Ikulu. Kaduna State.
Dinner at home is uneventful. We eat in the quad, under the sky, in silence. We fill our bellies, say goodnight and go to sleep – simple, no rituals. I wash the plates, and then lie in the quad for a while before I go to sleep too. Tonight, however, the silence was like a crowded space, filled with words unspoken. Godiya, my sister, had refused to eat her Gwote because she and father had a big fight. Throughout dinner father kept making grunts like words were seething under the surface.
Earlier, he had had his fill of words:
‘…that pagan, whose grandfather’s house has not been completed. His family is cursed. Or what do you say when each time a house reaches the roof, rain pulls it down? Answer me.’
Godiya was silent, allowing her silence, feigned ignorance, do the talking. It was loud, defiant. It made father mad. Godiya simply went to her room and locked the door behind her when she had enough. One who wins a fight is one who decides when it ends. This made father madder – he yelled, cursed, made ‘promises’ till he fell silent.
After dinner, I lay on my mat, looking into the heavens. The sun was blind, the sky carpeted with stars. My eyes were heavy, but my ears were alert. I heard the latch on Godiya’s window and sprang up. Scurrying out of the quad, I found her outside.
She saw me, put twenty naira in my hands, and hugged me; I felt her protruding belly.
‘Sai sannu, Awa’ she said as she snuck away into the horizon.
I waved at her, and, remembering father’s words, I smiled.
‘I promise you, no pagan will marry my daughter, even if he puts something in her belly. Kajiko?’