My mother thinks I am crazy but only because her boyfriend, Patrick thinks so. Patrick is my mother’s Jesus, she worships him and does whatever he wants. I imagine that she uses her favourite and most expensive perfume – fragrant oud and Baccarat in elaborate glass bottles that lingered in the air around her – to wash his feet, her dense hair serving as a sponge. Patrick is a parasite, a blood-sucking leech and my mother is his host. She buys and pays for everything Patrick owns; cars, a golf membership, clothes, vacations and even a stupid dog. Patrick told my mother that I was crazy for the first time when he heard me talking loudly from my room. I saw his shadow peeking through my door and by the following morning, he had told my mother that I was speaking to imaginary people. The truth is that I was talking to these two particular birds that perch on my windowsill whenever it rains. They were having an argument and I was telling them to go away and sort out their differences elsewhere. After Patrick came up with the theory that I was insane, my mother suddenly remembered times when she had caught me talking to myself in the past. Every time she asked me who I was talking to, I was tempted to tell her the truth. I wanted to tell her that I was talking to a rat that was eating yam peels in a bin or a bird whose nest was destroyed by bad weather but I never did. If I told my mother the truth, she would take it the wrong way and summon my aunts to intervene. Besides, I only talk to animals because they speak to me first.
I was ten when I watched my brother die. He was a scrawny thing, woven together from the scraps I left in the womb. He was weak boned and cowardly just like my runaway father. My aunts and mother forced him to be daring and fearless. He took their encouragement too literally. He went too far the day he climbed the balcony railing of our second floor flat and called me to watch. I cried and begged him to get down. He pretended to jump several times and laughed at me as I pleaded and threatened to tell our mother. We both knew he wasn’t going to jump but he lost balance and fell head first, landing between our neighbours’ cars. For many months after I witnessed his death, I refused to speak. The memory of his lifeless body made me scream till I fell into troubled sleep. This of course my aunts thought was a sign. They said I was trying to confess something and took it upon themselves to deliver me. My mother did not defend me. She let them do as they pleased, out of devastation I presume. She still treats me differently till this day and I often wonder if she wishes I had fallen instead of my brother. My mother’s sisters called me a witch for a long time after my brother, the only son born to the family in generations, died. They claimed that I killed him and drank his blood, a reincarnation of Ologbo, the family witch who was burnt to death after a public confession. They said the prophets of God that caught the witch had revealed this to them. I was taken to churches. I drank and was soaked in the blood of Christ. I fasted for days that never seemed to end. I was baptized in water and spirit. I was delivered and saved and rescued from the camp of darkness for what seemed like an eternity before they were convinced that I was innocent.
I have had nightmares almost every day since my brother died. In most of my dreams, a stick-thin figure with a split head is chasing me. I am so accustomed to this particular scene that I impulsively break into a run before the creature appears. Today would have been no different but Patrick’s dog began to bark. It was the most unusual sound I had ever heard. It reminded me of the loud clapping of prayer warriors in the churches my aunts took me for deliverance prayers. I felt anger begin to creep in until it grew and became tangible. The anger developed hands and legs and carried me on its back, taking me to the backyard where the dog was chained.
If I told you the dog begged me to kill it would you believe me? Of course not. You probably think I am as crazy as Patrick makes me out to be, but I am not. I left out a few details. Before I killed the dog, we had a conversation. I went to the dog with the intention of telling it to shut up before I realized that its loud barking meant something deeper. I promise the dog wanted to die and begged me to take its life. I did not want to do it but the dog put up a good argument. I reluctantly agreed and it lay on its side, closed its eyes and waited for me to strike. As the garden shears in my hand came down on the dog, I pictured my brother’s lifeless body, his head cracked open, and I felt no guilt.
I sat in the pool of blood and watched the sunset, in hues of orange and yellow. A few hours earlier, the sun was high in the sky, it had been impossible to look directly at it and its rays had glistened on the garden shears’ blades. The scorching afternoon sun was now subdued and beautiful. I tried to enjoy the view but many thoughts swarmed my mind when I turned to look at the dead dog. Did the dog really speak to me? Was I a reincarnation of the family witch? Was this a dream? Did I push my brother?