You are with the girl you crushed on throughout your childhood. She is sitting opposite you, holding your gaze over plates of rice, chicken and ice-cream in an eatery while telling you how she eloped from her home in your neighbourhood when she was thirteen and you were the boy next door whose stare was the reason she swayed her buttocks with some effort. You are basking in the beautiful aura that is either as a result of the girl’s alluring smile or her singsong voice. You have been mute from the start, only nodding and chipping in affirmatives to fill in the silence within her narrative. But the cocoon you are nestled in breaks when she asks a seemingly simple question: How is Taiwo, your brother?
The question hit you hard. Under the table, you clasp and unclasp your fingers. Bells start to ring in your head. It is not the gentle tolling of your church bell at New Year but the aggressive clanging of bells in the hands of proselytisers. Beads of sweat line your forehead although what you feel is cold.
“Is something wrong?” the girl asks but you just stare at her without really seeing. It is the same way your grandfather stands on the corridor of your father’s house staring at watermelon breasts and water colour faces on the street. Once, you caught him staring at a curvy young girl but when you asked if he thought she was beautiful, he said he wasn’t looking at her like that.
For some of us, memory is a wicked thing. It is the cross you bear on your shoulders while you walk the streets of the earth hoping that one day, someone somewhere will look upon you with pity and unburden you. It is the reason Aganna, the lunatic stops in front of her husband’s two-storey house and shouts for her two late daughters to come and eat. It is the force that drove your dog down the street every morning to Taiwo’s grave in your church’s graveyard until it was hit by a car on its way there one Sunday morning. Memory is what makes you sit here, before this girl, tears brewing just behind your glassy eyes.
“Taiwo is dead,” you say. It’s been nine years since you killed your twin brother but his blood has not washed off your hands. You feel it, sometimes hot and peppery at other times. You close your eyes and you are immediately overwhelmed. Somewhere on the dusty road between school and home, Taiwo is talking to a girl and you are standing a few feet away. The girl is shy but she turns to look at you a few times while you pretend to follow a butterfly with your eyes. She is wearing a gown that end just above her knees. To Taiwo, she is just another girl but to you she is Amaka, the girl that sneaks into your fantasies.
Minutes pass and Taiwo re-joins you. “She said her mother warned her not to talk to boys,” he says.
“I told you she won’t agree” Disappointed because you wish Taiwo would succeed in talking her into dating you but glad that your reluctance to approach her by yourself is justified, you walk towards home.
“How old do you think she is? Like fourteen?” You say after minutes of silence, more as a consolation to yourself.
“Stop thinking about her, there are better girls around,” Taiwo says, you nod. After all, Taiwo is the brave and wise one. He is the one who knows how to get the fine girls. On the street, he would point to a random girl and say “You see that girl, her lips are like mangoes”, then he would go on to tell you about how he had sweet-talked her into sleeping with him in the uncompleted mission house behind the church or somewhere equally appalling.
Until one slow day – either a Wednesday or Thursday – while you both await your turn to draw water from the only well on your street he says “Do you remember Amaka? That girl is sweet.” That is the moment these memories start to haunt you because then you hit him – twice across the face and once in the chest. It is sudden and his reflex fails him. He falls until the rim of the well receives his head, broke his fall and snaps his neck.
Now you sit here opposite Amaka, about to tell her that she is the reason you killed Taiwo. But this is what you don’t know: Amaka left your neighbourhood at thirteen, a few days before your twin brother’s death, because she was pregnant for him. Now, somewhere under the sky, Taiwo’s twin sons are fighting over a girl.