Papa’s stubby legs responded to the wail from the hut where his daughter was having a share of eve’s apple, his paunchy stomach woke up to the call as he ran to the end of his compound. He pictured her petite body passing through insufferable pains, it was too much for his muscular heart to carry. If anything happens to his daughter, he won’t forgive his son-in-law for sowing a seed he didn’t stay to reap.
The scream again!
Beads of sweat now had a conference on Papa’s face. He was petrified. His meaty hands shove the door to the hut out of its hinges. Head first into the matte painted hut, his eyes met an ashen child and an airless mother. Death had played a fast one on him the third time. Papa sulked at his daughter, whose once luminous eyes were now shut to death.
His daughter had unapologetically followed the same path, leaving behind a frail child to be nursed by one long in the tooth, whose grave was an inch away. Her death and the birth of a newborn was unwonted to him. Adanna was only twenty years old, still in her prime and haven’t fulfilled nothing in life.
That blustery night, the child cried till dawn, even the affectionate hands of the midwife couldn’t liss it. Papa, inconsolable, sat and watched what his daughter had left in his care without seeking for his consent. He was tempted to flog her body back to life, but realized it would all be a futile journey just like it was with his son-in-law. Papa drew a long hiss that pursued the owls away. Soon, he felt calm by the caressing strokes of the wind, it was a familiar one.
Yanga was in the wind. She came with the wind every night until the child, called out to the first face its eyes opened to, “Papa…”. His grandchild’s eyes spoke fondly of the only being that once meant everything to him. Those luminosity were of Yanga, every tongue confessed so. “She came back to her husband…,” some affirmed.
The child grew to be everything of the grandmother’s, her downy hairs, her trim appearance and her willowy self were implanted in this child. This child was egregious, one that Papa had never come eye to eye with before, he only heard stories of such children. It terrified him to have one as a grandchild.
Papa’s heart beat out of its lid the wet evening, he stumbled into a cross-legged child, cracking the palm kernels scattered all over the fire place. This was one of the many signs Papa had ignored apart from the six fingers like Yanga’s, regarding them as childish acts. “Tufia! Sit like a man!”, he yelled at the alarmed little boy, who quickly uncrossed his legs but didn’t throw them ajar as his grandfather would’ve preferred. He neatly brought both legs together, with his knees kissing themselves.
Yanga choose a wrong gender to reincarnate, Papa thought as he scratched his bald head. His grandson walked like a peacock, doing ‘yanga’ as he swayed his grandmother’s given hips. This was the same grace his wife walked which fetched her the pet name ‘Yanga’ by her companions. One day, he’d slap her excessiveness out of him but feared ‘she’ might leave him again.
Obinne ran away from wrestling contests with the boys in his age grade and would bathe a hundred and one times if bitten by mosquitoes and other creepy-crawly insects. He was always found in a bevy of girls, braiding their hairs with a grin planted on his pinkish lips and showing them how to walk without their heels touching the ground. These things gave him happiness.
“Who taught him all these?’, baffled Papa would ask himself. The boys called him “woman wrapper” because he was fragile, and those words always sent tears gushing down his face but he would scamper off the next day to plait more hairs. The girls only, enjoyed his company,
“You need to man up, be a man,” Papa said hitting his chest without looking into the pretty face that once shattered his heart. He wondered the reason behind her return, was it to torture him over again or to make amends. He recalled the night Obinne curled himself under his armpit, claiming it was cold, his smile sent Papa to his boyhood, the days her smile was his ruin. “Yanga is for everyone…”, his friends had cautioned when they saw the spark in him.
“I’ll make her mine”, he had responded, chasing her to the ends of the world until she became his, which was after he’d lost blood and flesh as a man. Yanga died in the hut of one of her lovers, abandoning her little daughter to the care of an aged woman. For a whole year, he couldn’t bring himself to tell his daughter where her mother was and never made a move to remarry…they were all the same!
“How do I man up?”, Obinne’s nesh voice filled the air with a steady gaze at his grandfather.
“Walk like one, do things like one and be found in the company of boys”, Papa was beginning to get disgusted as his grandson’s friend behaviours filled his head. Papa took the eyes of Obinne into his, seeing that he was unruffled, he whammed a slap on his pouty lips and threatened to take him faraway if caught trying out Adanna’s dresses and high-heeled shoes again.
Obinne breakly zoomed off to shed tears and Papa knew exactly where he was headed. Yanga’s favourite tree spread its broad branches in every crannies of the compound, most of its leaves littered close to the hut that swallowed his daughter and vomited his wife. Those branches were ready to comfort anyone that scurries into its shade and Yanga did every time they had a fight. Then she’d come back not speaking to him until he apologizes for her wrongdoings when Papa fails to succumb, she’d threaten to go back to other men who were head over the mountains for her.
His grandchild was different, whenever he comes back from the comforting arms of the tree, he’d go to the kitchen and prepare Papa’s most preferred food to seek his good side. The first time it happened, Obinne was twelve and his grandfather was aghast at the way his hands danced to the taste of the food.
One blustery night, the night that will take his grandson soon, Papa was convinced that Yanga had returned to ameliorate for being a vile wife, jumping from bed to bed and a careless mother, who had more than once abandoned her little child to crawl close to a naked fire if not into it, when she was alive but Yanga had chosen a wrong body to tender her apologies. This wrong choice was going to cost Obinne dearly when he is of age, he will be quickly misunderstood.
His mild voice will give him up even before the words leave his mouth, his dangling movement will be an evocation of laughter for men, his feminine hobbies will throw him in jail without questions. Everything he does will earn him the colloquial name ‘homo’ without an intense scrutiny of his pure soul.