If Tears Could Speak

If Tears Could Speak

It is almost midnight, and the city is now very quiet. From the balcony where I am sitting, I can see the mild glow of the street lights reflecting off the tarred road. I hear the whoosh of waves beating on the rocks, a sound amplified in the stillness of the night. The children are asleep after the day’s hustle. Though I call them ‘children’, they are all grown up.

Hassan is a strapping young man of twenty-seven and has just started his own business – hard to believe, isn’t it? Walid is nineteen, looks as burly as Hassan and believes he has no more growing up to do. Faiza, your little princess, is twenty-two and it is because of her that we are all here this weekend.

Is it not strange that for the first time in fifteen years, we will be here together again on October 1st? I wonder if this day carries any special significance for Faiza. She was touched much more deeply than anybody else. Hassan went to boarding school shortly afterwards; Walid was young, too young to remember those tumultuous times.

I remember many things, too many things, things I don’t want to remember: Mama and her harsh words, Big Brother and his sudden hostility.

I can see the bedroom again as it was on that morning, many Octobers ago. Faiza barges in, in her customary manner, throwing a greeting as she bounds up to the bed where you are lying.

“Daddy,” she says, “you promised that you would get me the doll today, today.”

I scold her, “Your daddy is resting today. It’s a public holiday.”

Faiza leans against the bed. She traces squiggles on the bed sheet with her finger. Her legs are crossed at the ankles, her lips pushed out in a pout. She peeks at you from beneath her lowered lids. You groan and roll out of bed. “You children will not kill me,” you mumble. You never could say ‘No’ to that face of hers.

“Instead of you to rest, you want to go racing around town hunting for a doll,” I say to you.

“It wouldn’t really be hunting, because I remember the shop where I saw it. It is near your tailor’s place.”

“Really? In that case let me go with you and pick up my dress from the tailor’s.”

Smiling, you say to me, “Look at the person who has been telling me to rest.”

We leave a few minutes later, with Faiza hopping after the car and telling us to hurry. Walid asked for a toy car but I will persuade you not to buy it because he takes them apart as soon as they get into his hands. I have threatened to have the carpenter make him a toy car carved out of wood. He cried the day I told him that.

Though the streets are not busy, there is quite a lot of traffic near the shop because it is very close to a bus stop. I enter the shop with you to make sure you do not buy Walid a toy car he does not need – and I succeed (though you buy coloring books for him and Faiza).

You see a pack of gel pens and you insist on buying one so that you can write “from daddy with love” on the inside cover of the books. While you are paying for the purchases, I go to the tailor’s shop. I find the tailor hemming the dress. He is done in a few minutes. As I emerge from the shop, I hear shouts coming from a group near the bus stop.

One man breaks away from the group and yells something about “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”. He is followed by a policeman who says, “My friend, stop shouting at me.”

“Wetin? Na by force? I no get money for you, period!” the man says, still shouting.

“Your mouth dey sharp like razor because I have not dealt with you,” says the policeman.

“You can’t do anything!” the man replies, and strides past me.

“Let’s go,” you call to me, unlocking the car.

“These policemen,” I mutter. I get into the car. As I twist around to grasp my seatbelt, there is a loud bang accompanied by the explosion of glass. I scream and shield my head with both hands. Glass falls all over me, stinging my hands. I can hear people shouting. I raise my head. The windshield is gone.

“What was that?” I ask you. You are leaning back on your seat, eyes shut as if thinking of a suitable answer. There is blood on the head rest of your seat. I am looking at your face, thinking you might just turn to look at me and say, “Why is everyone shouting?”

There are people all around the car, all talking really loudly. A hand rests on my shoulder and voices ask me, “Madam, is this your husband?” “Where do you live?” These strangers help me get home; they watch the car until your family gets there. Their kindness contrasts sharply with your family’s attitude towards me.

Your mother and brothers change suddenly. They are bitter that you were killed so carelessly and eager to control the little wealth you and I have put by. They want the bungalow too.

I find myself fighting off my in-laws with the fury of a tigress defending her cubs. When the battle finally ends, every iota of strength I have within me is gone. Each morning, the thought of eating, talking, going to work, taking the children to school and sorting out your affairs simply exhausts me.

I send Hassan to boarding house so he does not have to witness the ugliness. Walid sleeps, eats and plays through it all. Faiza clings to my side, ignoring everyone and everything.

She holds onto the coloring book you bought for her as if your spirit were shut between its pages. She sometimes sits quietly for long moments, deep sadness in her eyes. I try to think of ways to comfort her, but what do I say?

I do not know how much she knows about the incident but she asks at intervals, “Have they arrested the policeman yet?” I say to her, “Soon, they’ll catch him”. That is the only answer I give each time she asks about the policeman.

Finally, I lie. I tell her that he is in prison. I start believing it myself. I add to my fantasy a mad policeman. It makes more sense to your little princess and me that way.

Each year, on September 30th, I sit on this balcony and watch October 1st arrive.  Somewhere in my head, I believe that perhaps if I write a letter to you while I wait for sunrise, the next twelve months will be easier to live through.

P.S.

Your little princess will be married by this time tomorrow. My father will stand as her guardian and give her away (your family cut us off after the battle over inheritance). When I enter her room tonight, I see the coloring book on her bedside table. The pictures inside are as plain as they were the day you bought it. Your writing is still on the inside cover: To Faiza, from daddy with love. I think she will take it with her to her new home. I smile.

Faiza has her coloring book and I have my letters.



44 thoughts on “If Tears Could Speak” by Salatu Sule (@eliakhue)

  1. @Salatu, so she was talking to a ghost all the while..i was irked by the YOU until i realised. you made me drop a tear. this is very sad. A GOOD PIECE indeed!

  2. Very good. You told a lot with the few lines in that letter. This was very good. Also loved the way you told the story focusing more on the wife and daughter. It made the story better. Hope @gretel doesn’t cry reading it.

  3. Beautifully told…

  4. beautiful story Salatu.

  5. @jaywriter, that is what caught me, the way it was told.

  6. I totally love this. The style is so captivating and the sincerity is just mind-blowing. Keep this up Salatu!!

  7. There is a difference between prose-fiction writing and storytelling, and you, Sir Sule, have made a near-perfect blend of the two in this flash, in my opinion, I must say. I was more awestruck by your flow of narration rather than your storyline. What particularly caught my eye was the way you narrated in one paragraph the habitual greed of inlaws and relations over property sharing. Even though it was fast-paced, it was beautifully written. Believe me, after a few brush-ups like professional editing, proofreading and critiquing, people would never regret purchasing this flash piece to have and hold for a lifetime. Sir Sule, you really took your audience with you on this beautiful though short journey. This flash is truly timeless, and you are truly a storyteller.

    1. Nai gode for a story well told, for it couldn’t have been told in any better way than this. After reading this, I must say that the woman in me got provoked. The feminist streak in this flash wasn’t hidden, and it definitely made this story look so sad.

  8. I believe a good story should hold U by the hand, gently or otherwise, and take U on a journey that will leave U breathless but fulfilled; it might rage like an angry shore beating upon a rock, or it might chill like the cold finger of an other-worldly being, or it might whisper like a lover beneath the moonlight…
    This story did that, and more…Apart from a little error in the first sentence (U used ‘street’ twice, in almost quick succession), this is picture-perfect! Beautifully told, well woven, strong voice, and smooth like a lover’s touch….while also heavy with the loss of a wife and mother…
    I think I have to stop here, or risk running out of words…
    Lovely…Simple and lovely…

  9. ….sob! sob! sob!. Keep the scribbles flowing! A nice narration.

  10. This is a hauntingly beautiful story. I loved the way you let the story build to a gradual climax, and I loved the poignant ending with the narrator remarking on the memento of that fateful day.

    Please accept 20 points as my way of saying ‘thanks’ for the minutes spent enjoying this story.

  11. Beautiful. The perspective and style of the narrative is crisp and fresh. Well done.

  12. What can i say that hasn’t been said already?
    This flowed so beautifully and i could feel the ache, pain and coping in your words.

  13. Very sweet story. Tastes like honey bellying the pill of the sad reality intricately portrayed within its warp and woof.

  14. though a sad story, t’was beautifully and nicely narrated…
    good job

  15. ditto @emmanuella, @raymond @posh…i’m reading this story for the upteenth time. its so good

  16. Beautiful, beautiful narration! You also carefully developed your characters in such a small piece. I saw a few mispells here and there so a re read might be in order. Otherwise, the power of this lies in how spare and stark it is.

    Well done! And you will have some points on me too.

  17. @myne, u have said it all…the BARENESS and the STARKNESS got to me real well

  18. Her tears spoke, good narration and flow!The story is not just another story but it also addresses the issue of shooting indiscriminately and for the wrong reasons too. good one!

  19. anf-and* – ” My father will stand as her guardian anf give her away”
    Very touching, very well constructed, contemporary style. Nice!

  20. if tears could speak, to your piece, i’ll be dumb
    cos i wouldn’t let it show, cos at police i’ll be pissed.
    and if tears could speak they’ll prefer not to speak
    cos all the words in the world couldn’t make him return.

  21. This is a beautiful piece! subtle in narration; poignant in message delivery. Well done!

  22. Now this is very good.I wondere how i missed it but I’m very glad I came back to read this. I would consider this the perfect short story because I like when fiction is able to transport me to to places and secnarios and i watch them unfold, in my minds eye.

    well done!!!

  23. Thank you everyone, for reading and commenting.

  24. after readong GERROUT n I KNOW MY NAME, i come here and i just leave my heart open to roam…you are good sis/bro?

  25. Don’t really feel the title…I feel like it doesn’t quite capture the essence of the story.

    But the story itself is…

    Poetry.

    Sule…you’re really gifted.

    1. Ditto on the title not doing justice to the story.

      1. im with these guys on the title. i’m also with them on how great the story is. very well told and full of meaning. you narrative style is simple, effective and gripping. the story is also great. i would have liked to read more about the struggle for inheritance and how it worked out in the end but maybe not in this particular story. this one is perfect as it is.

        i loved the line: I find myself fighting off my in laws with the fury of a tigress defending her lair and her cubs, but I am no tigress

  26. I actually like the title and the story was perfect. Very sad but beautifully written.
    Good job Sir!

  27. JUST PERFECT!!!

  28. Nicely done. Really nice.

  29. dis piece movedmeto tears…. i must admit i am indeedwowed at the finesse of this story… nice one… 🙂

  30. beautiful is the word…just beautiful

  31. Lucid, believable and emotional.
    Salatu, you took me on a journey.

  32. The plot is really good,from the inciting incident to the resolution,and the character is real.

  33. I love this. wish I wrote it.

  34. Probably the best thing i have stumbled upon in a while….
    Well done!

  35. I can so relate to this…and dis idiots still do it.

  36. Wow. Just that. Wow.

  37. This is very beautiful. I love the form of narration. It was interesting. It made me feel like the ghost, like i was sitted there as the ghost listening to plight of my family n seeing wat they had gone through. I hit a soft spot in me, although i didnt understand it at first, but itz beautiful.

  38. Really sad tale, told with finesse..It deserves that spot on the Anthology..Congrats..

  39. nice story,,,,,,

    i felt every bit of it.

  40. i have never doubted the ability of Nigeria writers, great thoughtful piece.

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