What is it our elders always say? ‘If the goat knew it would be led to its slaughter, it would not have eaten the food it was served?’ I’m not sure our elders say it… But it’s a fine sounding sentence.
The day it all happened, I woke up happier than ever. I picked up my phone which faithfully lay by my right and checked my messages. One class canceled, another postponed. In truth, both were postponed because no lecturer in my faculty would give you the true luxury of a canceled class. It’s what they say about the devil; who would give you something and collect it back a million folds. I sighed and let temporary bliss wash over me. Lazy days are always the best, that is, until evening time when the goddess of productivity demands for a report and curses you with depression if you fail to produce a convincing report.
If only we wake up to a list of things we have to do everyday in order to feel fulfilled… But then that’s asking for too much.
When I had my bath that morning, the water looked cleaner… purer. I even abandoned the sachet water I took into the bathroom, cupped my hand under the tap and drank from the water in my hand to rinse the toothpaste in my mouth. I sang in the bathroom and even danced some… It felt like a party in there. If only water was not such a hypocrite. If only it became turbulent even in the little bucket in your bathroom when it knew it had killed your younger sister just the night before. If only joy, celebration and dancing knew their place and do not visit you when you are oblivious of an already-occurred disaster. But then that’s asking for too much.
My roommates were cooking when I returned to the room – Macaroni (and no, I don’t mean Spaghetti or Indomie Noodles. I’m one of the few Nigerians who know the difference). It was shocking because I only ate Macaroni at home, because my younger sister liked it. I said, ‘ahahn… awon cooks, why macaroni though?’ They all just ignored me. Food is funny. It appeals to an individual without giving them reason why it should… yet knowing all along why it does. For instance, if not for our elders, we would never have known that a pregnant woman who longs to eat snails only does because she is pregnant for a girl. In my own situation, Macaroni did what it did because it knew what it knew… that my younger sister was dead.
But if only all the Macaroni bits had immediately drowned in the boiling water and had become instantly soggy and totally useless… If only they had not cooked perfectly in the water… then I would have been able to tell that something was wrong. But then, that’s asking for too much.
I called home after I had rubbed my roommate’s sweet smelling St.Ives cream (now that I look back, this was probably indicative of embalmment or something…). I needed to hear how the family outing was. They had all gone to the beach the day before and had had fun. I remember my younger brother saying, ‘Good for you! Shebi you’re the one that is always saying you’re the older sister.’ Then he mimicked my voice and said the words I always tell him when I drop him off at school, ‘Be a good girl and face your books’. I was going to call home to tell them that the Lord had blessed me with a free day, as my compensation for missing out on all the fun they had the day before. Both my parents’ phones rang out, and at the end of every dial-out, a gentle-sounding lady speaking phonetics and probably filing her nails would say, ‘The person you’re calling is not available at the moment. Please try again later. Thank you’.
But if only these automated voices convey the truth about why people do not pick their calls, or why a number is not available, or even why a number is switched off, then I would have known. But then that’s asking for too much.
My younger sister was buried two weeks ago, two days after she drowned. She was not actually buried. We just did a ceremony of some sort because her body could not be found. I think that was what killed my parents more; the fact that they couldn’t properly bury her. During the ceremony, I saw her swimming and struggling against tides. But I realised that it was just because I kept staring at her picture in front of me and there were tears welled up in my eyes. When I blinked, the tears in my eyes dropped and my vision was clear – but my sister was still in front of me, smiling.
How I wish I could take this all away with a blink: separate the water from my sister, in a blink. Blink away the frustration I see in my father’s face – he is disappointed in himself. Blink away the hurt in my mother’s face- she does not know why she is still alive. Blink away the confusion in my brother’s face- he had two sisters some days ago and now he has just one. Blink away the pounding in my head – I should have been at that beach that day. But then, to be honest, that’s asking for too much.