In a forgotten land
there was a forgotten bird
who spanned the length of River Kyle
longer than Nile.
In a forgotten land
there was a forgotten fish
who swam the nooks of River Kyle
longer than Nile
The forgotten fish fell in love with the forgotten bird
For several full moons
Through fatal storms
And lethal waves
and their love?
was longer than Nile.
Such height of love
But they couldn’t build a home
They never would
And Their tears?
Were heavier than mine.
There she stood, 23, in front of the misty mirror of her bathroom. All she wore was flesh. She leaned to wipe the mist off the mirror; enough to produce a clear reflection of herself. In her recoil, she angled her left arm and helped her wet hair backward.
Like it was glued, her left palm was stuck to her hair. Flirty waters on her hair left her hair for her back. They caressed down it. Her reflection was fixed, but she couldn’t see herself. Kufre’s last words were on repeat in her head: “I got a better girl; I’m sorry. Go step up.”
He had said that just once last week’s Thursday, but she’d heard that for the decillionth time. How could words that came in whispers seem louder than the rock beats from a dance club? She had doubted those words until Kufre left through the doors of that same Kilimanjaro restaurant where he had proposed to her about two months back; in front of everyone.
Such dissolution. Just like that?
She felt stupid for two, and did sweat profusely even though she just left the bath. Besides, harmattan was on vacation in Nigeria.
‘Better girl’? What was better and what wasn’t? What could ever be the standard of beauty? How else could one be than be oneself? She was haunted. The ghost of Kufre’s words chased her to oblivion so that all her escape route was a blink. And another. She slowly let her left arm down through her forehead, to her eyes. With her thumb to her left eye and her index finger to the other eye, she slid both fingers from the ends until they met at her nose bone. Then did she realize that the sink’s tap has been on. She let a sigh slip and flushed her face.
From her mirror image, she grew conscious of the acne plantation on her cheeks. Past her hips, her legs bowed. Her gap leg was clear. Her skin was yet brown, and in her pool of forgetfulness, she ran her right palm over her left arm. From the wrist—up—and she rested it on her shoulder. Yes she wasn’t armed to the tooth at her chest, but she had enough. Her nose, as firm as the Eiffel tower; a LED light was no match for her eyes’ glitter. She raised her brow and flinched.
They had talked this over, but Kufre wouldn’t just accept. He had got her bleaching creams which she had refused. She preferred her skin tone. She wasn’t an advocate of heavy make-ups; she preferred it mild, so she had chosen little from Kufre’s options. He had tried introducing her to medications that would ‘charge’ her chest. She was neither for the heavy clubbing nor for ass pads. She rejected tattoos. She wasn’t ready to be turned to a doll. In as much as she had nothing against the kind of girl Kufre wanted from her, she just wasn’t ready to create a different personality from the personality that had met Kufre at that Biology class in 2010. That was all her offence.
‘Perhaps,’ he’d thought, ‘the ring would get her to reconsider her stands of being her.”
But what was beauty? And what was ugliness? Who was to be looked up to? Models? Disney? What was its definition in absoluteness? Are there not mere brands of beauty, and not ‘ugliness’? Should the sanguine be seen as beautiful and the phlegmatic as ugly? Or should the qualities be reversed? How boring would it be if everyone had equal lengths of hair? Or same color of skin? Or all straight legs and no bow legs? What height of mundaneness would evolve from having all Japanese to be melancholic? Or from having all Nigerians possess bulgy eyes? On what scale would summer be beautiful and winter ugly?
Adaolisa yanked her black striped pant up to her waist, and pulled her towel over her skin. She used the deodorant on herself, and with her hands, caught the sink at the mirror’s base like she intended to pull it out. She gnashed her teeth at her reflection, and let her head drop. She could feel her eyes leak as she struggled to fix her gaze up to the eyes of her mirror image.
“You can go, Kufre,” she sighed. “You can go.”
That clingy afternoon, when the sun came to watch the birds glide, and the leaves finally get their freedom from their Stem Stalk parents, He made her.
In sheer decision He kept her for the last. Even after Adam. He drowned Adam in sleep. Who knows what else He sentenced to bottomless slumber aside Adam? Maybe the entirety of our Milky Way. He needed no disturbance, and an extra rib.
He sat, and rolled the mud in patches. One on the other. At the neck area, He changed the original plan. Immediately after the neck–at the shoulder level–His descretion added more mud. And more. In two separate heaps. At about the center of her full length, by the sides, He added more mud. In bounds. They could pull the moon out of place.
He was far from done. His essence was next. In excess was His essence that she couldn’t contain. Surely, she came alive, but was made the sole bleeding specie of life. She could bleed, successively and retain an arsenal of contagious smiles.
In His omnipotency even, He went to rest. For a whole day.
She was forever and a day beyond ordinary.
Iyke kissed me in the rain
Martin in the woods
But Prince only looked at me
And never kissed at all
Iyke’s kiss was lost in infidelity
Martin’s lost in ill humour
But the kisses in Prince’s eyes
They haunt me.
Night and day.
He saw fresh stray of brown powder marks, and recognized she was trying to impress. They strayed, but were sexy. She musn’t know.
“Hi,” he muttered.
His vocals were obviously stunned. They betrayed him. His eyes too. But that was mild. He’d grasped his school bag tightly; perhaps to save him from overreacting.
Her lips arched. Berry fleshy–they arched until the black guardian dot of her upper lip knew such arching was rare. It was right. It’s been a week that looked like a decade since she met him.
Sitting on that elevated wall; with her jealous black bag, her pink headband peeping through the finger-gaps of its hand covering, and her ebony tanned legs, she shone.
“Hi,” she managed.
She had to ease off. Some bit. So she hit him many times for a flimsy cause. And they walked; past the gate.
“Nothing is happening,” whispered their hearts to their minds. At the same time. One in treble; the other in baritone.
“Nothing is happening,” the stray brown powder smiled.
Exactly on Saturday, Senegal was declared Ebola free. And today, Nigeria was declared Ebola free too. For me, that was some good news. I had basked in pride of being a Nigerian, and reveled in the seemingly out-of-trouble euphoria. On my hostel bed, I said “Thank God it’s over.” But for some hours now, I’ve felt bad for my reactions. I’ve felt myopic and selfish.
In a letter so heart-wrenching, from Liberia’s president, I saw how this was.
In just over six months, Ebola has managed to bring my country to a standstill. We have lost over 2,000 Liberians. Some are children struck down in the prime of their youth. Some were fathers, mothers, brothers or best friends. Many were brave health workers that risked their lives to save others, or simply offer victims comfort in their final moments.
There is no coincidence Ebola has taken hold in three fragile states – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – all battling to overcome the effects of interconnected wars. In Liberia, our civil war ended only eleven years ago. It destroyed our public infrastructure, crushed our economy and led to an exodus of educated professionals. A country that had some 3,000 qualified doctors at the start of the war was dependent by its end on barely three dozen. In the last few years, Liberia was bouncing back. We realized there was a long way to go, but the future was looking bright.
Now Ebola threatens to erase that hard work. Our economy was set to be larger and stronger this year, offering more jobs to Liberians and raising living standards. Ebola is not just a health crisis – across West Africa, a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe as harvests are missed, markets are shut and borders are closed.
The virus has been able to spread so rapidly because of the insufficient strength of the emergency, medical and military services that remain under-resourced and without the preparedness to confront such a challenge. This would have been the case whether the confrontation was with Ebola, another infectious disease, or a natural disaster.
But one thing is clear. This is a fight in which the whole world has a stake. This disease respects no borders. The damage it is causing in West Africa, whether in public health, the economy or within communities – is already reverberating throughout the region and across the world.
The international reaction to this crisis was initially inconsistent and lacking in clear direction or urgency. Now finally, the world has woken up. The community of nations has realized they cannot simply pull up the drawbridge and wish this situation away.
This fight requires a commitment from every nation that has the capacity to help – whether that is with emergency funds, medical supplies or clinical expertise.
I have every faith in our resilience as Liberians, and our capacity as global citizens, to face down this disease, beat it and rebuild. History has shown that when a people are at their darkest hour, humanity has an enviable ability to act with bravery, compassion and selflessness for the benefit of those most in need.
From governments to international organisations, financial institutions to NGOs, politicians to ordinary people on the street in any corner of the world, we all have a stake in the battle against Ebola. It is the duty of all of us, as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves against an enemy that they do not know, and against whom they have little defence.
The time for talking or theorizing is over. Only concerted action will save my country, and our neighbours, from experiencing another national tragedy. The words of Henrik Ibsen have never been truer: “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.”
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.