Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Photo credit: canonim via Flickr.

 

I know you grew up on the streets, that you feel the streets made you, that you are now the streets, maybe just a human version. I know that when you were younger, death led your parents along and your relatives rejected you saying you were bad omen, that whenever you passed something gets missing. But you knew you were not a thief, that you could do nothing with your skinny limbs, so you told everyone you met on the streets that your relatives were wicked. But those strangers never understood you because you spoke Igbo in a city dominated by pidgin speaking strangers. The few who understood you called you a liar, ajo nwa, a bad child. You must have been six then.

I know that you roamed the streets and searched bins for cabbage and burnt rice and sardine tins for traces of oil; that bread moistened by morning dew was your favourite. I know that your hair turned the the colour of rusting nails and your scalp was adorned with ringworms. I can remember them; pale brown and scaly in large patches. God! They were really itchy.

I know that birds live on trees, that a frog’s home is called a pond but you had no home. I remember you slept in empty danfo buses at night, sometimes in uncompleted buildings, crickets rhyming sorrowful tunes. They must have been dirges for you wished to never wake. But you always rise from the touch of the morning sun, with the will to get through the day in one piece, to survive.

In some ways, you survived into your teens and changed your name from Uchenna; the father’s will, to Tijani, a name you heard one call another although, you did not know what it meant but it sounded heroic, like a protagonist in a play. Over the years, you made friends, homeless friends like you. Four, all boys. Friends that turned family but none cross-eyed nor smart as you were. They were family to you not because you all enjoyed bread moistened by morning dew nor because you touched one another at night but because family didn’t feel like a word amongst you, it felt alive, like an emotion.

You are an adult now. You understand that the society doesn’t look at your mistakes anymore rather the decisions that you make. You understand that to care about how they feel is to behave child-like but you are an adult now so you must behave like you don’t care although somewhere deep down you do. If there is something the streets taught you, it is this—that pretence is a huge part of adult life.

You look in the mirror and you cannot believe how much you have changed. You cannot believe this story you are writing is about you, your life. But you must write it, anyway. You must tell the world that your story changed because you met a man who knew another man who also knew another man. That your name was once Uchenna, then Tijani, and now Zikora; tell the world. That your skin wasn’t as bright as it is now, that you never knew something like coconut oil exists. You must write to them of your most treasured property as a child; a pen with different colours of ink and how you wrote about a cat who went to visit the Queen, that the estates you own now didn’t matter then.

As you sit at the board meeting surrounded by men smelling of crude oil money—none of them cross-eyed nor wealthier than you—you imagine their lives and and wonder if they know that bread moistened by morning dew tastes like scrambled eggs.

 

 

About the Writer:

Bryan Joe Okwesili is a Nigerian realist. He grew up on the brown dusts of Anambra state, embracing literature and finding solace in poetry. Now an adult, he is keen on telling diverse African stories. He loves soliloquy as much as he loves reading queer stories. His short fiction “IFE OMA” was featured in Erotic Africa- The Sex Anthology 2018 by Brittle Paper. Other of his works also appear on Kalahari Review, Expound, literallystories2014, Ilealo, and Afrcanwriter. He is currently a student of law at the University of Calabar, Nigeria.

Tags: ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

South African Writers Call Out African Flavour Books for Non-payment and Non-communication, Petition Sunday Times to Drop Founder Fortiscue Helepi as Alan Paton Award Judge

african flavour books and SA authors 6

In October 2018, African Flavour Books, the popular South African bookstore founded in 2015 by Fortiscue Helepi, which stocked only […]

Win Copies of Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf in Narrative Landscape Press’ Ongoing Competition

marlon james - Black leopard, red wolf

Narrative Landscape Press, the Nigerian publishers of Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, recently announced a competition which will see successful […]

Rania Mamoun’s Short Story Collection, Thirteen Months of Sunrise, Forthcoming from Comma Press, Is a Complex, Moving Illumination of Contemporary Sudan

rania mamoun (2)

Manchester-based independent publisher Comma Press will be releasing the Sudanese writer Rania Mamoun’s short story collection Thirteen Months of Sunrise. […]

2031 | Y’I Oche | Fiction

Highway 1200 x 630

  “It’s becoming too dangerous,” Laila said with a pardonable expression of fear. For a minute she sat stone silent, […]

Enter for the 2019 AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition, with a Writing Prompt from Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities

afreada-obioma graph

With the 2019 Africa Writes Festival coming in July, AFREADA magazine has announced its third annual contest in partnership with […]

Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Nthikeng Mohlele, Imraan Coovadia Lead Diverse Longlist for Sunday Times’ Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

cynthia jele, nthikeng mohlele

Sunday Times newspaper has announced the longlists for the Alan Paton Award and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. Founded in […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.