I know what it means to set a time-bomb. It is your mother kneeling for the births of going-to-die children. That is what it means to be an Abiku; a sun that shines during the day and gets clouded by the spirits of the night.
I walk in the streets like a squirrel, taking every step in the air as though something might hear the flip-flap of my slippers. I walk with my head hidden in my hoodie to shield my face from those that would see it and burst into laughter of mockery.
Because everything starts around me, I hold my mother one night and force out the words which form the beginning of this humiliation. She says I was born four times before I became me.
‘Continue, Iya Tanwa,’ I say. ‘I want to know everything.’
The first and second me were born to my mother’s first husband. My mother calls him Kunle and the moment she mentions his name, it feels like when they first met. I see the love in her eyes but as she tells the story, tears start to leak out of her eyes as though Kunle’s name tickles a part of her buried sad memories.
‘When I gave birth to you the second time and you left, he sent me out of his house. Some weeks after that, I heard a girl was pregnant for him,’ she says.
The third and fourth me were born to Doctor who my mother said lived two houses away from her, then. Doctor came to her every night. The day my mother accepted to marry him was when she discovered she was pregnant. That was the third me.
‘When you left, I mean the third time you left, Doctor had heard what broke my first marriage and when you left the fourth time, he didn’t tell me before leaving’ she says.
Her voice is piercing through the dead silence of the night and the air seems to have stopped because inhaling has become hard and I long for a little breath to suppress the bulge tightening around my throat.
Mama is drenched in sweat as the words pump out of her mouth.
‘The you that finally stayed is by a fisherman’s who raped me while I was coming from the river. He knew what I was going through.’ She pauses and weeps. I clean her face with my palm and lay her down on her bed.
She falls asleep within seconds.
This is what it means when your body touches water after years without a shower. Or what it means when you release the breath you never knew you were holding. The calmness!
Here, being barren is a curse. But giving birth to Abiku is a cross which sets you apart from the crowd. After knowing the source of the heckles dragging behind my feet, I have been trying to live as a different somebody and not as a complete human being.
Ahmad Adedimeji Amobi is a penultimate student of English at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He was shortlisted for the 2018 League of Wordsmiths and was longlisted for the maiden Punocracy Prize for Satire. His work has appeared on The Kalahari Review, African Writer, LitroUK, Agbowo and others. He sings night songs with bluebirds on Twitter with @ahmad_adedimeji