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.
This 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.
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.