They’re talking about me – again!
Chika, the troublesome
Chika, the warrior
Chika, the great.
The voices carry on from the ends of the house. Ofcourse, that’s not what they’re saying, but sometimes i like to pretend it’s not Father’s soft voice,mocking me – my boyish stature and belligerent ways, or that was mother,singing my praise. Oh,of how i still can’t cook at this age, or how i forget to cross my legs when i sit.
“…. She thinks she’s a boy. Is Okeke’s daughter not her age mate? Yet, the girl is already married.”
Mother says with pride, as though getting married was something to look foward to.
Oh, this woman and her loud voice.
I plaster my sticky palms to the peeling kitchen walls,left ear to the door, trying to pick out the faint voice of Father Edelu,from my parents’ hullabaloo.
“…. At this age, her mind is young enough to be moulded properly, in the right way and not this running around the village square for firewood or fetching water. You should let her come with me to Lagos… ”
” Lagos kwa? ”
Mother exclaims, her Christian mother arms flapping in expression.
” Lagos is not for this one, Father. If we had another son at home, we would have given him to you gladly, but you see, all our sons are off learning handwork… Chika is not for Lagos o, she would just go there and be jumping up and down, causing trouble, besides, no woman in our family has gone to school… ”
” Haba! Father, what will be people say? ”
Father goes again, with his soft voice. I can barely hear.
” People will say, that we didn’t send our sons to school but have the money to send a girl. Nobody will marry this one again na! They will say, the daughter of Obiefoka is too proud for her husband, all that white man knowledge has gotten to her head. Ah! Nobody would take her o! We can’t send her anywhere… ”
I giggle to myself in the kitchen and scratch the spot on my upper hand where the evening mosquitoes have started their feast.
Who does Father Edelu think he is, anyway? That i would leave my wonderful village, where i am the only known trouble maker? Climbing the mango trees before dawn to get the best of the fruit? Swimming in the stream and throwing stones at boys who try to rain on my parade, especially that Chidi.
Imagine! Chidi that i gave dust to eat, at the village square wrestling.
I need to put him in his place, one of these days. Teach him a lesson, that the fact that a person has big eyes doesn’t mean he can infact see everything…i meant to say, okpolo eye no be open eye.
I think i got a little over zealous with my scratching, and missed my footing on the stool i had climbed to eavesdrop.
Crashing to the floor was noisy, owing to the fact that i upset a bucket of water – the one i had just come back from fetching at the crowded borehole.
I lay there, drenched, listening to Mother’s horrendous laughter and smacking her hands together, as if to gossip.
“Father, do you now see what we’ve been telling you? ”
3000 miles,on another end of the earth, the sun is setting and the chickens are going to roost,the men are returning from the farm and i am grinding pepper for my mother.
” Yewande wa! Are you still thinking about this thing, child? ”
The still, soft voice startles me and i jump.
” Oh! Akoko Aya! Ekasan ma! ”
Baba’s first wife.
She gives me a small smile in acknowledgement of my greeting and asks if the pepper is for my mother. I nod in the affirmative. She commends my housekeeping skills and says that i would make a good wife.
I say nothing, and the silence lingers, a black cloud in the night sky.
“You know it’s Sumonu that Baba chose for you… ”
Her voice is barely audible.
” I know, mama! ”
” You know he wants the best for you, that’s why he chose someone with only one wife. Your Akoko Iya will take care of you, don’t worry. Sumonu is not even that old, not like all the young boys who will only play with you… ”
This time, she sounds apologetic, for the customs she didn’t create and the fact that i have to live forever with the deformity that is my gender.
” Iya, what about my scholarship? Would they at least let me finish school first? ”
She says nothing. There’s nothing left to say anyway. Baba was upset when the missionaries came with the letter. He told sister Faustina clearly that the mistake he made sending me to basic school had to stop, and chased her out of the yard.
I knew he was marrying me off to someone he thinks can control me and the thirst for white man education. For a long time, even before Sumonu started bringing fattened goats and the best of his yams to Baba, i knew this would be my fate…
It’s been twenty years…. Oh, and before you ask, Chika and Yewande never broke out of that cage of limitation. However, on the bright side, they are both married and have ten children between them.
Oh, did i tell you Yewande had two other wives to welcome into the family after herself. Or, that her only child, the fair wuraola would be married off today to Chief Igbesha – family ties have to strengthened,they say. Oh, well! She would be the fourteenth wife, so no problem, he will take care of her!