"Where did you find this book?" My mum asked. I just stood there staring at her, as if I am not allowed to find books especially the ones I had stolen from her.I did not feel the need to answer.
"Is it labelled?", she says as she peruses through the pages, ofcourse it wasn't labelled, no name no nothing. That's what caught my eye , that's why I stole it. You see our family is a whole careless bunch, all of us! So we tend to label things just incase they get lost, that way someone would be kind enough to know where to return it. God! we even put phone numbers in there.
My mum stood there infront of the mirror in my room, with her matutas and a worn out dera. (Guess when you get to 60 you don't care anymore) She looked me in the eye and blurted.
"I don't understand why you would read this"
I just smiled. When you are a first born girl in an African family your first instinct is not to talk back. I badly wanted to say that I didn't understand why she had the book and didn't read it either. Explains why the book was still new. The price of the book was outrageous so it must have been important for her to spend on so willingly. Its one of those books that you see at text book center and you gape at the price because you could never buy it even with all the money in the world because you know damn well you can get it somewhere else anyway.
She knew what I wanted to know, was it my father? It couldn't be! the book was too new, too recent. It must have been someone else. Her brother? Couldn't be either that was eons ago. Her parents? Maybe, just maybe. You know that thing when you have known someone for so long that you can actually communicate with your eyes? We have that with my mum. In an attempt to satisfy my questions she just said. "Burials are their own kind of sad"
That very morning, our neighbour had died.He was young, that was what hurt most. He hadn't even enjoyed this life thing, he was just getting started. Funny how you can smell death when it's closing in. A neighbour is the worst , you can feel the spirit of death hovering. You then become more earnest and fervent in your prayers, you go back to church and you even watch your every step. Just incase, it's a car or a mat that does it.
He had a 1 year old, the most gorgeous I have ever seen. She always cried when I held her (not surprised). But I am glad I tried holding her even in the midst of incessant wails, I was glad. I was glad I bought things from their shop, seems pretty normal.But when someone dies, everything goes south ,you become grateful for the tiniest of details.
"He studied computer science you know" my friend Boss told me, he was the brilliant one. He hadn't even secured a job yet. He was the saviour, the one everyone banked on, the one who held the light.The soon to be bread winner, yet he was gone. The wife was young too 24 , the prime of life. She is now widowed with a kid, a young kid.
This is one of those things that we genuinely mean when we say, "bad things happen to the good people". He did not deserve it, neither did she.
"She is young, she can always get married again"
"There is still hope"
"She can always start over"
My mum kept staring in the mirror, probably wondering why kids of this days are so naive.You see, that doesn't happen here, especially when you have a kid, their kid, it ties you down. You become theirs. If you get married again it has to be in house, to a brother or a cousin. Sometimes being african just weighs us down, it betrays us.
The body wasn't even brought in for viewing, and with this covid times there was a list of burial attendees.My mum badly wanted to go, but was restricted. I am glad I didn't get a chance to go, that way the memory I still have of him is alive, not dead, its him laughing ,smiling, walking, breathing, not him in a casket..
The book is called, 'surviving the loss of a loved one' My mother was surviving, that's why she was so defensive about the book, a thing we both do.Being defensive.
The doctors said it was hydrocephalus, It is more prominent in kids, but I guess with death, you never really know.