FALLEN SCABS AND DRIED SORES by Ohaka Thelma

FALLEN SCABS AND DRIED SORES by Ohaka Thelma

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Fallen Scabs and Dried Sores

by Ohaka Thelma

 The prevalent bustling in Òkè-ìlá was driven by fear and the constant need to survive.

Mama Ayo walked briskly in an attempt to get home before six pm. Her bag of food items was light enough to be clutched to her side with both arms. She was aware that they could be stolen, which would mean water throughout the next week for her family.

She greeted her neighbour and proceeded to enter her home, she could hear her children noisily playing a game called Ten-ten.

“Ayobami!” She called for her first child.

“Yes, mummy?” The 15-year-old ran to her.

“Put these things in the kitchen and boil water. Where are your brothers?”

“They are inside playing. Mummy, is it Eba again? Let us eat rice na.” Ayobami pleaded with her eyes.

“Rice? Don’t you know we need money for other things, ehn? Abi, you don’t want to resume school again?” Granting their desires was essential, but their education was the most important.

“No, I want to go to school. I’ll go and boil the water.” She sighed and left, wondering when her education would stop hindering her wants.

Sirens wailed at a distance, informing everyone what time it was.

8 pm.

Mama Ayo shook her children from their slumber.

“Wake up, wake up. Ayobami stands up and wash your brothers’ faces.”

Ayobami wiped her face filled with confusion. “Mummy, what is happening?”

“It’s time for the weekly inspection, let’s go.” She ushered them outside the house. Neighbours were already outside, their faces clouded with fear.

A loud screeching sound was heard accompanied by a man’s voice on a megaphone.

“Good evening everyone, please remain at the front of your houses. If any family member is not found there, consequences will follow.” Everyone knew the drill. Since the outbreak of smallpox in the past year, the army deployed soldiers for routine checks nationwide to weed out the infected persons and move them to an isolation camp.

When the search ended, Mama Ayo was happy. For every inspection her family survives, her fighting chance increases.

“Ah, Mama Ayo. Did you hear what happened in the Oladele family?” Mama Sade, her neighbor, asked her before she returned inside.

“What happened? Did they take anybody?” This was everyone’s fear in the village; if one person was found, more people could get infected.

“They took one of the children oh, the mother has been crying since she begged them to take her too. It was very sad.”

“It is well. I just pray they find a cure soon. “See ehn, if they take me to the isolation place, I will never take any cure they give me. Who knows if it will kill you faster sef.” She wasn’t surprised at Mama Sade’s beliefs, she heard most people talk like this in the market.

“But what if it can cure you and your children?”

“And what if it kills us faster? Abeg oh! My cousin in another state told me they are doing something called vario-something, do you know what it is? Mama Sade always had the happening news.

“No, what is it?”

She moved closer and reduced her voice. “They will cut you open and infect you with smallpox on purpose! Can you imagine? Olorun maje!” Her shoulders shook in disbelief.

“Ehen? But why? Will the person not be infected too?”

“My dear, that’s what I asked too, they said it will make you immune to the virus. They think we don’t have sense, they want to make us die faster.”

“Ah, it is well o. May we never experience it.” They chorused ‘Amen’ and returned to their homes.

Mama Ayo was infected with smallpox.

At first, she thought it was malaria as the symptoms were alike; she sent Ayobami to buy some herbal tonic, but when she began to notice red spots on her tongue, it was clear what it was.

Knowing that her children could get infected, she decided to report herself to the isolation camp.

What about her children? She thought long and hard about who to keep them with, someone who would take care of them on her behalf. She concluded that Mama Sade was the closest possible candidate.

She asked Mama Sade for a favour that would allow her children to live on the little savings she had. She entrusted Ayobami some amount of money for emergencies of any kind. Mama Sade felt sorry for her, but didn’t judge or try to influence her decision. Mama Ayo then sat her children down and informed them of her condition and that she was going to get treated, they all cried and eventually agreed. Still, the youngest of the Ayo’s insisted on following her with tearful eyes.

Only after promising her safe return was she allowed to leave her children.

She arrived at the isolation camp the same day she set out. It looked like a military base as it was heavily fenced with barbed wires. It was a terrifying sight. A bright light appeared on her face blinding her momentarily. She hid her face in her arms to protect her from the brightness.

“Who goes there?” A loud voice questioned and made her jump with anxiety. She saw a man kitted in soldier’s attire.

“Good evening, sir. My name is Mama Ayo, and I came to report myself here, I think I have smallpox.” She watched as the man’s expression changed from fear to shock. He probably did not expect anyone to come willingly, but mama Ayo didn’t live for her, she needed to stay alive for her children.

The soldier ushered her into the gates and left her with some other soldiers. She was taken to an area with dozens of makeshift corners scattered around. It seemed as though each corner was supposed to be a personal space of some kind. Her information was collected; she was given a bag of living items constituting materials for sleeping and bathing, the basic types.

A health worker clad in a surgical gown assigned her a corner with a bed. The beds were far from each other and the entire room was structured in a maze-like way, so that you couldn’t see anything from the entrance. As the health worker left her, she also noticed that she couldn’t see other people’s beds — bricks were used to block the sides; it was probably to prevent them from interacting with others.

She began unpacking her things and wondered what her children ate for dinner and how they were coping without her. A figure appeared before her. It was a young woman dressed in clothes that resembled the ones she was given. She was probably a patient too.

“Good evening.” She smiled.

“Good evening,” Mama Ayo replied.

“My name is Olamide. I saw when you came in, we were curious about you since it is not yet time for the night inspection. Were you caught or what?”

“No, I came myself. I have symptoms of smallpox.”

The woman, ‘Olamide,’ looked at her in disbelief. “You came by yourself? Why? You could have hidden or bribed them.”

Mama Ayo laughed. “Hide where? Bribe them with what? I do not have the means for any of those. Besides, I came here to be cured.”

“Cured? You’re funny o! Who told you there is a cure? You don’t even know anything. We are being left here so that when the disease kills us, it will be easy to throw us away. You just came here like a sacrificial lamb; I wish you knew the truth before coming. I would rather die in my own house than being abandoned here.” “Well, I believe what I believe.”

“Hmm, okay. You didn’t tell me your name.”

“You can call me Mama Ayo.”

Mama Ayo had spent a week but was not getting better. The rashes on her skin had spread over the parts of her body and become bumps. The others looked worse than she did. As they waited for death, they sang hymns.

Everywhere seemed solemn as each day went by but she kept her faith strong. Suddenly, there was a loud bang, followed by loud footsteps. Mama Ayo couldn’t see anything or anyone from her bed, so she assumed it was one of the younger ones playing around. She hummed a song from her childhood and used the bedside table as a drum.

“Mama Ayo! Mama Ayo!” Olamide rushed to the front of her corner. “It has finally happened!” She placed her hands on top of her head.

“What has finally happened?” “The cure o! They said they have found the cure to smallpox, and they will give everybody here. Can you imagine? Just like that, not even to ask us-“

“Calm down.” Mama Ayo stopped her venting. “Who told you they found it? How do you know it is true?” She didn’t want to base her hopes on a rumour.

“One of the patients has a sister that is a doctor here, she told her a cure was coming soon, and she should not tell anybody yet, but one of the children heard it and told us. This one is true, ehn, it is not a rumour. I swear.” She placed her index finger on her tongue and put it in the air. She swore it was true.

“Okay, if it is true, I am so happy.” She smiled at the thought of seeing her Ayos again. Ironic that Ayo also means joy. “But you’re not looking too happy with the news.”

“Ah! I’m not happy at all. What if something happens to us? They want to use us like we are experiments. I’m sure it’s the white men that brought this cure, they want to eliminate us and it is not fair.” She was slowly becoming hysterical and Mama Ayo noticed that her condition was actually worsening like hers.

“Olamide dear, calm down. This cure may be an advantage for all of us, and we are going to die anytime soon, why don’t we just try and have faith that we will be cured? “She attempted to reassure her as she was fond of her.

“Faith? Mama Ayo, you need to face the reality that we will probably all die with this disease.” She turned left and right to check if anyone was within earshot “Some of us have planned something to escape this place, we’re gathering people. If you want to leave, just follow us.”

“There are soldiers around, so how will you escape?” Mama Ayo knew it was a suicide attempt, the only way is if they were handed the keys which was unlikely.?

“One of the men knows the soldiers, he will help us escape. I’m so happy; I can’t wait to go home.” She looked blissfully ignorant, and it was sad.

Mama Ayo knew the night for the planned escape. Before that night, the isolation center was quiet. Conversations occurred in hush tones. She feigned ignorance, feeling sorry for them. The day after their escape was the day the cure was to be administered, or vaccine as one of the nurses called it.

The next day was warm. Mama Ayo packed her things because she believed she would be leaving after being given the cure. She hoped and wondered if the fugitives made it in one piece, the previous night. Hours later, a health worker selected Mama Ayo and a few others to be escorted to the clinic by soldiers, some people looked frightened like they were off to a slaughterhouse, but she was happy.  

Before they arrived at the clinic, one of the women screamed, everyone turned to her wondering the reason for her sudden fright, she pointed in a direction, and they were met with a horrible sight. Bodies were piled on several wheelbarrows pushed by some soldiers, and she instantly knew it was them. All of them were dead, none was spared, and as unfair as it seemed, this was how most of them would’ve preferred to die, especially Olamide.  Mama Ayo thought of how truly their ignorance led to their early demise, despite the fact she was ecstatic for the cure, her heart tugged at the waste of lives, she felt somewhat guilty for not being persistently convincing to them. Maybe if she actively prevented them from attempting the escape, she may have succeeded, they would’ve resented her but at least they would be alive.

With another glance at the dead, she entered the clinic, thinking of her three joys.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OHAKA THELMA is a fiction writer that has been writing since 2018. She has an educational background in Banking and finance from a reputable university in Nigeria. Her works are extremely diverse in genre and could be found in sites such as Medium and Wattpad.

WHERE ARE WE by Doose Ahua

WHERE ARE WE by Doose Ahua

woman in green and white stripe shirt covering her face with white mask

Where Are We?

by Doose Ahua

I take a break from scrolling through my Facebook feed. Every post has a #COVID-19 #quarantine #isolation or #socialdistancing tag. I go to the water fountain and refill my water bottle. I have come to love the sound of the water flowing into my water bottle. It’s a refreshing reminder that I still have things to be thankful for. My appetite has decreased these past few days, but I drink a lot of water to prevent the headaches. It helps. I go to the window and part the curtains just a little bit. I don’t like how the rays of light pierce through from outside, reminding me that I have to stay inside. I take a gulp from my water bottle, remembering that last day when everything took a different turn. 

The silence was intense, disturbing. The sky seemed darker. People had been running helter-skelter, groping for things they were almost losing. Someone knocked the big bowl over and water rushed down the narrow path, taking tiny pairs of shoes and other items littered about with it.  A toddler sitting by the mango tree called out “Mama! Mama! Mama”. His voice was shrill, but the panic in his eyes even louder. It broke my heart, even now.

His little sister stood, wide-eyed, hands akimbo, wondering what was causing the chaos and panic. A man rushed out of one building with a pile of books. He looked like he had a white-collar job. He opened the backseat of the SUV parked by the tree, threw the books inside and slammed the door shut. He hesitated, unsure of going into the car. He threw a glance in the direction of the building he had come from before he jumped in and drove off. The three ladies, coming from a distance, were apparently oblivious to the chaos on this end. Suddenly, they stopped, took off their heels and raced in the direction the SUV had gone. A wig fell off. She slowed down, turned back to pick it up and continued running without bothering to put it back on her head.

I sighed when the boy’s mother came and picked him up. I remember, her head wrap had fallen off her head and her wrapper hung loosely about her. She used the edge of her head wrap to wipe his tears and clean the wetness that was trickling down his nose. Then the wrapper fell off leaving her in a black satin slip. She flung him on her back, picked the wrapper and strapped him securely to her back. Once done, she lifted the basket that was still filled with the goods she had apparently intended to sell that day. She balanced it on her head, grabbed the little girl by the arm and hurried away. The little girl slipped and fell on the muddy path. Mother yanked her by the arm and kept going, half walking, half running. The patch on her yellow dress from the red sand and water looked like a patch of blood. 

The sound of sirens was deafening. The vans came into view eventually, three of them. They sped past going in the opposite direction the SUV and the three ladies had gone. I still hear the sirens every now and then. I am not sure if it is coming from my head or from outside. I glance at my watch; it is almost noon and it is dead silent outside. I let the curtain fall, walk away from the window back to the spot on the couch that has become a warm dent just over the past three weeks. I pick up my phone. I sigh, wondering when I’ll see people outside my window again.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DOOSE AHUA is a Nigerian. She considers home wherever there’s a bed to sleep, food to eat and scraps she can make things out of. She is a compelling storyteller. She believes stories are an ensemble of the bits and pieces of our brokenness and in writing we find connections, we create bonds, build relationships and heal not just ourselves but the people who relate to our pieces, our world. She understands stories as a weapon of enlightenment, liberation. She also relies on creative writing as a very helpful outlet for dealing with personal issues. Literature is one of the many aspects of art she is passionate about. She currently works as an Art teacher at Dakar Academy – a missionary school in Senegal where she guides students in developing and nurturing their creative abilities and using the same expressively. Her friends describe her as quiet, thoughtful, creative, always smiling, strong and kind. She aspires to share stories that people can read, relate to and heal where there is hurt. 

FINDING REDEMPTION by Chideraa Ike-Akaenyi

FINDING REDEMPTION by Chideraa Ike-Akaenyi

sensual black woman looking at camera

Finding Redemption

by Chideraa Ike-Akaenyi

It is August. You feel the damp and the cold of the rains sliding into your body and wedging itself between your bones. The days go in long stretches and nights in short bursts, like little firecrackers, glorious but dying quickly. It suits you, this weather, you mumble each morning as you leave your apartment. You say it with quiet certainty even when you stand before teenagers, teaching them of an eternal father you did not believe was yours and his son who was a blur. You mumble the words over and over again as you walk the muddy streets that spray you with streams of red and brown. You hiss it when you mingle with this never-ending crowd of people moving, noses in the air, brisk steps, eyes distant like people under hypnosis.

The walls of your room are moulting. You observe it this morning as you drag your skirt over your hips. These walls, they had been a sullen witness and companion. They had stood there, solid and unbending to the batter of arms, legs and objects thrown, hauled and landed into smithereens or the screams and moans it had failed to stifle. It sucked these sounds; of anger, pleasure and grief, transporting them to every room in this building.

It used to be blue, the cyan hue it wore told you. It is shedding now, it’s skin bloating and falling off, like flakes of dry, dead skin. You share a history with these walls, you feel like they do. And before you clutch your bag and head to school, you smile at your ever-present, ever-supportive confidante.

#

You enter the school with light steps, slipping through people on the assembly ground to stand in front of the queue where teachers as young as you belong. The principal is on the podium, marshalling out instructions. His shirts and trousers are as always, starches so well they look like cardboard boxes. You are not listening to him, your ears are focused on the murmurs behind you, from your fellow teachers.

You don’t like them, and you will never. They smile and are nice, but you know the warmth is not in their eyes or their souls. You want the basicness of their lives; they want the enigma that is yours. You say little, they murmur, you do not smile and you work harder at your job than everyone else. “Ladies should always smile”, they joke, poking your belly in jest and giving little lectures. Lectures on how to be or not to be, prayers on your head during staff meetings for a husband and a subtle snobbery in their words and gestures when they complain of their husbands and children. Still, they say, they wish they had your freedom.

The principal is singing a martial song. The students march into their classes, hands flailing, legs thrown out in determination till they are out of the assembly hall. You greet everyone in a voice turned low enough to be respectful. Demure good mornings to the women in beaded lace tops, with bellies swaddled in rows and rows of George wrappers. Good morning Sirs, with your eyes fixed on their necks, to the men in isiagu outfits and then, to the ones like yourself, who have not “fixed themselves somewhere”, Kee ka I mee?  A cautious how are you? eyes focused on the floor because you don’t want to ignite hope. You don’t want anyone to share in the cavern that is your life.

 

It is Cultural Day and the festivities will begin at two in the afternoon. You don’t stay for long. After teaching the students, you excuse yourself and head to the church. You are not going to pray, you never do. You kneel in the small chapel with the aroma of incense that seeps into the curtains and chairs and never leaves. You clamp your eyes shut and clasp your hands and mumble threats. Prayers are too easy, so you don’t say them. They absolve you of this weight and fill this hole in your chest and something creates another hole and you pray, and it all goes in that familiar cycle. No! God only loves people like you to give you crosses to bear. So, you go to church to remind this God that sinners need punishment. You go through the scripted performance on Sundays to save you sometimes, from imploding, scattering into little bits to be flung far away from each other by fate.

As you step out of the dim chapel into the piercing sunlight of the afternoon, you feel your phone buzzing. It’s Mama.

‘Ugoo, aru adikwa?’

‘Yes, I am well’

‘Have you thought about it?’

Silence.

‘Nne, biko, forgive us whatever we’ve done to you. Things like this happen and God…

You switch off the phone, your teeth grinding against each other, your eyes burning. You wanted to escape this apology, that is why you came to this town famous for its anonymity. You walk home watching the children at street corners screaming, squealing and playing Oga or running half-clothed; chasing their rubber, dust-coated bicycle tires.

Later that night, you rise from your bed and rummage in your cupboard for your trophies. They are in a box, your souvenirs. You sit on the floor and look at each. You lay out the white sneakers and smile. There are rust-coloured stains on it, splatters on the laces, where his blood touched as he sat, bleeding out.

 

Okwudili, that one loved his sneakers more than life. You run your hands over the shoes, inhaling its musty smell and reminiscing. You had met him at your cousin’s wedding. He had walked up to you, stomach first, with a self-satisfied grin and a bawl for a voice. You took him in, seeing the familiar haughty tilt to his chin, just like your father’s. You said yes, you would go out with him. Mama held her breath and dreamt of trains of women in matching lace tops and expensive abada at your wedding. Papa nodded without conviction and told you to be safe.

Then, the shoe and sneaker madness started. You noticed that he bought new pairs each week: sneakers, boots, shoes. Each one shinier, and costing more than the other. And he gave you a monologue when you asked, of the latest addition. He meant well, with his asking after your well-being and buying you gifts you didn’t need. Still, you felt stifled. A rock had lodged itself in your head and you began to plot and scheme at work while attending to customers. On those nights when you’d visit, as his body moved above yours, you stifled the screams rising in your throat.

You waited three months and finally struck. You knocked him out with one of your platform heels, heavy enough to stun but not kill, you had been practicing. You tied him to a chair and stuffed his mouth. You slit his wrist and then his throat with the kitchen knife you’d sharpened and carried in your bag. And as you watched him convulse, you study your incisions. They were perfect! you think. Maybe, you should have studied surgery instead. You watched him bleed out, eating his half-finished plate of rice. When his eyes rolled back, you slipped out of his house as deftly as you had slipped in, taking his sneakers with you.

The singlet belonged to him; the childhood crush you met after almost a decade of silence. ‘He’ll treat you well’, Mama had said, her voice heavy with hope, prodding.

‘You need to forget Okwudili. May God punish whoever did this to him’, she muttered when she saw you crying. Of course, the tears were not for him, but for the laughter that eluded you. You wanted joy, you wanted ecstasy and all you got was a numbing disgust. So, you went out with Chukwudi, to events and bookstores, always smiling, dressing appropriately for each occasion with smiles and bows and kindness wafting from you, to settle in the hearts of his father, mother and sisters.

O nwelu ezigbo obi, she has a good heart’, his mother said on those hot afternoons that you send everyone out of the kitchen and take charge. You smile when you hear this. Mothers always determine the lucky girl who gets their trophy son in the end. You are grateful.

Ada mmadu,’ his father hails when he sees you, displaying teeth as white as piano keys. Because you can bow low enough when greeting and don’t raise your voice. Because you defer to Chukwudi in conversations and always hint; that you would consider a job that gave you more time with the children after the marriage.

Children. You feel your womb clench in disgust at this thought, but you smile. Maybe, in this kind house with warm people, you will find peace.

Still, happiness ran through yours hands like water and on the eighth of June, you slipped two, not one tablet of his diabetes medication into his palm. It should have been your ‘day’. You had dressed up and gone to church, said your vows and waited till that moment after communion when he slumped and began to convulse. And as they said, you were made a widow while still in your wedding dress.

He had to go; you murmur to yourself. Chukwudi with the lean body and lips always frozen in that curve that could pass for a smile. Chukwudi who read a lot and filled your ears with long talks on American news, history and politics that made you wish you wore hearing aids. Aids that you could turn low to dull and silence his voice. He meant well, showing you books and taking you to book launches. You did not care though. The only books you read were not ‘literature’ to him; tales of murder, fear and monsters. Books on darkness and the comfort it brought. So, you let him rant sometimes when you did not read his books.

And when you were in bed with him, there was an unsettling urgency to his motions, like he was taking and giving nothing of himself. You dreaded those nights when he would invite you over. You went anyway, he was too good to be true and you should be grateful. You still could not help staring at that tilt to his chin, just like your father’s, haughty and defying, and staring at it on that hazy morning, you did not think twice as you handed him the tablets, two instead of one, a replacement for another.

After the burial, you burnt his clothes, taking only the singlet. You had bought it for him. He had worn it only once, complaining afterwards that vests were more comfortable and appropriate. And every week, on Sundays, after the incense-filled haze that is the mass at the church, you spray a little of his favourite cologne and cry into it. Sundays smell like Chukwudi.

You are hugging it to yourself and crying when you remember and find the cigarettes; a gold case and inbuilt lighter. You had gotten them off a stranger at a bar, four months after Chukwudi’s death. He had been nice, in his sharp jeans and t-shirt, speaking carefully, enunciating every word. You watch him in the dimness of the bar, the slow music weaving through the air as stick after stick disappeared between his fingers, each reduced to glowing ash. You loved his voice, the deep yet smooth sound of it. You watched your bottle of Star Radler sweat away as you listened to his voice and not what he said.

When he excused himself to use the restroom, you grabbed the case and slipped out of the bar. You were seeing a therapist then, a woman with a large afro and pinched features. You tell her everything, but not that you slit your boyfriend’s throat and overdosed your groom on your wedding day. You instead speak to her of the hollowness in your soul and how every man you are attracted to, has a haughty chin, like the one who birthed you. You tell her that you hope someday, you will find happiness in the bodies of these men. She consoles you, the fool! You act out your expected role; griever to the end. And so that night in the bar, you remember your next session and fold in this part of you, stifling the hunger to snuff out anything that hints at joy.

sensual black woman looking at camera

#

You are still sprawled on the floor sleeping when Mama calls the next morning. You drop the call and place these trophies of yours back in your cupboard.

They had put you on house arrest when you started acting out, going for parties after work, getting drunk and sleeping with nameless men that you met in clubs and house parties.

‘Is something wrong with your head? Don’t you have shame?’ Mama had asked on the morning you greeted her by vomiting on her dressing gown. A murk of brown and yellow, a sharp contrast to the deep red of her woollen coat. Papa had ignored you and threatened that your genes were from your wayward mother.

‘This is not the way to grieve’, Chukwudi’s father moaned.

Grieve? You knew these people were daft but, blind too? Why couldn’t they see that you were celebrating a freedom you had never had before, from rules and expectations.

They asked a priest to see you. You smiled during your long sessions with him and nodded when he wanted you to. You began to say the rosary and attend mass daily. When he saw that the Lord was doing good in your life, he praised God. You forged a bond with him, a version of you that you created, polished and hung out for him to see. And you said proudly to his hearing, ‘Our Mother Mary saved me’.

Deep into the night, every fortnight, without fail, you sit on the toilet in your bathroom and slice your upper arm, just where the sleeves of your dresses wouldn’t reveal them. You revelled in the pleasure that comes from pain, smiling in satisfaction. Sometimes it was your back, while standing naked before the mirror, little slices here and there that bled and filled you with so much joy and love. And the therapist? You did the same with her. You created a cast of what she wanted to see and made yourself fit into it like a glove. And all this while, the hollow in your chest widened.

On a boring, humid afternoon like every other, when you could not bear it any longer, when there was no air good enough for you to breathe, you left. You gave up your job at the bank, fled to this town and reinvented yourself. You know still, in the whirlpool that is your head, that this storm brewing will spill over and corrode everything and everyone next to you.

#

You are home today. You are not running, not fleeing, not panicking, just home. You have listened to Mama and you are outside their house, waiting as the gatekeeper unlatches the gate and lets you in.

The house is quiet as you walk in. The loud whirring of your suitcase tires and clump-clump of your sandals are the only sounds. Your head is wrapped in a light fog and so you don’t notice, that the masquerade trees that you were scared of as a child have not been trimmed in years, that the ixoras you used to suck have no flowers. They are now well-trimmed, flat-topped beds of green leaves.

Mama is grateful. She hugs you and cries. She kneels with her arms in the air, waving them and thanking her God. This nauseates you. You bite back the words you want to throw at her, walk past her into the house and into the room that used to be yours. It is almost as you left it, there are several empty hangers and missing dresses in your wardrobe. You settle in and begin to assume this you, this Ugochi that lived before the demons came for her; before nights of urgent fumbling under her blanket and harsh whispers in the eerie stillness of night turned her into this.

Papa returns later in the evening and gives you a lecture. You sit still as he talks, eyes focused on the upward tilt of his chin that had defied aging. You hear apologies and buts.

‘I apologise for X but you shouldn’t have done Y’

And he yammers about honour, dignity, respect and a thanksgiving procession in church. You nod in agreement; what else were you supposed to do? You play this script well and queue up on Sunday, clutching the poor turkey’s wings so hard you can almost hear a bone snap. You dance to the altar with them; Papa, Mama, Aunties, Uncles and friends of the family. You scream thanks to Jesus and Mother Mary like every prodigal daughter should. You serve the guests that flood your home later and allow yourself to be introduced to everyone. In all this noise and happiness, you feel it yawning, demeaning and taunting you, the hollow.

#

Mama bought a new utensil. A curious-looking thing, wooden handle and metal spikes. You watch and learn as she uses it on whole slabs of meat, reducing them to soft cottony pieces that will float in stews and speckle the jollof rice she makes for Papa. Sometimes, you wonder, what it would look like on real flesh.

Papa speaks carefully to you these days, asking you to stay and talk to his friends when they visit. His friends who talk loudly and laugh without mirth. His friends always dressed in kaftans, babariga and gaudy jewelry. You refuse sometimes and wrap yourself securely in this shroud you’ve weaved on the loom of silence. Another One? No! You had come home to redeem yourself, to confess your sins and set your soul free. No other man but Papa dearest could do that for you.

The sons of his friends visit and grin and smile too much, speaking of businesses and money and investments and being ready to ‘settle down’. You smile back and tell them you are eight years older than you really are. Thirty-eight. It always worked. The smiles waned and the charm dulled. The fools couldn’t stand the thought of dating or even marrying an older lady. So, your days weaved into each other in introductions, silences and hours spent comforting yourself in books. Till the day he snapped.

 

#

You attended the 6 am mass instead of the 10 am one that you often attended with them. He had reminded you of a big thanksgiving party that you had to be present at afterwards the day before. You saw the fire in his glare when you returned, and he ordered you to dress up. You said no. Mama was herself as always, pleading with you to obey and him to keep his voice down.

Bikokenenu, let today not start on a bad note for us”; she cries, wringing her hands, the gold bangles on them jangling.

Her face is greasy from the foundation she’d applied without powder; you fear the sun will melt it off her face. You ignore them and enter your room. You can hear him fuming, ‘What did you give birth to and call it a child? I am trying to save her from wasting and she doesn’t want to help herself!’

The shroud that you have wound around yourself snags on his words and begins to unravel. It begins to slide carefully off you like skin over well-boiled cocoyams.

You spend Sunday in your room, opening your door only to receive your food in enamel plates from Mum, after she has banged and screamed enough. The days that follow blend carefully into each other and slowly your head does too. You gain clarity and start to dream.

The dreams start with whispers, then murmurs and finally voices; of people like you with no space here, speaking of the bodies they had scarred and burnt, the lives they had shortened and how they felt sated after it all. You dream of sirens calling you to embrace this new normal. This being with passions unhinged.

On other days, you dream in sepia. You watch through the rust-coloured haze as a man with a tilt to his chin goes in at nights to read his daughter bedtime stories. She is six or ten in some and is as big as fourteen years old in others. He holds her to himself and rocks her to sleep. You dream of the fondling under the nightdress as years whirled by and the white mess left on your nightgown on most mornings. You watch the girl begin to refuse her akamu. She vomits it after eating and when nobody is looking, washes it down the kitchen drain.

You see the mother, pristine and lovely, the scapula-wearing, God-loving, CWO-President mother. She sees the signs and buys her daughter pyjamas. She clutches her rosary tighter, ordering her daughter not to go around the house in skimpy outfits. “He is not your birth father”, she explains.

You watch the little girl grow and wait for God to protect his own and begin to look for stories and freedom in the bodies of men. You watch as she picks carefully, men of whom everyone approved, who did not smile much but talked and had that lift to the chin, just like her father. And slowly, your head unravels. You now know the demons building in your head and chest were here in your room with you. They were jumping off the walls and bouncing on the bed, screeching like banshees and deafening you. The voices assure you of the closure you could have and show you the way, to that drawer in the kitchen where it lay.

#

It is Wednesday. Mum has given you money to buy tomatoes for the spicy stew she said your father loved. You get the awalawa ones, because you don’t want what he loves. Nothing that pleased him would ever please you. You go through the motions; welcoming him, serving him lunch as you promise a spicy stew in the evening. He grunts in acknowledgement. He trudges into his room and you switch on the fan. You are still staring at him as he begins to snore.

Crimson, that is the colour of skin when the layer that holds its hue is peeled away. At first, a pale pink, sometimes white, always glaring.

Squashed, that is the state these tomatoes take. The half-rotten ones you bought at the market and smashed them all against the whiteness that is the kitchen wall. You hate its perfect whiteness, without bumps or smears. You feel the adrenaline surging through you as the smelly insides run down, fouling the air, filling you with triumph. And afterwards, when your head is clearer than it has been in years, you search in a frenzy, flinging drawers till you find it.

Everybody knows and understands these things, but nobody explains the texture and hue of skin stabbed, violently and persistently; till it has the mushiness of minced meat and you stare as life’s essence, soaks the sheets, runs down to pool on the floor, away from your dainty slippers.

Nobody again, of course, they never do, these fools, tells you of the ecstasy; that comes with raising this tenderizer in the air, over and over again. Nobody spoke of the beauty in helplessness, the thrilling pleasure that the fear in his eyes inspires. It comes in waves, scintillating, from the scalp of your head to the toes of your feet, leaving you almost breathless.

You like it, this power, this fear, this hate brewed inside you. You like the startled horror on his face and in his body as he watches you plunge it over and over into him. He sees, feels and knows this pain. This will always resonate with you. You do not stop. No, you can’t. Not until he has pulp for his face and his body is a quivering mass of mangled flesh and blood. Not until the whistling in your head silences and you hear his gurgle and grunts. Only then, do you find peace. Only then, do you stop and let loose the laughter bubbling in your throat.

 

THE END

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHIDERAA IKE-AKAENYI is twenty years old. She is in her third year of studying English Language and Literature in Nigeria. She is fascinated by the complexities of human nature and spends her time reading literary fiction, watching thrillers or writing about people and issues she feels deeply about. 

DEAR DIARY by Tega Onobrakpeya

DEAR DIARY by Tega Onobrakpeya

white printer paper

Dear Diary

by Tega Onobrakpeya

Thursday 19 March 2020

Dear diary,

I saw him today. Remember him? The guy who offered me his seat in a crowded BRT?

I was on the queue when he tapped my shoulder and we talked for the rest of the ride to our destinations. I have thought about him in the past three weeks, hoping I would get the opportunity to meet him again.

You know I like him. Akin is cute with a deep set of dimples and sleepy eyes. He also seems to have a great sense of humour. He’s going to call me tonight! Running into him was definitely the highlight of my day.

P.S. She-who-must-not-be-named is getting on my nerves. Again.

Monday 23 March 2020

Dear diary,

I smell fear in the way people lean away from each other. I see it as they frown at those who cough. There were no smiles or conversations in the bus today. I have never felt this kind of dread before. It is now dawning on us that this is not a joke. For the first time, the attendants at the BRT park wore gloves and face masks.

The infection rate nationwide as at this morning is about 30, with speculations that thousands are roaming the streets of Lagos untested. Reports around the world are      more frightening. Italy seems to be one of the most affected with over 500 deaths daily.

She-who-must-not-be-named is being a bitch as usual. Yesterday she told me I’d have to stop going to work. Does she think I like jumping from bus to bus? Does she think I like interacting with customers everyday? She knows how much I suffered to get this job. Besides I am safe. I wash my hands every second; I also wear a face mask in public places.

Akin called today. He has called every night since we exchanged numbers. Every morning, he sends these sweet texts to me. He said he fell in love with me from the moment he set his eyes on me. Cliché, right? However, with what I feel for him, emotions I can’t explain, I know what we have is the start of something special.

Akin is a software engineer, and he lives around, just down the estate. It is crazy that we live close to each other and we’ve never met before. The way things work is beyond my comprehension. I don’t want to sound cheesy but I think the moon and stars are aligned for us. Guess what? We are going on a date on Saturday! For the first time in forever I am happy. This is the only rainbow in my cloudy life – a man’s attention.

 

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Dear diary,

The worst has happened. I am sick! I woke up this morning coughing. I don’t know where it came from, I went to bed fine last night. Every time I cough, my lungs rattle. I can barely breathe, taking in a few gasps with pain.

My body is boiling hot, like I am being cooked over a fire. I am so weak I can’t get out of bed. I have never felt this miserable before. I think I am going to die.

She-who-must-not-be-named came to the room to yell at me to get up and then she heard me cough uncontrollably. After an hour of coughing and groaning, she left a mug of hot water with ginger and honey infused at the door. It gave me a bit of relief, at least in that moment. But now it is getting worse.

I am getting weak. My mouth is wide open and I try to take deep breaths. My chest hurts with a sharp pain. I don’t want to believe it. It just can’t be.

I shouldn’t have, but I Googled the symptoms. It fits. This is why she hasn’t said anything and has kept her distance all day. I have it. That damn virus! How is this even possible?

As I deliberated my condition, she stood in the doorway. She told me she was leaving tomorrow. She’s going home.

 Home is the bustling city of Port Harcourt. Home is where my parents and siblings live while I came here to seek greener pastures, living in the home of one considered a family member Home is safe.

“What about me?” I managed to ask

“I warned you, but as small as you are, you like to do like you know better than your senior.  I will stock the house with food for you. It is the most I can do.”

Thursday 26 March 2020

Dear diary,

She left this morning, while the sky was covered in darkness. Not a goodbye, not sparing any chance of getting infected. The kitchen is stocked – the shelves filled with groceries and the fridge with stew and soup – she told me last night.

My laugh comes out as a croak. Never would she have stepped into the kitchen until now. She always relegated the house chores to me. However, my despair broke her laziness.

I wonder what she is going to tell my family when she gets home. The last time I spoke to them, I told them I was safe, that there were only a few cases in Lagos. That was three days ago. It will break them to hear that I am sick and alone. Mummy will tell me to come home, but not in this state. No sane driver will have me in his vehicle. Besides, to risk infecting them at home? Mummy might suggest coming over to Lagos, but I can’t do this to her. Let my death be on me alone.

By the way, the Lagos state government has initialised a partial lockdown from today, for a week. Non-essential businesses are to be closed. No wonder she ran away.

I have called the toll free NCDC number over ten times, so they will come get me. But my calls went unanswered. What did I expect? This country never surprises me with how disorganised it is. Do they even have the facilities to deal with this? Before I got sick, I read that some patients escaped from an isolation centre because of the terrible conditions. It is better to die in my house than be surrounded by people whose only aim is to loot.

I have always hated being sick. I detest the weakness that follows. This, I loathe even more. All I can do is stare at the ceiling. I can barely sleep because I am in pain, the darkness filled with chasing monsters.

My phone rings and I stare at the screen. Akin has been calling all day. He did the same yesterday. But I didn’t take his calls, or reply his texts.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Dear diary,

Water is gone. I woke up this morning to a dead house. I used to love the silence and the calm, it meant she was not home and I could be free, but today it fills me with heaviness.

The light went sometime in the early hours, instantly shrouding me with heat.

I got to the bathroom just in time to catch the last trickles from the tap. Worse, I am bleeding. You know when I bleed, it rains. I saw this coming – weeks of having uninterrupted water supply seemed too good to be true – so last night I filled every container I could find with water. But how long will this keep me? The last time the water went, it lasted three weeks. I can hear the gritting of the barrows of the passing abokis on the gravel as they sell their water ware. Will I have to resort to them? And stand the chance of infecting them? Is it even safe for me to let any of them in when I am alone? Perhaps I will do it just to take victory that I am letting them into the pristine home of She-who-must-not-be-named who calls them animals.

I feel like shit, like someone ripped my lungs out. I haven’t eaten anything in two days, I have been too weak to prepare any food. But I have to make an attempt today, otherwise I will die more from hunger than the virus.

I haven’t heard from her since she left. Is it bad for me to hope that she got into an accident? What is there to lose after all I am dying. It would give me great pleasure to see her in hell when I get there. Or not. It would be an everlasting torture.

Yesterday was supposed to be my date with Akin. It was supposed to be memorable. But I was battling for my life, while my phone lit up with his calls.

P.S. Your president was live on TV today. There is going to be a full lockdown      and restriction on interstate movement in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun state from tomorrow. For two weeks! This is getting serious and I know this first-hand.

 

white printer paper

Friday 3 April 2020

Dear diary,

I bawled like a baby today. Mummy called. She visited her older sister, She-who-must-not-be-named’s mother without notice and saw her. She asked of me and she had no option than to tell the truth. Daddy is pissed as well. Mummy had to restrain him from heading over there and getting into a fight.

She said she did it to protect herself. It is all she’s concerned about. It is why she treated me like I was the help. It is why she kept me starving for days. It is why she called me cruel names. It is why she hit me.

I wanted to tell them all she has done, but it would only fuel their rage, and when daddy is mad, he turns to the Hulk. Besides, mummy’s relationship with her stepsister has always been on thin ice, I don’t want to further damage it.

Mummy wants to come over, but she can’t with the movement restrictions. She wants to call family members who live around, but I know no one is going to come to my rescue. Not with what’s happening, anyway.

I called the NCDC number today again. This time I got through and I was asked a couple of questions by a man who seemed annoyed with me.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“I have been coughing for days.”

“And so?”

“My chest is—”

“What else?”

“I also have fever and—”

“How do you know you have fever? Are you a doctor?”

“My body is very hot—” I said.

“So, you now have the virus?”

“And I have no appetite.”      

He asked about my travel history. I have been within Lagos mainland in the past three months. Had I come in contact with anyone who travelled to affected countries? With my interaction with customers at the betting company, I wasn’t sure.

“Right now, we are busy, but we will get back to you. In the meantime, eat healthy and isolate yourself,” he said in a robotic voice he must have fed others all day.

I would have been surprised if I had gotten a better treatment. I am on my own. Alone.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Dear diary,

I never thought about death before this. I always felt I was too young to die. No one – well except Nigerian politicians – deserve to die in a slow and agonising manner. It is like being set on fire and watching your bones gleam white. The best way to die is fast, a bullet ripping through your skull and then the walk towards the light. Unfortunately for me, my fate is slow.

I threw up in the toilet bowl filled with bloody poop. The bathroom stinks but I have to preserve water.

I caught my reflection in the mirror and I am scared of the person I saw. I look empty; those eyes of mine which remained bright even when she used a broom on me are now defeated. They say you can overcome death by empowering yourself with positive thoughts, but do you think I care about telling myself that everything will be okay, when I know it won’t?

My phone is on silent but the screen lights up regularly with calls. I have limited my calls with mummy and daddy. Every time I talk to them, I cry and feel lonely. They are all together, mum, dad, Ebube, Chinaza, Pamela and Nonso, and I am here alone. No one will check on me, not even the neighbours who alienated us, because of the troublesome nature of She-who-must-not-be-named.

I know I shouldn’t do this to them. They must be worried sick about me, but the more we talk, the more broken we will be. We all know the truth, and their prayers are no help. Even their attempts to get through to NCDC failed.

Akin has still been calling. I thought he would have given up on me. I wonder what he thinks. One minute I was warm towards him, giving him glimpses of a future with us, and the next I am completely cold to him. Heaven must be playing a cruel joke on me. I’ve been a good girl all these years, played by the rule book, and the first time I decide to take a leap, I get this. Bad things indeed happen to good people.

Monday 13 April 2020

Dear diary,

Am I sorry we haven’t spoken in days? No. I have come to stop caring about many things. How I look, my dreams of getting rich, and of course you. When someone knows they are dying, nothing matters but death.

To be honest, I have been unable to write because of how weak I’ve been.  Too weak to hold a pen.

Everything I manage to cook goes out, through my mouth or ass, so I don’t bother any more. The best decision She-who-must-not-be-named made was to stock biscuits which means I don’t have to make wasted efforts.

The pyjamas I have been wearing for weeks stinks like rotten eggs . The bottom slips down my hips. I have since been done with the blood reign and the pads torn into pieces and flushed down to the septic tank. I am glad I don’t have to go to Hades with blood dripping down my legs. Lucifer would like that don’t you think?

Why do I think I am going to Hades? Because this world is fucking twisted and it just makes sense that after the suffering I have gone through as a Nigerian with access to nothing, I end up there. Suffering continues right?

This seems like the perfect time to repent and all that mumbo jumbo. But I will do no such thing! No creator in the sky deserves my life for the way I have been treated. I’d rather give it to the devil, he fucking deserves it for his cruelty to me.

Can you believe the conspiracy theories flying about? That 5g is responsible for covid-19? Seriously? People are really stupid o! Some don’t even believe there’s anything like covid-19. They think the government is lying to siphon money. If only I can tell them my story, but I know they don’t have the capacity to deal with such knowledge.

I am angry. And I deserve to be. Guess what? Donations are being made to federal and state governments by institutions and wealthy individuals. Are they fucking out of their minds? We all know where that money is going to end up. In the deep pockets of politicians. The only time I go on social media, I see complaints about no response from NCDC or poor facilities at isolation centres and they donate millions to them? This is crazy!

Maybe I should have come as an animal, then I would accept that the way I am treated is just. What is the difference between me and an animal? I have no rights. I have no water, and I get few blinks of power every day.

You know what, I am getting more pissed right now. I need to rest my head because it hurts.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Dear diary,

You shouldn’t have led me in. you made me believe in us and then you turned your back on me. That was the text I received from Akin three days ago, I just had the courage to open it. 

I think you’ve poorly developed the relationship with Akin and the protagonist. We don’t have more context about how she treated him/her feelings for him during her sickness. All we see are a few missed calls here and there.

He thinks I ghosted him, but all I did was save him. I have a strong feeling if I told him what has been happening, he would come over and rescue me. I can’t let him in. Every night, I check the data. Infected cases are rising at an alarming pace. There’s no cure. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone – well maybe She-who-must-not-be-named.

I wish I could talk to Akin. For one last time before I die. But our goodbyes were said a long time ago. We might meet some day, but I doubt it. Fate already has me in her little black book.

 

Sunday 19 April 2020

Dear diary,

I think I am getting better. The cough has subsided and the fever is gone. I don’t want to cling to hope, but could this be true? I ate three times yesterday without vomiting, and with how hungry I was, my appetite is back.

I haven’t even taken any medication – well except the vitamins I found a bottle of. But could that have helped?

It has been all over local news since on Friday that a government official died from the virus. There are rumours he was flown to Cuba and even the UK despite the lockdown. These politicians ehn! I feel pity because I know how it is to be sick with the virus. But my pity is overcome with happiness. They did nothing to make this country liveable, and we all get to suffer the consequences.

I spoke to the family today. Mummy was relieved to hear my voice. She was worried that something bad had happened to me. We all know what that something means of course. I didn’t tell them that I am better, I don’t want to give them false hope and then the next thing my rotting corpse is found wrapped in the woollen duvet in She-who-must-not-be-named’s room. Do you know she actually locked her room door? Like I was going to go in there and steal something to wrap around my sick body? She absolutely read my mind.

I heard sirens in the estate, and I thought they were headed here. That somehow my family had gotten through to them and they had come for me. It was a stupid wish because it headed down the estate.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Dear diary,

Water is back! Yippee! For the first time in three weeks, I had a decent bath, with hot water and strawberry bath gel She-who-must-not-be-named forgot to take with her. It felt so good to stand on my feet without them giving way.

I ate much today, placing several pieces of meat on my plate. It is the most meat I have eaten since I got here. There’s no one to peep over my shoulder to remove a piece from my plate because it is too big. Hiyaaa!!

I danced today. I danced to music videos on MTV Base while shaking my tiny waist. I am so glad she’s not here! You know how she would try to ruin my fun. That woman certainly has a place in the seventh circle of hell fanning the devil.

I called Akin today, but his phone is turned off. I think he has blocked my number. I really wish it didn’t get to this, but I have a lot of explaining to do. With all that is going on, I wonder when I will get to meet him again.

The lockdown will be extended for the third time I am sure, with how many cases we have. Almost a thousand! And I didn’t even count myself o!

I doubt I have a job to return to. I know I made a mistake ghosting them but I thought I was going to die. They deserve it. For the past six months I have worked non-stop everyday, giving it my all, and yet no one deemed it fit to check on me. They don’t deserve me. 

Saturday 25 April 2020

Dear diary,

I video-called the family today. Seeing their faces, I realised how much I miss them. Daddy cried for the first time ever! I started crying too. And before you know it everyone was crying. They have been praying for me. Mummy said they even fasted for seven days.

 Globally, the cases have crossed two million. There’s a high recovery rate compared to the deaths. Nigeria and other African countries are not in the red zone, but it is just a matter of time.

The country may be on lockdown but people are just too damn stubborn. They have refused to stay home. I heard people are travelling interstate, all they need to do is tip the law enforcement officers on the roads. But do I blame them? With the stupid palliatives the government gives, people need to hustle. Imagine they gave mummy two packs of Indomie, a coke-sized bottle of groundnut oil and seven cubes of Maggi. Is that what a family is supposed to survive on? In other countries, citizens receive stimulus check, and food prices are not going through the roof.

I am just glad that I am well, that I am among the statistics of the recovered, albeit unofficial. I don’t even want to look back at the person I was, the weak and frustrated me.

I have been having fun in the house. Alone of course! Thank God she left. Seriously it would have been torture to be indoors with her for weeks. It was either she killed me or I snuffed the life out of her with a pillow.

I eat whatever I want. I sleep whenever I want. I watch whatever I want on the TV. Freedom has never felt so good!

Monday 27 April 2020

Dear diary,

My boss is dead. I got a call from a colleague who suddenly remembered me. He died two weeks ago and there are speculations he died of covid-19, but no one is sure. I asked if any other person from work was/is sick and she said no. I didn’t tell her I was sick. That girl has a big mouth, in ten minutes everyone in Nigeria will know I was sick.

With how close I worked with him; I think I got it from him. I remember he went for some event where he interacted with a lot of people.

I don’t know what will happen to the company now. I was kind of hopeful I would explain about my health and get my job back. With his death, I really don’t know what to expect.

It sucks to be jobless during the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs with more to come. How am I supposed to get a job in these crazy times? Who will even hire me sef? I won’t tell the family about this. There’s a lot to worry about already.

Do you know She-who-must-not-be-named has not called since she left? Like she hasn’t even called to check on me! That woman is a witch I swear. I know she hopes to find my decaying body when she returns but I will shock her.

I called Akin for what seemed to be the hundredth time. How the tables have turned. I might have to go out there and get a new SIM card to call him. I think it is time to explain to him, and patch things up.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Dear diary,

I went out for the first time in over a month. It was great to be outside after such a long time, and to breathe in fresh air. You should see my skin right now. My complexion has gotten lighter and I don’t have any pimple.

The neighbourhood is quite busy, with people moving about as if nothing is happening. Many have masks on, mostly cloth masks, but there is nothing like social distancing.

I stopped at Iya Bola to buy a bottle of coke and the woman was surprised to see me. She thought I travelled or something. I told her I have been around. While I was there, another woman came in and they started talking in hushed tones. Someone died in the estate!

“You know say e don reach two weeks wey NCDC come carry am. Na today he die o. Na the early hours of this morning he die,” the other woman said.

 “Ah! Very young and respectful boy. Chai! Akin don go!” Iya Bola cried.

It was only as I returned home, I recalled her words. Akin? I doubt it’s my Akin. Do you know how many Akins there are in this estate? Probably around fifty. It is definitely not my Akin. Whoever this Akin is, may his gentle soul rest in peace.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Dear diary,

I have been crying since morning. It is true. My Akin is dead! I saw it on Instablog9ja’s page on Instagram. His pictures were posted and his friends posted condolence messages. Ah! I am finished!

All this while I thought he was angry with me, he was sick. I hate this. Why did this have to happen? Why can nothing good happen to me?

Akin and his cute smile. Akin with those kind eyes. Akin who gave me his seat while I got pushed around in that bus. I may not have known him for long but I know he was a nice person. A nice person I developed feelings for.

Death be not proud! You have taken from me a jewel. I have never been shaken like this. Not even when I was sick. I thought there was something there for us. I felt it! It would be better if he was still alive and just ignored me. At least he would be alive.

God! Why do you do this to us? Why do you take from us and break us? Why do you make us weep? Why do you make us feel pain so deep we just want to fade away?

Saturday 9 May 2020

Dear diary,

I haven’t gone out in days. I can barely function. I eat with my taste buds dead. I just stare at the TV, with no idea of what is on the screen. Life goes on, as usual. I don’t even bother checking the rates any more but I know it is definitely soaring.

I have been doing a lot of thinking these past days. How did Akin get sick? Was it me? Did I cause his death?

As much as I tell myself he got infected some other way, I know deep down that I am responsible. Those minutes we laughed. The moment we sat together in that bus talking, not only did I connect with him on an emotional level, but also biologically. Because of me, he’s dead. If only I hadn’t opened my heart to him. I should have frowned and rolled my eyes at him like I did with the others. I should have ignored him. I should never have taken his seat that day. I should never have cared.

Monday 11 May 2020

Dear diary,

I don’t know when next you will hear from me. I just… I want to be left on my own.

 

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

TEGA A. ONOBRAKPEYA is a reader and a bit of a closet writer. She writes on different genres although she finds herself drifting more to the supernatural. She has a throng of uncompleted works which she should complete in the future.

HOW THE DOCTOR AT WARD C EXPLAINS ISOLATION TO HIS COVID-19 PATIENTS by Chukwu Emmanuel

HOW THE DOCTOR AT WARD C EXPLAINS ISOLATION TO HIS COVID-19 PATIENTS by Chukwu Emmanuel

ethnic woman in medical mask on gray background

How the doctor at ward C explains isolation to his covid-19 patients 

by Chukwu Emmanuel

Day 1

When your tender body

begins to quiver

in this small moments of grief.

 

Day 3

Know the weight of anxiety in your chest level,

some concepts cannot be theorized 

When holding synthesized sadness to a spot.

Day 7

The wound measures how much color

it has taken from us. 

Accept it by becoming familiar with what lives inside you.

 

Day 10

Truth is you cannot cut twice

It is either you cannot pray

Or you love the formless shape of fear.

 

Day 14

To live is to accept what we cannot love

All the cases exploding around

you are simply fireballs.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

How the doctor at ward C explains isolation to his covid-19 patients

by Chukwu Emmanuel | POEMS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHUKWU EMMANUEL is a Nigerian. He is a medical student with the spirit of writing in his blood. His works have been shortlisted for Kalahari Review Igby Prize for Nonfiction in 2019 and in 2018 for both Prose and poetry categories for Benue Literary Festival. His works has been published by or are forthcoming in Praxis’s magazine, Africanwriter magazine, Libretto magazine and numerous blogs. He’s currently working on a collection of a collection of stories documenting medical life. 

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