The scent of mama’s pot of soup rose up to my nostrils, the earthy mix of day old palm oil and freshly plucked ugwu leaves swept through the house with the evening breeze. Accompanied with this, was the sound of a restless pestle meeting mortar, with the soft sticky yam in between, soon to be a lush round lump on my plate. The weaver birds had begun their evening songs, singing through the shelter of faded green leaves from Uncle Bolaji’s mango tree, the crows joined with their cracked voices, barely overpowering the crickets that echoed from the grassy background. The sun had grown tired and was now retiring to her abode under the sky, at least that was what I was told, it sank below the view of the slightly bent palm trees that lay within the compound outside my window, all the while the sky grew an aesthetically unmatched shade of purple and grey. The time for all spirits to wake up and walk the land of the living, mama often said with a feigned sense of mystery, she would blurt out these random cryptic things, tired hands busying themselves with a half empty tray of locust beans, while a tired face keenly searched mine for the slightest hint of amazement.
Yet another beautiful evening my dried salty tears would not let me enjoy, baba had made sure of that, the ragged cane marks still rested on my buttocks, the dark skin indicated its aching sorrow by bursting in diagonal shades of purple and red. Baba always said he loved me, he always said that his heart ached for every moment his hands came down on my face in brutish, swift moments, and I knew he spoke the truth, I knew because I could see the heart break in the glowing red of his eyes. He also said that he knew there was a spirit pressing me, probably a curse his forefathers had dished out to him, for reasons he was unaware of, that was his explanation for why I always did what I did…well, I hope he is right, why else would my hands reach for the stiff feel of my kokoro ,while my eyes swallowed an able bodied Tomiwa blissfully taking his bath, I never knew or understood why, but something under my skin erupted when he would bend down to fetch water with his bowl, and my kokoro would spit the white stuff in agreement. Like the stubborn monkey Uncle Bolaji kept boring us about, my kokoro and I had run out of luck, Baba saw me doing it again today, his veiny hands dragged me by the ear after Tomiwa was out of sight, spitting curses and insults in Yoruba as he pulled me through jagged undergrowth. Angry hands tore a stick from a nearby tree and landed the first whip on my half bare back, just at the entrance of the house. A desperate mama ran out and screamed in my defense, one hand holding her loosely tied wrapper, the other, struggling to save her only son from what would be another futile demon casting effort, my sister, Niyi, stood by the door, wiping her tears with her charcoal stained shirt. Of course, baba would say nothing of this to anyone else, the shame would be too much for him, so his only option was to beat whatever spirit had forcefully taken control over his son ,one day, he hoped, one day it would stop, and then maybe mama won’t have to be consoling a tearful man at the late hours of night. I had learnt to stop crying after baba finishes with me, my tears do nothing but wet the dirt on my clothes, and I don’t like to wash.
Tomiwa, I would later realize, was of course aware of my obsession, he had seen me 3 full moons ago, staring coldly at him, fondling with my hands and breathing fast. When my eyes met his ,I froze, contemplating whether to run or lie, my legs stood firm and developed a sudden form of paralysis , shockingly, he turned back, finished bathing, then came back out to see a frozen village boy, too afraid to talk or move. Strong youthful hands pulled me up and beckoned on me to come out of hiding, at that moment hot tears had already began to line the corners of my eyes, the realization that the outcome of today’s beating may truthfully render my body useless wrought havoc in my head . As I walked into the carbon replica of the hut I lived in, I broke down in surrender and begged my cousin for mercy, I promised the possible and impossible at that point, oh the things we say when our legs buckle with dangerous fear. His sudden burst of laughter however, threw me off balance, still bubbling with laughter, he pulled me up and directed me to one of the empty chairs in the living room. Uncle Biodun had since gone to the farm, so we spoke freely. He told me he had always known someone was watching, that was why he always bent down a lot, to look back between his legs while fetching water, a trick he had learnt while bathing a lone at the stream as a child constantly taunted by tales of boy eating crocodiles. The confusion was obvious on my face, something tells me that’s why he laughed, a long good laugh, then he told me that I was young and didn’t know how to be quiet while my kokoro was spitting.
“I will teach you how to be quiet”, his low voice rang clear in my head, that afternoon, in the cool breeze of his bedroom, he told me to do something with my back, his hands pushed me to the floor, it felt as though he wanted me to search for something under his bed. Behind me, I felt something strong and wet, it was a little painful, but I think liked it. He held my mouth closed so I wouldn’t shout when my kokoro was about to spit, he decided to let his own stay in my buttocks, he liked it that way, the way he groaned silently attested to that fact. After that event, we set up days for our secret meeting, normally I would wait at his house until he finished bathing, then, when we were done, we would sit under the cool shade of Uncle Biodun’s mango tree, crack walnuts we found in his kitchen, and talk until a blue sky turned a confident dark hue, those were the most amazing days I remember spending with him , and personally, I enjoyed it more than I should have. Baba wasn’t supposed to find me that fateful day , but my heart threw caution to the wind as it was not our meeting day, whenever the unforgiving urge came, controlling it was like stopping a river from flowing.
The memories of those weeks flooded the empty space of thought I knew to be my room, I sat alone in the dulling candle light, watching the leaves dance in the breeze, fireflies, rummaging in the grass not too far away. One day, I have determined, I will leave this house, and I will never return, and I will enjoy myself with my kokoro for as long as I please, but until then, I’ll breathe the air of this sorrow, and allow it’s confining winds to consume me, as for now, it is time to eat, mama is calling me.