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Dread and anticipation gripped her as she glanced cell door No. 9669. She clasped her fist tighter around the blackjack, gearing for a surprise. What would it feel like meeting Ms. Rushideen Chuks for the first time? She clenched her jaw and turned up her nose as she remembered instructions: “Don’t talk to him. We’re sick of reading his letters, so toss them in the fire pit.”

She would maintain some level of vigilance. A prison makes rogues of saints, who knows, but no one ordered her on the job. It was her Queendom come 6.00 PM till dawn, Sunday nights. She’ll do what she’ll do.

She couldn’t have been prepared for the surprise that came. She tucked it further under her dress and pattered straight to the office, where after settling behind the desk, pulled it out and began to read.

There was an antescript to the letter:

“I am my salvation and doom.

Quit trying to save or destroy me. Life and death are in my

hand!”

She shuddered.

Then the letter took off:

***

Dear Abike,

They put me in the ladies’ section, trying to humiliate me. But what pleasure! Such freedom! Such sisterhood. The ladies see me as I am…they each remind me of you in some way too. Whenever I put pen to paper, the spot dissolved in a tear. But as I looked at the faces around me, I aimed for a fresh spot and found renewed hope.

But then will you help me? It’s harder to tell the truth, yet I’m afraid even to lie. When I’m giddy or blue and want to whistle a tune, Sukura, the head bully’s 1st commandment “Thou Shalt Not Whistle” keeps me mum. Even I too have to humor her. How I’ve missed your embraces since the days of this 14 year sentence! But first, I need clean water to quench a killing thirst and have a nice bath with. Money so that I can buy lip balm for chapped lips and horsetail-like Brazilian hair for wooly Afro. Electricity so that the water can be warm and so that I can iron my one-in-a-million Fruit of the Loom shirt when you come to visit me here in Kirikiri; so at least I don’t look like a mental patient who is considered worse than a criminal. Not especially for our photo shoot on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, that is if they let you in at all; but baby believe me that is asking too much.

When I teased them about needing a computer or even a typewriter to play with, they said to me, “What do you need a computer for? What do you know about it? Pick up that bloody hole of yourself, and when you’re done picking tomatoes in the garden, rush to the kitchen and make some soup!”  The female warden-nurse who came bimonthly to bang me up with ARVs and who I thought was my friend but who had exposed my folly as well as her own gullibility said this when she snapped irritably at me for being so selfish. “Why don’t you go ahead and invent one for yourself?”

By now you don’t have any doubt concerning my devotion. And I’m still nothing without your love. Wow, am I not so needy? And was I not expected to sit tight and not try to explore and exploit my urges? Is it not miraculous indeed that I haven’t yet morphed into a cavewoman living in a wilderness and making a dish of roasted termites out of a rats’s skull on some stone-struck fire; flailing my testicles about, naked, as I dangled from bar to bar? Here, they tell us we have all the time in the world—what a huge lie! The longer you’ve being imprisoned, the more time you’ve lost.

Darling, I don’t need firewood for burning a child witch. I’d rather be burning into you, naked and baring my soul into yours and being exposed to yours in turn. Secrets are bad for intimacy. Let them do what they like to me, Abike, they give me all the more reason to moan louder with this hammering of theirs. If only they’ve known how long I craved this. Yes, Abike, I shall all the more tell the truth as they have urged me to. And the truth remains. I love you still. That is what I have; that is what I need.

 

Your Beast in solitude

RC

P.S. I had screamed those words into the warden’s face when I handed my letter. I knew they read my letters because they never got them through. But with the boldness of a desperate person, I have left this one unsealed when I thrust it under her belt, daring the warden to read. I daresay she appeared innocently frightened when I gave it—this one is new—queer too.

I hope she bites the bait, and at last you’ll heard from me.

***

The new warden decided to post this one. Her conscience would nag her to death before she let the opportunity for fame slip by. Famous people were rich.

 

********

Post image by Marc-Anthony Macon via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - ObiBorn on October 1987 in Lagos, Nigeria, Onyeka Obi grew up in the quaint city of Enugu. He’d since moved back to Lagos where he studied Acting at the Pencils Film and Television Institute. Mr. Obi was a writer for the Nigerian Television Authority drama series, Odowura. He believes stories are the most potent means of communication. Two favourite reads are The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

 

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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