Whispers

“No one will tell you but it’s louder than a whisper”

The men at the gate who chorus greetings when you pass by

The men smoking under the lime tree, the sour smell mixing with your name.

Chioma with the squeaky voice who keeps the office clean

They all believe it and no one will say a word

Maybe they don’t think you’d understand it

They say it’s the madness, it runs in your family like the dark on your skin

Your grandmother at 68 danced out of her husband’s house.

In exasperation, smiling with her wrappa loose under her breast

They said the madness made her leave

She argued it was the madness that kept her there so long

Let’s not talk about your mother

You know your mother

Let’s talk about the words you keep whispering to yourself when no one else is listening

The journal by your bedside where you’ve written the same word every single night

The same word in over a 100 languages

Over a 100 pages filled with “sorry”

What is wrong with you?

Ward

The mother of the baby next to me is covered in her burqa. She can’t stand still, she’s already paced the ward several times. She can’t stand beside her baby, she keeps making sounds from her chest. I forget the word for that.

I wish I could reach out to her and tell her “it will be okay” but I might be wrong.

She’s on her knees now, sometimes I wonder if God keeps a list for the times we shouldn’t have bothered. The times our prayers were just words. Her stomach is still swollen, I wonder if it’s another baby then I remember Ada telling me that your stomach doesn’t go back to normal immediately after a child. Ada has a lot of strange answers, most of them mummy doesn’t agree with.

The doctor looks panicked now, they’re moving the baby to another ward. There’s a wire around her tiny nose, she’s pink, looks like a girl but you can never really tell with babies. The mother is pacing again hands on her stomach.

My left hand hurts from the IV line, I don’t want to tell the nurse about it, sometimes it feels like pepper going in through my veins.

I hear screaming down the corridor.

Ada said she’d be back with food soon but she’s been gone over an hour. I don’t blame her, she hates this place so much and tries hard not to show it, making jokes to cover the silence, buying pizza and holding my hands.

I once told her I was sorry and she couldn’t stop wiping her eyes.

Ada walks in holding my iPad, “I was putting some new cartoons” she smiles.

I smile back.