Timeline of Separation

Shola is nothing like her mother, no sturdiness in her knees, light and frail you wonder what keeps her on the ground. There was something lost in conception as if her mother spilled more of her guts into the thick red blood on the theatre bed, something was washed away forever.

Shola doesn’t stand up for herself in primary 2, nothing like her mother who raised a child alone. Her mother who slapped her uncle when he gave thanks that it was not a male child, a daughter we can find a man but how can a man be raised without a father? Where does a man belong without a father?

Shola cries in the bathroom when she gets her first period, she can feel it coming out of her and only wants it to stop. She soaks in the tub for 2 hours while her mother holds the towel. Her mother who stands conflicted comes from the time when women were gutted, had the dirt peeled out from between their legs to keep them pure. She has to open her shop early in the morning, but her eleven-year-old won’t leave the tub and that night she lets Shola sleep in her bed, warm towel on her stomach and still shaking in her sleep.

When Shola turns 15, she buys lipstick with her pocket money and kisses the neighbor who is to resume at Unilag in September. He leads her upstairs to his tiny bedroom where the wardrobes are brown and ajar. Shola sits awkwardly on his bed and they make love, not because they trust each other but because it’s something for curious teenagers to do.

Shola returns home late, sore between her legs and eats nothing for dinner. Her mother does not notice or maybe she doesn’t want to, she finds the lipstick in Shola’s bag months later and throws it away without a word.

Mother and daughter grow and the secrets grow too. Shola doesn’t get out of bed for three days when the neighbor forgets to call, he didn’t need to say it, but she knew the thing they had was over. Shola stays in bed too long, says she’s tired all the time, but never leaves her room. A doctor says something about depression and her mother tries to discipline it away because that is the problem with her generation, terms and labels and evading hard work. Because she wants the best for her daughter in the age of bright screens and too little reality.

When Shola goes to university, she misses her mother, calls almost every day in her first year and this reduces as each year that passes till calls are only made from necessity. Her mother misses the scared eleven-year-old who slept in her bed, but Shola wants independence.

Shola is nothing like her mother but also returns with a heavy belly from her final year. The two women who are nothing alike from time to time catch traces of each other when they least expect it.

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December

It was not only the strange blue bird that came tapping on the window in December. There was also harmattan dust pouring in through the mosquito net covering everything. Dust left undisturbed.

December was the month your mother woke up with a prophecy, the picture frame in the living room breaking open and spilling acid on the tiled floor. She had premonitions nearly every week, but this one was an attack on the family. She knew it wasn’t literal, God was never literal, working through strange but easily deduced metaphors since creation.

December was the month mother fired the cleaner who told the driver that father followed “small small yellow girls”. You did not ask how she heard this, you said a prayer because that was what she wanted. The month mother started buying night creams, her skin whitening with the season, growing pale because that is what older women do, fade.

December was when you met Amina at the pool, someone called her dolphin, you liked the way her body curved and dipped underwater. Amina borrowed your goggles to see what the bottom of the pool looked like, you had a racing competition and became fast friends. Later in December, you heart raced while you placed your hands on her curves in her dark, sparsely furnished room, eyes closed like some kind of prayer, her lips warm and soft. It felt different from Osiye, tender and strange. You will later pretend like it never happened.

December is the month you turn 25, when your boyfriend, Osiye, tells you he needs more time. Osiye’s face lights up when trying to explain vastness, he believes there are some hundred billion galaxies. Osiye knows everything but what he wants or maybe he doesn’t really want you.

December is a prayer filled with sentiments, hope for a new year with rain.