Your herculean uncle has locked the door to your mother’s bedroom. This is how you sell your sister, and stare at the woodwork that is the door. Your head is tilted slightly, and your hands sit in the pockets of your trousers as you stare at it deadpan, like you’re critiquing it. You stand there listening to the muffled sounds on the other side of the door.
“what are you doing here?”,
“who let you in?”
Black boy, your heart is beating rapidly. And because there is something inside you telling you this is wrong, 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 behind the door or on your mother’s bed. And Uncle Seba is towering over her as she searches the bed for linen to hide her innocence. Uncle Seba has not moved. The man is salivating over your sister. His sleeves are rolled to his elbows and he has the mien of a labourer.
But behind you, Uncle Seba is approaching. Tonight, you have prepared. And this time you won’t need to guard the door, steadying the beat of your heart or the rush of blood to your head. Don’t greet him. You will be considered presumptuous. Steady your breathing, as this is your mother’s house as it is yours. It is small, a kitchen, a bedroom, a living area and a veranda. The living area is equally small 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 before your sister was born. It doesn’t echo when you speak in the way it did when your mother was alive. You ask yourself why every memory of her is clouded with emptiness and want?
Just as it was, emptiness and want, the day she forgot you at school, so you slept sandwiched between two hefty gatemen. And they would not give you of what they were eating because it wasn’t enough for them and you would shorten their rations. Your mother would not pick you the morning after. Emptiness and want, the many days you lived and scrapped food from steel plates at your uncle’s house in Owerri. Your mother sent you there to wipe the asses of his children in return for pocket change. It is there you 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 the day they beat you to a pulp-you say, till you looked chinese-at the market near this small building. You stole a phone, your mother sent you there. But you didn’t know how to correlate the hunger in your stomach to theft. And even if you did, your English wouldn’t save you from the beating. Your mother said you were no good. Emptiness and want 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 did it for you.
Uncle Seba is approaching again. He will slip you a few notes to sustain yourself in the meantime, and you will give him a candle. He will open the door to your mother’s room where your sister is sequestered under white linen. And she will not scramble or ask questions like before.
Covering the windows of this bedroom are curtains ripped down their vertical lengths. Behind them are iron bars, 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. Uncle Seba will place the candle on the table with three legs and make small talk.
“How was school today?”
Go out to the veranda and smoke a cigarette. You will die, but maybe not today. Tomorrow will sort itself. Men like you weren’t built for worry. If you were, maybe you would’ve been soft hearted like your classmates back in secondary school. You would’ve worried of what you’d make of yourself and done your homework. Maybe then you would’ve gone off to university, where you’d worry about tuition fees and more homework. You would’ve worried about the job you’d get, so you’d do your best to be top of class. You’d worry about what woman you’d marry, 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?
Men like you make the system. You say the candle must burn until it sits in a pool of 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 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. She tells you after sex is confession, this is what keeps her going. Uncle Seba will lie 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. See how you bring healing to broken men in the darkness of her bedroom.