Ima loved spontaneous, weird moments. Like her mother calling her by 23:59 to know if she’d prayed that day before leaving for school. Or a stranger smiling perfectly at her, insisting she used to sit opposite him in class, and that they’d even walked home from school together once.
“You shouldn’t have been a girl,” her father said. And she smiled uncertainly, not knowing exactly what he wanted her to say. They were the only ones in the house that day. Her mother had travelled with her sister to Port Harcourt to see her step-father. She’d refused to go with them.
There wasn’t a divorce. She couldn’t even remember seeing her parents fight. All she could recall was her mother suddenly introducing them to the man who’d stood by the flower pots in the yard, speaking in hushed tones to someone they didn’t recognise. He was simply her new husband. And life had to continue, even as they were hugely surprised, and somewhat angry.
“You should have been a boy. I’d have had something to live for, at least.” he walked silently to the window and lighted a cigarette.
“Do you now smoke?” His eyes lifted momentarily to give her an incredulous look.
“Your mother can keep secrets then. She’s some good woman, that one.” She desperately wanted to hold on to something. What exactly was going on?
“But…er..this..” she stammered. There wasn’t enough air to breathe anymore. Shadows formed in her mind instead of words. Every bit of life in her was strained.
“I know this isn’t the best way to live. I taught you and your sister the ways of the Lord,” he chuckled. “Try your best and keep them.”
She finally found a wall and slithered to the floor. There was a lot she wanted to ask. Her mind just became blank.
“I am not a saint, you see…there..”
It seemed she was held by many hands. Voices echoed in her ears.
Her father’s face peered at her from behind a cloud of smoke. Someone was calling her name. Another was trying to carry her.
Her mother quietly left the room. She looked sick.
“You should have just made up some other welcome back story, madam,” her sister whispered. “Always seek God’s wisdom to know which dreams to share.”
“That wasn’t a dream,” she muttered. But her sister had already left her. Something told her she should have kept quiet. Just as her mother had done. Were some things better understood when not shared, when silently left behind with one’s subconscious?