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Daniel Ojigbo: Defiant, Even In Death

You were a loud child, I remember that much. Tufts of your coal-black hair ran behind you, swaying as the wind combed across your scalp while you ran, fast, faster, as fast as your little legs could permit. You don’t remember me, but I remember you. I remember your smile when you were little. That way your lips curled when all you could think about was mischief and chaos. That smile you had when you jumped over fences and engaged in every un-ladylike activity your mind could invent. Your body remembers too. “Each scar holds the full details of my adventures,” you had explained, grinning and oh, there were scars. Long, pink ones which clearly had gone no deeper than the skin, and dark short ones that bit down to the bones. They healed just fine, fitting, because before weeks you prodded them open again with some new adventure.

You had this longing for danger. It was like you yearned for it. I could see the hunger in your glassy eyes. You were not a stargazer, neither did you delight in sweeping the yard at the crack of dawn, like the other girls did. No, you preferred knives to paintbrushes and leather straps to necklaces. Your treasures, you called them. Never had I ever, in all my life, met anyone of your type. I told you, you were special, and I meant it.

I hate what happened. You barely remember. But I do. And I hate that too. It was inevitable anyway, if there is any consolation in that.

At the height of your reign of terror, you did something I had seen happen a thousand times before: you grew. Your form curved, your tough skin softened, your complexion lightened, your lips fulled. You became a woman, burying the child deep, deep within. You became tame. Docile. Bridled, in ways I thought you never would. “Not my Adanna,” I had mourned, “no, no, not her.” I couldn’t stop you, so I watched. What else can a god do? I watched, powerlessly, as puberty moulded you into something I could not recognise. Something I would come to loathe.

I did a lot of watching after that. I watched as you destroyed your face with the whiteman’s make-up and cosmetics. I watched as you put strange soaps in your bathing water with even stranger smells that lingered for days. I watched as you exchanged your ragged jeans for thigh length gowns and flashy skirts. I watched, and I mourned, but I watched all the same. The forest missed your visits, you found parties more appealing. You stopped injuring yourself, recklessness had lost its sway.

“Mama, I’m grown now,” you used to say, often, and my heart kept sinking, deeper, and deeper into my stomach. I had lost you.

But I was wrong about one thing. I rarely ever am, but I was. You kept your scar tradition alright, but the scars were no longer on the outside. You had found a way to bleed without tearing skin. To cry without making a sound. To die without extinguishing life. A wonder, I must admit. I puzzled at your ingenuity.

The first one was short-lived, weeks maybe. He was mundane and ordinary, way beneath you in my opinion. I watched you kiss him and he, you. Not that you enjoyed it, but it felt good either way, to be wanted, craved like an addictive drug. You felt powerful, almost godlike.

He was a simp, so undoubtedly, you grew tired. “Too demanding,” you muttered ceaselessly. And then days later, you ended it. That was when I saw it again, the scar. It burned itself bright red into your heart and disappeared into the organ, the outline as faint and wispy as steam. I felt you shudder, as waves of pain travelled through you. The pain was what you wanted, what you craved, and I could not stop you, so I continued watching. Falling in love was a means to an end, a tragic one at that. You jumped, anticipating the cold, hard earth as you tumbled down, hands flailing.

The next was just the same. The one after that, too, and the one after that, and the one after that. Occasionally, you let them touch you. I swear I wanted to strike them with madness there and then, and be done with it but I held back my wrath. Because in truth, I had wanted other things too.

I wanted to take you up in my arms and sing you to sleep. I wanted to smooth the outlines of your scars and fold the lips of your wounds into perfection. I wanted to pull those memories that haunted you from your head and throw them into the Wilderness, where they could do you no harm. I wanted to murder your past lovers in cold blood, but above all, I wanted to save you. I couldn’t, but that didn’t stop me from wanting it the more.

Gods are vengeful. It comes naturally to us. One minute, we love and a thousand years later, we strike mortals with maladies and drive them mad. We envy you, you humans, you know. How easy it is to tell what it is that you feel when you feel it. How easy it is to just exist. It’s not the same for us. Sometimes we are as mysterious to ourselves as we are to our worshippers.

You died hanging from one of my many arms, swaying like a fruit from a steady branch in the cold, evening wind, your once wild eyes now dark and hollow. You had tired of it; the pain had eaten you from inside out. I could have stopped you but I was selfish (forgive me), I wanted you back. So I let you.

I let you tie the noose. I watched as your eyes searched for a tree to hang from and when they failed, I became one myself. I silenced reason and logic and I willed your legs to deliver you to the highest branch. When you feared it would, I made sure that the rope did not snap. It didn’t.

You hopped off the branch, the deathly adornment wrapped around your neck. Your eyes bulged and your face paled. You struggled with gravity and the weight of your body and with life and the unfairness of it all and with the white noise that was your desire to live, before you resigned to the rope growing tighter around your neck. To the air fleeing from your lungs. To the finality of inexistence. To the cold embrace of the end. Your feet kicked underneath you, a last show of defiant courage, and then you went still. You died, and only then did I mourn you. The earth let out a sigh, hungry for your soon-would-be decaying flesh, while tears bathed the sides of my face.

You, a mere mortal, had broken me, and had paid for it, but broken me still. I could not forgive myself so I begged Him to make me thus: “a tree forever, a testimony to our doomed love.” And He did. With a wave of His divine hand, He granted my wish.

Regret turned into sap, grief became leaves, and I, your immortal lover, became as you were: still, forever an occupant of the forest where we had, once, long ago, fallen for each other.

My love, at last, returned to me. But something had changed. A lot had. Only a fool would have expected that it had not. But even then, you looked defiant, like a fearsome warrior calmly asleep. You hadn’t lost, you just stopped playing.


Image: remixed

Daniel Ojigbo
Daniel Ojigbo
Daniel Ojigbo, also Aniel, is a writer, a poet and an essayist. His interests range from well written books to tall, endowed women, in no particular order. You can find him on Facebook as @aniel and on Instagram as @aniel_nnn.

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