I wish that I could change the sadness behind my mother’s eyes into something beautiful. Just as a moth shivers from its shell. Just as the dark bawls of a woman in labor can morph into joy. A pain so buoyant, it flits through the entire ward.
I remember, one day it rained so much that I thought the sun had shredded itself into oblivion. But after a few hours, the sun peeked from behind a curtain of dark clouds, and the rain birds chittered across the sky. A rainbow spilled across it—oh, if only you had seen it; it was the most beautiful thing.
I want to be my mother’s rainbow, but I am too much of a rebel. Discomforting how two words with similar sounds can have such different meanings. But so it is with her and I. My mother, who uses the name of God just as much as I use “gangsta” words. She tells me it is uncouth to use those words.
And the sky is blue.
And I really do not give a fuck.
I remember when my father used to pick me up after school. My friends, wild as China roses, would say:
“Oh, is that your father?”
“How is he so tall?!”
And I remember this one girl, Diane, with yellow buck teeth, shrubby hair, and a fat, discoidal belly. She sat by an old creaky swing set, bedded into a small garden, hedged by deep green thickets. She said, “Your father is so long.”
And those were the exact words I was thinking the first time I saw my grandfather on the day of his burial, as he lay still on the bed, his legs protruding from the edge. Long. So long that I could stand him upright and touch heaven on his shoulders.
A woman walked up to me, short and slouched, her head sinking into her shoulders.
“That’s your grandfather,” she said, innocently, like I said he was not.
I responded nicely.
She said, “Okay,” as in, Well? Aren’t you going to cry?
I withdrew to an unlit corner of the room. I wondered why he had not bothered to see me while he was alive. An adult rage floodlit inside me, and I stormed out of the room which stunk of rotten fruits, an unwanted season, and grief.
I do not miss the man.
I did not know the man.
All my memories of him are akin to long. Long.
I’d hoped my grandmother would live long enough for me to know her. Hoped she would culture my tongue into the language of my roots. Hoped she would tell me stories under lilting mango trees, with mosquito-kissed wrists and sand-latticed toes. Hoped she would take me to her farm and show me how seeds grew into tall, long, untamed trees. But no sooner had my grandfather died than she kicked the bucket, drowning the rest of us in its tide.
And my father, vaguely tethered to his sanity, cried. And my mother, vaguely tethered to his sanity, consoled him. Once again, the rage ate me, and there was nothing else to quench its hunger.
There was a boy who was so sick, his skin flagged over his bones like loose clothing. His mother, a devout Anglican, threw herself at God. Prayed all night and all day. Gave large offerings to her pastors. Kept him in a big, fancy hospital owned by a popular church. He was dying of lung disease. And then, suddenly, his health began to improve. His cells began to repair themselves. His organs began to resume life.
She was in the church, celebrating, dancing, when the doctor called. Her son was in critical condition. She stopped dancing, and began to pray.
She prayed that God would save her child, or that the ground would open up and swallow her. She prayed until her voice was no more than a croak.
And the doctor called again.
He was dead.
These days, I blame God for all the things that come alive inside of me. My father yells at me and I yell back in defiance. So he knows that I am not afraid of him. So he knows that I am standing close enough to inhale the jasmine of another woman’s hair in his scent. So he knows that I know of his secrets.
My mother warns me not to wear short things, so I don’t invite men to the window between my legs. I don’t defy her much. Each time I look at her, something inside of me—glassy enough to capture light, but not strong enough to hold it—breaks.
After church, I sit under a huge plantain tree—with huge winged leaves that bend to chase away the sun—beer in hand. I drink one beer after another, after another. My best friend calls to ask if I’ve drunk myself to death. Of course, I haven’t. But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried to.
I remember, when I heard the news of my uncle’s death, I escaped to a loud, raucous bar. Under multi-colour LED lights, I drank just enough to remain sober, and cried just enough to remain sane. They said it was a tumor that killed him, long before he knew he was dying.
I hated how sunny it was that day.
I wished the sky would mourn with me.
My mother walks into my room to complain that her aloe vera isn’t growing. She finds a leaf of the plant in my drawer, where I collect little experiments for my facial treatments.
I explain that I need it to repair my broken skin.
She scoffs at me, still wild with anger.
I tell her, plainly—unremorsefully—that her plant was dying anyway.
Boloere Seibidor is an African poet & writer with works on numerous magazines/journals. She enjoys singing, and bread, and listening to the music of Ed Sheeran and James Bay.