Thelma, tell Ma, your mother. Say you want to be her transparent lip gloss next Sunday. No one will care about the size of the lips, your ebony skin wouldn’t be sin. Home would not call you an outsider.
Thelma, tell Ma you want the lip gloss, not the thick wine lipstick. Be neither too foreign for home nor too old-fashioned for your squad. A lip gloss means no geriatric occupying the space of God in creased flesh will while hitching slipping folds of his agbada or tightening her iro, purify your face with icy stares, warped lips and ‘Omase o! All these Western influences’ or ‘painting is how to get good husband abi?, beginning lectures not given to your brothers – how marriage is a girl’s essence –how unready you are at fourteen, too strong-willed, tough enough to fight instead of soft enough to endure, to shrink.
Thelma, tell Ma you want to be her lip gloss next Sunday. Acceptable yet dazzling. Simple yet belonging, defeating the lip-drying, brown-coating and ashy-hazed harmattan.
Defeating everything trying to peel light off your star.
Thelma, tell Ma. After the service, the sun may give you your first kiss, smearing a lasting glow on you. Even when the sun fades and stars rush out to dance, they will wink at you to come home, pleased you attempt their language.
Thelma, tell Ma. Growing up – maturing within the space of two teeth – does not rule out glowing up. Africa ≠dryness. So be a lip gloss – shine! Even if fate’s fingers wipe you off after a lifetime, you would join the winking stars, where minority ≠ abnormality and infinity ÷ race/gender/culture = infinity. You will comprehend the unearthly language of a thousand eyes of sky in camaraderie, observing humanity, watching the blind ones in their rat race who divide the light of those they deem unequal.
You will finally find somewhere to call home – a thousand eyes of sky, no outsider. You would join, winking exultantly at those who attempt your family’s language. A thousand eyes of sky, no zeal to divide infinity’s expanse with differences. Glowing endlessly, eternally.
Boldly, Thelma, tell Ma.