I took turns to oil them and pattern them to style. The other day, she caught me showing my sister how to wear a sanitary pad. The day she first saw her menses, I was there. I painted her fears on the cardboard that was with me in the room. It was to remind her of her first period whenever she becomes of age. I made sure she was relaxed before painting her while grandmother was asleep. When grandmother woke up, she scolded me a million times. From her words, I learnt that prayers do not end with a full stop. They end with Coma or Ellipsis. The one who prayed today would surely pray tomorrow. I do not have you here anymore, Lagos, I am leaving you to your name. I am leaving you alone not with a curse.
Tonight, I return to you like the Prodigal son, Aba. Hold me to your bosom and I will carry my scars home. I will build a castle for them in your temple. I have known you like the sky. When I look at each faces heading home in that city, I know which house belongs to each person. I know how to solve their problems with words. i know how to decipher every word and let them have a taste of what words are. We always remember home when the time to sleep or relax come but we do remember that those Zincs in Aba that covers the heads of people under it do not hide their faces always. sometimes, when they leave the house, they wear the same old face outside.
Aba do not tell you which or who has the highest brain to education. Aba do not tell you who is to come or those who are to go with a template of misery. Aba do not tell you which of her Roads will be constructed soonest. Aba do not tell you how to look into your wife’s vagina in the night and see that a man has sucked it in the afternoon just like Lagos always remind you how many men have whistled or whispered to your wife’s ear, you see that? Aba is a holy merchandise. A holy harlot. A holy cathedral. A purified coffin that detests a corpse. Aba is a madwoman with pride. Aba is you trying to hide and watch your mother’s nakedness. Aba is a glorified Thief. Aba is a jealous woman. Aba is a dirty woman. Aba is a little child who knows nothing of cleanliness. Aba do not tell it all but only thrive to protect its own.
Howbeit that father forgot to remember to take away his sins while he chased the birds singing in his throat? Aba is a dirty princess whose mind always think of a Charming Prince on the eve of the month of August. Can you still remember the last thing that your brother said to you before he was killed?
When I left my skin to burn under the sun, I was trying to recite the last page of pains a friend wrote to me about Lagos, about life in Lagos. Then, I visited Elegushi Beach.
I sat under the sun far from humans. I let my mind wander about because freedom is the only name that people pronounced with a sore throat. I watched shadows fight for breath. I watched souls who have been swallowed by the saltwater in an argument— heated argument. I recycled my thoughts and picked a chapter where I was a boy playing in the mind of my mother. I was part of her daily prayers and the amen to every word she said.
Then she held me like a child holds a toy and each night her bed felt her absence, father do not mind. I worth nothing to him and likewise my brothers. it was by the bank of this kind of ocean she used to go. she would wear white rope and Garment and a prophetess or a Prophet would always be by her side, praying. As i meditate on her life, a man came to me. He said he’s Ebuka Ojinduemenu by name. He was from Imo state. he wore a different smile. He said he came to burn his skin under the sun to purify himself of his sorrows. He said his wife was sick at home.
He said his children were killed on Thursday in Southern Kaduna in their school. He said each time he wants to sleep, the scream of his last-born comes to wake him. He said he was tired of drinking their screams and eating their pains. He said he was tired of tearing himself up in the middle of the night after everyone has gone to sleep that was why he came to burn his skin. He had tried to burn it a day before today but failed to do it to his satisfaction. Perhaps, he would burn it better today while I’m sitting beside him looking at the sun.
“We are dying. No need to stay alive. Life does not profit any man” He said to me. I allowed the water between my teeth to remain. Grandmother once said that when we feel like keeping quiet about certain problems, we should pretend that the water that sticks between our teeth refuses to go out. In life, we don’t always come from different places, we come through one place— an opening and each time you look at the houses in the city of Aba, you should ask yourself if those who live underneath the roof of the houses are as happy as you are. If they have eaten like you. If they have had sex like you had last night. If they have had the opportunity to look at the sun. Life is a bitch— It is not balanced. it has many concubines and poetry is healing antidotes to a soul that travails. I am not sending you away with my thought. I am not telling you to go and hang yourself. i am not sure if there’s a need for that anyway.
As I watched Ebuka disappear, I plugged in my earpieces. This time I am listening to Alan Walker’s Faded. My brain swallowed more thoughts as I walked on like a forgotten doll. Another shadow is leaving me with a thought that won’t last for a day. I can’t remember how much I need us to feel us. I can’t remember how the shadow to my light is sharpened. I can’t remember you like a different star but I think our aim is out of our sight as we burn into different things that tomorrow would present to the world. I can’t remember you as an option or alternative to every heartbeat my heart takes to survive. I know that the same life that shuts the door opens the window. I can’t remember you always, Ivara. But I do remember your smile.
I am meditating on Romans 8:1—39. when I opened my Bible this night to read, I could not locate Romans. I think I forgot where it used to be, after Revelation. It took me time to see it. Before then, I had checked the Bible Table of Contents to know the Page number where I could find it. This is what happened when you are far from your God. When the only thing you could do daily is to curse God and tell him how unfaithful he is. When you looked into his eyes the day before, you blasphemed and said you are becoming a pagan. I don’t think you know who you are anyway.
You have always wanted God to open his mouth for you or for him to spill fire but he has not. You see him always in your iniquities but from the institutions in your head, God is a sin to avoid. One day, you will make reference to your scars and say: This is how life has treated me and then you’ll smile to yourself. I do not know many things about going to church likewise Religion but I will tell you, those things I know about them hold no water or breath to me.
Make me a night I have not died in before and let me see the way it burns. Make me an afternoon that has no woman’s smile in it and let me die like a fish taken out from the water. I used to think of many things before. Like owning a car. Like going back to school. Like kissing a girl and wrapping my hands around her thighs. Like going to the graveyard to see the remains of my father’s body. Like climbing into a room full of naked girls and watching them scream of fear. Like why mad people carry loads up and down. Like how a baby grows. Like how a baby forms in the womb. Like how this body we treat with care end up as dust.
I used to think about many things that have no answer and you are one of them. You have no answer to everything about you— your life, your misery, your existence. In this life, I have the tendency to envy everything with broken wings and broken songs in them. I’ve once envied my body. I do not remember how I got there. I do not remember how I came into my body. But mother said she knows how I was formed the last time we spoke about it. Before I used to wake up in rooms with chandeliers but my God, I was born thirsty and naked. I was taught how to make a night only me can see me. Each time I dream of writing more night poems, I am reminded of dust. I am reminded of a certain six feet where my body would finally mix with water and becomes vanity. Vanity, that is who we are!
Five days before my body begins to grow into a house full of sadness. I visited my village to look for my grandfather’s grave. I understood correctly how much I’m to my root. So, I have learnt how to outgrow the brown colour of the earth — to be larger than life. I have visited many people in their houses. I have let many things slide and hope I don’t become smaller by holding too many grudges. Life says I’m a little smaller than my thoughts and my tongue blisters and there’s no city with water in my heart even if I allow a smile to spread to my forehead I may not be able to stand tall.
I will allow you to mistake my silence again as a weakness before you catch yourself lusting in the flames. When I arise tomorrow, I am rising like a phoenix or like an Eagle. I will not be so unlucky to see our bodies burn into a slow song of fireflies. I will always look at the broken mirror on my wall anytime Kelenna looks at me on the face and says I am more of a monster than a human. I will always ask of my name and its meaning from the men in the beer parlour to learn more about the smell of dust which are things to come written all over a body.
I am dust, ashes, a body on a journey to nowhere. Tonight, I am teaching myself how to live, how to live my life, how to look after myself and be happy for the man I am becoming. Tonight, I am leaving my life in the hands of tomorrow to take off. Take care, mother’s son, take care, father’s daughter for when the sun burns you, it burns your skin and heart for a purpose of purification.
©John Chizoba Vincents