Fall 2020 Issue


Listen to me, Papa loved us, you have to believe this, and I know many things is on your mind now and you want mek I shut up because you always complain that I talk too much and drink too much and I no speak good English but am trying, I am trying to speak better English for you, and you think I have never tell the true before but listen to me, if there is any true you want to find in my mouth since the day they gave birth to us, just take this simple three words, Papa loved us, and I know, I know, it is hard to believe, because you can’t remember Papa from military regime when he was still an honorable man, served this country, but you only saw the picture, you didn’t meet the man, so it’s just this drunk man you know, but know that Papa was so much more, that’s why I don’t like those your blues music or any music for that matter, I didn’t pack from our apartment because I hated you, I can never hate you, do you understand, I am looking at you now and remembering the day Mama gave birth to you, and if I tell you I was the first person to carry you, you won’t believe, no you can’t know, no way you can know because you were a baby, but this is not another lie Nnamdi, I was the first person to hold you because Mama gave birth when Papa went to war in where I don’t know, so Mama had to born you by herself, and she pushed you out and I carried you and you were like cotton wool in my hand and I knew I would protect you for the rest of my life, so I didn’t pack out of the apartment because I hate you, but it is because your music sounded like good times and good times remembered me of those days before Papa was disgraced and was no longer soldier again, that is why I couldn’t do anything those times he hit you before we ran away because I was thinking if he saw how he was hurting you shame would catch him and he would remember how he used to be before the military regime ended before he was disgraced, and I know you never forgave me, no it’s okay, it is okay, I never forgave myself either, I was how old that time, was it not fourteen, fifteen ehn, and I watched that man do those things to you without saying anything, I was not too small, I could have done something, and running away from Papa was not enough to atone for it, I know you always thought this and I want you to know that I know, I want you to know that I didn’t run away with you because I wanted you to forgive me, I followed you because I believe in you, in your music, I always knew that whether it was on the saxophone or doing DeeJay, you would be great in music, I always knew, you won’t remember but listen to me, listen, you can say this in your next interview, when you were small, before you start to talk, you used to form one tune like that, one funny tune that nobody in Bello Street had heard before, nobody, small children can mimic musicians or car horn but you will just go to one corner of the parlor and be forming tune by yourself till Mama came and carried you to give you liver to eat, you used to love liver, I am telling you, sometimes you would refuse to eat any other thing apart from liver, and Papa did everything to make sure we ate bread and tea every morning, please believe me, because I know you are thinking of how Papa forced us to start using, it was his own way of postponing hunger, you can’t get hungry when you are high and yes he killed Mama, I won’t lie, you used to think it was a bad dream but once you told me you were coming to Nigeria to perform at Cubana it just clicked in my head like that, I just knew that you did not believe it was a dream anymore, so yes, I am admitting it I was there, Papa killed Mama, and no, he wasn’t drunk, he was angry, she was going to take us to her mother’s people, and don’t think they didn’t come to save us, they tried, they even brought police one night but you know our country, Police dey fear Soldier even if na ex-Soldier, but don’t mind my pidgin English, after all it is because of you I went to that school for adults so that I won’t embarrass my popular musician brother in the US with my bad English, I am serious, and you can laugh, but when Papa stopped paying my school fees I still tried to push wheelbarrow and carry cement, because I had a younger brother and I wanted to be educated so I would get a job and provide for you, but see how it ended ehn, you are the one that ended up providing for me even though a part of you would never forgive me for watching Papa do the things he did to you and letting Mama die in his hands, that is why you are the better person, that is why I did what I did because listen to me, you are the better person and even Papa knows this, you are better than all of us and I can tell you he was proud to come and watch you perform in that bar and I knew what you were going to do because you didn’t invite me, I saw the shock on your face when I joined you and Papa in the booth but you hid it well, what I want you to know is that you shouldn’t have felt the need to hide anything from me, I knew you slept with Fauziya and I know it was your baby she aborted, but it is fine, you were always the fine-boy and trust me I wanted Papa dead too, each time I read about you visiting a rehab center I imagine what squeezing his throat would be like, but then I would remember what he was like before the military regime; ah you should have met him then, he would put Brenda Fassie on the record player and put his soldier cap on Mama’s head and his laugh will fill the house and he will fling you in the air and Mama would be scared but he would catch you, he always caught you, you can’t remember that man because you were too young, you didn’t know him but he returned a bit that night in the bar, as he sipped the drink you had poisoned and watched you perform, I watched his eyes, for the first time he was so proud of you, his eyes were shining the way they used to shine when he threw you in the air and watched you laugh those years before the end of the Military and I knew I had to do it then, in front of everybody so that there would be no doubt about his cause of death, you thought you were ready to kill Papa but I couldn’t let you do it, I knew it would have killed you, I was supposed to walk out of the bar and pretend I didn’t know what was going on and maybe you plan better, maybe no one would have ever suspected you because no one knows this story but I could not watch him hurt you one more time, I could not let him make you into an animal the way he used to make you bark like a dog and mew like a cat and make you beg for one shot those years when he could not feed us, yes I never forgot and I could not let him change you again so please don’t worry about me, I have always been a reminder of your dark past, so it is a good thing I am going with him so you can have a new life, don’t worry about me my baby boy, I would be thinking of you when I face the firing squad, I would be playing your music in my head, bringing back the good times.

T J Benson

Writer/Visual Artist, IWP fall 2021 fellow. The Madhouse from Masobe Books & Penguin Random House SA 2021

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