Image: Ayanfe Olarinde

Pockets

by
on March 12, 2021

The handkerchief Aunty presses into my hand is white and crisp. It has the strong musty smell of old clothes. She says she got it in camp during the Holy Ghost service in August, that the Reverend personally anointed it. She repeats the word “personally”, staring at the heart-shaped birthmark on my nose.

‘Make sure you keep this with you. You can keep it in your pocket. The country is very hot right now,’ she says, retying her wrappa.

I nod, wondering what she means by hot; the weather or the protests? Yesterday, she complained that Nneoma went to protest, then she said a long prayer asking God to remove the spirit of stubbornness from her. I had to stop myself from cutting in and saying that the protests are harmless,

‘Thanks for driving Nneoma, Charlie. I appreciate it. Daalu.’ Her tone is watery. Patronizing. The way it always is when she speaks to me. She turns to face Nneoma before I can respond.

‘I don’t want to hear that you went to the protest,’ she says. ‘Inugo?’ It is her teaching voice; strong and loud. She bends forward. Her face is so close to Nneoma’s, it’s almost hard to tell them apart. Her hands pull at her left ear. ‘Don’t go and protest anything.’

I stand awkwardly, wriggling the keys together. The television, muted, is on the news channel she watches as she eats breakfast.

‘Once Charlie drops you in the hospital, see the doctor and come back straight with Eleanor. Inugo?’ Aunty says.

Nneoma doesn’t answer. She grabs her bag, picks Eleanor, her six-month old child and snaps her fingers at me.

I blink and follow, almost tripping on Eleanor’s toys. When we get home, Aunty will complain that Nneoma didn’t pack them before leaving. She will call her irresponsible and Nneoma will roll her eyes.

As we drive down the street, I stare through the rearview mirror, looking for nothing in particular. I find Aunty, standing in front of the rainwashed gate, arms folded across her breasts, her lips thin and curved downwards. She’s worried about something. She worries a lot. Last month, she fasted for 20 days because a scorpion had found its way to the bathroom, hiding itself behind a drum of water. No one was hurt, but she fasted; no water, no corn and ube, just worried eyes looking up to heaven at dawn, muttering only words God understood.

When at last the bones in her neck had formed well, and her fingers shook as she chopped okro, she stopped and cried out, ‘It’s over, thank God.’

We see nothing of what’s happening ahead, just the sound of their chants floating in and out of the car. Sometimes, a protester passes by, peers into cars and shouts, ‘End SARS’. When this happens, Nneoma grumbles about wanting to join them.

We are on a narrow road with a mosque on the left and a church on the right. The driver of the blue Venza in the next lane — an old woman — presses down her horn. She stares at me. I stare at her white hair combed down in a slick bob.

In the back of the car, Eleanor starts to cry. Nneoma sings a hymn, ‘Kpo ya Chukwu no gaza’. Her voice is so soft, it holds the heat in its hands and makes me think of warm balls of pounded yam dipped in white soup.  Eleanor stops crying. I dab at my forehead with the handkerchief Aunty gave me. The yellow taxi in front of me moves. It’s a tired car, and its engine sputters. I start to turn the key in the ignition, then decide there’s no point moving. We’ve been on this spot for more than 30 minutes. We are not going anywhere.

 I turn to look at Nneoma, ‘Kedu?’

 She sighs. ‘I’m fine, but I would rather be protesting.’

‘I know. Ndo.’

She never stops talking about the group of friends who were extorted and tortured by the police on their way to Epe resort. She wants to be a human rights activist, she says. Like Gani, the famous lawyer. I don’t think she has it in her. Not with the poor grades in constitutional law or with the hours she spends getting her hair braided. Better for her to focus on her business. She sells human hair on Instagram, and even that she does badly. Who am I to judge? It’s not like I am doing much with my life other than driving her and her younger brother, Philip, around.

 Nneoma looks at her phone. I turn back to face the road. An okada carrying two protesters zooms past us. I’ve learned that one must not get too familiar with Nneoma. One minute, she’s soft like butter icing on cake, the next she’s stone, accusing me of trying to inherit her father’s property. Our father’s property.

‘Fuck. This traffic na die,’ she says. ‘I told Mum that we should come another day, but mba. She must always have her fucking way. “Don’t go to the protests.” “Don’t wear this.” “Go to the doctor today.” “Give Eleanor this.” Haba. If it wasn’t for her, we’d have avoided this traffic. We’ll be under AC.’ She pauses. ‘Or, don’t you think so, Charlie?’

‘Think of what?’ I ask, staring at a “Jesus is d best” sticker on the taxi. She wants me to say something negative about Aunty and I won’t. She thinks I’m not clever. The way she even says ‘Mum’ as if Aunty is my mother is more annoying. I let the silence stretch between us before saying anything else.

‘Nneoma,’ I say. ‘Let me go outside and check what’s happening. The way we’re going, Eleanor will miss this appointment with the doctor.”

She chuckles. It is dry and sarcastic. ‘With this traffic? She has already missed the appointment now. Except there’s a miracle o.’

I unbuckle my seat belt and begin to get out of the car. Suddenly Nneoma’s hand is on me, holding me back.

‘Charlie, wait,’ she says, waving her phone at me. ‘On Twitter they are saying that there is shooting.’

I tilt my head back. ‘The protests?’

She nods.

‘This area seems peaceful. I can’t hear anything.’

I’m about to get out of the car when she says, ‘Wait,’ again. She touches my shoulder and shows me her phone. On the phone, there is a video playing, people are running and singing the national anthem. Some of them hold the flag of Nigeria above their heads. ‘I don’t know if it’s this one,’ she says, ‘but I’m scared. Is there any way we can turn back?’

Small shooting and she’s afraid. And she claims she’d rather be protesting. I shake my head. ‘No oh. That doesn’t look like here. Look, there’s no statue in Surulere. That must be Ikeja. Let me just see what’s happening outside.’

‘Just be careful, Charlie.’

 Outside is warmer than inside. Other drivers stand by their cars, hands on their waist, under their jaw, sun on their foreheads. The old woman’s face is a tight frown as she comes out of her Venza. ‘Ma, please, do you know what’s going on in front?’

‘The protesters blocked the road.’ She points. I walk towards the space between our cars. In front, tricycles and bikes have cramped themselves, unable to move. I try to see over them, but it is not possible, even if I stand on tip-toe. There is too much going on, too many people. I turn to the old woman again, to give a shrug, to say, it is well.

Time moves slowly. The old woman and I talk about the protest. Like Aunty, she doesn’t see the need to protest. I tell her that protests are necessary, but generalisations aren’t. Not all policemen are bad. She nods her head in agreement. Just then, we hear the distant sound of a gunshot. My head begins to throb as if someone is drumming inside it. Nneoma’s real brother, Philip, plays the drum. Every Saturday evening, I take him for rehearsals at the church and sit with him for the entire hour. During this time, it feels like it is my head he is using to drum. That’s the same feeling I have now, a headache trying to split my head open.

The heat grows around us. My face is dripping and there’s a huge patch under my armpit. The anointed handkerchief is in my pocket but I don’t move my hands from across my chest to get it. A girl covered in a bright pink hijab breezes past screaming ‘Subn’Allah.’ She doesn’t look like a protester, isn’t wearing their customary shirt and jeans uniform. Her voice is stiff and stays with me even after the second shot. This shot is close. It rings in my ears and makes me crouch by the tyres, makes Nneoma tap, tap, tap the windows, asking me to come in.

Protesters run past us. I look at their legs, their sneakers caked in mud, the patches of white on dark skin, the injuries. They’re wearing black t-shirts, holding placards, singing the national anthem. I stand up.

A man is running towards us out of the throng, sweating heavily, shouting, ‘They’re shooting protestors! They’re shooting protestors!’ As he gets nearer, he stares into my eyes, then at the old woman’s. His veins are glistening on his forehead. His white ‘End SARS’ shirt clings to his skin.

I try to stop him, to ask him questions, but he just increases his pace. Behind us, cars are turning around.

The old woman struggles to unlock her car. She falls as a boy whose dada is wrapped like a doughnut on his head pushes her. I help her up, removing the handkerchief from my pocket.

‘You can use this to dust yourself.’

She mutters several thank yous as she opens her door and settles in her car. I’m about to return to the car when I notice a policeman walking towards me, at least five cars away. How odd he looks in his black uniform and white rubber slippers. A.A Garba is monogrammed on his breast pocket. I had a teacher in secondary school called Monsieur Garba. We all called him “Opelenge” because of how thin and tall he was. Just like the cane he used to beat us. This Garba isn’t thin. The size of his stomach makes him look six months pregnant.

The old woman in her car is still mouthing “thanks yous” at me and something else. She is waving her hand to the side. Is she asking me to move? I shake my head. Better to stand still, hands in my pocket, hold my breath, wait for Garba to pass. My confidence is in the fact that I’m not the only one standing outside their car, not the only one out on the road. And will he shoot me? Haba. Some policemen might be evil, but even the evil ones won’t shoot if you don’t provoke them.

He’s close now, gun held loosely facing up. He has four tribal marks slashed across both cheeks. I wonder what he thinks of these protests. There are a bunch of articles online about the evil things the police have done, none cover what the police feel and think about the call to ban them. Last week, I tried to tell Nneoma that it would be good to hear their own side of the story: audi alteram partem. She’s not the only one who knows anything about law. I once took a human right’s class in uni. Actually I slipped into the class because a girl I liked was taking it. Nneoma said I was fucking mad. My mouth fell open; I wanted to ask, ‘Me, Nneoma, me your brother?’ But I’m not really her brother. A half-brother is not really a brother. And what was so outrageous about what I said. What?

Now the entire road is packed with protesters. They climb on top of cars, running and running, pushing past napeps, banging on the door to the church and slipping into the mosque. This set of protesters are singing ‘we no gree oh, we no gree.’ This reminds me of the time I led a protest back in school myself. We sang this song as we paraded the campus at night holding torches. The school security arrested us and said we damaged property, the vice chancellor’s car, burnt it down to nothing. But they would let us go on the condition that our parents would sign a document promising that we won’t ever protest. When no parent turned up to sign my guarantee form, a man from the vice chancellor’s office called me a bastard. He said he would make me a scapegoat. It was a policeman working on campus that saved me from whatever he had planned. Officer Dotun. I’ll never forget him.

On the side of the road near the mosque, a naked man sits, eating corn and speaking to himself. He seems unbothered by the sun and the noise of protesters. He looks no older than 40. His head is shaved bald and his face drips with sweat. There was a mad man who walked around my neighbourhood as a child. They said he’d been a mathematics professor in the university. One morning, as he prepared for a class, going over formulas and whatnot, he started to laugh. His laughter was full and infectious. After that, all he did was laugh and scream numbers. When he walked down the road with bare feet, he spoke in the language of numbers. We called him Number Nine because that was the number he mostly screamed. You could expect that he would scream “nine” in the morning, just as the cocks crowed. I often daydreamed that he became OK in the head and that he was my dad, that he would return home from a hard day of work with that infectious laugh and gift bags, swooping my mama up and kissing her, the way they did on television.

I look away from the naked man and find a young man no older than me climbs on top of the old woman’s Venza. He’s bare chested, has a pudgy stomach and a durag tied on his head. He holds a megaphone up to his mouth and starts to speak.

‘Young people of Nigeria. We have had enough. How can we be protesting peacefully and the police start shooting at us?’ Protesters start to gather, spilling out of corners, around the car. They form a small crowd, raising placards and fists up to the sky. ‘If they want to shoot at us, we must fight back in our own way.’

‘Yes,’ the people echo.

Okay. It might be better to go into the car. Anything to allay Nneoma’s fear. I turn back to look. She’s recording a video of the guy. I shake my head.

The policeman is closer now. Two cars away. As he points his gun and shoots into the air, I turn away from the road and walk towards the car. Someone screams behind me. It could be Nneoma, it could be the old woman. Dots of sweat drizzle down my nose. I dig my fingers deep into my bottomless pocket to find my handkerchief. Then I remember that I gave it to the old woman. I’m tempted to look back at her, to see how she’s fairing with the people surrounding her car. But I keep walking to my side of the car. There’s a click sound, an explosion and I find myself staggering, falling backwards. I try to grab the air, but it slips from my grip. There are faces around me: the old woman, Nneoma’s crying eyes, the naked man’s penis dangling. I’m still falling.

I am dreaming that Charlie is falling, Charlie, my husband’s child.

Those dreams where something hooks you and you can’t move, you can’t shout, you’re awake asleep? Dreaming that dream while awake. A demon is pressing me so that I can’t help Charlie, who is busy falling at my window. I shout his name: ‘Charlie bia na ebea, stop falling.’ Through unmoving lips, I command the demon to let go of me in the mighty name of Jesus. The demon jumps thick and fast out of my skin. My eyes open properly, and I realise that Charlie isn’t falling, that he already fell. It is my work chair stationed by the window, reclining backwards that looks like someone falling. I gasp, holding my chest.

‘Ah, Nkechi,’ I say, pressing my chest. ‘Don’t kill yourself.’

I realise also that there are women crying and singing outside. I walk across the room and peer out of the window where the women sit in circles. Women I’ve never met, who say they are Charlie’s family — his mother’s sisters. They arrived from their village around midnight, only hours after I heard. News travels fast. If I didn’t know better, I would have said that they are professional mourners who are bad at their job. Look at that one’s fake tears and see how that one eats bread even while crying. And that one, she doesn’t even have the decency to wear black that isn’t faded. I close the curtains and return to bed. Nonsense and rubbish.

They told me his hands were in his pockets when he fell, that he didn’t go immediately, so they tried to resuscitate him. And the way they kept using “fall” like he could come back up or as if “kill” or “die” were too heavy for their mouths. What does it mean to fall, biko?

I’m not even sure who broke the news. One minute I am watching Pastor TD Jakes, the next, several people are talking to me at once about Charlie and how he fell. I gritted my teeth, and the aftertaste of the vegetable soup I had for lunch rushed to my tongue. Didn’t he have the handkerchief I gave him? Didn’t he say the Hail Marys I asked him to say before he drove? When a mother talks, she knows what she’s saying. But it’ll be as if my mouth is smelling when I talk. Well, I’m not his mother.

Oh Charlie.

We were going for Christmas in the village when we sewed those shorts he wore. The tailor was new, a boy with cross-eyes. A colleague had spoken well of his skills, so we decided to try him. On Christmas Eve, he brought our Christmas clothes. Only Charlie’s had problems. The shorts were tight and didn’t have pockets. Charlie was patient, insisting he’d manage it — ‘I don’t need pockets anyway,’ he’d said.

‘Tufiakwa,’ Philip had said. ‘Where will you keep the dollars and pounds Mum will spray us with at the children’s Christmas party?’

I laughed, not because Charlie was too old to be going to the children’s party, but because of his kindness. Time was short; he didn’t want to stress anyone. If only he knew I was willing to stop time for him. After he went all his life without knowing my husband, Nduka was his father, it was the least I could do. I asked the boy to take the shorts back, that we would wait. It didn’t matter that we would sit in more traffic, or that we would get to the village hours after they had finished the Christmas morning dance at the Square. I wanted Charlie to look good. I didn’t want any questions from people who wanted to know why Charlie looked different from my own children. It was already bad enough that Philip and Nneoma were bigger than Charlie. I pampered Charlie so much that one village idiot asked me to stop treating him like a baby.

‘He’s a man, don’t you know?’

‘No, I’m blind,’ I answered and bit my tongue.

You do, they complain. You don’t do, they complain. Which is it, dear God?

When the new shorts came, crisp and starched, they had pockets so deep, they almost reached down to Charlie’s knees. I told him that he looked like the village headmaster, that he would outgrow it in a few more months.

He laughed and said, ‘Aunty, I don’t really think so oh.’

Oh Charlie.

My phone rings. I search beneath my pillow and under the covers for it. I find that it’s been in my hands all along.

‘Hello?’

‘Hello ma. Good afternoon. My name is Tinuke, one of the protest organisers. I’m really sorry about what happened to your stepson…’ Her words dangle with uncertainty.

I sigh. ‘Tinuke, abi whatever you call yourself. He wasn’t my stepson. He was my son.’ Nduka’s son is my son. Shikena.

‘Forgive my mistake ma. Like I said I’m one of the protest organisers. What happened to Charlie is really unfortunate, especially because he was just an innocent bystander. We are working on ensuring justice is done. But in the meantime, we’d like to know if there’s any way we can help in this difficult time?’

‘Is it that Nneoma girl that gave you my number?’ It’s just like Nneoma to do things without thinking.

‘Ma?’ she asks, her tone low, less confident.

What was so difficult about my question? ‘Look I don’t need your money or your help. Or can you bring him back?’

She stutters. I cut the call. See me, see wahala oh. Young people nowadays. They don’t know anything about decency.

The women outside are louder. They are singing a song about gods that I don’t recognise, gods that can’t stand by my god. I walk towards the window. The circles have reduced and are smaller. Some are lying on a mat on the floor, others are on dinner chairs and stools. And they say they’re mourning. They have turned my house into a shrine. Why are they singing when we should be grieving quietly? That’s my problem with these village women, they don’t know anything. I bang my windows shut and draw the curtains.

I know that they heard the window bang closed. I know because as I am making my way to the bed, I hear one of them call from outside. ‘Aunty,’ the voice says, ‘won’t you join us?’ I can tell that the voice is mocking me. What does a Christian school teacher have to do with heathens?

‘2nd Corinthians 2:14,’ I mutter as I wrap myself up in bed.

 I can’t believe that Charlie is related to these women, that they raised him after his mother died. They are so uncouth while Charlie was so well-mannered. But Nduka no try. Why did he keep Charlie a secret all these years, allowing the boy to grow without a father? Did he think I wouldn’t accept him? I’ve felt guilty since I discovered Charlie’s existence. Imagine Nneoma or Philip not knowing Nduka? Oh Charlie. I sink deep into the bed and close my eyes.

In the evening, a journalist covering the protests for Sunday Press calls to ask a few questions.

I sigh. ‘Okay, you’re sorry, but can you bring him back?’

‘No ma. But we can prevent this from happening to someone else.’

Does she think this is a joke? I wonder how old she is. She can’t be more than 30. That’s probably why she doesn’t know the protests are useless, that there are better ways to dialogue with the authorities. Protests will always see blood. Now my Charlie is gone. Charlie mo, Chineke.

I sigh. ‘Okay. But will that bring him back?’

‘No, ma. But…’

‘Young woman, I advise you in the name of God to not call me again until you can answer my questions.’

All evening my phone rings. Family members call. Strangers call too. I want to turn off my phone and can’t. A part of me thinks Charlie will call. They did say that he fell. What if he comes back?

Someone calls and says he’s from the governor’s office.

He says, ‘Ah yes, is this Mrs Nkechi? Ah yes, my name is Babatunde, and I’m from the governor’s office. We were sorry to hear about the incident, how very unfortunate. May we not see that kind of incident again. Ah yes, I’d like to find out how you knew Charlie… were you two related? Your son?’

I imagine that this rude man is tall and lanky, that he has bad breath and is sitting down in front of a table with several papers and no computer. Perhaps an assistant to the governor? People who work with the government are always stupid. I put the call on hold and slip it under my pillow.

Nneoma walks in and leaves the door open slightly. The sound from a television show follows her. She’s about to turn on the light, but I tell her to leave the darkness.

‘Mum.’ She sits at the edge of the bed, smoothens the bedsheet. ‘Mum, you’ve been in bed since morning. Are you okay?’

‘Wo Nneoma, leave me. I’m okay.’ I sigh.

She frowns. ‘There’s a video circulating online. I was wondering if you wanted to see it.’

I am taken aback by her question. I press my hand on my breasts. ‘Nneoma? Why? Nneoma, no, no, you just tell me why.’

‘I thought…’

‘No, you didn’t thought, Nneoma. If you thought, you wouldn’t be asking me nonsense.’

She starts to gesticulate frantically. ‘Mum, it was horrible seeing Charlie like that. He didn’t deserve to. And that’s why we are protesting.’

‘Nneoma, don’t you have something to do?’ I ask, slapping my hands on my thighs. ‘Before you rudely interrupted, I was praying. I suggest you go and pray too.’     

She’s sobbing as she leaves.

As it gets darker, it becomes cold. At this time on normal days, we’d be at the table, having beans, something we started after Nduka died, after Charlie arrived. Charlie enjoyed making beans with coconut milk, garnishing it with crayfish and then using a mortar to mesh it until it was soft and creamy. He said it was the way his mother taught him. Sometimes he mixed the beans in palm oil, other times, we ate it with stew and bread fresh from the bakery. The dinner table was usually quiet, Nneoma texting on her phone, Charlie focusing on his food, Philip peering at the television. I had long stopped trying to start conversations at dinner. Not since Nneoma told me it was bullshit to bring Charlie in and pretend he was their brother. Not since that evening when she asked me how I could trust a stranger who arrived after Nduka died and claimed to be his first son. ‘Can’t you see?’ she’d asked me. ‘Can’t you see that he’s only here to inherit this house and everything else Dad left behind?’

But it’s cold now. Not the sweater and the winter jacket pulled out of my portmanteau are helping. The women are now singing Charlie’s name. I don’t know if they invented the lyrics just now or if these are songs they sang to Charlie while he was alive. I don’t know why they must mourn here. They say it’s his father’s house and so it’s his house. He didn’t even live here until a year ago. I wonder if they’ll whisper to themselves that I killed him just so he won’t inherit the house. I can’t put such thoughts past these village women. I roll my eyes. Their singing gives me a headache. I swaddle the duvet around me like a wrapper and walk out of my room, into the long narrow lobby that doesn’t hold their voice.

The lobby is dark and full of moving things: mirrors that have eyes, books that have ears. The single bulb that hangs from the ceiling is dead. Charlie was supposed to fix it on Sunday, but the woman who sells bulbs didn’t open. There are unironed clothes in the laundry basket. Charlie was supposed to iron them today. But he fell, or isn’t that what they told me? I walk away from the basket and into the parlour. It is brightly lit by two orange bulbs and a fluorescent light. The television is on a cartoon. It feels like a normal evening. I lie down on the long sofa and close my eyes. It hits me then that I don’t know everything that happened to Charlie other than there was a policeman, protesters and he fell. Just like Nduka fell and died. One main important fact is missing.

‘Nneoma. Nneoma oh,’ I call for my daughter.

I never liked living here, especially since Nduka slipped in the bathroom, broke his neck and opened a box of his well-kept secrets. It’s been a year and yet the smell of his blood still makes appearances during festivities, between the smell of jollof rice and plantain. That’s all that’s left of him in this house. Well that, and the son he didn’t tell me about while he was alive. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier if I had ignored the birthmark on Charlie’s nose and turned him away when he arrived, claiming he was Nduka’s son. Nduka had that exact birthmark on his neck. A heart-shaped birthmark. It’s not like I had the power, but I didn’t put up any fight. The elders — who all knew of Charlie’s existence long before me — would have stood by Charlie. The first son, the child who’d have inherited this house, the cars and the house in the village. The one who would’ve continued Nduka’s kindness, sharing bags of rice, tubers of yam, wads of naira. They’ll ask, how come he fell, just the same way Ndula fell? They’ll say I killed him.

Oh God, please. Save me.

Nneoma is standing over me. There are dark circles under her bulging eyes. She’s been crying.

‘Nneoma, I was calling you before,’ I say, sitting up.

‘Mum… I’ve been standing here for at least five minutes. Are you okay?’ She presses cool hands against my neck. ‘Mum, you’re burning up. You’ve not had anything to eat today, have you?’

‘Ah yes, Nneoma. I called you.’

‘Mum, you should eat something. I can quickly make some spaghetti. Or would you prefer rice? The aunties outside have some food, I can ask them.’

‘If you bring those women or anything belonging to them into my house, Nneoma.’ I sit up now, squinting at her.

‘Mum, I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. Why the fuck are you overreacting? You’re not his mum or his dad. You still have me. You still have Philip. You’re acting so strange.’

I tug at her arms, pulling her towards me. ‘Nneoma, you don’t get it. They’re going to say I killed him. They’re going to blame me.’ I look away from her face, directly at one of the orange light bulbs.

‘Oh my God. I’m so sorry mum. I’m so sorry. Of course you didn’t kill him. Mum? It’s going to be okay.’ She sits down by my side, brings my face to focus on her. I feel her breath on me. I look away, back at the bulb.

‘I just want to know. What were in his pockets?’ My voice is a whisper, like I do not want the women to know what we are talking about.

‘What?’ She frowns.

‘They said that his hand was in his pocket when he fell. What were in his pockets?’

 ‘Mum, come on. I don’t know. Is that really important?’ Nneoma says, shifting.

 ‘Look, we have to find out. If the handkerchief had been in his pocket, that would have saved him. The Reverend clearly said that the anointing on the handkerchief would save someone’s life. What if that someone was Charlie? What if he really only fell and is still alive because of the hanky?’

She sighs.

There’s a slight rap on the door. A tall man dressed in a black suit stands behind the glass door. ‘Hello, I’m from the office of the governor. May I come in?’

Nneoma looks at me, then looks at him.

‘Governor’s office kwa? Aren’t you people the ones that killed my Charlie? What do you want?’ No, not fell, killed. The rage in my voice is elastic. Nneoma is frowning at me.

The man begins to stutter. ‘Yes, yes— we know that Charlie was killed by a police office— I just came to—’

‘I hope you have come to bring him back. If you haven’t you can take yourself away again.’ For the first time since I heard the news, I burst into tears.


Ope Adedeji is an MA student at the University of East Anglia and an editor at Zikoko. Her work has previously been published in McSweeney’s Quarterly,  Mail and Guardian, Minority Africa, Bitch Media and so much more.