One, two , three,…..
Sometimes I hear it, sometimes I don’t. The voice of the Imam calling all the righteous to pray. It seems the sound is coming right from the room I share with my two older sisters.
Will father wake up this time?
I don’t wait for an answer as it is totally in my head. I do not know that Papa would not wake up for prayers. Instead he would wake the house to a fit of violent coughs. They would be followed by loud heaving sounds.
He is rushed to the hospital at my insistence. A part of me hates myself because I think it will do no good. Umar said we should have done that long ago. He says we are too content with many things. Even content with letting Papa die…. I let the question trail off. I am in no mood for unanswered questions as it is. Umar works in the big town as a messenger, not like it’s much of a job. Ohh! but the way he goes on about it makes me feel sick. Not the vomiting sick kind but the sickness for a new kind of life, one that I would never have. So, yes I despise him. I envy him a lot and if I don’t say it, my eyes betray it.
Enough about me and my troubles, let’s talk about the village. The biggest and only hotspot in it will be community’s shop. I have no idea how the man, originally Sule got his nickname. But, it kind of stuck. I still think it’s stupid though. Well, any community issue is discussed in his barber shop. I meet a very hot argument as I make my daily rounds of hawking kunu and zobo in the shop. I love listening to their arguments. I think I am argumentative. I don’t know the meaning so I make a mental note of checking it up in Sulisari’s dictionary. Sulisari is my only friend and the only one who truly understand me not even my sisters do. I guess because she is educated. I never had a chance to go to school. Mama says I don’t need it instead I should train to be an obedient and submissive wife. Sulisari does not agree with this, she says I should carve my own path.
I am back at home and the house has this invisible fog hanging over it. This fog that could just fall and release itself. I heave a sad sigh thinking I can repel those negative thoughts. I know it before anyone tells me. I know Papa is dead. Its like how I know what he is thinking even without telling me, how I know he is worried when I see the distant look in his eyes. As if his eyes were searching for something but couldn’t quite place it. It was that single thread Papa and I shared. Now I feel it snapping away as the other fades away.
I know what will happen next . I will be married off to one of those rich Alhajis , no, more like sold off. Papa is the only one who knows I am not ready for marriage. He is the only one who has been to school in our family. He calls me his northern saffron who blew to the north from a better p!ace and will ultimately find my way back. I think it is his way of telling me I deserve a better life than the one he is able to provide.
I can read though and my eyes can not believe what I read in the will constructed by my brothers. They will squander Papa’s life savings. Then a sly thought enters my head, “not if they find it of course”. That is because Papa entrusted me with them. I am leaving tonight as I pack my meagre belongings I fight back my tears. I realise in the next few hours I will be leaving all I know behind.
This doesn’t stop me. I will write my own story. I won’t let my circumstances define who I become. I leave by dawn tomorrow. If you are reading this, wish me well. Oh! Forgive my bad manners I am Rasheedat. Like the saffron in the northern desert I stand undaunted. I am looking at my village from Kana hill. My eyes are glazed over. I do not cry because my heart is not here neither is it where I am going. My heart like a wanderer has no feelings of loss when leaving. Instead it resonates and sings with hope.
Okay so I finally posted it. Took long enough. Mostly cause there is a strike….so I have plenty of time on my hands. Hope you love it. Denying education to the girl child is a norm in certain parts of my country Nigeria. I hope this really short story is able to tell the stories of these girls.