News of tears…
Sidi treks hastily on the narrow pathway that lies on the road virtually towards the stream and the stall for making cassava flakes. She perceives the ardent prowess of the aroma the air moves with zest, smiling with demanding candour. She hears the noise of two women abusing themselves over who has the husband’s turn for the night, and whose right it is to roast yam. She thinks they ought to have stripped themselves off to the nudity of their womanhood, and will have, like a profressional hyper-realistic artiste, painted designs of chairoscuros, on their scarred faces. Ele’yele passes by her in her gorgeously made Aso-oke, and Adire, singing meticulously as she has always been doing to invite ardour to the tranquility of the village. The gods have bestowed the gifts of voice to her, men of her age crave for her, promising her fat yams and baskets of cowries. Sidi thinks for once if it is the good repute of her fathers and great ancestors that she now enjoys, or if it is willingly, the gods that gave her. She continues walking in haste, sweating, her Dunlop slippers has just slipped off her legs from the slippery river road. She does not stop.
Her father has just married the ground.
Osunfunmibi tells her to run to the end of the stream for the leaf of revival “Ewe irapada” for him to chew with palm wine for digestion, for his life to be restored back to him.
“Go, run. His soul is still here with us looking at the remnants of himself. The leaf will persuade him to come back, and he would be with no choice but to heed”.
That night, he returned from the forest with a red Deer with round horns circling his neck, gushing blood incessantly. He had told mother to pound Yams, and prepare Egusi for the feast of the night. It was the celebration of his victory for a three decades journey in the forest. He returned with drums, music from harps and recorders from experts. It was a merry, all well wishers hopped in and out holding smiles on their faces.
At dawn, darkness had set in. Mother prepared the oil lamp ready, on the wooden table that sat at the center of the living room. The fire flies buzzed outside, playing games of chances, the toads began their usual croak, disturbing the vicinity. He woke mother up from a heavy sleep, complaining of fever. Her eyes were heavy, she looked pale. She held her wrapper as if it was loosed, as Mothers did whenever their husband’s friends visited.
“I smell perdition, and the things that comes with it”.
She dragged the wooden stool lying at the entrance of the hut closer to where she would be able to squat confidently on. She opened her ears.
“I feel i’m no longer here. A dying Dog keeps barking, and you know how a sheep does when he sees a sharp knife”.
“Why the rigmaroling Baba, these things you are saying are making me to incur my heart in between my nervous legs. If it is herbs you are dying to have, the stream is at arms length, i’ll pluck you ‘Ewe Tea’, and other condiments. All you need do is rest, and forget your worries”.
Outside, ‘Fakunle, passed by the doorway, and payed homage to Baba and Mama. He held a leaf on his left hand, for the cure for skin rashes. The priest must have sent him. He was the priest’s brothers first son who was compelled to learn the arts of divinity from him, as it was a good work they held on to in their relation.
“Tell Fagbuyi i’m greeting him well o”. Baba told him, even though he managed to spew them out. “Do I feel this is a talk for medicines and forest herbs? ” he continued with mama. “I said i no longer feel my presence here is something that will last long, as if a sort of spirit is telling me to do some things I don’t know”.
“Please stop telling me these things…. ” and it went like that. Until he slept that night and died when the oil in the lamp also exhausted, before dawn the next day.
Sidi’s legs are still at the discretion of her tired Dunlop slippers. She is breathing like an Hausa man breaking hard woods with an axe. She forgets to pay homage to Osun, as it is the custom to bow for the river maiden’s wooden image carved by the first wood carver the village produced. The people believes She is the source of their wealth, their existence on earth, and even the gifts of goodness and love they possess is believed to be from her. So any trespassing warrants punishment from her, for a river is always destined to remember its source.
She runs tirelessly, panting like a Cheetah chasing a prey. She gets there, her hands catch a big leaf she is sure enough will suffice their enticements. She is ordered to fetch nine different useful ones. Her heart pants. She continues cutting the leaves, she heard voices telling her what she never wanted to hear; of the pains a fatherless young maiden will face in the hands of Adam’s sons, of the traumas, the pains, the continued tears that will continue to flow like an endless stream, across the shores of her eyes. “No. Never. My father will live”. She believes in the Osun priestess.
Then. He was a brave hunter who never came home without a gargantuan bloody fisted game. He had hung a life cobra around his neck, ate with the Buffalos, and ran races with the Cheetahs of the forests. He called himself the king of the forest. “I command the Animal world. All the animals fall in obeisance to the sound of my gun, to the gait of my legs, and to the scent of my powerful bullet”. He enjoyed staying in the forests staking the lives of many preys for the brown pot at home to be filled with much scintilating aromas of ‘egusi’.
Among his friends, he was the most loved. He had always championed the drinking of palm wine, and eating of mortals, containing pepper soup, at their usual joint in Ajiun’s corner. Their meeting was enlivened with jokes; on how big their manhood looked. Some would out of frustration bring it out showing it to the eyes of the world, refuting his mate’s allegations that he has a big stuff underneath him. In some occasions, they would argue on who commands his wife ‘s bosom on the afternoon bed, how strong their libido was, and how long they could stay on their wives. They would even boast of marrying many wives, after the three that might have been with them. They believed Manhood was respected through the longer you could stay on top of your wife during night sleep, and how much you could marry wives and bear sound kids.
Some intoxicated by palmwine would stagger, exposing the crimes he had secretly done. It might be how he raped his wife’s mother, or how he killed his daughter for money ritual. The rest of the retinue would just exclaim by opening wide their mouth for House flies to find a shield from the ferocious eye of the sun.
Those days are gone. Life is like a Barrack, different soldiers will always come and go. It will still remain at the same spot.
“Rub this face with this one–“. Osunfunmibi points at one hard and thick leaf among the group of herbs Sidi caught. “Soak this in a water for hours, he will drink it after the water has savoured the nutrients in it”. She quickly does as instructed. Or does a begger choose?
“After everything, if he comes back to life, we will give all glories to Osun, and if the other way round, we have to accept our fate. The tortoise accepted its fate when he turned into a bearer of cracked shells”.
Sidi’s legs are moving as if it steps on a hot coal a child carelessly drops on a pathway everybody passed by. Her eyes fill with sweat, dropping by bits as a cold bottle spews droppings of little ice from its tired face. Her mind races to how her future will be painted. Bleak. Poor. Transparent. Or how does a parrot sing when he is caged in confinement? One’s parent is one’s joy, and one’s joy is a bright future. Her father had been a man, a father, a husband. Everything. She turned shivering, as if it is all.
But if a jar is broken, and the content is exposed to the world, it is left for children to pack the remnants, and forget it all. Osunfunmibi pours the liquid soaked in herbs into his mouth, optimistic of something bright. He lay there like a log of wood fetched from the forest for night meal. There is no response, his eyes closed down with no hope for recuperation. Everywhere is tense, silent. Sidi can only hear the rhythm of the wind’s songs, and the little toad’s tiny croakings.
She drank tears, allowing it fill the empty mud pot outside the thatcher hut.