone mad, and you and I, we’ve gone mad with it.

I shake my head.

We lost the baby whilst she slept in her crib; an expensive crib that we’d not hesitated to purchase even with a tight budget. We took it hard. Efosa recovered from the loss faster than I did. God will do it again, she’d said. Those days, I drowned myself in melancholy, enjoying its presence like a best friend. I loved that child. Even now, I cannot mention her name without crying. So I will not mention her name, because a man is supposed to be strong and not let these things shake him up. That’s what my father said to me. You are a man. You’ll get another child. A boy. Mark my words.

My bride got me through the dark cloud – with words of encouragement and all the love only a woman like her could have shown. We got pregnant again. It was a promise that wasn’t meant to be. But this time there was no time to get lost in another fog, because I was confronted by an adversary so vague, I had no name for it until it had shaken me to its core.

I got the sense that I was not, could not, understand my bride. She was always there, but never really there. Like a floating boat. One never sees the river. It’s always the boat. And that was Efosa. It started with this buoyant emotion, almost seemed like joy. But it was different. It was a chaotic cheerfulness like nothing I had ever seen or known. Infectious. And no matter how hard I tried to remember that no one could ever be this childishly happy, I always got lost in her huge smile whenever she called my name, her head brimming with ideas. My rational thoughts would fly out the window in those moments. It somehow calmed me down, and made me forget my own pain. Her philosophies – most were strange. But then they had always been strange. It was one of her quirks that I had loved so much I had asked her to marry me. But now, her behavior seemed odder; not bizarre. Just odd. As in, silly-odd. Like when she would speak conversational French to herself while making breakfast- and she doesn’t speak French. Or when she would put on an earpiece and sing at the top of her lungs. The earpiece was not connected to any playing device.

On the surface, I didn’t really care. She sang with passion and spoke French-that-was-not-French with eloquence. And who in their right minds could hate passion and eloquence, especially when it spilled from the lips of a woman whose mouth tasted so sweet if one could only get her to stop sing-speaking for one minute. In that one minute, her eyes would burn through me with the heat of unbridled energy. Like a child. Only if you looked closer, you’d see it held a hint of pain, and perhaps some anger directed at a life force bigger than either of us. I was lost in her. She was never lost in me, but I was lost in her. And every disappointment I harbored regarding life died when I held her in my arms.

And then, like the flip of the switch, the gloom – dark, tunneling, incomprehensible, visited and draped her like an ill-fitting cloak. It was so unexpected. Like an evil spirit. And it was unruly. Unpredictable. Unrestrainable. I remember the fits. The rage. Always aimed at some poor object lying innocently in its place, sometimes in the living room. Sometimes in the bedroom. Ever so inanimate. It always met its end whenever the flip switched far enough. Then came the hush-hush from well-meaning friends and neighbors, which turned bolder in time as they spewed words of counsel. In time, I agreed. In time, I stated “Perhaps we should see someone.”

“Look at me Dike,” she screamed when I broached it to her. “I am fine. I am not mad. Madness does not run in our family. Maybe in yours.”

One day, she listened. We had a name for this demon we battled. The well-meaning doctor wrote her a prescription. His diagnosis: Clinical depression. But no one warned us about the side effects- and God, were they awful. So we got another pill. “To manage her side effects” said Doc. That was just the beginning. So many pills. The final straw was learning that one of the medicines could be toxic to a fetus. My bride gave up. “No more” she screamed at me. She didn’t need them, she said. Believed the docs were out to make a buck.

She spiraled out of control afterwards. Her darkness broke my barrier of self preservation and mingled with the secret grief I hid in my heart. I was the man flailing in a mire of frustration.

Our last interaction wasn’t meant to have been a fight. I’d just wanted her to take her goddamned pills.

“Take your pills.” because you are a better person when you take your pills – gloomy, but at least docile. Because I love you, but I can’t handle the fit of rage, and the tears, and the gloominess that isolates you from me.

And she’d fought back, the remote control in one hand, aimed for my head.

I lost it. Months of frustration. I lost it. I flew at her. Held her neck. I’d just wanted her to stop screaming. But somehow…somehow…I did more. I snuffed the life in her. Yes. Killed her. With these bare hands. Killed her.

I realized what I did… hauled her into our truck. In the darkness of the night. Drove for a very long time. Wept as I drove. I buried her far, far away from here.

But in the dead, my bride knows no rest. She haunts me now. Her disappearance: front page news. Three days… she has been missing. I have been called in for questioning. What? Two…three times? They say foul play isn’t suspected on my part. But I know all too well how that opinion can change in an instant. I too do watch movies. See, the police have found a note. A note which I now hold in my hand. I’m not sure when she wrote this note, but they say it’s a riddle they hope I can solve.

I shake my head again as a dry laugh now escapes me.

Efosa. My bride. My riddle.

Categories: My Stories | Tags: , , ,

The Mark

sad_black_woman_dreads1

Last time I checked, you can’t really escape your DNA.

My grandmother died from breast cancer. She was 35. My great grandmother, I heard, died shortly after she had my grandmother. Twenty two; from a tumor in her stomach, so big, that people on their way to the marketplace often stopped to say congratulations. They thought she was pregnant again. If only they knew. My aunts – they didn’t fare any better. One by one, cancer took them to their graves. Some, in their twenties; some, thirties.  The very lucky ones – about two or three, got to see their forties. But no one ever lived to celebrate 50. Forty-nine was the deadline.   But my mother – my mother was intense. Different. Or so she thought.  She’d left Nigeria to live in the US at a young age, and she’d bagged a PhD at age 31. But success always has a downside; there was that rumor circulating in our village that she’d gone mad from all her learning. After all, she was the only woman, or person, from our small village who talked to plants, and played with dogs and cats like they were children. She drank her boiled urine, saying something about the acid in the urine killing the toxins in her body. Mom took steps to make sure she didn’t end up with cancer as her predecessors. Except for the urine which I labeled ‘eccentricity gone wild’, she ate all the right foods. No alcohol. No smoking. No unnecessary stress. She jogged every day; refused to harbor bitterness in her heart towards anybody and anything. And meditated. A lot. Sometimes, I think she overdid it. But fate had plans. It always does. On her way to work that Monday morning, she stopped at the red light. If only she’d broken the rules and gone past that red light, she’d still be alive. She’d have been spared from the journey to eternity at 48 –no thanks to the drunk driver who hit her. One more year before the deadline.

So today, I’m having a party. Today, I  am 34. I’ve not exactly lived a healthy lifestyle. I drink, not too much, just occasionally, and I love my French fries and cholesterol-decadent burgers.  In my head, I’m thinking I have fifteen more years to go. At most. If I’m lucky.   And look, Tade is here with that big, silly grin on his face. He has taken his sweet, precious time to throw this huge, fancy party for me. His parents – they love me like I’m theirs – are here. His siblings are here too. Same with all our friends. They have this knowing, mysterious smile on their faces, like they’re privy to some secret. But what they don’t realize is, I already know. I’ve known since two months ago when Tade looked into my eyes and confessed his love to me, and I’d confessed mine for him; since that fateful night we’d dined at that classy Italian restaurant he loves so much, under the romantic ambience of the chandeliers, with sincerity shining in his eyes, as he said he’d never met anyone like me.

Tonight, Tade Ajayi would like to propose, and he’ll propose right here at my party. He’s so sure I’ll say yes. But he’s in for a rude shock. I’ll say no, like I’ve said no to all the other four marriage proposals I’ve had. He’ll ask why, and I’ll tell him exactly what I’ve told the others before him.

“I love you too much to make you a widower.”

I’ll break up with him because we’ve reached an impasse.  Then, I’ll move on to the next man I’ll love, and who, unfortunately will fall for me. The vicious cycle will continue, until, well, my own destiny, so marked in my DNA overtakes me.

Get my latest book, Lessons in Love, now available at Amazon and in Nigeria, exclusively at Takada Books.

Categories: Blog, My Stories, Reflections, Romance | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: