Somebody’s Daughter

Sharon Onyinyechukwu Okey-Onyema

Demi is sitting at the desk on the other side of the room with only a bralette and denim shorts on. There is no light in the room except for the dim solar lantern lit up on her table. There are pieces of papers everywhere: on her table, on the bed, on the floor; notes on which everything her eyes have ever captured are scribbled.

“Come make me yours,

Spirit, soul and body”

Somebody’s Daughter

She stands up slowly from the desk as the lights come on, puts off the lantern and puts the CD to Timaya’s “Bom Bom”. Her waist is unable to catch up with the song but she is moving anyway. The fan blows a piece of paper towards her and she sighs, bends low and takes it. This one is a picture of the kind of life she had hoped for when she was in jss1 even up to ss2, before her father died. There is a picture of her father, mother, she and Kamsiyochukwu on this paper. Kamsiyochukwu is also dead now, five months after her father, three years since she left Nigeria. Her mother had called her to say that he had died of swelling, stomach cancer and “so chukwu maara ihe ojoo m mere”. Demi did not believe her mother but she did not have the strength to go back home to search for truths. She did not believe she should apply Professor Duke’s “Theory of Curiosity and the Quest to Know” – the one which the philosophy lecturer had said, as he casually nodded his head like the blue and orange lizard Demi hated back home, explained why human beings would abandon everything, especially comfort to embark on a seemingly visionless journey for truth.

The theory explained that the truth may not always be found but there is a kind of fulfilment that comes from the journey itself. When she thought about it again, Demi also did not know why she should not believe that her brother had died of swelling, stomach cancer and her mother’s tears over the phone. So she stayed back, quit school, moved in with Jackie, the person who sat next to her in her first lecture at the university and in three years became someone she could not do without, and answered her mother’s unusually frequent, “How is school? O na-aga kwa? I hope you are coping fine” calls with “We thank God”. They would both keep quiet after that, willing to say many things and ask more questions. Instead, Demi would stare out of the window where she always stood to take her mother’s calls. She would hold her phone to her ear and count to one hundred and twenty when her mother’s sobs must have filled up the vacuum in her chest, then she would say, “Emecha, Mma” and wait to hear her reply, “Ngwanu. Bye bye” before ending the call.

Her waist is moving faster now and she cannot tell if it is because of the tears or if she is only becoming a better dancer, the kind of daughter an African mother would boast with at a traditional wedding. No mother cared about that here and that was the kind of mother she wanted to be – a no mother. When she got invited to Jackie’s elder sister’s wedding she asked, “Where’s the ceremony holding?” and Jackie’s reply was, “What ceremony? There’s only going to be a court wedding”.

“What? You’re kidding. Your mother is fine with no party?”

Jackie chuckled. “Of course. No mother cares about that here”.

And those words stuck with Demi. She loved weddings and the parties but she did not like the pressure that came with them, especially when she went for weddings and her mother would hold her and tell her, “I hope you can see how big the wedding is? You are my Ada and only daughter. You have to bring a worthy man home”.

She rushes to put the song on repeat and bends low to shake faster and better. She is amazed at how easy it is for her to cry and dance and bend lower and shake the more and cry the more.

“Look at all these people,

They are sad but they don’t even know”

-Chukwuemeka Akachi

“What do you think of a traditional wedding?” Demi asks as soon as Jackie comes into the room. Jackie starts laughing because Demi’s dance steps are funny. Demi joins her because she cannot see Jackie laughing and not laugh. And then she continues to cry realising that Jackie is her only link to laughter. Demi hugs Jackie from behind and her legs slow down but do not stop. As the tears flow, Demi digs out the laughter just before it goes down her throat. Now, they are both laughing and dancing and crying.

On the other side of the paper Demi is holding, there is a picture of her mother telling her, “Kamdemilichukwu, I am sending you abroad to be a better person. Remember whose daughter you are.” She remembers, or maybe not. But now, she just wants to hold Jackie and dance, dance and cry.

Sharon Onyinyechukwu Okey- Onyema is a student of University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  She moves from Lagos to Owerri to Port Harcourt to Nsukka and writes wherever she finds herself. She is the author of Hunting Tears, shortlisted for ANA 2017 Short Story of the Year Award. Her works have appeared and are forthcoming on Nantygreens, The Muse Journal and elsewhere. Sharon is currently serving as the associate editor (prose) for the Muse Journal No. 48.