In the Book of Thoughts: Chapter Her versus Them:
It seemed to her that adults saw everything. Her mother saw the landlord’s wife in the black crow that bore holes into slightly yellow papaws still strung to the tree. Why would a bird disturb something that wasn’t ready to be touched? She is a witch, I’m telling you. And because it made sense that crows fancied only ripe fruits and this one – this particular one – with white splashed all over, kept burying its beak into green balls of not-yet-formed sugar. With reckless abandon. Everyone in the house agreed. Yes, she is a witch. Always plucking the papaws after. I bet she uses them for sacrifice.
Her father saw worse, scarier things. He saw the landlord carry a smoking clay pot in the middle of the night with a loincloth tied about his waist. He saw the man give the intellect of his last child to the thing that the smoking pot burned for. He saw the owner of the smoking pot demand sacrifice from the tenants. So he made them pray, her especially. She was his last child after all. The things of the spirit cannot be dealt with by the things of the physical. Pray. Pray yourself out.
The girl did not understand any of it. She thought about it and asked about it and got vague replies. You are too young to understand the things of the spirit. The other side is meant for those who are prepared. Do you not want to sleep at night?
…when one door closes, another opens…
So. She turned to Them. The shapeless forms that teased her eyelids open during prayers. Made her lips slack when she read the Bible. Planted a grimace on her face during deliverance sessions. They floated around her in the bathroom, made soap suds fly and land on the ceiling. They ran with her down the street as she scoured mallam kiosks for cubed sugar candies, Pepsi, milk cookies. They did baby whirlwinds as she drew the shape of circles with her waist to Wizkid’s “Joro”. They woke her up for exams, answered her questions, memorized the laws and equations from her texts, poured them out to her in test halls. They were like gasoline to her jet wings.
She liked Them. They made her feel less burdened, she did not feel the need to fit with others, to act a certain way. She was enough. She had them, that was enough. She looked at her brother, sisters and classmates and wondered if they had a Them they reached out to. She asked Them. Everything has a Them. You found yours. This was the curt reply she got. This is why she liked Them. They always had an answer. Always.
Possession. That was the word her mother used to describe her friendship with Them. She watched her spew sin to her father. Our child has been possessed. I saw her talking and laughing to herself in the kitchen. Our child has gone mad. It’s because of this evil house we live in. Have you seen it? Have you seen it?
She hated the sadness. It brought disappointment on her father’s face. She hated that. The fear her sisters had; the ugly smirk plastered on her brother’s lips. She didn’t want that. Her family meant the world to her. So she told Them to leave her alone, to turn away and never come back.
They watched her from a distance, Them. She stopped talking to Them, choosing instead to burn her kerosene lamp dry till daybreak during exam week. During prayers, she bowed her head and asked the Lord Jesus in heaven who sat down at the right hand of His even bigger Lord to cleanse her mind of all unholy thoughts and draw her close to His bosom. She spoke more to real people, talked and talked till her head ached. She listened to anything that had rhyme and rhythm and a banging beat, Afrobeats and Country and Latin music. It was not enough, it could not fill the gaping hole in the middle of her, so she turned to classical. Mozart’s Requiem. It lifted her feet just off the ground and dropped her with a thud. She stopped listening to everything at once.
She let him touch her. The boy who had brown pools for eyes. Her head stopped at his shoulders even when they had one year between them. She liked the growing warmth between her legs that his hands brought, and hated it when he had to go. She told him. He chuckled and showed her how to do it herself. She tried it once. What it brought was nothing like his, so she vowed to herself in the bathroom as she scrubbed her fingers clean never to do it again.
She was sad, broken and alone. She knew They knew and yet refused to reach out. She prayed more and more to Jesus in heaven to reach out, to touch her eyes so she could see what the adults saw so her faith could be anchored somewhere. No response. Or there was, she just did not see it.
She stopped believing– in Jesus and fairies and mermaids and village people and Chukwu and the afterlife. She decided to live, to live and live and live. She didn’t believe in any of them anymore, she did not have to abide by their rules.
She needed Them. They knew, saw, felt, but kept watching till she reached out and touched them, again.
We will always wait for you. Come.