My name is Tito. I am the smallest girl on the street, too tiny for my age. I am ten. I’m also the worst tomboy—I don’t weave my hair; don’t wear skirts; hate the kitchen and don’t play hand games. I love to play with boys. That was how I met Tiwa and Tewa, the first twin boys I loved. This is about their family and how they disappeared, without notice.
The Rawlings family was a very quiet one. They were not trouble makers. The wife—Aunty Rola we called her—was a teacher that never beat her students. Every evening, head scarved and bowed, she walked to church. Tiwa and Tewa didn’t play rough; they were ‘proper’ boys who stayed indoors after school to do their homework. Cool, calm and collected, we call their type. I think that was why I liked them. Their father, Mr. Rawlings worked at the wood market. He came back whistling with wood shavings in his hair, 7pm every evening. They prayed together before meals; giggled during meals; and said The Grace after meals. They seemed happy. I know because I eat there sometimes. That was before everything changed without notice.
June 25, 1993
Schools were shut down. Markets were closed. Cars were dressed in leaves. People carried placards, raised their two fingers in solidarity. They poured into the street as if a huge gate of people was opened. The adults said that the ‘old khaki boys’ refused to leave office. They said they were protesting to chase the Khaki man they called Maradona. That same one who they said dribbled the country the way the footballer did, only his leg touching the ball. The ‘khaki boys’ used tear gas to chase everyone from the streets. Everywhere was a thick white smoke. I was only ten but I knew what to do when the biting wafts of the tear gas stung my nose—dip a handkerchief in kerosene and rub on my face. That chased the sting away!
December 18, 1994
Today is my birthday. Today Mr. Rawlings disappeared. We all woke up and he was gone. All we saw was a mist mixed with smoke and dust from the RRS bus as it fled the street. They were called RRS—the Rapid Response Squad—because they responded rapidly by squashing troublemakers. That was my first time of seeing the black and red bus, though I played the game Prisoner, Commander and RRS with my friends. The Prisoner was always caught by the RRS for speaking too much. The Commander laughed and the prisoner never returned to the game. We were only left with adult whispers of how the old Khaki boys left. And then, there was what they called an interregnum. A huge word I loved because of its size—in-ter-reg-num. I stammered always trying to pronounce it. After that they said the khaki boy in dark shades—the one with the mark on his face, the one who never smiled as he addressed the nation—was ruling. They said he was worse than Maradonna, our new Commander that is. They said he sent the RRS. Mr. Rawlings has not returned.
December 25, 1994
Today is Christmas. No eating chicken at the Rawlings’, only silence. Mrs. Rawlings changed after her husband left. She left church but the church never left her. Every morning, she screamed fire and brimstone from her window: You all will go to hell if you refuse to give your life to Christ. Sometimes, she’d walk up and down the street; head bowed and bent. At other times, she went to the market and stole someone’s garri. No one stoned her, she was the kind teacher. She always returned in the evening to her sons, Tiwa and Tewa. I know because I followed her several times when Mama sent me to buy Schweppes down the road. My Mama was fat, so she lived on Schweppes. Mrs. Rawlings left one day and never returned, without notice. People said that the government people carried her to ‘Aro’, the place for the ‘mental.’ I didn’t understand.
January 1, 1995
New Year, new discovery. Tiwa and Tewa disappeared without notice. That pained me because they left me no address. People said that they were with ‘family.’ I now play alone. I will wait for them till they return. If they don’t, there will be no more writing because every word in this diary is for them.
I stopped writing after Tiwa and Tewa refused to return. Years have passed. Nothing has changed. The khaki boys handed power over to the civilians. The khaki boy with the dark shades, I hear died in the laps of a fair Indian lady with an apple. We had an elected president who they said went from prison to the presidential seat. We have a brand new leader now, the silent sick one who spends months away from the country receiving treatment. The one no one knows if he’s alive or dead. Nothing has changed. People still disappear, without notice.
I saw Aunty Rola, Tiwa and Tewa’s mother last week. So, I write again. The first time, I didn’t recognize her. She walked barefoot; one could see her breasts through the tattered dress she wore. She had dirt in her hair. She comes every morning, to the front of the house. She leaves in the evening. For where? I do not know. She dances for the children on the street. They nickname her ‘The Crazy Woman Dancer.” Many do not know her. During the dance, she tells everyone who cared to listen “They took my husband from me! Where are my boys, Tiwa and Tewa?” The more the crowd yelled and clapped ‘Tiwa, Tewa’, the more she danced.
I saw her today. She was not dancing. She called out to the ten year-old boy ‘Tiwa, come on do your homework’ or ‘Tewa say The Grace.’ Today, she came to me as I dashed out of the house. She said: Lady, if you see my boys, tell them I love them. I nodded ‘Yes ma.’