For the fiction category, our second runner-up in the Valentine Giveaway contest is “Loving You”, as served up by Chinwendu Okafo.
Here, have at you below:
Your mother’s voice is the cool cacophony of morning birds, calling you home to her sagging bossom. She doesn’t reply when you ask for Ụzọ, crying out in that thin voice that has become yours after series of tears.
”Go to sleep” she mumurs, rocking you close to her ‘Jesus is Lord’ souvenir polo that smells strongly of curry and thyme.
In the morning you would wake to another day of missing Ụzọ and his family. To boring days and long faces. To an empty seat and no playmate. Until you faint in the school playground and your mother flies from home with worry etched on her face.
You would be taken to the hospital and fed intravenously until your hand got heavy. But you wouldn’t get well. It would be series of fainting, headache and loss of appetite, till a concerned stranger tells your mother about a certain prophet in a certain town who is an expert in ‘these things’.
But it wouldn’t change a thing. Not the olive oil or communion. Not the unripe plantain or malt and milk. You would remain feverish and weak, hanging unto life with just a thin thread. Waking and sleeping, getting better and getting worse, till your mother starts begging you every night to live for her.
”I don’t want to lose you. You’re all I have got. Tell me what you want. Whatever”, she would plead on her knees.
”I want Ụzọ” , you would finally say, in a voice stretched so thin and devoid of life.
* * *
Your mother doesn’t say a thing all through the journey. Not when the prayer was going on in the bus or even when Chinyere Ụdọma’s voice comes alive in the stereo. She has a faraway look in her eyes and doesn’t look at the seat partner when he offers her a herbal pamphlet. Then the bus comes to a halt, and you see the tears rolling down her cheeks.
But she doesn’t say a word. She carries you on her back, even though you’re a heavy toddler with full teeth, walking and humming a song below her breath.
Soon you’re looking into the pale face of Ụzọ, you are watching the way his eyes lit up when he recognizes your voice. You don’t know he can’t see you again. You don’t know he doesn’t eat anymore nor do you know about the tantrums he throws. All you know and can feel is that you both are kindred spirit and that your tender hearts beat for each other.
You’re not feeling weak anymore, you’re chattering and eating rice with Ụzọ while your mothers watch with a look of awe and bewilderment. They don’t say a thing. Just the tears rolling down their cheeks and their palms clasped within each other. They are wondering what kind of love this is, forgetting the pains and sorrows of the past month.
They don’t remember that you caused Ụzọ’s blindness. They don’t remember the animosity and the exchanged words. They don’t remember the blames on who left the chemical solution uncorked. All they see are two kids in love. They don’t know that you two are kindred spirit and will die tonight to restore peace and friendship that they once shared long before they started their insectide business.
About The Contributor:
Chinwendụ Okafọ is an Igbo language scholar in her penultimate year at Imo state university Owerri. She is crazy about literature and kids.