Written By: Ejiofor C.E.S
That night when everyone had gone to sleep, Kamarana locked herself in the bathroom and cried. It seemed as if the whole day was uncoiling itself and recoiling on her, crushing her, shrinking her. She remembers her mother telling her to go buy potatoes from Saheed. She remembers her protest. Kamarana remembers saying wasn’t Saheed’s shop too far? What of the mallam who sold potatoes by the roadside, close by? Did she have to trek down that isolated road to Saheed’s shop? She remembers her mother calling her stupid, remembers the tiny voice shouting that, did Kamarana not know that Saheed sold better potatoes and would give them maybe extra two?
Yes, Kamarana knew. She knew Saheed sold better potatoes the way one would sell you a chunk of yourself. And the ritual of adding two extra, Kamarana knew he was counting, counting in two’s how much he was paying her for what she did not, would not sell to him. And now that he thought he had paid enough, he had had her. That was why she loathed herself. She was worth two extra potatoes. Kamarana couldn’t remember how many times he had slipped extra potatoes into her shopping bag, but she remembers his slipping his hands under her skirt on each occasion. It was swift. He slipped his fingers in and groped his way under her panties and then out, smiling, showing tobacco-stained teeth.
She remembers feeling her skin crawl, shrinking away from her. She remembers hating him. She looked out of the bathroom window, and watched the low sky colored with flecks of ashened stars and the moon peering down at her and it dampened her. The moon mocked her.
The next day her mother came home shouting, calling her names. She had just seen Saheed. He said Kamarana never came to his shop yesterday. Never. Kamarana thought and bit her tongue tasting her own blood. “Tell me, where is my money?” Her mother said. The fiery in her eyes as red as the pain bleeding inside Kamarana. Kamarana thought of the leer in Saheed’s face as he let his lying tongue spew the venom, she wondered if his squinting left eyes would glow as he thought of her mother sending her to him again so he could taste her, again. So Kamarana said yes. She lost the money. She lost it miles away from Saheed’s shop. She never went there yesterday and would never want to go.
Her mother slapped her and called her careless. How could she lose money? Did she not know that two hundred Naira was so much money in these hard times? Yes. It was such a large sum that Kamarana did not worth. She was worth less than two hundred Naira. She was worth two extra potatoes. Kamarana looked at her mother with eyes welled up with stinging tears and started to think how to hate her.
As she went to school on the next Monday, she took the stream path. She let the debris that the stream vomited with the currents fit patches to her life. She watched an earthworm slitter into the water and wished the earthworm was her. A new boy joined their class that Monday. She did not recall what he said his name was, but she remembers him smiling at her. She did not smile back. It felt as if something had stuffed itself into her mouth and she could not smile or speak until she swallows it. She was not sure she wanted to swallow it.
When school dismissed, she climbed the mango tree in the playground and willed the bees to sting life out of her. But there were no bees. She thought to jump and feel herself break, shatter like broken clay and become dust, and leave a blank space in the place where she ceased to exist. But she looked down and saw the new boy smiling. His smile splatters her with warmth. He stood there smiling saying nothing until Kamarana climbed down and took his hands in hers. She did not smile. She couldn’t remember if they walked home together but she remembers the crushing foreboding she felt when she found herself alone at the gate of her father’s compound. She started to cry.
Kamarana dreamt of his smile whenever she closed her eyes. His smile had become lyrics of happiness that did not fit her lips. Lyrics that formed pebbles inside her throat but would never come out. But she still did not remember his name. It was easier to remember the smile of someone whose name you don’t remember. The day he handed her a box-like picture of a smiling girl at break time and said “why don’t you smile Kamarana?”; she smiled at him. She wanted him to have that memory.
The day he asked if they could go swimming after school, she said yes. She wanted to paint the volatile image of her existence in the mirror of his laughter. So, he would have to scrub it so hard and still find that there are mists of her lifeless breath on him. When they got to the stream and took off their uniforms and he reached out and touched the scar Saheed’s knife left on her chest and asked what it was, she felt sorry for him. She gently removed his hands and slid into the water. She felt now as though she was that earthworm, slithering away from herself away from Saheed, away from her mother. She started to swim faster.
The Boy giggled saying “be careful the water is deep at the middle”, as he too slid into the water. She smiled at him, again. Her life had become a volatile drop inside her that evaporated when she closed her eyes and condensed back when she opened them. She closed her eyes and willed never to open them. She wanted her life to evaporate, forever.
She kept on swimming faster and felt the boy’s eyes following her. When she had reached where she knew the stream would be deep, she stopped. She had life but did not want it.
The stream was lifeless water groping for life in the debris if vomited ashore. They had to exchange. Let what that had slipped into the other’s palm. She scratched the black clot that had formed over the ravine Saheed’s knife tattooed on her chest. She watched the slow trickle of too bright red blood. She stopped supporting herself. She let the rocks of her life; the tiny rocks of her purposeless life weigh her down into the water. She felt herself sinking gradually. She closed her eyes.
Saheed would miss her. Because the stale memory of that day when he presses her to the hard floor in his shop, and slashed her chest when she tried to scream, and thrust himself into her would stick in him even if he tried to scrape it off. But he would not feel anything, not even remorse. Perhaps he would turn hard again and imagine thrusting himself in her again, feeling liquid pleasure rush to the tips of himself, exploding him with sensual gratification. This Boy — whose name she still did not know — would cry. He would see her smiling face when he closed his eyes and her bleeding into the water when he opened them. He would miss her. His eyes would bleed emotions.
Her mother would not cry. She would say the demons that possessed her lured her to the stream to kill her. Demons. Her mother would not know she was her own demons. She would bury her by the stream as was the tradition for those who died by drowning. Perhaps she would fry potatoes for the sympathizers. Kamarana still does not understand her mother’s craving for potatoes.
Kamarana heard the boy’s screaming now. But it was faint. Something bigger than her, was taking over her. She wanted to keep her eyes open, to breathe, but could not. Her lungs were distended with liquid pain.
“Kamarana!” He screams again. She hears it now like blowing bubbles into water and she knew she was sinking down.
“Kamarana! Kamarana!!” It sounds like faint humming. She was sure she likes the sound of water washing away her own name.
She knew she would also like the caustic pain her name would leave on his tongue, like pepper on wounded flesh, after she was still, with no life.
Ejiofor C. E. S is a writer and medical student passionate about telling the stories we choose to forget.
Photo Credit: Pixaby