The Blind See Grey

There was no sound in the house. The clock in the sitting-room continued its descent towards four. Or, ascent. It should be ascent, moving from a quarter past three to four in the evening. I couldn’t be sure.

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rain

EVENING

It rained today and Brother’s mood worsened.

 

Later, I waited in the compound, my finger stretched to catch thin drops of downpour, I concluded his anger was justifiable. Brother stood with his face so close to the window I thought it was wedged between the bars. His cheeks rose like leavened flour and when he looked at me, there was a distance in those eyes.

I tried to smile at him. My pant was wet and sliding down my waist. I scanned the yard for fireflies or dragonflies and spotting none, I trudged in, backwards. Brother did not say, ‘You know you shouldn’t be walking backwards. It’s bad omen.’

There was no sound in the house. The clock in the sitting-room continued its descent towards four. Or, ascent. It should be ascent, moving from a quarter past three to four in the evening. I couldn’t be sure.

These days, I’m not so sure of anything. At times, I tell myself as a writer and a student, I must write. As a creative being, I must stir and mix and bake words, filling the air with desirable scents. I often sit before the writing board and grab the writing tools. Then I go blank.

Like an astronaut suspended in space.

On astronauts, we often say the world is viewed in black and white. No grey lines. I attempt to enter the mind of an astronaut. He’s draped in this spacesuit fashioned from unknown materials (not so unknown, in a way); his respiration is anomalous – dependent on a cylinder tank attached to his attire. Half of the time, he moves like a fish thrown into the air. A fish trying to fly, flapping its fins against air waves, ignorant of the contrast between wind and tide.

astronautThis astronaut has forgotten the taste of rice and murder. Often, he sits in the spacecraft and runs routine check on the computers. There’s a routed device by his computer for delivering updates to his superiors on the other side of the globe. He doesn’t know how to sleep again, just narrows his eyes and try not to think.

Breathing for him is not reflex.

So, this astronaut is browsing on his special tab – this tab can access a box of information about satellites, a feat normal tabs would suffer explosion if attempted – and while browsing, he stumbles on a page on Mother Earth. His eyes pop as he devours the news. He scrolls to the heading again and reads: Twenty-year old clubbed for opening up on his identity. The astronaut reads a gory report of a poet whipped till he breathed his last after said poet acknowledged he was gay.

The astronaut sits up and stares at the pictures. The victim’s head looks like a mangled egg, those eggs thrown into the crate just to avoid waste. One arm is detached. His legs are splayed, the ankles facing equal but opposite directions. Just below his navel, a gash the size of a pothole runs to the waist. The astronaut takes in every image and almost savours them.

Then he begins to read the comments.

Stupid comments and smart ones. Old and young. Male and female. Straight and bent. Writers and readers. It seems the world has flocked to the page to drop a comment. The astronaut squints as he tries to analyse a statement: Yeye person, trying to be who he was not creative to be.

A gentle headache seizes the astronaut. He falls into the seat and grabs one side of his head, the tab on the table. He’s trying to cry and laugh but he cannot do any because he does not know if it will come out right. He thinks on the statement again and realizes the commenter is saying – the poet deserved to die for becoming who God did not create him to be.

Two things strike the astronaut: First, that jungle justice could be delivered without a raising of eyebrows from the government or law. His eyes flit to the flag embedded in a top corner of the spacesuit, the colourful stars and stripes. A flutter warms his tummy. He knows in America, the poet would still be alive. He stops from crying then because the poet was born and bred in Nigeria, not America.

The astronaut realizes too how all comments can be fitted into one of two boxes – black or white. Black, he deserved to die. White, those who killed him deserve to die.

Feeling uncomfortable, the astronaut slips off his seat and paces the spacecraft. As his footfall echoes the spacecraft, he thinks about grey. Grey lines, between white and black. What happened to the grey? What happened to loving without deception? Yes, God did not fashion humans to lust after people of the same sex. Also, God did not create human beings who loved people of the opposite sex and whose delight was in wasting the blood of the former category.

God did not create homophiles or murderers, the astronaut thinks. The words of Jesus reaches into his thought with the volume of a public address system – love like yourself. Whoever you can help is your neighbour.

Layers of anger and fear and panic settles into the astronaut’s heart as he sits again, the tab before him, his mind engaging his heart in a debate of grey lines.

NIGHT.

A cricket is chirping behind the fridge. I assume it is singing a dirge, remembering the images that floated around social media early in the day, images of victims of jungle justice. The clock is still ticking. I sit opposite Brother and hold his gaze. He’s holding a collection of poems and his eyelids are puffed.

I want to tell him not to cry, that there’s nothing he could have done to prevent the death of the poet. Knowing the opinion is false stops my lips from speaking. Moments of condemnation on social media floods my head, just as I recall the apostle’s words – God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself…

Brother sighs. I raise my head. Together, we close our eyes.

Collapse

“I’ve washed the plates,” you told him. You spoke Yoruba, because only then would he understand the unspoken message – it’s your job, brother, to sweep.

That was why it was good to try Yoruba, once in a while.

I-SAID-THESE-WORDS-KUKOGHO

You collapsed on Friday.

When you recovered, you told no one. You went about with business, as if such occurrence was not a rarity. You did not give it much thought as the weekend slipped away, not until Monday when you woke to a text on your phone. Your phone was on Ultra Power because there had been no light the previous night, so you did not read the message immediately.

You went about chores, joking with Mum as she prepared for shop. Your brother was sleeping.

“He slept late,” you told your mum.

She snickered as though she did not believe your brother had spent the night reading but was not pressing because it was you, not him, that said it.

Later, when she left, you attacked the dishes. They sat in a pile in the sink, plates with strands of leftover spaghetti. The leftovers sat like frozen worms, surrounded by drops of red sands. These drops were bits of pepper your brother did not eat last night. You washed and thought of the break, of December.

Of your collapse.

It’d come like a thief in the night, a thief who did not wear shoes so as not to alert the sensitive neighbour. Had you received a call from your pastor with the warning to be careful because of a collapse, you would have discarded the admonition without a second blink. You felt, at that moment, like Goliath, shocked to the bones at the audacity of the tiny shepherd to challenge him with a sling and a stone.

After washing, you did not sweep, rather stepping into the compound. Everywhere was quiet. No kids playing catch. No late morning worker hurrying to the workstation. That brittle quiet that comes with insecurity.

You set yourself in the middle of the compound and angled your neck so you were staring at the sun. A minute later, you looked away, disappointed it hadn’t burned your eyes. A soft breeze tossed the mass of hair rocking your skull the way a player tosses basketball across the court – with much attention.

“Dave.”

Your brother stood at the entrance, his lips stretched in a yawn. He looked like a hunter ravished by hunger, in desperate need of something heavy.

“What time did you sleep?” you asked, in your native tongue.

“4. Mum asked?”

You nodded. “She didn’t believe you stayed up late.”

He had left the entrance. You noticed his height wasn’t dwarfing you, the way he had some three years ago. It struck you, the fact that you were growing too. A young man.

“I’ve washed the plates,” you told him. You spoke Yoruba, because only then would he understand the unspoken message – it’s your job, brother, to sweep.

That was why it was good to try Yoruba, once in a while.

A name popped into your thoughts. Debbie. She’d always encouraged you to speak the language. “Don’t sacrifice your dialect on the altar of civilization,” she would say. She knew French too and even though your fingers had almost glued together once while begging her to teach you, she’d opted to converse in Yoruba.

You made a mental note to pop her a message.

You remembered the text. You ran inside.

*

You sit on the smaller of the two sofas and nurse the word, sofa. You check the dictionary and find that sofa means: an upholstered seat for more than one person. You manage a small smile at your brother.

“Don’t tell me,” he says.

“You’re right. As long as it can host more than one butt, it’s a sofa.”

“I still haven’t forgotten basic words,” he says.

You nod. Your eyes return to the phone. The text message is still open. You run over the words again and tell yourself not to attach anything to it. They are just words. Somewhere inside, the small black man shakes his head in pity. It is the same man that whispered the words late Friday night, the words that made you do the things you’d vouched to never do again.

Hate balloons in your heart.

“Hope you’re good,” brother asks. A collection is opened before him. The cover design sports I Said These Words, and underneath the caption, a man screaming into the universe. A subtitle reads, poetry for the deaf.

Wait, is that a subtitle?

“How’s she?” he is asking.

“Who?”

He nudges at your phone. “You’re reading her message.”

“She’s fine,” you say. You adjust in your seat. “Hmm, there’s something I need your opinion on o.”

Your brother perks. The way you said o, that way peculiar to you, is what bonds you both together. The freeness of your dialogue.

“Something happened Friday night, and no, it’s private. So, I wake up this morning and find that Debbie has sent a text. I ignore it for hours, and when I finally stand up to it, I realize it’s like a recap of what went down on Friday.”

Your brother gives you the wait-up-bro-I’m-lost-here look. “Okay?”

“Thing is, what happened was private.”

“You said so once.”

“Just listen. I mean, personal. No one saw it happen. It was a mental collapse and I alone took part in it.”

The stare on his face rebirths. Now, he’s rising. He’s dropping the book and he’s closing the space within you.

“I’m not telling,” you scream as he approaches.

He presses you to the chair and slaps the phone away. You try to duck but his arms, the length of a point guard, draws you back with the ease at which one swabs away a fly. Your neck is under his arm and he is pulling at the flatness of your cheek. “You better talk.” You’re wiggling under his weight and pushing away and he’s smiling until you pinch the side of his midsection, tingling so much he lets up.

“I’m not…saying…a word,” you say, your breath coming in rasps.

He rests at the edge of his seat as though he’d be glad to launch another attack. “You are wondering how she knows, right?”

“Yeah.” You add a nod, just so he’s convinced.

His eyelids flap close and you think they’re shut, but then, you can see his eyeballs again. “Well, I know how.”

Your shoulders droop. “How?”

“Tell me about the collapse,” he says.

You smile and pick your phone. You look at him, smile, then stand. He settles into the chair and resumes reading. There’s silence again, that dangerous silence of insecurity, as you return to the room and prepare to reply Debbie’s text.

 

P.S: The image included in the post is in no way a form of advert. I included it because I felt like. December’s halfway gone and I’m just putting up my first post. Apologies for the inconsistency. Perhaps I’d write more. Perhaps.