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Photo Credit: Ludo Rouchy via Flickr.

 

On Wednesday, the cramps come out on top and accomplish what they haven’t in years.

They sap Annie of all her mighty reasons to live. They grab her and lock her down. They leave her immobile in bed, unable to breathe properly or skim her textbooks, unable to play Candy Crush or gorge herself on her Instagram feed. There is no power in her to watch her fill of Korean Dramas. There is nothing in her but pain, and at this rate, she might as well just be dead.

By 4:30PM, it looks as if the sun is depressed enough to set and the hunger has won out, so Annie leaves the comfort of her bed to make the terrible long journey downstairs. There are huge windows on the left side of the hallway, and this unusual early ending of the afternoon paints Annie a tender orange as she hobbles her way to the hostel buttery. Sugar will do her no favors but she goes for snacks like Galas and Pure Blisses and cans of Coca-Cola anyways.

She imagines late afternoon in Abuja, her mother driving their clean white Honda home the way she’d done for Annie during her six years of secondary school, scolding her as she made a leisurely turn into a parallel highway road, “Your father and I don’t give you money to waste on carbonated drinks and chocolate cakes. This your school’s tuck shop just wants to suck you dry. They want to eat more of what we earn. Can’t you use simple common sense, ehh? Must I always be telling you these things?”

Annie did not need to be told because she knew, and knowing did not equal caring, but she’d loved as well as feared her mother, so she’d gone ahead and saved. She’d blown the money on a swanky new wrap dress immediately after WAEC.

She tears Gala wrappers open the minute she gets back, and her roommates continue to pretend she doesn’t exist.

(“You broke my mirror so you buy a new one” Sahadat says.

“I’ve gone all over campus and I’ve checked the markets outside campus. I can’t find one exactly like that. When I said let me buy you something with a different design you said no. What do you want me to do then?” Annie screams. “Regurgitate an exact copy?”

She’s raising her voice for the first time in the eight months she’s been sharing a room with these two other girls. Bisola comes out of the kitchen and tells everyone to calm down, but she’s giving Annie a dirty, cautionary eye. Annie wants to tell her to eat that eye.

“Get me a new mirror ooo! Get me a new mirror!” Sahadat shouts back. Her overabundant bosom takes on additional volume and she smiles a sharp, ugly smile, “It’s not like you don’t have the cash. This one I heard from your phone call last week that your Papa has money to waste on other women.”

Annie seizes Sahadat’s IPhone 7+ and smashes it against the wall. She tackles Sahadat to the ground and hits her. Hits her and hits her and hits her, until the ugly thing at the bottom of her stomach unwinds its ugly self. It will take thirty minutes and three hostel porters to peel Annie off.)

Her roommates continue to pretend she doesn’t exist and she continues to let them. The Mountain Dew aggravates the tightening fist in her lower belly. She’s sure she must have blacked out at a point because she awakens by midnight, when the air is eased of the tension of the day and the disgusting neon curtains are all drawn.

Friday is the last day of classes. She’s plaited black attachments stripped sparingly with white and they are her cramp’s trusty accomplice in pain. They’re heavy and pull on her forehead so that her face shines like she’s just rubbed Vaseline all over it, but Friend tells her that new hair gives her charming cat eyes, that she’s never looked more beautiful or radiant, so Annie complains no more because she’s vain. As they wait for the lecturer to settle down with his notes, Friend educates her on The Rise and Fall of Michael Jackson.

“In terms of energy, 80s were the golden era for Michael, y’know. But 90s were his true peak of attractiveness. We can really say that from 2000 on was the end of it all for him. His management wanted him to do another tour, but from the rehearsal videos that leaked Michy couldn’t perform for shit. He forgot his lines. He was weak. His dancing was.” Friend gravely shakes her round head.

“Was?” Annie prompts.

“Not so good.”

Annie is amused. She finds these flashy crash and burns funny now. “Exactly how ‘not so good’?”

“Don’t be a bitch, Annie.” Friend says, turning to search for a eureka pen in her overstuffed handbag. Then she jerks upright, “Annie! ANNIE!”

“I’m right beside you. There’s no need to blow my ears out.”

“Michael sings for this Annie girl. In his hit single ‘Smooth Criminal’ he’s singing for this Annie girl and it’s kind of creepy because he keeps asking if she’s okay even though she’s obviously not.” Friend’s words tumble so fast into one another she’s fairly rapping. Her eyes twinkle with hope behind her thick spectacles, “Were any of your parents fans by chance?”

“No.” Annie says, “My mum thinks Michael Jackson was an agent of the devil.”

Daddy claims he liked Phil Collins but he also claimed to be a former captain for Arsenal. “My dad had most of Phil Collins’ records though.”

And when he was done listing his teammates on Arsenal, Mummy would ask him if he was naming his fellow village headmasters. And Daddy would laugh and laugh and throw me up high so that my own giggles turned to shrieks. And Mummy wouldn’t laugh but she’d be smiling so wide the dimples I sometimes forgot about started to show.

Annie isn’t paying attention to the lecturer anymore because she likes these lines she’s stringing together in her head. They remind her of better times. She’s not too good at poetry, but she think’s she’ll try her best constructing something sturdy enough to enshrine these memories, after she’s had a shower tonight.

(After she’s cried herself empty tonight.)

“Who’s Phil Collins?” Friend asks.

By Sunday the cramps are forgotten. Annie has never once heard of Thai Iced Coffee but she dreams about it, googles what Thai Iced Coffee could possibly signify in dreams. She calls her father for more money and he warns her, just before hanging up, to make sure she comes back home with nothing less than A’s. When evening settles, she leaves her room to speak with her mother over the phone. This time she’s driving the Sonata home and not the Honda because, “One mad man bashed his dilapidated metal contraption into my pride and joy.”

“I thought your children were your pride and joy?” Annie asks as she spins her key holder round her forefinger.

“That’s what all mothers are forced to say.”

“Then will Daddy agree to fix your pride and joy?”

Her mother laughs long and hard before telling her, “No.”

“Have you talked to Daddy about The Other Matter yet?” She throws her key holder to the other side of the hallway then walks over to retrieve it. There’s restless energy flowing through her she has to dissipate somehow.

“What’s there to talk about? He says he’s going to keep on seeing that woman so he’ll keep on seeing her.” Her voice is laden with scorn and unshed tears, “What power do I even hold when I don’t have a job? I’ve told you then and I’m telling you now, if you have nothing doing, your man will lose respect for you. He will not love you forever. He won’t even look at you twice.”

“God will see you through.”

“All I have I’ve given to your father. I’ve sacrificed and sacrificed. As I’m speaking to you now I’m just coming back from church. From the market I did not even head back to the estate. I went straight to church. See how Father Patrick was questioning me.”

“God will see you through,” Annie says again, as her mother breaks down in the pristine perfumed interior of her Sonata. She repeats it over and over even though she hasn’t prayed to God in a long time. Like her faded Gap sweater that no longer fits, she uses Him for comfort when she’s left with no other choice.

On Monday, Annie and Friend wind themselves round potholes on their way to Lecture Theatre 1. Friend has the volume at its highest, her Sony headphones round her head as she sways and glides to the beat of the music. Michael Jackson’s staccato seeps out and Friend’s murmuring something about apartments and bloodstains, shapes her long fingers into pistols and aims at Annie’s chest.

“This is the part where I’m supposed to ask if you’re OK,” Friend informs her.

Annie throws a careless smile her way, says to Friend: I’m fine.

 

 

About the Writer: 

Khadijat Haliru writes short stories in her free time and desperately wants to own a cat.

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