LP: Nigeria Special: Volume 2
2010 Soundway SNDWLP020
Favorite Track: Ajambene by Eric “Showboy” Akaeze and His Royal Ericos
Yarl’s father smelled of the afterlife. His eyes were cloudy. His teeth rotten like black kernels partially chewed down to the cob. Thizzie scrubbed away flesh with the bathing stone on the last morning of their visit. Oke merely said Yarl’s name with a somber air, spittle pooling down the folds in his hanging jowls. He wouldn’t live for another month and Thizzie inwardly prayed a selfish thanks for his hanging onto to life throughout their visit. There would be no need to return for the funeral. He would be placed in a ceremonial deathrobe and slid out the vacuum tube to outside the station where his body would feed the nutrient-starved soil.
Yarl sat across from his mother at the breakfast table while Thizzie slowly packed their bags.
He hadn’t said much the whole trip and each unspoken moment hung in front of him like a stone wall. For all the words he could pour forth in a story, words he would strike out and change, manipulate and be manipulated by, words he could choke, he found himself unable to speak to the very people who most needed his words. Because, at the moment, words were meaningless in the face of death or, more precisely, in the face of the absence of life. Words were life: they are born from a void, run up the slide and swing the monkey bars of a park, dance ungratefully at a prom, age into maturity over a bottle of wine, and, always, stimulate, mimic and express life.
When there is death, there are no more words.
Death is the last word.
Koma spoke all the time about Oke’s condition. She spoke of it like she was feeding the pigs or changing the bed sheets. Yarl wished he could be strong like her. Even Thizzie seemed her normal self albeit reserved and respectful. Why couldn’t Yarl act calm? Frustration had gotten the better of him the night before and he spoke rudely to Thizzie in the same insolent manner as he did during their rocky moments two years ago. Thizzie turned her back on him, pulling the patchwork quilt away from his shivering legs. But when he woke up, she had returned a portion of it and Yarl said thank you before stumbling off to see if Oke made it through the night.
“She is holding a secret against you.”
Koma’s heavy voice held an unusual agitated tone to it. Yarl felt a bit unnerved.
“Thizzie? I can’t imagine that she would keep a secret. She tells me everything to help me go to sleep. You know my writing gets my brain going and–”
“She is holding a secret against you. A mother knows when and why. You must steel yourself to be hurt, my dear son.”
At that moment, Thizzie came down the stairs, embraced Yarl, and kissed his needful mouth with earnest passion. She pulled back puzzled when Yarl’s lips did not move but stuck to her wet mouth.
“What’s wrong? Is Oke alright?” Instictively, her hand went to her teeth. At the same moment, Oke emitted a serious groan of torment. Koma lifted herself up and entered the bedroom. Yarl looked at Thizzie, desperate to forget his mother’s words. There was no possible way that Thizzie was holding something from him. Her demeanor was affectionate and demonstrative. What was his demeanor? He felt like a bull trapped inside a pen, the glare of a thousand bloodthirsty eyes upon his quivering nostrils.
“Thizzie, you are hiding something from me. I cannot fathom what it could be, but if it has to do with Enyina–”
“Enyina? Why I ought to smack you, Yarl, right across that devilish face of yours. How many times can I explain that their was nothing between Enyina and I but the best and most honest of friendships–”
“Don’t “you” me. Your intrusive mother has been feeding lies in your willing ears.” Yarl observed that Thizzie was red in the face and her eyes flickered from his face to the door behind which Oke continued his lamentable moans.
“You dare insult my mother in my father’s place? He is dying in the next room. Get out of my sight. You’ve disgraced me.”
The plate of food had already left her hands before her cheeks felt afire and the salty sting of tears blurred her vision. She vaguely recalled the opening gash of red skin on Yarl’s forehead as she ran down the staircase, CleanAir mask muffling her sobs into a hissing whine. Yarl can take the bus. He deserves to wait. She sped to the Kano Station where a crowd of panicked onlookers rushed her vehicle as if seeking shelter. Fists banged on her windows the way her heart beat in her chest. She did not spot Sorrel among them. There were police officers and deathrobe men. She more or less parked in the street. Sorrel would know what to do. Is there anything to do? Sorrel would know what to say. Is there anything to say? Thizzie moved like a somnambulist toward the blinking lights and the propped open apartment door. A hand grabbed her shoulder, but she hardly registered it.
Sorrel did not wave, speak, embrace, comfort, blink.
Thizzie looked into the remaining eye of death.