I was 6 when I noticed that one side of Olanma’s face was sagging, so low like Iya Lasun’s aged breast which had nursed five children, it was often rumored that if you put a beetle on those breasts it would start “standing” like Aunty Laide’s own, so it was natural that I,Ogechi and Ugochukwu would call Olanma and put Ugo’s beetle on the sagging part of Her face just so that her face will stand too.
Mama chinedu caught us one day, and threatened to tell Mama, one knows that the fear of “utali” is the beginning of true wisdom. So we left olanma’s face to its fate.
On the morning when Olanma started running towards us with the same gait that Chuma the imbecile ran with, one leg few inches apart, one hand bent at an awkward angle, refusing to lift its head like Mallam Musa when he slept at his kiosk ,with spittle drooping by the corner of her lips, I stood there rooted to the ground, my brain willing me to move .
I was the smart 6 year old who had always wanted to become a doctor, I had read all the medical magazines that Brother Dami brought back from Randle General hospital to know that Olanma had partial stroke, I told mama but she told me ” That children do not suffer from stroke, only old men, who worked from dawn till dusk like Chief Olugbemi who owned the yellow house where chidinma lived, suffered such unfortunate diseases”
Everyday people came to pray in her house, they would scream and beg God to make the devil leave her alone, they scrubbed her head with iron sponge, that type that Mama Ugochukwu use in washing her iron pot, one night I heard her scream, the type Toheeb screamed when brother Saheed locked him and beat him with koboko.
That night when Olanma couldn’t move again, Papa Tolani came with his big motor and carried all her family members, her brother who we called professor, told us they were going to the “hospitah”
Later that night I had dreams of Her, but in my dreams, her face was standing and her hair which was coiled to perfection like that Fulani man who stayed at Musa’s kiosk was combed backwards and her big brown eyes were staring at me accusingly, before I saw her in the tiny box where she laid still and closed her eyes.
Okoro told me that everybody said it was somebody in our compound that poisoned her, that she ate food in Mama Blessings house and since then her face started sagging. what one did not know, one did not speak of; Mama hushed me and told me to go wash the beans so that we will start going to the junction to sell evening market.
I guess I had him to thank because It prepared me for the drama that hit our yard that afternoon, when Mama Chinedu came back and poured water into Mama Blessings house and swore to kill one of her children if Olanma died, Mama told me that it was motherly instinct that made her speak in such a ridiculous manner, she told me that when one was Faced with the reality of losing a child, one turned to a person capable of murder.
I stood in our parlor which was located at the other side of the compound and told God that if Olanma lived I would stop making her do my chores while I stuffed myself with mama Bose’s rice , and go to church every friday for children class, armed with the things I had been told at church that God Loved Me and will answer me.
This afternoon all the men in Mama Chinedu’s house and Mama Blessing’s house came together they were speaking in hushed tones and looked too serious. Like the way those elders in that “feem” “Okonta” looked when the community was in crises.
I knew it that moment that things would never remain the same. I still prayed under my breath, Lord let her live, because really what is a human being without hope? No one told me that hopes could be crushed into dust. No one told me that little girls could die and leave holes shaped like them in peoples heart.
So when Papa Tolani’s van stopped in front of our yard, and I saw one small looking box at the back with white clothe on it, I knew that all my sunday school teachers had taught me the wrong thing and I would never go to children class again
It dawned on me that,God Loved me, But Sometimes He Loved Little Girls with sagging faces that refused to stand.
“Kamnelechukwu Susan Obasi”