NIGHT ORB


You have come to associate full moons with bad luck. It was on a night with a full moon that you pushed out your child; still as a log of wood and not giving out a piercing cry even after the midwife kept slapping its buttocks. On the day your mother died, the moon had had an incandescent glow, almost as if it were competing with the sun. You were playing salle, hopscotch on a moonlit night when you twisted your ankle. And even though it is slight and hardly noticeable, you still limp till today.
Since the only intersection between these independent events is a glowing night orb, you are forced to believe there is definitely something transcendent about it. Regardless of the fact that you are a Christian – who is not supposed to believe that anything apart from God and maybe, the devil has supernatural powers – you have superstitions about full moons.
You check the pot of tree barks and roots, dogon yaro, mango leaves and pineapple crowns you have left to brew on the charcoal fire. The potion is boiling and bubbles gently. You deeply inhale its suiting herbal scent and hope it would be strong enough to work. It needs more heat, so you stick more pieces of charcoal into the fire.
Once, your skin used to be as dark as the charcoal, beautiful and lustrous. But you got tired of people telling you, “You would’ve been finer if you were fair”, “Gan har da kin yi baki kamar daddawan basau”, “You look like locust bean paste”, so you started using lightening creams with francophone brand names. The products bleached your epidermis, turning it the color of overripe pawpaw with dark circles of greenish tinge around your eyes. However, there are those parts of your body where the melanin has just refused to fade; your ears, your knuckles, your knees, your feet, the folds between your thighs and buttocks. It leaves you with the complexion people call ‘Coke and Fanta’.
A lady in a taxi had once given you an evangelical pamphlet, it said people like you who bleached their skin would not make heaven because God won’t recognize their new look. Well then, you are doomed to hell.
The goats in the compound bleat loudly and munch on the mango stalks you had left. Around them are the black pods of their faeces. You sigh as you look around for a short broom to sweep the waste. You see your daughter, Blessing sitting astride the dog and riding it like a horse. You sigh again and tell her, “Ki sauka da ga karen ze cizai ki”. Your voice is faint and weary and she ignores you and keeps riding on the dog.
Today, like almost every other day, you are tired. You are the only one left to tend to your ailing father; all your siblings have left home. Noroh is with her husband and three children up north. The last time you had heard from Dauda, he was in Libya trying to find his way to Europe. Bitrus – or B Money as his friends called him – had been arrested for being a suspected yahoo boy. He has been in police custody for eleven months now; tortured with no bail nor trial. At nineteen, Dung is already married and works as an okada rider.
People say you would be lucky if any man agrees to marry you; because you are an ashewo, you’ve had two children while you are still in your father’s house. Since you have nowhere else to go, you’ve stayed with your father. These days, you fear that he might die at any moment. You go to his room to check if he’s still alive. You grimace as you enter the room, no matter how many times you wash the beddings and bath him, the room still has the foul smell of sickness.
“Mama, Mama”, he croaks. His speech has become almost incoherent since his stroke. But you know he is calling your name, Mariam. You pop the blister on the table and give him one of the painkiller tablets. You would give him the herbal brew later. If two heads are better than one, then two different kinds of drugs (herbal and synthetic) are better than just one, you tell yourself. You tuck his wrinkled and calloused hand – from years of molding blocks and building – under the old flimsy blanket and walk out of the room.
Most times, you wish your mother were still alive, not only because you miss her but for the nature of her death. Her death was a news headline appearing even on major news stations like BBC and Aljazeera, well not just her death, but the death of she and hundreds of people in the Jos Terminus bomb explosion. And even though it’s been more than seven years since her death, the images are ever present in your mind, the rumbling sound like an earthquake, the smell of burning human flesh, an arm here, a foot still wearing Nike sneakers lying a few meters from it, the charred remains of burnt cars, the destroyed stalls that leave no trace of what was sold in them. Like many who died in the blast, there was nothing left of your mother to bury.
Even though the sun is still setting, the moon is already in the middle of the sky. This would be the moon that would take your father, you tell yourself. You would be sad for his loss but happy that his brutal pains would be finally over. You tie your wrapper firmer around your waist as you decide to take a walk. “Mummy are you going out? I want to follow you”, Blessing says in her childish voice. “Oya go and wear your slippers and come.” You would be gone by the time she comes out. A reminiscent smile stretches across your lips as you remember that your mother used to do the same to you when you were little. You shudder as you pass the grave of your first child. It is austere, just a slab of concrete by the soak away pit. You quickly walk past it and take a left to Mama Joy’s store to buy recharge cards; you would need to inform your siblings when it happens.
Your father would wake up alive the next day, and the next, and for three years more. It would not deter your firm belief in round bright moons. Instead you would tell yourself that nothing in life is truly certain.