She had closed her eyes and covered it from the full glare of a passing car’s headlamp before she remembered she didn’t have to do that anymore, thanks to her round frame glasses. You cannot blame her, when you have had issues with your eyes since birth, adjusting becomes hard.

Before her death, her grandmother used to call her “àfín” even though she was dark skinned. Tanwa would try all she could to avoid being sent on errands in the afternoon especially when it was sunny. The rays of the sun were like needles in her eyes; she had almost gotten hit by a motorcycle once when she covered her eyes to avoid them. She was the only one with a room to herself because she couldn’t sleep with the lights on.

The recurring migraines were the worst. She would first feel the world go black and herself go off balance, then, the nausea sets in. It was welcome because even if it was for a short time, forcing out whatever was in her stomach made her feel better. After vomiting, she would find a place to sit in preparation for the hardest part.

Ever wished you had no eyes? That was exactly how Tanwa felt at such times. She would see everything vibrating in zig-zags and wouldn’t be able to focus on anything, closing her eyes only increased the pressure and the tears. Then, she would sleep. She always did, as if her body couldn’t handle anymore. When she woke up, there would be a carpenter on the left side of her head hammering away and that, she could endure. On days like that, she wouldn’t go to school and even though she was quite intelligent and could easily be the best student in her class, she had to read a class again.

Her superstitious mother had heard from different people that Tanwa wasn’t of this earth and she left her eyes behind as an anchor to her colleagues. She swore to stop at nothing to make her daughter’s stay on earth permanent and considering the things she bought – ointments with clumps of things that look suspiciously like rat flesh, incenses that smelt weird and many more – she really didn’t. It was probably why Tanwa started hiding the episodes which got less frequent as she grew older from her.

At 18, Tanwa went to live with her aunt, Tayo in Ibadan to prepare for her JAMB. It had been two years since she last had the eye ache and she was happy. It wasn’t to last because she had the black out while washing plates one day and hurt her arm on the pieces. When she said she couldn’t see and it was nothing to worry about, aunty Tayo would have none of it.

She took her to the hospital and it was there she was referred to the eye clinic. “You have a severe case of Photophobia”, the doctor had said after listening to her complaints. She also learnt her condition wasn’t exclusive to her and she could get help. She was given injections to ease the ache and drugs to use later and was told to come back in a week for glasses.

She couldn’t believe she had suffered for almost two decades when she could have gotten help. She was however thankful she wouldn’t have to go through that horrible experience anymore.


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