I don’t like Eid.
It is wrong when I say it like that. Because I do not mean it like that. I believe myself to be a fairly spiritual person, I like what Eid represents generally. I don’t like what Eid represents for me.
As the days march on, closer to the dread that lies ahead for me, I get sulkier. My mother has noticed. She has noticed that I do that each Eid for the past three years. That is 5 Eids, 5 Eids of dread. 5 Eids of trepidation. 5 anxiety filled Eids of what if. Because it happened 6 Eids before.
In my part of the world, we call Eid day Sallah. Sallah means prayer; worship. Sallah means Eid; worship. My sister has suggested we get someone to design our hands with black lines of Henna. I prefer the red henna designs, it is more Sallah befitting, but I don’t tell her. Telling her means I might be looking forward to Sallah too, but I am not. I am, I am looking forward to Sallah, but without the burden that comes with it. Without the spree down memory street. The reminders; the henna paints that design my days in ugly stains of black.
My sister is now bugging me to call the tailor. “He listens to you more.” She whines on, she is convinced I am in a better position to push the tailor to meet her deadline of three days pre-Sallah.
“I called him”, I tell her. I don’t call him, I just pretend to.
“When is he bringing it?” She asks expectantly. “He says he’ll surely be ready two days before Sallah”. I tell her. Hopefully he won’t be ready then. She is disappointed but she lets it go.
The saloon is next. ‘I like my hair the way it is’ I tell her.
‘Get in the Sallah spirit Sis!’ She insists. I look away and don on an uninterested look. She sighs, she has given up on that one.
‘You are doing all these things because you want to snap pictures and send to your boyfriend. I don’t have a boyfriend, leave me alone’. I add.
Her face falls in sympathy. The sympathy towards me.
“But his death has nothing to do with Sallah. Why do you always act like a window each Sallah period?”.
‘He’ means my boyfriend, Abdulwahab. My ex rather. Is he an ex if he dies while you are still together? There should be a term for the widow of the unmarried. Only I am not sure I really grieved his passing. I was just waiting for the next Eid.
“This is not about his death!” I say to her firmly. I have refused to look at her. Or at anyone, they all anger me.
I storm away.
Sallah day comes and it is as I wanted it. The tailor brought our clothes in the morning and mine is so ill-fitting I almost cried of joy. With the late timing, there’s no way he can make adjustments, I am wearing some gown that looks every bit maternal. I had deliberately given him wrong measurements.
My hair is a mated mess. My finger nails are chipped. I look miserable. I want to look miserable. Maybe, just maybe, if they see me looking like I am about to die, like I genuinely regret what I did. Maybe they will stop the torture.
It is almost 12:00pm. I am restless. For 5 Sallah days consecutively, unfailingly, I get the same message. The message that reminds me of one decision.
It is 12:00pm. My heart has failed to remember how to pump blood. I can hear the whistle of panic inside my ears. ‘Please leave me alone’, I pray. I have prayed countless times to God to make it stop. But it is my punishment on Earth.
It is still 12:00pm and the message has not come in yet. I am hopeful. What if my prayer has been accepted and the person has died? I am slowly inhaling and exhaling now. My pulse is getting steadier. The message has never been this late.
It is 12:02pm. I smile. I prostrate to God in thanks. I am joyous. It is over! I rise up from my prostration. The first thing I see, straight ahead, is a wall clock. It is 12:00pm now. My phone’s clock setting is off.
It is 12:00pm now and I can feel the tears sting my eye. I feel the message before I see the notification. When you cry, do you taste the tear, the salty sea of regret inside your throat? Because I do. I am swallowing it like a meal. I am swallowing it like it will wipe away my turmoil. I am tired.
I open the message. I know what it says. It is the same thing it has said 3 years ago. It is from unknown. I open it anyway.
“I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SALLAH…”.
I choke. It will never stop. Now I know that. It will never stop until I know who the sender is, I don’t know who the sender is. It could be anyone. I thought it was Abdulwahab, but he is dead. The messages, sadly, live on.
It was Abdulwahab’s idea. I swear. Okay, not his idea to steal the gold. But he pressured me to do something as the good girlfriend I am. He is dying you see. Have you ever seen your loved one dying? Have you ever being the bystander, the helpless, useless one who feels guilty for breathing without pain. For sleeping and not having to wake up a dozen times a night , screaming, because you feel like your insides are being melted by acid. Have you ever seen someone so beautiful, Abdulwahab, he was so beautiful. Before he was reduced to nothing. To skin and bones. Have you ever…? Then don’t you dare judge me if you haven’t. Don’t you dare tell me I was stupid to be swayed by love. He was human, my human. He was an amazing human.
Abdulwahab would never seek for my help. He wasn’t rich, his parents were in the poor category even. But he was a proud fellow. No one knew his broke days because even on the days he would sleep hungry in school, he was sure to make everyone’s day cheery. That was my Abdul.
I knew he wouldn’t ask me for a dime, so when he did, I knew it was pain. I couldn’t bear it I swear. I did the first thing I could think of, I went through my mothers things carefully, for three days, until I found it. I found it a day before Sallah. I called him to get it on Sallah day.
Abdulwahab came by himself. And when I saw him, I cried till I felt sick. My love had withered. My loves was a dandelion, but he had been reduced to a stalk. My love was a rose; he was life, I couldn’t bear seeing him so sickly, sapped out of life. I knew then, I knew that even if it meant selling my fathers house to fund his treatment, I will.
Abdulwahab got better. For weeks after the treatment, he was looking like he had breathed the magic dust of life. But Abdulwahab was the only thing that got better. You see, I didn’t really sit to ponder what would happen when Mama realized that her set of gold worth N5.3 million was missing. I really didn’t think along that lane. My reasoning was a one way traffic. To help resucitate my love. I didn’t think.
Mama discovered her gold was missing three weeks after. She was puzzled. It wasn’t where she always kept it at, but no palaver. Maybe she had moved it. Each search though, each search were nothing turned up meant a step higher toward the heaven of hysteria where the angels of chaos were waiting. The whole house stayed awake that night. We searched, we looked, we raised every furniture. We denied, we accepted, we grieved. But Mama wouldn’t have it. She had saved this set for ten years, she wouldn’t have it getting missing now that she wants to sell it and get a new set of shinier gold.
It isn’t the house helps. We haven’t had one the month between the last time she saw it and the first time she discovered it missing. It isn’t us. Mama cannot even fathom what that would mean. Mama couldn’t concentrate, she wasn’t eating, she will be praying and you will hear her audibly exclaim ‘Hmmmmm!’. I was panicking.
Then three days later. Oh! I wish this part did not happen, it is the worse happening of all, but it did. Three days later, Mama stormed into the house. She went straight to the sitting room where Baba was lounging. She snatched the phone he was scrolling through and threw it aside before extending her palms before him.
“Give it back”. She ordered. Her hand was planted on her thick waist. The sides of her gown had pleated beneath her palm. I still remember it. It is not something you forget; your Mama accusing your father of stealing her gold set. Two lovers spatting. Because you decided to save your own lover. This is something that holds your brain to ransom.
Baba was furious. He is a furious man. He seems to be always riled up even when he doesn’t mean to. We have come to realise that he just seems that way. But that day, Baba was a furious, furious man. He told her to ‘stop that nonsense’. He asked her ‘are you mad? Did you drink something?’. He ordered her to ‘keep shut and behave this minute’. But I swear it was like Mama’s eyes were masked and her ears were plugged. She kept raging. She kept accusing. Then she said she was told by a Mallam. She just came back from a Mallam who checked the thief’s identity and he saw Baba. Baba wants to remarry, he wants to use her gold to remarry. Over and above her dead body.
I am still not sure if Mama believed the Mallam, or if it was just easier to blame Baba for it, or if she was pushed into believing because of jealousy. I never knew he was trying to marry a second wife until that very minute.
Baba flared up worse then. What?! A Mallam. You know what that means? No man of God has the ability to see things like this. This is sorcery. He never knew Mama consulted sorcerers. He cannot stay with a woman who does Shirk. He divorced Mama the next day. I was dazed all through the exchange and months after. I was in a simulation. I was a horrified audience watching a movie in 4D.
I didn’t tell Abdulwahab the problem my little heist caused at home. I didn’t want him to blame himself . But while life was seeping back into him, it was seeping out of me. It was like I had fed him the happiness in my life. I had once wanted to take some of his pain away even if it meant me bodying it. I must be careful what I wish for.
The guilt was eroding me, I was the desert, reducing to nothing but loose sand. My parents are apart, because of me. I still cannot believe it sometimes.
Then the first message. 2 months later, 2 months after small Eid, on big Eid day. ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST EID. AND I WILL MAKE SURE YOU PAY FOR IT’.
Denial, it is a wrong message. It is a prank. It is not Abdulwahab. But who else knows. This is horrible. They will tell. I am dead. Acceptance.
Abdulwahab died a month after. 34 days precisely. I had stopped loving him then. These things, these guilt trips, they take a toll on you. They wear out your emotions and all the feelings you thought you had into dust. I was broken a bit more when he died. My parents are still not back together. They are both standing their ground. But does that mean that the ‘unknown’ has gone too. I was hopeful.
The next Sallah day, I didn’t think much of it. It was a one-off incident. So I had thought. When I received the second cryptic message, I knew shit had hit the literal roof. Someone was onto me, and he was NOT letting up. The next Sallah, I knew it was coming. And it did come. The next Sallah, I prayed throughout Ramadan for it to not come. I was psychotic. Everyone seemed like the sender of the message. I was in a punishment. What if they tell? What if they blackmail? What if I blurt it out? Then the next Sallah…
Do you know what it feels like to be waiting for two particular days on the whole annual calender? The two days you are to be reminded of being a thief and a home wrecker. The two days to mark your treachery. It happened on the day of small Eid, but this person never misses a chance to remind me even on big Eid.
It is a biennial event.
This Sallah, I reasoned maybe if I don’t look like I am enjoying life, maybe they will say I have been punished enough. But they didn’t. They sent a message to continue taunting my wretched self. I am honestly so frustrated I won’t mind they telling all that I am the cause of everybody’s woes. I won’t mind making this rollercoaster crash. I won’t mind… what if I do it? If I tell, they have nothing else to tell. If I tell, I am free of this hell.
I find myself standing before Mama. I look crazed. I feel crazed. Mama is seated on the two seater of the sitting room of the home she has been occupying since she was divorced from Baba. My three siblings are with her too. Baba is married, we don’t like his wife. Somehow, we conveniently made her the blame placeholder. Even I did. It is easier to live with myself if I locate an object to dash my blame to. Baba’s new wife is the coffee table.
Then I hear the words sprinting out. It is a marathon inside me now that I have decided to out everything. It is a stampede. I am confessing my sins to mother and I am saying forgive me, for I have sinned.
Every emotion of confusion and grief has graced my mothers face today. I can see it. She is processing. She is processing the implication of what I have done, what she has done. She isn’t believing it. She is believing it.
My sister says “What messages? You are not making sense”. My sister does not want this to be true. She hopes I am going crazy, seeing things, saying things.
I say “The messages sent by someone who knows what happened. It reads ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SALLAH. AND I WILL MAKE YOU PAY’.
My sisters face contorts in understanding. And I am the one trying to disbelief. She says it the moment I realise it. She says “there’s no blackmailer Fati. I sent that message that Sallah day to punish you for stealing my clothing style and telling the tailor to change mine into something uglier. It was just a prank.”
But, but no. It is sent every Sallah day. It is more complicated than this. Someone is behind this. I tell my sister so. I tell her I have received this message every Eid afterwards.
“I must have sent it through the app then. I have an app that sends automated Eid messages to all my contacts. I must have used it and hidden my ID for that message. If I don’t cancel the message, it sends every Eid”.
I tell her it makes no sense. It cannnot be that simple. I cannot have been through this hell for three years because of this explanation. But Mama has recovered from her shock. And now Mama has faced me. I am the dancer finally facing the tune of my music.