Your herculean uncle, who is not your mother’s brother, has locked the door to your mother’s bedroom. This is how you sell your sister, and stare at the detailed woodwork that is the door. You stand there listening to the muffled sounds on the other side.
“what are you doing here?”,
“who let you in?”
Black boy, your heart is beating rapidly. You close your eyes and hope it will unburden your conscience. You do this because it’s your first time selling your sister and this concept of purposeful blindess is recondite to many. Your sister is either behind the door or on your mother’s bed. And Uncle Seba is towering over her as she searches for linen, because he should not see her nakedness. Uncle Seba has not moved. The sound of wooden floor under his weight would’ve given him away by now. The man is salivating over your sister, you are sure. Sweat beads dripping down from his temples, above his lips. His arms akimbo, as though your sister is a slave fleeing the whip of her captor. When your sister starts calling out to you, you know you should not be there.
But behind you, Uncle Seba is approaching. Tonight, you have prepared a little better than the last time. This time you won’t need to guard the door, steadying the beat of your heart. And maybe your sister won’t ask as much questions.
You will greet him, won’t you? Pretending for a moment that you don’t have your sister immured in the bedroom of your deceased mother. And he will marvel in silence at your sartorial elegance, side swept coiffure, that light skin and pink of your lips. You notice his eyes before they turn away. Then you look around the house and think it is small; a kitchen, a bedroom, a living area and a veranda. The living area is even smaller, with decade old furniture and peeling paint. There are no photographs behind french doors sitting pretty in their frames. Not of you, your mother, your sister, or the man whose semen slipped into your mother that one time, and then again you want to believe, before your sister was born. It doesn’t echo in emptiness and want as it did when your mother was alive.
Just as it was, emptiness and want, the first day you felt your mother’s abandon. An eight year old boy, tall and childly, sold into houseboyhood, an apparent escape on your mother’s end from holding maternal responsibility.
“Take my boy, and make him a mule, make him the mockery of your children, subject him to abuse, your modern day slave… but pay me some money because I didn’t close my legs the day he was born”
Emptiness and want, the many years you scrapped food from steel plates at a stranger’s house in Aba. Your mother had told you he was a kinsman which you would later find untrue. She sent you to wipe the asses of his children in return for pocket change, to sleep on concrete and have the gateman’s penis forced inside of you. Once, then twice, till it became habitual. She sent you to mother the working woman’s children. It is there, the years you spent in this stranger’s house, that you reluctantly learnt to sit amongst men and indulge in chatter about women and football. And they christened you ‘sugar’, because it wasn’t a conversation without you. Emptiness and want, and relief, the day your mother died at last and they put before you a child to feed, and you were reluctant to do it because no one had done it for you.
Uncle Seba is approaching again. Now, today is a day about candles. One sits brightly this evening on the living room’s centre table, surrounded by sofas torn open over the years. Today, you won’t be cheated. You’ve grown into a prodigious pimp. And you’ll hand uncle Seba a candle before he enters your mother’s bedroom.
Covering the windows of this bedroom are curtains ripped down their vertical lengths. Behind them are iron bars and spider webs, so your sister will not stab Uncle Seba in his sleep and run away with his money, which is your money and her five percent. It is painted egg white and what’s left for furniture is the king-size bed in centre, a disabled cupboard resting on the leftward wall in a tilt, a clock and Madonna and this small table Uncle Seba will place the candle on. He will make small talk.
“How was school today?”
Go out to the veranda and smoke a cancer stick. If there’s a thing you learnt from your mother it is this; You will die, but maybe not today. You weren’t built for worry. If you were, maybe you would’ve been just like your classmates back in primary school. You would’ve worried of what you’d make of yourself and done your homework. Maybe then you would’ve had a fighting chance to go off to university, where you’d worry about tuition fees and more homework. You’d worry about the woman you’d marry or deceive into marriage, and the children you’d have. You’d worry about the school fees of the children you’d have, the jobs they’d get, the wives or husbands they’d marry. And worry would follow you to your death. Is this not all there is to life?
But back to candles. You say the candle must burn until it sits in a pool of it’s melted wax and quenches itself. Only then will Uncle Seba stop forcing his way between the blackened thighs of your sister. A candle is six hours, four rounds on a good day, if we go by what your sister has told you. You tell her to enjoy it, because maybe she won’t see it so much a burden to bear. And nothing breaks inside when you say this, because you sound just like your mother did when you told her of the gateman. She tells you after sex is confession, this is what keeps her going. Uncle Seba will lay naked beside her, and tell her all that is bothering him.
“He has been having dreams, dreams of reaching down his wife’s throat and pulling forth life from her overweight body. His son pilfers scrap metal in his free time. And he feels he has failed as a father”
Your mother would be proud, black boy. See how you put food before your fourteen year old sister, and bring healing to broken men in the darkness of her bedroom. And a year later, when your regular client Uncle Seba, now turned widower, comes with wine for your sister’s hand, you will beat him to a pulp in front of your mother’s home, because Marriage is not profitable.