Through my strange eyes
I have a strange gift. Four days before my mother died, sitting in front of a TV that drowned all pretenses of conversation, I saw her dead. It was not a vision. It was not a dream.
One minute, she was smiling and nodding at the scene playing out before her on the widescreen. The next minute, her head was swollen and all maggoty, her eyes two dark pebbles of death. The minute after that, she was smiling and nodding again.
All of fourteen years old, already well schooled in discipline and a veteran on unspeakable floggings, I told no one about the strangeness of those three minutes. But terror took up a semi permanent residence somewhere in the region of my heart.
When she slipped in the bathroom, developed a concussion and died thereafter, the terror billowed over me and almost drowned me.
Of course, I did not tell my father of the premonition I’d had. Neither did I discuss it with my three brothers and one sister.
It has been two years since my eyes saw that strange sight and the terror has not left me in its entirety. Today, I am accustomed to foreseeing but I have not grown to become comfortable with this strangeness. Thrice, I have had premonitions of death. Thrice, such premonitions became reality.
This hot afternoon, now sixteen, wiser and even more quiet than I had been before my mother’s death, I sit with my four siblings on the verandah, swatting flies with hand fans that do absolutely nothing to give one respite from the heat. We await Father’s arrival.
We know he will not be alone. Today, we are meeting our future step mother.
At sixteen, I consider myself too old to be acquiring a new mother but the last thing you want to do is argue with my father. So, we wait. The three boys, all younger than me, converse in low tones. I know they miss our mother terribly. She’d been the one to shelter us from Father’s unexplainable rages, his violence, his wickedness. At her death, we’d lost not just a mother but a defender.
The Peugeot 505 raises a cloud of dust as it roars into the compound. Parking directly in front of us, my father does something he’d never done for our mother, something that is as strange as it is funny. He hurries out of the car to the passenger’s side, cracks open the door for his fiancé, flourishes a smile that is as huge as it is repulsive.
She is tall, as dark as the midnight sky, with huge white eyes that are at odds with her small round face. One would think that a prospective step mother would smile at her prospective step children on the day that they first meet, but this woman’s face is as hard as granite.
When Father introduces us, she does not shake hands. She does not clap our shoulders. Instead, she nods at a distance. In the ten minutes of introduction, I do not see her teeth. I do not know if they are white, or yellow or green.
But I see something else.
For a minute, I turn to look into Kunle, our youngest’s eyes. I want to feel what he is feeling at this moment. I want to communicate to him that I will not allow him to suffer at this woman’s hands. When I turn back to look at her, my soon to be step mother is hideous to behold.
On her shoulders sits a small dried skull.
I know without a doubt that she will not be with us long. Perhaps she will not even live long enough to become our step mother.
And for once since I got this strange power, I am not saddened at the premonition of someone’s death.
Perhaps this is benevolence’s way of preserving what little family life we have left, no matter how sour.