The evening breeze rushed to our faces. It was a small harmless pat on the face but with it came the dust it carried and the subtle song of the wind. It sounded something like ladiladidi ladiladidi. It was calling my name. It threatened to push away Maami’s mud house. The fire from her firewood equally threatened to escape but i knew, from where I sat, taking it all in, that we were all in the game of making threats. The customers arrived in bits, slowly, but with a rush to leave. It would be a slow-fast night. Ifa had promised a downpour that would last through the night. The customers usually packed themselves at the front of our house, just under the tree, to play a game of Ayo and gossip about their wives, boast about their latest conquests (women, cattle, yams and pounds) while feasting on Maami’s pepper soup and dry gin. They might talk about politics but they weren’t as knowledgeable as Maami to go to the roots. They started the evening by pinching my cheeks and Labake’s. They ended the day by stumbling on themselves, slurred words, drunken songs, hateful banter.At that point, the compound stank of gin and sweat, a thousand invisible demons clawing at themselves under the dim light of the moon and asupa. Maami protected us from them at this point. She would tie me at her back and push Labake into the room. She didn’t trust men. She hated them even.
Maami knew everything. They referred to her as the alakowe, ka wura. She didn’t have time for gossiping and idle chat. She was always on the move. Having studied up on till her secretarial degree in the city of Lagos, it was circumstance, namely marriage that brought her back to the village, to live life the way the villagers did. Its a story for another night.
I knew tonight was going to be not so wild. Everyone trusted Ifa’s verdict but Maami. She believed in one true god and his name started with a capital G and not a small g that Ifa’s first name started with. She however made very little pepper soup and didnt arange the chairs. She called the men gullible, let them trot after Ifa like chicks. She had a harsh laughter. She laughed with it, letting it echo and pierce my ears.
I sat on the stool tracking my shadow in the sand as the sun went down. Bright orange red ball. I liked it. But I like seeing a second little me. So I could discuss with her. Then we would speak our little language that neither Maami nor Labake understood.
Labake was my step sister. Her father left Maami, so Maami was very heartbroken. But so did my Father. So my Maami was lonely. Maami had never let me in on who my father was, but Labake’s father was no secret. Apparently, my father and Maami, had only had that one night to conceive me and it was over. Suprisingly, Labake and I looked very much alike. We both made our hair the same way, had Maami’s round face and deep black eyes. We both shared the tribal mark of the people of Maami’s village. Maami’s mother had made them draw the mark on our face. We were children of our mother and not our Father. Maami cherished us. We were the only ones she had.
I stood from my stool and started to dance around. It was darker but it wasn’t night dark. It was rain dark. I liked rainy days because maami would let me lie against her breast and inhale her soft scent. She smelled of motherhood–which to me was charcoal mixed with sweat, powder and strife. Maami looked up at me from her firewood stand and frowned her face. She was talking to a customer but I knew she was displeased. She liked for me to learn how to act like a city girl. She promised to take us to the city some day, from whence she would take us to England. She didn’t want us to be village girls.
I was a child, what did I care.
I took my seat again, Counting till the first rain drop. It came sooner than I expected. It stained my skin without fear. I examined my skin with trepidation and with my eyes warned Maami. She saw into my soul but still continued selling to the customers who would take it home to eat.
We started to pack up once the rain was more than just a few droplets. Labake started singing the song Maami taught us.
“rain is falling, rain is falling, the old man is going..” We were so full of life. Without a care. Maami observed us with a smile. She envied us.
As soon as we packed up and were safe in our home, putting huge pots directly under leaking roofs, we heard a knock on our door. Maami ignored it. Then we heard a voice. Tijani’s voice. Alarmed, Maami sat up and ran to the door, letting him in. With her rapid tongue, she started to speak to him in the native tongue, with dialect. She seemed nervous though. She seemed ready to please. It was a first seeing her like this.
Labake and I didnt like the way Tijani looked. He looked viscous yet calm. Maami had told us about men like this, they were never to be trusted. Yet, I was surprised after their rapid talk, she let him in, to sit with us and break bread with us. I scram often when he stared at me. I was uncomfortable. Maami had often told us of Judas Iscariot. I was meeting him yet again.
I was unable to sleep that night. Despite the cool breeze. Despite the song the rain sang against our roof. I was too conscious of Tijani and his housing problem. Why couldn’t he be in his home. He could go in the rain, nothing would happen to him. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to be up, studying him. I was afraid of him.
It wasn’t until the cock crowed that I dozed off. The rain hadn’t calmed down yet the breeze was lulling me to sleep as I was attached to the back of Maami. I had given her a hell of a night. I was sorry and I knew she wouldn’t be happy about it at the start of the day.
In my sleepy state, I began to feel some movement. Some noises. I was half-asleep, thumb in my mouth, yet I could hear it as if occurring in my dream.
All of a sudden, I was knocked off and it seemed thrown into an abyss. It was completely dark meaning the Asupa had gone off. I hated darkness. I hoped Maami would pick me up because I no longer felt her around. I desperately hoped for her to come to my rescue. Instead, I heard her pleas from outside the mud house. I heard her despite the ladiladidi of the wind or the oink oink oink of the rain. Then I felt him menacingly approach me. So strong. So big. Spreading my legs apart, tearing my insides. I heard Maami’s voice. I heard my scream. I heard the Ladiladidi of the wind. I heard the angels sing, I heard Labake’s sobs. I knew he had also done this to her, But why? It all happened so fast. I felt my heart break. When Tijani left the room, strolling, an accomplished man under the rain, Maami came to me, changing into her eloquent English voice.
He’s your Father child, he’s the man who birthed you.