My dearest sister,
I can hear your laughter in my mind as I write this, I can see you gently wrinkling your nose as you remind me that you are my only sister, just before you ask what I have done wrong or if I want money. I wish I could hug you now, even if you would wiggle your shoulders out of my grip and mutter in your froggy voice about my softness.
I want to ask how you are and if you miss me as much as I miss you but I dread your answer, I think it is better to wait until you contact me to ask you the questions that churn my heart and stomach. It seemed easier in my mind, writing this letter than it is facing this white paper and using my biro pen to try and put words on it. How can ink capture the sighs and tears and whispered half thoughts that come when I think of you?
The birds chirping in the ebelebo tree near Epa’s room would have annoyed you, they first came last year when the tree began to fruit. They’d peck at the fruits at the top of the tree, the thick, healthy fruits would have been massacred by them before they hit the ground and they shun the tiny ones, perhaps they are not unmindful of the fact that they do not own the tree so they are leaving some for us. They start their annoying song at 6am, never 5:59am or 6:01am and continue until 11am, you can set your watch by the little buggers, I wish they could have interrupted your “beauty sleep” just once, I wish I could see you again.
There are days Itohan, when it is hard to believe that I cannot smell White Diamonds and call out your name- those days when the sun is shining, the sky is so fucking blue, the leaves glint with green glossy fire and magic dust seems to flicker in the air. Yet you Itohan, the nucleus of everything wonderful, lies 1.8288 metres beneath the ground, how dare the sun rise and set when you are not here? How is the world not shrouded in swirling layers of black? How come the stars do not spell out your name? How will I live without you?
Epa talks about you like you never left, he complains about how you do not call him, he shakes his clenched fist and prepares the diatribe he will deliver when you finally come to see him. He doesn’t tell us how he calls out your name in his sleep or how he’d sit with your picture in the shadowed corners of his room and weep. It is Mummy who tells us how he shivers from grief immediately after pretending to be strong, how his eyes are dry now because of you.
I know you like to think you did the right thing, that honouring words and promises was of greater value than keeping your life. The chasm in my heart, in our family, tells me how wrong you were. Did I tell you he’s remarried? A year and a day after you were buried, he married her- he married Alero. He came to see us a month ago, he with the snake hips and lizard skin, he who let you die for his sins. He wasn’t sneering like he was when we saw him at Ramat Park market with her, he put his arm around her and kissed her cheeks over and over while I held Mummy’s slapping arm and gently guided her away.
Itohan he was weeping like he did not, could not weep when you my sister was lying in that hospital fighting for two lives. He rolled on the ground and begged for her life, for the woman who made you weep and fast until you became anaemic. Mummy poured pepper water on him while Epa walked into his room, brought your picture and shoved it into his face before decorating his face with bruises.
Because Aiyelala is fair and just, your husband has become a widower again. I can see you waving your arms and shaking your head, I can even hear the words that would bubble under your tongue but they do not matter because you are not here to say them. You are not here my sister and that is the tragedy we will never recover from. We sought justice in the ways of our fathers before us and not in the ways of those who leave vengeance to gods who neither sorrow nor bleed. If it is a sin my sister, forgive us.
Your son loves the birds on the ebelebo tree, he toddles out to join them in their babbling and claps his fat hands in rhythm with them. You should see his smile at those times, so heartbreakingly like yours. At those times, your perfume fills my heart and I know you are not far, you cannot be far.
I miss you so desperately Itohan, they said it would get easier with time. They lied.
Your only brother.