Song of Solomon by Lulufa Vongtau
1998 Bindawa, Katsina
“Where are you?” it was not a question or a request, it was blurted out with an intensity that suggested desperation.
“I am at home. We just returned from Tungan Maje with Sani. What is wrong?”
“Come to me.” It was not a request or even an instruction. It was desperation. Sani, my best friend, her brother, would be home by now. I looked at my watch. It was a little after midnight. Quietly, with purpose, I negotiated the darkness towards her sailing past cactus fences, snoring cattle, disturbed and annoyed owls and the spirits of the unresting dead, calling at me like sirens at mariners. But I had purpose. What I heard in her voice was my purpose.
Zainab. Your feet are beautiful in those sandals. The curves of your thighs are like jewelry made by an artist. Your navel is like a round cup; may it never be without wine. Your belly is like a pile of wheat, surrounded by lilies. Your breasts are like twin fawns, of a young gazelle. Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are like the pools near the gate. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, that looks toward Damascus. Your head is like Carmel, and the hair on your head is like silk. Your long flowing hair, captures even a king. You are so beautiful and so pleasant, a lovely, delightful young woman! The daughter of the Northern star. The light of my eyes. She was waiting for me under the baobab tree that had fed and sheltered our village for almost a hundred years. Her face was downcast as in the dark she handed me the plain simple cell phone I had gotten her for her sixteenth birthday just a couple of weeks ago. I read the text, my heart racing. Her father, the hakimi, our village head had determined that she would marry the head of the dogarai, the bodyguards, after Friday mosque. Today was Wednesday! I looked up at her face, the face that caused me to go on. She had been crying. She had cried until, she had no more waters to give her eyes. I knew. I knew Zainab. Wordlessly she reached for my hand with a soft pliant hennaed hand, looking at me in the low moonlight with eyes that pierced me to the divide of my soul and spirit. We had never thought this moment would come. The princess and the son of a woodcutter. That night we did not look back, we had said our bye byes centuries ago. We picked our destiny in four hands and rushed headlong into the night.
2014, Hampton Suburbs New York, New York
It was a little after 7 am, I sat at my computer watching her drink her coffee seated at the couch. Our daily ritual. It was cold, but it was peaceful, she brought peace to me. Peace, stableness, warmth, life, yes life….a door behind her creaked open and Amira, our 4 year old, rubbing at her eyes in the aftermath of a deep sleep, clutching at a rag doll with the other hand, wordlessly walked to her mother and into her embrace, unafraid of not been unaccepted. Her mother cuddled her with those same arms that had cuddled me and taken away my pain and loneliness, and anger and confusion. And Amira promptly went back to sleep. She turned to look at me, her smile still the most precious thing to me on this plane of existence. I smiled back. Then something caught my eye on the Nigerian news tickers. “Sani Danburam becomes Hakimi”. I looked at the image of my friend Sani, he had not changed much ,his face wizened and wiser it seemed. He had like me, become a man. I remembered his hearty laugh. The wrinkles by the side of his eyes when he laughed. I remembered his promise that I could marry his sister. I turned to Zainab. “It’s time to go home.”