I was able to put this together after months of being under a creative dry spell. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any tips for me to get over this block don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments, please.
A lone tear rolled down my left cheek as my mother ignored my nagging and struggled to pull the comb through my thick, afro hair. I shuddered, imagining little blobs of blood forming on my scalp.
‘Maami, it hurts!’
We were outside in the hut-like building where the bicycles and hula hoops slept at night. It was the place maami made us stay because she knew that if baami saw my tears, he would rescue me from her smooth, long, shaven legs that were tightly wrapped around my torso.
I wondered if I would ever grow up to be like her. She was beauty in itself. Speaking with purpose and eloquence. When she walked, her hips swayed from side to side with force. It was her big bum-bum that caused it to move that way. “Shine-shine baby!” The Igbo man selling shirts on the corner of the house always hailed her with his two hands raised to the sides of his face in salutation.
As she weaved my hair into a neat Shuku Ologede, her hands pressed my head closer between her thighs and her index finger lightly tapped my head in rhythm. I didn’t mind it. She didn’t smell like Iya Yewande, who oozed an unpleasant rotten fishy smell when she pushed my head between her fat thighs, almost in a bid to push me in and give me a rebirth.
Iya Yewande’s stall in Balogun was small and stuffy. Whenever maami took me there, I would hold in my breath for as long as possible before excusing myself to the bathroom to get a whiff of fresh air. During that time, I would also say a short prayer against any stray curses that may have found their way to settle on me when she cursed her apprentices for making the simplest mistakes.
* * *
I waited for the moment the pain from maami’s pulling and tugging turned into a sweet sensation on my head and slept off to the rhythm of her hands.
* * *
I woke up to the rain. The tree leaves shook violently and Sango yelled in excitement. I could hear the voices of the children of the water as their songs hit the clouds and dropped back on the earth with a low bounce.
I peeped through the water beaded window in my room and her face crossed my mind with a sharp pierce.
I disregarded it. Maami would be home soon. She always came back.
Again, her face crossed my mind.
Oyela! What did this mean?
Perplexed, I re-wrapped my Ankara wrapper tighter across my chest and ran into the rain. I prayed to Oya; singing praises to the god of the rain and water; swaying my hips to the beat I had created in my head. I knew how to make her happy.
“Iba fun Oya;
Ajalaiye, ajaolorun winiwini
Oya aya ewe – “
A loud rumble split the heavens at that moment, and through the cracks, I saw purple lights. This meant that Oya was present.
I continued my dancing and chants until I heard a response.
‘She’s coming home’
A breath of relief escaped from my mouth. That was enough confirmation for me that maami was safe. The goddess had spoken. With my hands entwined, I bowed my knees in reverence and poured maami’s leftover red wine on the ground in thanksgiving.
* * *
The next time I saw maami, it was her lifeless body that I laid my eyes on. She took a nap at work and never woke up.
A river of tears filled my eyes and threatened to fall at the slightest blink. I struggled to wrap my head around what had happened. I could still feel the impression of her hands on my head from the Shuku she plaited in the morning.
“Ye mi, but you said that she would come home.”
Baami explained that Oya meant that she was taking maami to be with her, ‘at home’, in peace and joy, forever.
I sank to the ground and surrendered to the tears. Maami wouldn’t have been happy that I wasted her wine.
Maami – mother
Baami – father
Shuku Ologede – deeply curved plaits that go around the head and meet in the middle like a ponytail.
Asabi – maami’s name
Oya – Yoruba goddess of the river. She is said to command winds, storms, and lightning
Sango – god of thunder
‘Ye mi – my mother (the goddess)
** the featured image was found on Pinterest. The photographer was JD Okhai Ojeikere.