Sometimes the body stops believing itself, chews away its skin with venomous thoughts. A miracle God begs you to stop performing. – Wine, Theresa Lola.
Years teach you how a Saviour isn’t a man but someone, anyone, who wears crosses on the back, not the tongue.
You knew crosses early – your mother fought battles to the glory of your father, her dignity was too light on the scale of in-laws. Whenever she paid paralyzed Grandma’s hospital bills,
your father became the crown receiving all the thanks. She crouched under and no matter how her body itched there or how the weight paralyzed her, they never counted her worthy enough to be queen.
Yes, you knew – your mother’s being was a country dying in war – a soul unable to find a refugee camp. Flames licked her existence ravenously, daily.
Smoke was a familiar taste to her tongue while death remained a riddle for the ashy sky holding the future’s dreams.
Your mother had a choice she could not choose.
Yes, you knew – before you learnt to walk, you learnt the language of darkness, the first light you knew was ash. You feared no one liked these and since you had to be likeable to breathe, you wore masks daily,
colourful shades concealing all that bled underneath.Society taught you emotion and masculinity were parallel, even if ash lived in your eyes.
You gave in, yet who would I tell?
was housed between your heartbeats each time you faked normalcy –
broad smiles, hearty laughter and “I’m fine”.
You knew – as a child, your mother’s voice was more a swing than the nonsense suspended from chains at the playground. Sometimes, a miracle, sometimes, soft like mango flesh. Sometimes, a rod.
No matter the form, it taught you salvation.
Salvation was your mother on the bathroom floor, her turgid African hair scattered across terrazzo, her knees wobbling, bathwater becoming the Red Sea, her voice – this time a rod raised to God – parting everything threatening her wedding ring,
willing all snatchers and demons to please drown so she and her only child(thankfully a son, less shame) could reach the Promised Land.
For your father, salvation was the constant lip stains of strange women on his cheek, the frothing bottles generating a nauseating smell of death on his breath,a freedom he found that imprisoned you
with the chore of wiping the vomit that transformed your mother’s voice from mango flesh to a rod.
Your parents enrolled you in a Christian school, Glorious Salvation School, so your life would not be a glorious sin like theirs. Here, you were a sinner though – well punished – you flouted the no-stylish-haircut rule.
Here, Wisdom is the principal thing was actually the Principal’s thing,
a daily message your ears never missed.
Your heart did anyway.
At eleven, salvation found your heart.
Though you seemed shy and innocent,the damsel accepted. You broke her – you were too broken. Gyrating and grinding beneath swirling lights became excess salt and water on your pillow at 2 AM.
A lifetime regret, you learnt never to start a journey if its end bled.
At thirteen, one night, your mother who hardly had time for you, so busy parting Red Seas, found you wide-eyed, shrieking in pleasure,eyes glued to your phone. Before you jumped and switched to the Bible app, she nabbed you, the sticky patch on your shorts silenced the lie brewing on your tongue.
Your eyes communicated,
I won’t hide – we’ve stitched enough shame beneath our skins, haven’t we?
You confessed your sins. Fully. After frantic screams, slaps and “No phone till eighteen,” your mother begged you to wait, saying salvation was not in a female body.
At thirty, when your daughter asks what salvation is, you do not do what you did when you said sex was merely gender,that bitch was simply a female dog. You tear off your mask, the ash in your eyes unravels. In tears, though she does not understand
your first language, you say,
“Baby, salvation begins with death.”