Me: What do you call a person who is AWOL?
Thought: A truant?
Me: Correct! What do you call a writer who is AWOL?
Me: A wruant.
Thought: …(starts to walk away).
Me: Hey! Ever heard the sentence ‘It sounded good in my head?’!
When Kashimawo went back home, it was not the home she knew. Rather, it was a house filled with familiar strangers.
Dumebi told her about this once, the night when she had tried out kush for the first time. They sat in the dark by the window, blowing smoke rings, or rather, she was trying to, Dumebi was better at it.
“I can’t go home anymore,” Dumebi said suddenly.
Kashimawo stared at her. The light of the pale moon highlighted the birthmark that covered a side of her face. Kashimawo remembered, in shame, how she had turned away the first time Dumebi had spoken to her. She had judged Dumebi by that scar even before she knew her.
“Why?” She finally asked.
Dumebi sighed, smoke rushing out of her nose as she passed the joint to Kashimawo. Her speech was slightly slurred so Kashimawo was not sure if her friend was fully aware of what she was saying but she listened anyway.
“I think it’s me. I’m not sure. Every time I go home now, I lock my door. I don’t want anyone in my space anymore. I feel like they are stifling me.” She gestured for the joint.
Kashimawo snorted as she passed it “Are you sure it’s not because you spend most of the time watching porn?”
Dumebi laughed and started to cough, smoke curling out through her nose and lips “You’re an idiot.” She chuckled again “Not that man, besides, everyone watches porn.”
Kashimawo stared at her. When Dumebi finally noticed her silence, she glanced at her and laughed again “Oh, except you.”
“You know, a mad man always calls everyone mad,” was Kashimawo’s response. Dumebi snickered and passed the joint back to her. “That’s not it, you know? I just get home and it’s not home anymore.” She exhaled and Kashimawo got distracted by the smoke rings.
The joint had finished so Dumebi threw it on the floor and crushed it with her slippered feet. She leaned back to stare at Kashimawo “You of all people should understand.”
“I should?” Dumebi nodded as she held her right fist near her lips “Your name-” She belched “It’s the name for abiku na.”
Kashimawo rolled her eyes “I thought you didn’t believe in those.”
Dumebi shrugged “There are days that I believe everything.” Kashimawo laughed. When Dumebi kept staring at her, she asked “What?”
“Your name. You do know why your parents named you right?”
Kashimawo laughed “Oh, I know, it’s just not for the reason you’re expecting.”
Dumebi looked surprised “Why then did they name you?”
“Well, my father and mother were confused on what to name me. Nothing, according to them seemed to fit. So on the seventh day, my mother was breastfeeding me when she asked him “A mai ti fun loruko” and then my father goes “Kashimawo” and they said—since I wasn’t exactly fully aware of activities at the time—they said I stopped feeding and smiled at him. He repeated it and I grinned. It had been my first smile.”
Kashimawo laughed at the expression on Dumebi’s face “I know, always astounded me too. Sometimes, I feel my parents are too extra for my liking.”
Dumebi snorted “You don’t say.”
They stayed silent for a while before Dumebi suddenly spoke up again “I’m not sure if I feel boxed in by their expectations or it’s just one of the ways adulthood slaps you in the face. I get home and mom is kind, still the same, kinder even, because her “daughter is stressed out in school so she needs her rest,” but I sit in my room and yet, I can’t settle into my skin, it all feels itchy. I mean, I used to love my room, the privilege of having everything I need and more but yet, the joy of these things are lost on me and I want to leave before I’ve exhaled.” She sighed, coughing a little as she glanced at Kashimawo.
“You think I’m high”
“I know you’re high”
They both laughed “I don’t know jare,” Dumebi was saying “Maybe it’s just one of those things”
“One of what things?” Kashimawo asked.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Kashimawo sighs as she opens her eyes. She can hear someone coming up the stairs. Sure enough, the handle turns and Eddy bounds into the room “Aunt Kash, mommy said you should get ready for church o.” He jumps on the bed and snuggles in. Kashimawo smiles a little “Eddie, a door is for knocking besides-“ She pokes at his belly and he squeals in laughter “You don’t know how to greet eh?” He’s laughing as he rolls on top of her, his back over her chest, perhaps expecting that she was about to draw up her hands and knees, keeping him balanced on them.
Kashimawo rolled her eyes at the thought “Eddy, get off me, go and finish your food.” He laughs again. Ayo, they had named him, meaning Joy. Kashimawo always thought of the name as fitting but Eddy stuck when Ayo had preferred his other name to his first name and their parents were too radical not to indulge him, except their mother anyway.
“Ayo!” The call is sharp and has Eddy scrambling away from her and out of the bed, leaving her with a grin “Bye bye!” He stops with the door open and says loudly for their mother’s benefit “Mommy said you should get ready o!” With that, he slams the door, muffling the voice of their mother as she yells.
“Why do you think an abiku should know?” Kashimawo asked suddenly in the silence.
Dumebi blinked sleepily “Hmm?”
“Why do you think an abiku should understand what you’re saying?” Kashimawo repeated.
Dumebi shrugged “If the child is born again and again-”
“You know it’s just a myth right?” Kashimawo cut in with a smile. Dumebi glared at her.
“For the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a moment that it’s true.”
“Which we know it’s not.”
“Can you stop arguing for a moment and listen?”
Kashimawo chuckled and raised her hands in mock surrender “Okay, okay, I’m listening.”
“The child keeps getting reborn…to the same household. I’m thinking, when does home start losing its beauty in the eyes of the child?”
“I don’t follow.”
Dumebi sighed “The child shows up, say the first time, when she does, the parents are thrilled but they don’t know she’ll leave soon so they shower her with the love and care that parents should give but then two years after, she leaves, then shows up again, maybe the parents don’t know it’s her and then one day she’s getting a bath and her mother sees the birthmark, the one she had the other time.” Dumebi touched the wide scar on her face and seemed lost in thought.
“Okay?” Kashimawo queried and Dumebi started
“Yeah…so, the mother’s smile disappears and she knows what is going on. Despair slowly leads to resentment for a child that is not supposed to exist and slowly to resignation, except of course, if they visit a native doctor on time or something.”
“Or something,” Kashimawo agreed “But I still don’t see-“
“The child has seen home, the same home so many times, it has lost the charm of being home. She can only concentrate on the people, how the people are. The people start to matter to the child more than the place and it is the connection that the people give her that becomes her home.”
“Okay…so home is a connection then?” Kashimawo asked, confused.
Dumebi laughed “No, that’s Facebook. Kash, home becomes a feeling. It’s the feeling, the vibe that you get from the people there. It’s in the feeling you get when you go to the house. That’s why home may never be your parents’. Home may be far away from the house you were born in.”
Kashimawo grinned “Oshey poet!”
Dumebi snorted “I can punch you right now.”
Kashimawo laughed “No na, I’m just feeling your rhymes na.”
Dumebi sighed “You’re a lost cause.”
“Not to God,”
“Not to God.” Dumebi agreed.
Kashimawo concludes now that perhaps sometimes, certain things are what they are but don’t become obvious until we name it or at least try to. It was like Dumebi gave her a new pair of lens to catch the things she didn’t see before, but were already there.
Kashimawo, however, thought it stressful to focus on the strangeness. Maybe one day she’d find out the reason for this feeling. Maybe indeed home was to lose its familiarity with time but for now she could focus on the one she could have and make fond memories out of them.
She rolled out of bed.
Image Source: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (movie).