“I remember you and your brother
Why doesn’t he visit?”
But how do you tell an outsider
of depraved gunmen who
broke into your house,
And made your brother
break into your body
How do you unremember
begging him to
just do it,
just do it
So the gun pressed to his skull
would not go off
How do you forget
the loud click of an empty chamber
that still resounds in your ears;
their loud laughter
as your brother avoided your eyes
and you avoided his.
How do you learn to say,
“He’s fine oh, he’s fine.”
I am cutting vegetables with the bread knife but you haven’t called me out yet. And then you say, or ask: Your sister is not back yet? as if she is my daughter and you are my sister. No, I reply. My response is clipped and in time with my knife against the chopping board attempting to kill the conversation.
She went to see a man? You are insistent, but not like you usually are. Today is quiet, and maybe worried as opposed to the regular accusatory tone. Yes. This is my protection, these monotonous, flat answers. I am protecting you from her and her from you. But you do not understand this, you believe I am partisan in this democracy.
I hope they aren’t there alone; I have told her not to be alone with a man in a house. And I chop a little faster so I do not laugh. Because you and father had me before you wedded, was there a chaperone?
I do not respond this time.
Or what do you think? Your voice has morphed into the one you use when gossipping with your friends; as if we are sisters now and she is our daughter. Or do you go to visit men alone?
I drop my knife, stroll to wash the needy strips of ugwu off my hands. I think of the boyfriend I lived with for two months when I was in England.
Yes, mummy. This is 2015, I say.
I have hurt you. You can not hide your flinch and even though I brush it away in the present, your grimace stays with me long after we finish making the soup in silence.
It comes to me later. After my sister comments on her surprise that you didn’t scold her for coming in that late.
It is a story you told us many years ago. Of an empty house and a male best friend. Of grasping fingers and a scuffle. Of a heart smarting with betrayal and a bruised knee in a groin.
And I am ashamed.