The way it curled over the colour fading wall irritated me, its antennae spreading over the surface as if finding a radio signal. While I watched, it lifted off the wall and towards my direction. Being a boy and always scared of cockroaches is an abomination. I hate those creepy creatures. Especially when they climb my body with haste; those tiny legs, if I let them though, send shivers down my spine. Cockroaches.
Where I come from, we don’t say a lady is pregnant. We say she ‘swallowed a cockroach’. Euphemism is the only way we escape reality with words. And one day, my sixteen-year-old sister, Hikmat, swallowed ‘cockroaches’. Listen, I said cockroaches because her Storex* shaped stomach longed for relief despite the fact that it was just five months old! I’m sure it’s up to two zygotes lurking in her womb. Hikmat is short, with an overmatured body who receives more money than I do when we have visitors. She’s more or less a jovial introvert. She has mood swings, but that wasn’t a barrier for cockroaches to climb into her womb.
The day I suspected she’d already known a man was on a Sunday when our parents traveled to Lagos to mourn with uncle Ben who lost his wife in a car accident. We were told not to leave the house till their arrival in the evening. But like our granny would say “stubbornness is always tied in a child’s chest “. Immediately they left, I became free like a bird. We both were like the wind, as we strolled the streets with Daniel and Seun who later lured me to play football with those potbellied adults who kept looking for a kid as their keeper, and I was the perfect match.
Dusk swallowed the sun and drowned us into gradual darkness. That moment, I had to run back home with my dust filled shirt and slippers in both hands. It was a night of cheerful gloominess with the shyness of stars sprawled across the sky. I met darkness in the stairs’ hallway leading to our apartment. Ìyá Super, our largemouth neighbor who built castles for latest area gist and gossips in her throat sat outside viewing the city from her balcony. I also stood there for some moment enjoying the view of mixed blue, white, and yellow lights forming a cacophonous gallery through the city, with smokes drifting and hovering each congested zone. Our parents weren’t home yet, as I walked to the door and unlocked it with my spare key. Everywhere drowned in darkness except my beloved sister’s room which was partially illuminated by the faint light leaking from the poorly charged lamp. I moved closer to her room only to hear a man’s voice that’s not my dad’s buzzing from there. I pushed it open and there, she was lying sideways on her bed with uncle tayo lying on his chest facing a huge senseless mathematics textbook and a note book, with a pen in his hand, a bright smile on his face, and beads of sweat dripping down both their faces.
Ìyá Super. People call her with emphasis on ‘SU—P—A ‘, which sounded the way our grandma used to call spaghetti ‘su —pa— geti ‘ in Yoruba accent. Ìyá Super called me into her square shaped shop the following morning on my way to school with Hikmat. She called me alone and my sister waited nervously because were late. I knew something was up. either I or my sister was in trouble, but I guessed it was me. She tapped me for the first time and mockingly smiled at me with those scattered sets of teeth stained with faint crimson colour.
“Where you go yestadey? ” the poorly constructed question faded into my ears with fear.
“I… I… I went to… “
“You go and play ball abi? “
“Yes ma, but I… “
“Shey you see your sister with Boda (brother) Tayo yesterday? “
I couldn’t answer that, but held my peace as she rained me with many other questions.
“Shey you know wetin happen yestadey? “
“Shebi you dey notice your sister since yestadey? Abi you no suspect her ni?”
“Wait make I tell you something… ” she started her full story with whispers and demonstrations of hands with different facial expressions.
“Yestadey as I sit down for balcony dey calculate money, na so I see Hikmat and Boda Tayo go inside your house with big big books, and me I no wan put my nose inside another pesin matter. But as I dey count my money go na so I hear your sister dey scream. na small small scream I dey hear. Sometimes the scream dey long, sometime e dey short . I first think sey boda Tayo dey beat her for home work ni, but again I hear her laugh small, the laughing be like say she no wan make people hear am. Ahh!, na then I con know sey something dey shele, I come waka jeje to your window, I come see Boda Tayo ontop your sister for chair, but I no see them well ooo…”
As Iyá Super said these things, my mind drifted back to yesterday when I saw Hikmat in her short towel, and uncle Tayo lying beside her. Sweats drenched their bodies as they cloaked the math textbook with their gaze. But tell me, who studies math on a bed with a matured girl, with a faint light shrinking through a tired lamp, in a lone serene house where there is no disturbance, if not body theft?
“I need air” she said, as we both left the kitchen with one hand on her back and the other held mine. We sat on a wooden bench at the backyard starring at the lone moon sneaking up to the sky, and the sun closely drowning adjacent to it. The kids in the yard yell each other’s’ names as they ran crazily into each other while playing. It’s dusk, and mom was busy writing her lesson notes for the following day’s work. Father returned from work not long thereafter and we all went in. He caught an unusual movement from the corner of his eyes as he removed his socks. Hikmat, he said her name gently. And just sat into the couch beside the door. I expected him to be mad at her, or even us; rather, he only asked who the father is. After that he wept. Mom couldn’t hold herself, she cried along, and Hikmat too. I also had to cry. Since then, they never mentioned anything about the pregnancy, not even to confront uncle Tayo who disappeared a few weeks after the incident.
Hikmat’s protruding belly scares me. each time I stare into it I have this kind of feeling that it’ll burst or erupt through different vents. I wonder how she’s feeling. Her voice jerks me out…
“Faruq, will it be alright?” Her voice lingered in my ears, as tears slipped down her cheeks.
“Giving birth. Will It go smoothly?”
“Yeah, sure… Besides, you still have four more months to go “
“What do you expect after all this?”
“You’ll drop those babies with mom and become charming again.”
“Babies?” She smiled, her lips forming a bow.
“Yes. Don’t you know there are two cockroaches in there? “
She laughed again, this time her lips formed the shape of a rainbow as she rests her head on my shoulder and the moon floated gallantly to the sky, painting everywhere blue.
*Storex is a brand of tanks for storing water
Wisdom Adediji, NGP XI, is a Nigerian genre bending writer. His work has appeared/forthcoming on Icefloe press, kalahari review, African writer mag, Eboquills, kreative diadem, and elsewhere. He is an undergraduate of the University of Ibadan where he studies Geography. Meet him on Twitter @wisdomadediji, Instagram, @wisdomadediji7.