The wind blew in gently; specks of dust gently hover around the unchanged room. A wooden bed frame lay unhinged, creaking gently when the wind came too strongly. It’s hard to imagine that this was Ella’s room; everything remained in the order that it was in the weeks after the news broke.
It was a timid morning then, when the sun gently raided its protest on the harmattan wind, everything was either stale or dried but the dullness seemed crested. For a while that day, everybody waited under the guise of the living room’s space, impatiently waiting for Ella to appear, but she never came!
When after a long while the waiting seemed foolish, they all gently trooped to her door, standing gently robbing its surface, trying vainly to implore her to join their morning ceremony. They waited and waited but Ella never opened the door; hours later, the door was broken and there she lay, prostrated in a humble rebellion towards whatever it was that ate her up. Yet that is not her only story, the story of Ella is misleading because it starts at her end, in that hidden space of taboos and the world she was born to.
That is not to say that her life was pointless; far from it, for Ella was a mysterious child. It was more clearly stated that her near death brought meanings to the puzzle of her life.
But caught up in the lines of the story we seek is Lisa, a twin left alone to gaze the lines of the world. It is in Lisa’s memory that our most important story stays; the story of Lisa is about the mystic of the African world, its deluge and refusal to recognize its scars. This is not a fantasy story or a realm of imagination, but a recollection of the mysteries that lays herein, a mystery we feel safer when we cannot explain, and a people we deem fit to believe exist only in the fables of the past that’s simply fading to westernization.
That morning as Lisa stared blankly at the unmoving form of her sister, her countenance was not of grief but of anger, as the compound filled up with mourners, Lisa became more reclusive, often disappearing for hours on end until she was discovered and brought home. To the parents, it felt easy to downplay the circumstances of the near-death of their child. It was easy to swindle a story because when Ella’s room was broken into, only a few privileged people were blessed with the sight of horror that gently lay on display.
So to the world, the story was thus: Ella went to bed and never woke up. But to those who lived under the roof of Mr. Simon’s house, the picture was different. The image they knew was of a sister and daughter sprawled violently on a bloody floor, a blade hanging close to her hands and her body severed with marks it became so hard to understand what it was that truly haunted her.
For weeks after the incident had happened and the strangers moved on as they normally do, Lisa stayed sulking through the days, a silent vision of sadness gently surfing the walls of that home. The space illuminated as she walked blindly from one end to the other end of the five bedroom duplex that they owned, yet the space seemed to choke her, for at every turn she felt her twin sister’s presence, in the clustered silence she heard whisperings of Ella’s voice and often as she lay, the silhouettes of strangers stood over her head. She talked less, played less and ate little of whatever exotic delicacy placed at her feet. She slowly drifted in between herself, the spaces between reality and imagination softly closed down as she immersed her agony into a steep silence.
At the beginning, it seemed as if it was the way of a close sister seeking the refuge of the world after losing an anchor, yet as time slowly counted its days away, it became much more harrowing, her eyes began to lose their sound, blinking less and staring endlessly, her sprightly maiden body began to emaciate to a sickly form, her once curvaceous body was a ruin. She stayed indoors, slept little and hardly ever ate more than a mouthful of whatever food she saw.
Mr. Simon stayed home less than he usually did. Next to Lisa, he was the one person whom the incident had taken a devastating toll on. Even on the days when his presence was homebound, his mind seemed to be missing from the essence of what he represented. He talked little with his wife, and immersed himself into the world of work; he sought whatever duty that could take his mind off the reality of a daughter that lay mutilated on the floor of his own house. That same image had raised a past for him; it seemed a curious Déjà vu sprawling back across his face and its truth nauseated his wits.
The memory that it raised was one from 19 years ago, a good year after the birth of his twin girls, he was overseeing the construction of an irrigation dam in the village of Katako when news arrived through the presence of his brother in-law. The news was brief and its channel unnerving, for his brother in-law was a trusted vehicle of secrecy and he was avowed to not reveal the reasons as to why Simon should return home. Even though he tried, Simon could not get a respite from the stone faced messenger. At the height of his inquisition, the only words that spluttered out of the big man’s mouth were “it is not my place to reveal, it is not my duty to tell”.
And the journey back remained silent, as the truck swiveled from side to side on the often dust-laden road.
That day, Simon thought about the last time he met his beautiful wife, he had recognized how much the twins had taken a toll on her for she looked out of her depth, her countenance often seeming defeated, and her body laying limp. She appeared a shadow of the spritely maiden he had chased unendingly for years without much success till the day she arrived gleefully to the place of his abode. She stood a long distance and called out to him. He remembered how he had rushed at the sound of her voice, strangely confused at the mixture of emotions guiding him. For he was amazed that she would come searching even to his very house when she had never bothered to give him a moments attention. But she was there that evening, smiling cheerfully as he walked towards her. He knew she was very different and still he was elated, that night became the first night of his very brief first marriage for she refused to return home but rather plainly inform him that she had arrived to marry him and that he had no choice in the matter.
He laughs as he remembers the way she had said it. It seemed preposterous but she was different. Her self-will was strong and she was beautiful, when she said something, she never lagged around but instead went straight ahead to action. When she said she was marrying him, it seemed a laughable insinuation that a woman would so boldly say she was marrying a man, yet as the days after showed, she did marry him. For when her parents showed their face with threats and sanctions, she blindly told them that no man was worth her time than the one she had chosen; whatever cancerous libations they threw, she retorted with a calm answer of her own. In the end, her father and his brothers proceeded to use the only play the game had dealt them; they demanded for a bride price and quoted an exorbitant price and left. All through the discussions, Simon had been relegated to the peripheral view, yet when they had gone, she meekly turned to him and asked what he will have for supper. For a while he sat staring blankly at her beautiful face, she bore no mischief or anger at what had happened, and she brushed away the threats of being disowned as if it never existed, to be truly African and not be swayed by these vices was uncommon to him and he did not know how to react to her question. When he was silent for a while she gently questioned him again, “My dear, what will suit your appetite this evening?” her voice gently rang. He stared at her again, “Are you not worried about what your family has said” he blurted out gently, unsure of the air of calmness that she had. She paused, raised her eyes and softly stared at him with a hint of a smile on her face, “do you love me?” she questioned calmly, drawing her soft curvaceous body closer to him. He was green for a moment, contemplating a logical answer to a question that needed just a word. For a while her heart betrayed her as he remained silent, her face began to oust the smile that was on it but then he did the right thing, he drew the palm of her hands and placed them into his, staring gracefully at her, “of course I do, I chased you all around, did I not? The problem is your family and their reluctance to even see me as a viable person who is good enough for you!! How are we supposed to marry in that hostility?” he said gently at her. She listened intently, looking away as he echoed his doubt, then turning back to him, she drew him closer, tilted his head upward so that their eyes could meet, “lets pay them the dowry then!” she cheekily suggested, trying to find an amusing side to the debacle that had immersed them. For a moment they laughed and were lost in space and time. “My darling, you know yourself that I do not have that kind of money, they brought it up to discourage me” he finally said turning away. She followed his steps, gently tapping his shoulders as he stood under the baobab tree that they had first conversed under when she came to him a week ago. He leaned forward and she gently held him from the back. “Don’t worry she softly said while holding on to him “I will find us a way” she finally said.
And true to her words she did. When her family returned a week later, they were settled with the stipulated pleasantries of tradition and her father though still not attuned to the idea, admitted defeat and gave her his blessings.
A year later the twin girls arrived and here he was, working hard at his new job to provide for the most loving wife that he hardly deserved. Yet his mind seemed uneasy as the journey appeared to be a little bit longer in the village truck. He keenly felt the loneliness that his wife had without him being around; how she felt distant the last time he was home. She was still the same kind natured, loving person, but her aura of happiness had faded just a little. The road did not help his arduous plight, for they were littered with bumps and gaps. The truck swayed from one end to the other, doubtless of the state of its own cargo. After about 4 hours of a gruesome journey, Simon had arrived at his home to a curious ordeal, the whole town had been camped outside his home and people cast curious glances when he gently raced in, he knew from the faces of the younger public that his wife was no more so he ran faster into the house, the men present vainly tried to stop him but none could outpace his tigerish speed. And just as he entered his room, he saw it clearly, hanging from a part of the roof, elegantly beautiful even in eternal silence, her face strapped with a beauty never seen before. He looked closely, his body falling numb at each step of realization, vainly as he sought to deny that truth, it coldly sought his agreement. Gently reaching forth, he touched her lifeless limb.
If he had hoped she would move, she never did. After that he went into a downward spiral, encroaching himself into the troughs of trouble. Everyone stayed away from him; recognizing that in spite of his faults, his life was a darkened mist.
Ella’s body reminded him of the peaceful image of her mother; it reminded him so clearly that some things are darker than the shining light of love. It reminded him of the timidity of death and how even in highest points of life, man returns to somewhere unknown.
The tale of father and daughter could not be so gruesome, yet even their own point of view offers no redemption to this story. The story also involves the eyes of Lola, Simon’s new wife whom he had married five years after his wife’s suicide. The tale also goes back to Simon’s brother in-law, the silent natured Danboyi, whose wit cannot be outlined. And ever more clearly when the story seems too vast, we call upon the silent voice of Ella to remind us in our feeble minds, that stories, especially these ones, have no limit to life but can transcend the clutches of death to give us an insight into the intricate meanings that it seeks. The question is. Are you ready for it?
by Elijah peter