Before the Eid, the days become cloudier; and like the schoolchildren, the sun takes long breaks. Rain pours on in those days, the kind of rain my mother used to call the lazy rain. Streaks of it dribble slowly down for long hours, and form large rivulets on unpaved red-dust roads. The sound that accompanies those days are sneezing and coughing ones. People with the cold.
I wander through those days ravenous; my devout mind decoupled from my exhausted body. I rush home from my petrol-station workplace to meet my little brother, I change his piss-bag – he has recently been diagnosed with kidney failure. The other day, a neighbour’s son said he would start an advocacy on social media and send appeals to radio and TV stations. The boy wants me to come over this weekend to make the video. My brother’s face would be splashed all over, panhandling – well, begging to be more precise – for money to treat him.
These days, the light stays on for longer. Sometimes, 14 hours at a stretch. That is a miracle, considering that about six months ago, we went weeks without the power blinking on. Maybe this country is not entirely hopeless.
Hope. I read somewhere how hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all. It may never stop singing, but its pitch is really low. Life is much more of a boisterous rage of care that drowns out hope’s tune too often.
I have hope that my father will call us back home. But I’m not waiting, I need to complete my higher education, and help my two siblings, too. Anjola, my younger sister works in a cleaning company; the company contracts them out to some big-deal firm on shift jobs and I’m afraid she’ll get so distracted by the practical rewards of working she’d refuse to finish her school. But I know an SSCE does not drive one very far in this country.
Bolu is the one with the kidney issue. The one pissing in bags and riding on a wheelchair. His life is something of an irony – he was sought after so much, his gender anyway, by my mother. But she held him only for a minute before bleeding out in the delivery room. I’m not sure father ever really liked him for this, and that was what made our leaving him with his new wife easier; the new wife also had two sons for him.
But Bolu is a genius. Certified genius. I tested him on a friend’s laptop –this online IQ test. He aced it clear – 180 IQ points was the result. The boy is also something of a whirlwind bound in human flesh, always busy at some brilliant scam. He rebuilt a car hulk from its parts before he was 11. Another time he hacked a bank and used the proceeds to pay for our house rent; that time was a close call, he almost got caught then. EFCC agents were at our door, expecting some young, punk: they couldn’t look beyond his broken body and they left wondering how they had missed their target. So, Bolu stopped hacking. He was earning a significant amount of money from all his less devious schemes before the kidney failure came. The irony of a brilliant waste.
The Eid would be here in a couple days, and as I wash my hands to begin cooking our dinner, I see the rams the titled chief, 3 houses away from us, will kill then distribute their fried meat around the neighbourhood. The fumes of the small generator owned by the neighbour opposite our apartment seeps through the window, the smell of it is bad – leaves an acidic aftertaste in the mouth – induces coughing, too. I know why it’s on- the neighbour’s daughter has her boyfriend over and she is entertaining him. That expensive BMW parked near the overflowing gutter belongs to him. I sigh and tap my feet slowly to the music blaring from the big speakers at the Video store on the other side of the street. Maybe, I need a rich boyfriend too. Do you know where I can apply for one?
The power comes on just as I am lighting the kerosene stove. There is hope, yet. I hope by month’s end, we can find enough money to pay the light bill.
Bolu rolls his wheel chair to the kitchen door – he calls it his GimpMobile. He smiles “Guess what, sis? He says excitedly, a confident smile gleaming up his face, “I just got my app on google play, and people will pay to use it!”
I smile, walk to him and stoop down to hug him. There is hope; maybe we can start having some money for his surgery. And begin again.