This is Nigeria and so your name, though common, is pronounced Samweh – not Samuel. On a sweltering afternoon, after an hour of street football where, with your neighbours, you pride in a jersey of the bare chest and boxer shorts, after continuous successions of firing and heading the leathery sphere into car tyres serving as goalposts, after nearly breaking an old barber’s window and hitting a pregnant woman’s grinding machine, you return home. Thick beads of sweat swirl and trickle throughout your body – a souvenir of running despite the harsh Lagos sun.

On getting home, your father asks you to make tea. For him of course. And him only – your mother is in the U.S – one nonsense postgraduate course in psychology. Your sweat falls into the tea like a fallen soldier but your father hates the taste of blood, of excess salt. So when he flares up, you get ready.

As usual.

Surprisingly, it is not the tea this time. “Nonsense! Ehn, how many times will I tell you, are you supposed to serve me with that your dirty left hand? I will cut it off o.”

This is Nigeria where minorities become abnormalities, so it does not matter if you are leftist – you are considered an abnormal stubborn child. It doesn’t matter if God programmed you that way. It does not matter what you are to be – you are forced to be who you are supposed to be – who the eyes of parents/teachers/elders consider reputable – even if their definition of prestige is too old in a fast-changing world to stand relevant.

On your father’s birthday, though it was the eve of your math exam, you spent hours preparing what you considered the best present – a perfect painting of your father.

Your father’s response remains with you forever – zero smiles, no thank you – four hard knuckles on your skull and “Math tomorrow- this is what you are supposed to be doing abi?”

Ever since then, you have hated this phrase – supposed to.

And so after serving your father tea, you would lock yourself up, ignoring the shouting and threats to inform your mother when she calls. Eating nothing despite a gnawing stomach and angrily curled up in bed, the afternoon would turn to night and you would eat the moon, raise walls to your heart and become a diameter, splitting everything, probably including yourself, into half. Only God knows if the halves would be equal. Only He can stop you.

But before this, before the splitting and destruction, you construct, your math teacher’s voice resonating in your mind, “Strike an arc above and below.”

Above and below.

You move back, then closer, smash the saucer against your father’s feet and as his eyes widen in horror, you complete the construction, moving your hands above, then throwing the hot teacup on his face. Hot tea burns his face.

For the first time, you do not fail construction. Rather, you have a perfect score since you determine the score this time.

After the construction, just before the destruction, before you become a diameter splitting everything into half, before your father screams and flares up as usual, you grin- you’ve done something highly unusual. Before your father says you are not supposed to do such, before you lock yourself up, you become who you have always wanted to be – a teenager not supposed to be.

Categories: Stories


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