How Was She? - Bikozulu
5 months ago, 9 Jan 13:25
What’s the lifespan of chicken? Well, it doesn’t matter because all of my mother’s chicken are gone. The chicken-pen – a small wooden structure that the local boys built as my mother sat on the verandah sipping her tea in the bright midday sunlight of shags- now houses new chicken with a new mistress. Everything changes when you are rested six feet under; for one, someone else takes over your chicken pen. We sit in the rental Toyota for a second longer, neither of us willing to step out. It has just clocked midday. My hand rests passively on the knob of the gear stick, now on P. The car hums. The boma is silent. There are no chicken in sight, just the sound of birds without names. My big sister says “haya” as if we had been talking about something and pushes the door open. My father is standing at the head the stairs. He’s smiling. Why wouldn’t he be smiling? He has a lot to be smiling about now. As my sister scampers out, I sit there for a little longer looking at the chicken-pen before I push open the door. Melvine hugs Simon. Melvine is the girl. Simon is the dad. Simon gave Melvine the name which, I only learnt in adulthood, is also a man’s name. But now Melvine is the man of our family, the lioness. She leads all of us. She settles disputes. She says, “Biko, you are wrong, cool off and do good.” She tells her small sister, “Keep your money away, a woman never spends all her money.” We sometimes disagree with her but we all listen to her. She thinks like a woman and then she thinks like two men. When the pillar of my mother crumbled to dust five years ago, we thought that was it, we would be scattered like grain during planting season. But strength rises from unlikely sources, and she rose and she now sits on the matriarch’s chair, a big force of a woman with the big heart of her mother and the stubbornness of the one who named her Melvine. Hugging my father has never come naturally. He wasn’t the kind of guy who you hugged. They weren’t the kind of men who hugged back then. So he presses my shoulder. I press his back with the palm of my hand. I’m taller than him now because old age is now curving him. I feel his dainty weight with that hug. I feel his age with it. I feel his fragility as a man and our unresolved frictions with it. Behind him stands his wife. I remember sitting in the sitting room on Sunday mornings when we were kids, watching KBC and hearing the deep murmur of my dad’s voice from my parents’ closed bedroom door. They would talk for hours because they did nothing on Sundays as Seventh Day Adventists. Apart from his shaving at the sink barechested, a towel covering his lower body, ...
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