Kind missy spider, on two legs
Alone, all alone in this world,
Kind missy spider all alone
In this world
Mother used to sing about her a lot, a weird little song about a kind spider on two legs; I remember it faintly, like you remember the smell of washed out oguso on mud walls…
I remember the story too, mother told it to me when I was five. I was too young to understand but I never forgot; the story of the day I was born, something about a kind spider on two legs.
I should tell you the story.
It was an ordinary Wednesday afternoon and mother was home alone, doing whatever it was that pregnant women did when their husbands went in search of money and other unmentionables. The clouds were pregnant too but mother remained blissfully unaware, inside the small hut she shared with father. Mother went into labor just as the rain was about to start. She writhed in pain as thunder and lightning flashed across the sky. Time passed and the clouds released their contents but mother’s baby remained unborn.
It was almost time and mother knew she had to get help.
She had no one to call, father was not around and the nearest neighbors were miles away. She managed to drag herself to the entrance before her legs gave way beneath her. So mother laid there at the entrance and prayed to her ancestors to send help.
That was where the spider first saw mother. A giant human puddle, crying her heart out on the cold floor, life slowly slipping from her.The kind spider took pity on mother; being a woman herself, she knew a bit about birthing young ones and the pain that came with it. She carried mother on her back and raced to the health center.
I did not come out until the early hours of Friday.
Mother named me at the health center; she called me Iremide, after her late mother, Iya Ire.
Father came to take us home on the seventh day. We went to a new house in the village where giant spiders did not exist except in weird dreams like the ones I dreamt.
The kind spider appeared often in my dreams, a captivating figure just beyond the shadows with skin the color of harmattan dust. It was not until I was seven years old that she appeared bodily. I was playing with my unfortunate looking toys in front of the house when she appeared in front of me. She was exactly as I’d seen her in my dreams. Beady eyes set inside a small head; almost invisible neck; a big, round calabash for the rest of her body and arms all over. The only difference was that the dark patches on her stood out more in the light of the fading evening sun.
Her presence was a strong magnetic force that pulled me into a world of memories that I wasn’t aware of; like the time I broke my calabash on my way from the stream and she gave me a new one, and a candy jar. Her gaze burnt through my clothes, through my skin, and into my innermost parts. I was like a neonate before her.
“Iremide…,” she called in a deep velvety voice that filled my insides with butterflies
Mother’s shriek brought me out of my reverie. I opened my eyes to see her slowly sink to the ground, mouth agape, eyes bulging and arms stretched out towards me.
Missy spider made a raspy sound and once again she had my whole attention. Her face had turned red and her voice had lost its silken quality. Instead, the words gushed out of her.
“Iremide, I came to give you this.” She placed one of her many hands on my forehead,
“In life and in love,
In matters of the heart
And matters of the head,
May you be just like me.”
Then she placed a dry kiss on my forehead and started to leave.
“Are you my aunty?” I asked as awe gave way to curiosity.
“So who are you?”
“You can call me your godmother.” And with that she turned and walked into the night, as quietly as she came.
Mother regained consciousness later but baby did not make it. They had to remove him from mother’s womb. He was dead on arrival.
After that day, everything changed. The sweet sound of Dolly Parton’s music gave way to guttural voices promising protection and chanting incoherent words, the kegs of palm wine were replaced by kegs of miracle water and bottles of anointing oil. A forced silence descended on us; mealtimes became a torture, smiles became forced and soon, mother had us visiting strange old men on mountains for prayers.
It was after one of such visits that father and mother had the fight.
It started when mother served us rice with prayer water for dinner. The frown on father’s face was unmistakable but mother must have missed it else she wouldn’t have played one of the prayer tapes. I saw the vein throbbing in father’s neck long before the outburst so when he slammed his fists into the table and yelled “I can’t take this anymore!” I only shivered a little unlike mother who sat through it like a kid being reprimanded for not doing homework.
He left that night, with nothing but the clothes on his back and I got home the next day to find his room stripped bare.
I had my first when I was fourteen. I had gone to spend the holiday with father and his new wife in town.
He was washing clothes at the lone tap in the compound when I saw him for the first time. From my vantage point at the kitchen window, I watched his bare body glisten in the hot sun as sweat trickled down his body. My eyes followed the sweat down his back and into his shorts…
That was the first time I heard the voice. It was a soft baritone voice, it said,
It was a command that rose from the region between my legs; higher and higher it rose, until it became a flood threatening to overwhelm me. It was all I could do to stop myself from running to the tap to take him although I did not know then, how I could have taken him.
He finished his laundry and left the tap but the voice stayed, urging me to find him and take him. It was not until the second week of my stay that I finally spoke with him, the fine stranger that set my body on fire. I was washing my clothes by the tap when he came with his own pile.
“I’ve not seen you around here before, are you new here?”
“Yes.” I replied, concentrating as hard as I could on washing my clothes. The voice, driven by his presence had become an irritating chant.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you sure? You look like… like you are sick or something.”
“Or do you need help with the clothes?”
“I said I’m fine!”
We continued washing in silence for some time before he continued as I knew he would.
“So have you visited the town hall?”
“You don’t know what a town hall is?
“Well… a town hall is a place where people gather to have fun, mostly in the evenings and sometimes they have serious meetings there.”
“Like a village square.”
“Yes, but better. You know you should come this evening, they will act a play today.”
“I don’t think my father will let me come,” I said, blurting out the first excuse that I could think of. “He’s very strict.”
“Come on … it’s just the town hall, everybody goes there.”
“It’s not me, it’s my father.”
But he was not one to be put off that easily. “I’m sure he won’t mind; just tell him you’re going to the town hall with a friend.”
We went to the town hall together that evening. It was the first of several visits to the town hall together. As it turned out, father did not mind me spending time with the neighbor’s son.
My mind became a potpourri of emotions and he was at the center of it all; I fell asleep thinking of him, dreamt about him and woke up to thoughts of him. The voice got stronger and stronger until I couldn’t take it anymore so I made my move; my hand found the treasure trove between his thighs and his found the garden between my legs. We threw caution to the wind and enjoyed the life of our head.
The town hall had several dark spots and it was in these dark spots that we both took up the business of exploring our bodies.
The final week of the holiday arrived with a different kind of urgency, one that necessitated consummating our illicit relationship. It was this urgency that took hold of us the night we went all the way and every other night that found us thrusting and grinding our way to cloud nine.
Before long he began to grow weak. I felt it in his weakened thrusts, his loose grip and his premature release. His mind was deteriorating and his body was following suit. But I did not stop. I was too far gone and he was beyond saving.
He died the day I left for home, he slept and never woke up. They called it death by natural causes but somehow it wasn’t unknown to me, it was just unexplainable.
It wasn’t until my third year in the university that I heard the voice again.
I was waiting outside a lecturer’s office when I saw him handing out flyers for a party. I couldn’t stop looking at him, just the mere sight of him pulled me into another world, one where he was king and I was queen… He must have noticed me too because he was by my side in a jiffy.
The voice whispered, “Take him.”
I focused on the game I was playing on my phone, ignoring both the voice and the guy next to me.
“Excuse me, I’m talking to you.”
“Are you coming to the throwback party?”
“You mean you are not coming to the party of the year? Babe you are sitting on a long thing.”
“Look I don’t care about your party so just go away.”
“Are you always this savage?”
“Only when I’m confronted with cheesy lines.”
He smiled and I forgot everything else as the voice took me through an exposition of his physical anatomy, from the white set of teeth that flashed every time he talked; past his full lips, down to the muscles that were begging for release under the green t shirt, the arms that looked like they were used to…
“So, your phone number?”
“Can I have your phone number?”
“So you can be bugging me with cheesy lines on the phone abi? No.”
“I promise to work on my lines.”
“And I promise to never disturb you with cheesy lines.”
We exchanged phone numbers and that was the beginning of a myriad of texts and calls that culminated in a romantic relationship. Soon enough, our passion got the better of us and we went all the way. Then he began to grow weak; I felt the strength leaving his body, and I knew he had little time left. I wanted to call it back and instruct it to stay put but I knew it wouldn’t listen. Somehow, I knew his strength had to leave him and it was because of me.
He died two months into our relationship, of unknown causes.
Mother visited me the day he died. Pure coincidence, she knew nothing about my escapades.
“Iremide, I went to see a powerful baba yesterday,” she started, leaning forward on the concrete bench “and he told me that the spirit of alantakun is following you. He said I should give you this holy water, that if you—”
“So you came all the way from the village to give me holy water?”
“Yes. You are all I have, you don’t expect me to open my eyes and watch evil people play with your life.”
“There is nothing like the spirit of alantakun. He is just trying to scam you.”
“I know that’s what you will say, but take this holy water, drink it, spray your room with it—”
“I can’t do that maami, you know this is a university, they don’t allow things like that here.”
“Do you want to kill me?” Mother said in a loud voice that earned us long stares from students around. “Do you want me to die before my time?”
“No now, I’m just saying—”
“You are not saying anything.” She cut in before I was able to make my case. “You will take the water, you will drink it, bathe with it, spray your room with it and carry some of it with you all the time.”
“Okay, I will take the water.”
“Uhnuhn! Nobody will kill you for me, their plan will not work. The plan—”
“I have a class soon,” I said, before she could go any further. “I have to go.”
“Okay. I will leave but don’t forget to use the water, it is very powerful.”
Later in the evening, alone in my room with my math textbook, I started getting visions. It started with a young spider who couldn’t keep her partners because they always died after mating then her female children too couldn’t keep their partners and it became their family thing so they were sent out of the community. Seven generations down the line, one of them became attached to a little girl so she blessed her, with the ancestral curse.
Alantakun … the spider … the kind spider, her gift, father, the voice, the urges, the escapades, the sudden deaths, it all started coming together in my head…
There’s a reason why this story starts with a song about a kind spider; not every blessing is a blessing. Sometimes, it’s a curse and you just can’t see it.
I fell to my knees as the truth hit me squarely in the face. All the men I have ever loved left me for good.
“Kind missy spider, on two legs
Alone, all alone in this world,
Kind missy spider all alone
In this world”
Those were the last words I heard before it went dark.