In the end there is a dying old man on a springy bed, a half-full cup of water, a dead clock, a threadbare blanket, a half-finished bowl of akamu, water marks on a pale blue wall, a phone that will not ring.
Before this: a middle-aged man with a cold bed and a cold house, accustomed to a gracious forgiveness for expressed emotions:
I know you’re this way because no one has touched you in a long time;
a gracious understanding of prevailing circumstances:
It’s a shame you have no children to pick up your arthritis medicine, not even one;
a gracious omission from matters of importance:
You know we cannot let you speak first because then what about the real men?
Before this: a thirty-ish man with a loud woman who fumbles in her purse when the bill comes, a woman who will not stop staring at his chest and rubbing his thigh, a woman whose husband sends him vile text messages in the night and pleading text messages in the morning, a woman who does not open the car door for him, then a woman who opens the car door for him but dictates his weight and gives him new colours to like, a woman who grasps his hand tightly as they pray that they be forgiven for her pinning him to a wall and having her way with him on a Sunday morning.
Before this: a ripe young man with a perky prostate, an impressive university degree and perfect homemaking skills, a father advising on the perishableness of men, a host of friends striving to get married and make babies because of said perishableness, a breaking and adjusting of self to be more appealing, a consortium of fat, big-bellied uncles asking, do you want to die all alone with no child to give a funeral that will make the town pause, an invisible clock ticking loudly.
And even before this: a dutiful teenager in a smoky kitchen, half-chopped onions on a tray, shiny greens, plump tomatoes, parboiled rice, a cupboard of condiments, a waiting fridge, chuckling sisters, a demure plea to not be groped, a respectful refusal to be raped, a constant unsureness of the meaning of sure words, a constant unsureness of the meaning of sure gestures, an ingrained fear of confrontation, a conscious reverence for the bundles of rights and capabilities locked exclusively in vaginas.
In the beginning: a small hospital room, baby girl clothes in the maternity bag, an anxious parent, a plump baby, a crushing sadness, a parent saying a teary sorry, a parent saying it’s fine, we will have a girl next time; we will have two girls next time.
About the author:
Chantelle Chiwetalu lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, After the Pause, Kalahari Review, The Muse, and elsewhere.
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