This Is How To Orphan a Child: by Lydia Durunguma

The streets of Angwan Tiv were littered with hawkers, kiosks, money doublers, hungry looking prosperity preachers, buyers and sellers of love, change-thirsty police officers whose pants hung loosely around their hips, beggars whose begging dangled at an important distance from the pedestrians, and cars moving both left and right on a one way road.

The sky spat ashen and grey hues on the night’s black canvass. The sun burnt, pale pink, lame albino man trying to cross the two-way one-way road faintly betrayed the night’s blackness. Sympathy perched slowly on the onlookers. Inverted half smiles formed on lips that know cigarettes, and strangers and curses and death. It was as ordinary as it was uncommon to see a lame, sun blinded albino man, with a crutch cradled under each arm, fiddle across the busy road.

It wasn’t about why he was crossing or where he was headed. It was about humanity outnumbering humans. It was about letting themselves become victims to the emotions hiding in the cozy corners of themselves – the corners that never forgets how to love.

Tires screeched to a halt, motorcycle riders jerked front and back at the command of their brakes. For a moment, it was almost still, almost silent, almost peaceful. All unified by a common emotion. They could hear the warm wind whisper, ‘lightly, lightly.’ And in that moment, it didn’t matter that the mad woman by the garbage dump was pregnant, or that the forty year old man had his head buried in the stale cleavage of a twelve year old girl, or that a father was testing his sons reins on substandard cocaine. All that mattered was the man crossing the street.

A few more steps and then calm would realize that this is not home; well, it realized this a few steps earlier when a golf car came from behind, like desperate child cutting through the bathroom line. It swerved to the right, into the foot path, overtaking the stationary cars, before climbing back on the tarred road. The car’s exhaust yelped in pain from the speed it wasn’t designed to withstand. The driver was not taking his foot off the gas and this wasn’t some miracle crusade where the lame man would suddenly throw his crutches and run across the street. So shrill cries ensued as the car’s hood picked up the man and flung his body on the windshield, over the car and rolled him down the boot. His crutches and footwear went their separate ways. The driver stopped and alighted. Dazed, he looked at the pool of blood trickling down the man’s head, it’s colour camouflaged into the night. He looked down at the shattered glass that laced the tarred road. The noise of the crash made the world hush. He just stared at the image that was now etched in his head; this was not how he’d imagined he would ever sweep anyone off their feet.

The tension began brewing, still silent to the driver. He only saw movement. Once they had all realized that the lame man was dead, unforgiving eyes pierced through him. Slowly approaching, they all looked at him like a regurgitated meal. He made a run for his car. ‘Bring the fuel, burn am there,’ someone squalled. The whole street went into a frenzy. Running towards the scene carrying kegs of fuel with such ease that one wouldn’t have guessed it was purchased at a hundred and fifty naira per litre and they had to be barbecued in a queue before getting it. Amidst the chaos, the two policemen who witnessed the crash fled away into a nearby alley and stripped down to their boxers and bare chests, lest they’d be identified as law enforcement agents.

The crowd grabbed the driver and stripped him; drowning his begging in petrol and pieces of broken wood while screaming, ‘suya’.

He kept pointing at the car as if he could move the car with his finger if he pointed hard enough. A streak of tears trickled down his cheek, demarcating the oil. A stick of cigarette was thrown on him. He danced with the flames and it licked every inch of him. The dance lit up the street, bright yellow and pale blue. They both danced till they were worn out and weary, then they stopped, cuddled and became one.

The crowd proceeded to strip the car naked as well. They wouldn’t match make it with the fire, it was theirs to dance with – their trophy. At the order of a moving finger, the little old boys unscrewed the tyres and neatly broke off the back windshield wipers. The doors were about to come off as well when one of the boys signaled for his master’s presence. His master approached.

What he saw was one of those sights that made you calm, breathless and numb. It made you taste your tongue, and smell your breath and see your eyes and feel your ears, and made your weight feel so heavy, as though your bowels were made of cement and stones. In the front seat of the car, a baby lay – screaming and kicking, covered in someone else’s blood. The umbilical cord uncut, his mother sprawled on the car seat. She must have taken a hit from the air bag. Blood seethed through every crack on her face and he wondered what she looked like. He thought about how this baby would have been better off born on the moon. He picked up the baby like a cracked egg and whispered loudly, ‘na who sabi bath pikin here? ‘ The crowd and clouds gathered like sugar ants on a banana. The sky cried alongside the baby.

The streetlights continue watching them, like the eyes of God.

 


 Lydia Durunguma (@lydia_durunguma ) is a writer who hails from Eastern Nigeria; when she’s not writing, she’s making dresses or conjuring conspiracy theories in her head. She also loves food to a lethal extent. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.

Related country: Nigeria

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