of madness and life by Hauwa

When my father finally bares his heart to me, it is no different from his palms; striped, beautiful, manicured with ointments from different experiences. He used to carry a stern face, and every part of his body seemed to be in some kind of agreement with the frown that always covered his face like a cloud. It takes the death of my husband for him to bare his heart to me. It is during this time that I get to learn life lessons from him. At the expense of his life, he has taught me the most priceless lesson. Of mad women.

Daddy taught me without uttering a word that mad women are not insane like people think. The category who laugh hysterically, finding meaning in befriending the streets aimlessly are not insane. In fact, their sanity does not match that of people who are perceived to be normal. This is because when one has been able to laugh at the childish tantrums that life throws, one has defeated life. It is those women who throw themselves on earth, rolling and causing dirt upon their clothes when a misfortune befalls them, who are mad.

That day, when Maman Maimuna knocked on my door, I did not expect her to put a pause to my life. I thought she had come to borrow sugar cubes for tea for her baby, as usual, or that she had come with fifteen slices of bread, asking that I please grease them with butter for her. Instead, she came wearing a face I had never seen on her. Her big eyes were naturally crystal clear, making it easy to detect when she was having a rush of emotions. Right now, they were watery. Her lips quivered as though her tongue was burning. My eyes fell to her hands, as I stood holding the door open for her, wondering what could have ruffled the eloquent Maman Maimuna. She was not holding a single slice of bread, neither did she have a cup of tea.

“Yadai?” I asked her what was up, oblivious that it was my life which was up as my husband had just left the world through a motor accident.

***

Daddy moved in with me a few days later, after report got to him that I refused to let out any emotion or make any speech. I would not eat, or even make any movement. I could not grieve my husband, Amir in any way. I did not even remember that I was supposed to be observing Iddah. Because my mind had not accepted that he was dead yet, performing any rite was out of the question. Mum passed away since I was a kid.

When he moved in, the first thing he did was drive away sympathizers, even though I did not ask him to. He saw the way my skin seemed to crawl at their sight, and that their presence seemed to further dilapidate the faculty inside of me that enhanced speech. He saw all of these because he was my father.

Every morning, after his bath, he comes to sit with me in the sitting room where I basically now live, he reads me poetry from amu nnadi’s a field of echoes, he calls me all the names he christened me, as though I am a child who refuses to take her drugs. But then, I am a child, his child, and I truly am sick in the mind, refusing all forms of therapy.

“Hau’wa, Jiddah, my child. Do you not see what weakling your state has turned me into?” he once said, frustrated. I love the way he calls my name. He would prolong the “u” and call the remaining “wa”.

Each day, when Daddy’s eyes dine with mine after his affectionate names fall to the ground like scales, I see a suffering greater than mine though conceived by mine and I see frustration doused in fear, fear of losing me. He desperately wants me to say something, to stop staring straight ahead as though the world has come to an end, to at least cry and give him hope that I am alive inside. It hurt to see his brave self reduced to this, but I cannot put an end to the hurt, I want o remain in my cage, where things can afford to be unreal, for how do you snap out of mourning yourself when you are not even dead yet?

I never say it, but I look forward to having him talk to me and read me poetry. Those moments are the highlights of my days, and so when he does not emerge from his room today to sit with me in the sitting room, I feel the first trace of strong emotion in three months. I wait, but he does not come out. I stand up and almost fall over; I haven’t made any movement in weeks.

I check the room where he is staying, he is not inside. I pause and open my mouth to call out his name, nothing comes out. But I am determined to call out his name, to talk today, if only to see him. I part my lips again, bring them together “Da..Dad..Daddy ?” finally. Hearing my own voice again after three months, I begin to weep and that feeling of numbness leaves my body. All the emotions I have bottled up come rushing out and for the first time, I weep for my Amir.

On hearing the water in the bathroom running, I walk to the bathroom and knock on the door hesitantly, there is no response. I turn the knob then and push the door open. I see him.

He is lying inside the bath, his neck twisted to one side, lifeless, his eyes open-staring death in the face. He slipped, obviously and died.

I stop crying, I stare at him for a while, and then laugh. And I continue to laugh.

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