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Twelve Hours To Christmas | Adedamola Kolawole

Twelve Hours To Christmas | Adedamola Kolawole

Twelve Hours to Christmas Adedamola Kolawole Agbowo Art African Literary Art

 

 

I’d gladly pick fetching water with a spoon over doing laundry any day. But it’s 6:01 AM and I’m already padding around my room, sorting through my heap of dirty clothes and selecting a music playlist of Meghan Trainor’s songs on my phone to keep me company through the arduous task ahead. 

I don’t know how it’s done; if my clothes will be burnt eventually, or if my cousins would like to pick some for themselves. I’d really hate for them to come across my unwashed panties–there are five of such–while ransacking my room. I’m supposed to be the neatest person in my family, given my finicky approach to housekeeping. I imagine Aunty Solape, with her acerbic tongue that can cause a corpse to turn in its grave, gloating about how she has always known my neatness is only a show. She would say anything to make herself feel better about her badly raised girls, my cousins. There’s no way I’m giving her that privilege, so I wash. I wash everything within sight.

It’s 10:00 PM and I’m rinsing the last batch of my laundry already. That’s record time. Apparently, I’ve been saving my best (strength) for the last. 

 

* * *

 

Mama Agba, my maternal grandfather’s elder sister has been in our home for the past three days, gorging on all our mílíkì and bonfita which I suspect are out of circulation in our village where she lives. The familiar smell of Aboniki balm, the insanely hot ointment with which she had rubbed my chest as a young child highly prone to cold lingered in the living room, so did the unsavoury memory of her threatening to deposit a good portion of the ointment in my totoros whenever she needed me to do her bidding without much hassles. That was well over a decade ago. Perhaps I would have grown up to love her, and to be more accommodating of her, if I didn’t already know that it was she who instigated my then young and foolish grandfather to marry another wife to give him an heir.

Yes, he got another wife, no heir, more girls, plenty drama, midlife crisis, hypertension, and then partial stroke. Jumbo pack. Funny how I’m unable to laugh at the hilarity of his fate. 

The antique living room clock chimes. It’s 12:00 PM and I can hear Mama Agba shuffle her feet restlessly on the floor. Her face slowly shrivels into frown, a nag is sure to follow, but I’m prepared. She has tried unsuccessfully for the past two days to get me to replait her hair and I in turn have wondered how she got the impetus to ask such favour of me, as I’ve never hidden my resentment towards her. 

Today though, I flash a promising smile at her, sit on the arm of her chair and run my fingers through the lines between her old and rough cornrows before loosening them. I catch Mother’s disbelieving stare. Only she knows how much I have detested her cantankerous ‘big mummy’ all my life. But really, what is life? In-between the flip from life to death, how many of these things, these grudges really matter? 

Mama Agba’s shoulders begin to slump, she is now snoring lightly. I cradle her head with its pungent smell of àdín àgbon between my thighs and plait her hair into shuku style, neat enough to last her from now till next month for the funeral she’ll be attending. 

“Mo ti se tán, màmá; e wá lo sùn s’ínú ilé,” I nudge her awake.

“O kare omo mi, wàá dàgbà,” she murmurs, voice still heavy with sleep. But her tone sounds more congenial than I’ve ever heard in my entire twenty-two years of existence. I smile. I have done right by her. I have paid my dues. 

 

* * *

Two things happen at 2:00 PM on Fridays in my home.

One, Mother rings her ago ìgbàlà, the small bell whose dangling brass ringer always reminds me of that bastard Shola’s cursed phallus. Moments after the echoes from the bell die down, you’d often hear Mother’s convulsive prayers rise up to a ridiculously high decibel. 

Two, I plug on my earpiece with heavy metal music blaring in my eardrums, a sometimes futile attempt at drowning out her noise. I have given up on wondering where she finds the energy to disrupt the peace of the house as she fasts every Friday. 

2:00 PM today however, my Samsung phone is on loudspeaker dialling Tiwa’s number, her face staring back at me on the screen with a dimpled smile. Tiwa, the new bride of whom Mother, before warming up to her, had presented findings of her less-than-impressive mode of entry into matrimony. 

Barely older than me at all, her much older boyfriend had had to perform marriage rites after putting her in the family way. It didn’t take too long, however, for her with her oversize tummy to push her way into our home and into Mother’s heart, what with her perpetually cheery countenance and her knees that kissed the ground effortlessly–Mama Agba’s perfect example of a well-bred Yoruba woman. 

She has to be at home today. I need her to be at home. I’m calling her just to be sure. She picks her call and replies in the affirmative, so I head to her place and remind her of a fictitious soup that Mother has planned to cook this evening.

“Wait oh, which soup did you call it again?” she asks, brows furrowed in a serious attempt at recollection. Of course, she can never remember. The conversation never happened. 

“Catfish pepper soup, now. Anyway, I’m here for that very sharp knife of yours. It’ll be perfect for killing and cutting up the fish. You know how slippery they can get.” I’m out of her kitchen a few moments later with the shiny silverware.

Squish squish squish

It feels soft and squiggly

Squish squish

The shiny knife traverses the fleshy circumference of my catch

Squish squish squish

Violent jerks as blood covers my hands and 

The severed object of my gruesome pleasure

Like a glove.

Warm. Red. Like–

 

“Remi!”

The sheathed knife lands on the rug with a low thud as I’m jolted back into consciousness. “I’m sorry, Tiwa, I should go now. I’m tired and I need to catch some sleep before going to the market to get the things for the soup,” I explain feebly, picking the knife back up. 

Tiwa’s small eyeballs hover between my face and the knife in my hands for a while. Then she says through a scrunched face,

“Sha buy something for me too. Errm, mangoes will do.”

 

* * *

 

04:00 PM

Endless clips of religious jingles air on the television. Apostle Chief Doctor Ibuowo is at it again, inviting undiscerning Nigerians to his crusade where he will, as he’s wont to, con the desperate ones–and there’s always many of them–to give a dangerous offering to God. The ‘seed,’ his alias for offering, is not dangerous enough if they still have enough money to pay children’s school fees, or to even afford public transport back home from the crusade arena. It seems that the more financial and physical embarrassment they expose themselves to, the greater the promised miracle. 

Wait, hadn’t Mother used the last cash on her to purchase his holy water this time last year? He will soon be back on the screen to raise fire and brimstone on non-tithing believers. Mother seizes the jingle timeout to reel out the items she’d have me buy from the community market while her eyes dance about in their sockets. They’re full of questions. Gossip, actually. ‘What was the PDA with Mama Agba all about?’ ‘To what do we owe your charming attitude today?’

But I’m antsy. Impatient. 

“Are those all you need?” I make for the door, and I can feel her incredulous stare trailing me.

“Why so much hurry? Have you got some other appointment with one of your boyfriends today?” She lifts her mug filled with holy water onto her lips, taking large gulps while managing to wink conspiratorially at me.

Appointment

Uncanny, her clairvoyance. I stop in my tracks, look back and want to hug her. But I know better. A hug was all it took for that monster of a man to break through my defence. A reassuring hug with promises that he loved me like his daughter, even more than his daughter, and that he would never hurt me. A hug that would later prelude the falling apart of my life like a pack of dominoes.

This hug might undo my resolve to take my destiny in my own hands and, for once, orchestrate my own fate. I clutch my shopping bag with the shiny silverware under my arm as I step out of the house and into the street.

 

* * *

 

Shola’s balcony is, as usual, sandy and unkempt. A damp white camisole hangs precariously on the railing beside a floral halter top and pink towel. I adjust the camisole and knock on the metal door, the floor beneath me nearly vibrating from Olamide’s throaty wail in the blasting stereo inside the house. 

…ma lo se bi ogoro wo!

Awon omo tikabodi wo!

Ma lo lalakibo wo!

Oya jo bi mummy wo!

Oya jo bi daddy wo!

 

The door handle turns. I’m a little nervous and fiddle with the pointed corner of the bag strapped over my shoulder. I half-expect to see a skimpily-clad bimbo, Shola’s seeming spec lately.  I’m greeted with his indifferent stare instead; his tall, athletic frame blocking the doorway. 

The same frame in which I had sought comfort. The same man whose stare had melted my resolve to forget love and focus on satisfying my huge appetite for sex. Perhaps, I could have it all after all. And I did, for the first seven weeks of our relationship. Long calls. Sweet text messages. A new Samsung phone. Toe-curling lovemaking. Listening ear. Comforting shoulder. Green snake. Green grass. 

Suddenly, his apartment became too small for our romps, and the weird urge to prove his sexual dominance before his friends materialized. The physical abuse began the night I declined his request for a threesome with his friend as a birthday gift to the latter. And by the third instance of the abuse, it finally dawned on me that constantly blackmailing me to do his sexual bidding by asking if I’d rather enjoy sleeping with my father again that night was not as a result of his drunkenness. I had stopped being a girlfriend, I had become a pawn. Only, I had been too smitten to realize it earlier.

“I knew you’d come back.” The sneer in his voice rings louder than the words themselves. 

“Huh?”

“Yeah. I knew you wouldn’t be gone for long. What’s a nympho without sex?” 

My throat burns with bile. I want to end it right here, but the gate of the compound flings open. A neighbour walks in. A little more patience, Remi

I force a defeated smile. “You’re right. And don’t you dare gloat.”

Cheap victory. His snigger grates on my nerves. I ignore him still, and nod pointedly towards the clothes on the railing. “Your girlfriend?”

“She’s not in. And even if she were, the more, the merrier.” 

I think she is lucky. She is extremely lucky. He steps away from the doorway and as I take in the familiar dankness of his apartment, I make a mental note to enjoy our final romp. Maybe I’m a little shameless, but I’m dead meat anyway. The dead don’t feel any emotions. 

 

* * *

I pull the sheets off myself, reach for my bra and panties on the nearby chair and slowly dress myself as I wait for Shola’s snore to get deeper. The unopened pack of condom lies at the entrance of the bedroom where I had flung it. He had been mildly surprised at my uncharacteristic risk taking. I gave in to him this evening, just like I have in the past, even when it was against my will. He’ll have to pay his dues.  

I reach for my shopping bag, amble over to his side and give him a light tap. His eyeballs roll under their closed lids for a moment before they finally come apart. I wait till he catches my gaze, and then just as his eyes seem to begin to question what my quick motion is about, my shiny silverware sinks into his neck. 

My arm smarts as he deals me successive slaps and punches, he pauses only to struggle to throw me off himself. But I have saved my best strength for the last. I twist the knife in a deathly angle, and with every attempt he makes to scream for help, he expels a fountain of dark, copper-smelling blood. 

But I’m not done yet. I pull out the knife and he jerks even harder. His hands clutch the sheets as he fights for air, choking on his own blood. I tease his flaccid member with the tip of my knife. It does not respond. How are the mighty fallen! It is my turn to snigger. His eyes beg, even in these final moments before he crosses to the other side, he seems to know that his is going to be a bizarre corpse. My knife goes to work. 

Squish squish squish

It feels soft and squiggly

Squish squish

The shiny knife traverses the fleshy circumference of my catch

Squish squish squish

Violent jerks as blood covers my hands and 

The severed object of my gruesome pleasure

Like a glove.

Warm. Red. Like scarlet.

I place his dark meat in his hand, dump my bloodied shirt in his bathroom sink and wash myself. I’m headed out the compound a few seconds later, sporting a floral halter top and of course, my shopping bag. 

The noise from Shola’s apartment suddenly ceases. The stereo has stopped playing. It’s a power cut–as though PHCN is paying their last respect to their fellow comrade in repulsiveness.

 

* * *

 

05:58 PM.

I linger at the mango seller’s wheelbarrow, bearing the bags containing my entire market purchase in both hands. He’s a fine Fulani man, the seller. I tease him about his one-sided dimple, with a promise to marry him in my next life. He laughs, almost shyly. I do, too, my humour perfectly concealing my jitters. I pretend not to notice his eyes roaming down the plunging neckline of my top as I occasionally glance towards the road. I’ll allow him a few moments of lasciviousness before ruining his day. 

I look again and this time, I see a reckless trailer driver bully another driver off the road with a sharp swerve and a deafening honk. The trailer is still a ways distant from me. 

I shove my purchase under my new Fulani crush’s wheelbarrow and sprint towards the road smiling as the seller looks on alarmed and confused. The trailer is only a hair’s breath away now. I can feel the hot air from its monstrous grill. Hello bully, I am Karma.

 

KPRAKKK! 

 

The sound of my head against the asphalt road. This one has no potholes. A honorable death. 

Really, what is life?  In-between the flip from life to death, how many of these grudges really matter? A lot. I’ll tell you some:

Father’s.

The man I had grown up calling father–Mother’s husband. The first man who ever ripped into me. I was eight. Afraid. Ashamed. 

I remember getting a lavish treat for my 10th birthday, courtesy of him. I remember my giant Cinderella cake, and the icing on the cake, a night of horrid sex while the rest of the household slept on. I remember him pulling me to sit at his side to watch a Disney cartoon on TV while Mother prepared to go to bed, knackered from the flurry of activities that characterized my birthday. Moments later, he would lead me out of the living room, past the room he shared with Mother whose snore echoed down the passage, past my bedroom where my other three cousins slept, into the guest room. He would then place me on the bed, kiss me on the forehead and remind me of the special birthday gift he had promised me, and as his slender fingers roamed my thighs under my nightdress, I would hope the gift was something other than the one involving him panting over me with his briefs pulled down like the other day. I was wrong. There were no briefs this time. He came prepared. 

This evening, interestingly, I left him home asleep in the guest room. A sleep he’ll never wake up from. The sleeping disorder which kept him awake at night while the house and neighbourhood slept; and made him habitually cross from his room into mine like an accursed somnambulist has been finally taken care of. A sedative and a shiny silverware to the neck. Karma is me. 

Mother’s. 

Beautiful. Prayerful. Conniving. Wiped my tears with her ‘prayer handkerchief’ and bathed the sixteen-year-old me with holy water to exorcise the seductive demons in me that attracted her husband. Swore me to secrecy, with the curse of a terrible marriage hanging over my head should I attempt to wreck her home by exposing her husband’s lewd pastime. Sealed it with a barrage of tears and hugs and sorrys, ‘you are no longer a little girl. This is what we women endure.’

She’s writhing in pain right now, I know. Mama Agba cannot help her in her heavily sedated state. I can picture her innards spilling out onto our squeaky clean floor tiles. The dark secrets would be grateful to be freed from her bowel. Benevolent me. 

I’ll remember to ask her at the gate of hell, what pesticide tastes like in holy water. 

Shola’s.

My eleventh sexual partner, but the only one stupid enough to call me ‘stupid’ and ‘damaged’ to my face. Had me anywhere and everywhere, and responded to my breakup announcement by having me in front of his pre-invited friends, forcefully. Sick bastard with an ugly death face. I should be thanked for saving other girls from going through his emotional and physical abuse. 

 

* * *

 

06:00 pm. 

It’s amazing how many experiences manage to flash into the human memory in that brief moment between BEing and oblivion. 

I realize how much power I’ve always had in my hands, untapped. Orchestrator of my own fate, and that of others. I, a random daughter of a praying mother. I shriek with laughter in my mind–the last surviving member of my dismembered body–now being rapidly covered with darkness. 

Blood everywhere. Gut everywhere.  Father’s. Mother’s. Shola’s. Mine. 

Reminiscent of the livestock slaughter at my house every Yuletide.

Christmas came early this year.

 


Adedamola Kolawole Agbowo Art African Literary ArtAdedamola Kolawole is a great lover of words. She enjoys and engages in extreme sports, such as traversing the frighteningly thin line between rich, artful expressions and grandiloquence.

Adedamola spends her free time addressing Nigerian socio-cultural issues on her Facebook blog page, Random Thoughts of the Lady Next Door (RATHLAND) through the lenses of Feminism, Christianity, and Nigerianness. She enjoys reading and writing poetry too.
Social Media Handles:
Facebook: Adedamola Kolawole-Shittu (@addeda.01);
Random Thoughts of the Lady Next Door (@Rathland)
Instagram: @addeda_addeda

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