A Lesson from the Moon

Papa had made me, though not conscious of it himself, fall in love with the moon. Since the sects that Papa referred to as ‘twin brothers fighting for the breast of their mother’ began the clash that he said would change the face of Nigeria totally, his stories were not about his days in England, or how he first shook a white man’s hand in their then little town school in Abba.
His stories were about the moon.
The calm, ever salt-clothed moon. ‘When I was growing up, it used to be a different world from what you now see. Then there were no paved streets, cars or even bicycles – but for a few. And on moonlit nights we would go to the playground to sing and dance during the dry season; and during the rainy season we would sit on hand woven mats in our mother’s obi to listen to stories, as the glow of the moon filtered into our room.’ He would gently tell us and then close his eyes as if to see himself sitting on a mat listening to stories of how wicked people chased the moon and cloud so far away by rubbing their hands on it after eating. Painting it the colour of palm oil.
So it became a ritual to watch the moon – under the half of a yellow sun of a dying people – and try to make out its shape, because the shapes are always different – just like the shape of human heads. Sometimes it was crescent like the one on the pinnacles of mosques, at other times like watermelon sold in Lagos for fifty naira. Rarely, like the shape of the ball we play but hardly win.
That night I saw the moon, is was full like a greedy man’s plate, so I asked ‘Papa why is the moon-shape always different? Why is it not always full?’
He thought for a while and then faced me, his face now bony, like a skull plastered with skin. ‘Because we are different and it is only in our differences that we become full.’



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