I want to talk about Era.
Her slim svelte frame lying still by the roadside; her cold wide eyes staring heavenward. Perhaps, in some sort of heartfelt plea to the angels? That she be whisked away from the company of her remains, from the fellowship of her shattered skull and brains, brains already reddened with splatters of blood, blood already congealing in a red pool around her.
The head-ground impact must have been sharp!
But crashing right onto the durable ground from the rooftop of a twelve-storey, couldn’t possibly be nearly as painful as constantly being shamed for her protruding belly, inhabited by Musa’s child, kicking and growing in her womb by the second.
Her life was over anyway. It’s what her father said as he expressed grave disappointment at his 16-year-old daughter: “You were busy getting pregnant while your mates were busy getting admitted into universities. Useless child! Your life is over! You are worthless to me! You are worthless to yourself! I am sure that your mother in heaven is looking down at you in embarrassment, crying at how worthless you have become!”
Worthless! And their eyes confirmed it – neighbours, strangers, friends, frenemies, family, church members, everybody. The look in their eyes whenever they saw her was a sure testament to her worthlessness.
Sometimes, they smiled at her but she saw their umbrage right through the façade. Sometimes, they waved happily from a distance, screaming out her name, but the scowl in their whispers was just as loud. And times when they sincerely asked how she was doing, Era searched their faces and listened to what they said, but heard in her head, all that they weren’t saying.
Worthless! The word echoed through the wreckage that had become her mind, sauntering up her head and down her quivering knees as she stood atop the tall building – twelve tiers high, just before she shut her eyes and walked off the rooftop, knowing for sure that she could not defy gravity.
Just like Somto, who also quite understood gravity.
Somto, who I also want to talk about.
Somto, who sat alone in the confines of his room, looking at a noose being a silent nuisance on his wall.
The rope had been hanging aimlessly, right there on his wall for…how long? He thought about it for a moment and realised he wasn’t even sure. It had been there for as long as he could remember, and it had never been useful.
Now, he would put it to use. He would save the useless rope from its uselessness. It was probably sick of the boredom anyway. They indeed could help each other. By saving the bored useless rope from itself, he would save himself from himself. He would find peace.
Peace – would be his reward for being kind enough to help this rope find its life’s purpose.
He heaved a deep sigh in satisfaction, satisfied at the thought of finally finding peace, of finally being set free from this…stillness; this…silence; this…nothingness. This……this! Whatever ‘this’ was, that had become his life. There was no surviving this. Not without Kika.
Kika, who I also want to talk about, who died this morning on her way to visit her mother.
Her mother, who I do not want to talk about.
Her mother, who constantly referred to her as a huge disgrace. She looked right into Kika’s eyes and said to her: “I am ashamed of you! You are such a waste.” Because Kika hadn’t found a husband – at 34 years old.
On good days, Kika would tease Somto about being his big auntie because she was seven months older than him, and she would laugh at Somto’s failed efforts at explaining why they very easily could pass for age mates since they were born in the same year.
On bad days, Kika would think of her mother’s unkind words and cry on Somto’s shoulder. He would console her and run his fingers through her hair till she slept off in his arms.
They shared a special friendship.
Maybe she was having a bad day this morning? Somto wondered as his gaze wandered up the chandelier hanging high on his ceiling. He envied the chandelier and longed to take its place, just as he would give anything to take Kika’s place right now.
Kika, who had more bad days than good days. She cried too much. She must have been thinking and replaying her mother’s innumerable mean words in her head. She must have been preparing herself mentally for what to expect from this visit to her mother, expecting to be called a disgrace to her mother’s motherhood. Expecting to be called a failed attempt at womanhood. Expecting to be insulted and reminded that her entire existence was absolutely meaningless without a man in her life. She must have been lost in her melancholy when she inadvertently rammed into a ditch while driving.
It’s what the police said when they called Somto on the phone. It was his first time in a long while to hear a voice that wasn’t Kika’s. ‘An unfortunate incident.’ They said. And they were sorry. Like the accident was their fault.
Somto was to go identify her body, but he could not. How could he? How could he go all the way to the morgue when he hadn’t seen beyond the four walls of his room in eighteen months? Going to identify Kika’s body would be way too much exposure than he could handle.
He would have to open his doors, step out onto his front porch, step further out onto his compound, walk out his gate, and face the world. A world that he had been hiding from. A world that he had become terribly afraid of. A world of people. People and their voices. The words in their voices. The muffled chuckles and roaring laughters when they chose not to speak. Children would see him and run to their mothers for protection. The naughty ones would point to him and laugh as he walked by, sincerely amused at the sight of him. The rude adults called him a ‘fat fool,’ a ‘Yokozuna’, because he stood at five foot ten, and weighed 455 pounds. With a Body Mass Index of 65.3, Somto was morbidly obese.
His obesity was only a precursor to his becoming a recluse, and gradually, becoming agoraphobic. So you see, much as he longed to see what was left of Kika’s body, pay his last respect, and perhaps, run his fingers through her hair one last time, his agoraphobia wouldn’t let him. He simply…couldn’t.
His small world of three – occupied by his big self, his big fears, and Kika’s big heart – had been reduced by one, to just himself – still big, and his fears – even bigger.
How was he supposed to survive the aloneness of a world inhabited by just himself and his fears? Kika always talked to him about overcoming his fears, and had begun to make enquiries about what sort of professional help he needed. She often talked to him about being bold enough to move on and leave his fears behind. Now, he would do just that. He was determined to. And this usele…! Alright, not-so-useless rope, would help him accomplish that.
What’s the worst that would happen? Somto pondered silently as he looked up again at the chandelier hanging firm on his ceiling. He would choke, because of course, the oxygen supply to his body would be cut off, then life would be snuffed out of him and he would die from the asphyxia. Then, he would be at peace.
And he was right. For there he was, lying flat on the ground, peaceful. But the asphyxiation did not kill him.
He had carefully climbed up, dismounted the chandelier, strapped the rope to the ceiling-mounting-rod, and double-checked for surety of its firmness. Satisfied, he fastened the rope around his neck, making sure that his feet weren’t propped up by anything.
Just as he was fully suspended on the noose, he began to choke. As his body spasmed violently in paroxysms of pain, the rope – as if to further prove its uselessness – could no longer sustain Somto’s weight. It forcefully jerked the rod off the ceiling and sent Somto crashing down. In a sharp head-ground impact, he heard a crack in his neck and in an instant, Somto was dead. Gone.
Gone. Like the woman who lived across the street, whose name I do not remember; whom I also want to talk about.
Retaining her name in memory was difficult. She was called all sorts of name variants for ‘Prostitute’. Apparently, she had lived a promiscuous life but recently repented from her old ways.
She prayed very loud and attended church services every day, wearing long baggy skirts that barely exposed the tip of her toes, and oversized long-sleeved shirts that were buttoned neck-high, right up to her chin.
As far as the neighborhood was concerned, it was all a farce. No one wanted to be her friend. No one talked to her. No one answered her greetings. She would sweep her shop every morning, praying and singing in high-pitched sopranos; still, children were not allowed to buy her biscuits. Their mothers would beat them.
I noticed, one morning, that her store was locked, and that she didn’t show up the entire day. I had assumed that she would come the next day.
The next week, maybe?
Well, it’s been nine weeks and I can only hope that she’s somewhere, still breathing.
Unlike Era, who’s bleeding.
Somto, who’s decaying.
Kika, whose mother is waiting.
Waiting for a daughter, who, just like the others, died of nothing else, but words.
Kika may have skedaddled off the road and rammed into a ditch, but her heart crashed first.
Somto did hang himself, but his heart was garrotted first.
Era is bleeding by the roadside but her heart bled first, injured and broken by nothing else but words. Her shattered skull only shattered in allegiance to her shattered heart, a heart that soon became a fountain of pains, pains growing per word. And like every broken heart left unmended, having exceeded its pain threshold, it started to bleed, in drops…in heavy droplets…in swift trickles…like the rains pouring down heavy skies, haemorrhaging, to its very last drop.
When hearts have stopped beating altogether; when lifelessness stares us right in the face, that’s when it dawns on us, that they’re gone. Then, we express regrets in form of tears streaming down our faces. But it won’t matter. They’ll be gone anyway.
As I sit here, watching my heart bleed through my fingers onto my screen, I look up at the clock on my wall, and I see that it isn’t standing still. Perhaps acknowledge these occurrences and wait a moment? Do we not need some time to reel and heal?! I want to scream at the damn clock! Hearts have stopped beating, but the clock’s still ticking.
Indeed, life does go on.
Indeed, in due course, we learn to be fine.
Ultimately, we learn to be okay.
Eventually, we realise that it’s okay.
But is it okay that it’s okay?
When did it become normal to normalise abnormalities?
What’s the rationale for rationalising irrationalities?
Where did we find these reasonable reasons to justify unreasonable behaviours?
How did we come up with inexcusable excuses to excuse social injustice?
I want to talk about all of this.
I want to talk about you.
I want to talk about me.
I want to talk about them.
I want to talk about us.
I want to talk about that woman, who lived across the street, whose name I do not remember.
But I can only hope, and hope again, that she’s somewhere, in the spheres of this world;
– Tunray Femi.