A facebook post by my friend Chimamaka about her niece reminds me of an incident that occurred when I was nearly six, just before my baby brother was born. My grandparents lived very close to us, going to see my grandmother/father involved coming out of the house and walking 10 child steps to the road, crossing the road and walking past one long house before jumping into her shop where I was assured Coca-cola or maltina, or whatever I wanted to wash down the liver from her goat meat peppersoup that she always had ready for me. My brothers and I would fly to her for hugs even if we had seen her an hour before, she gave the best hugs at the time.
One evening, I followed my dad to her house (she lived upstairs while the shop was downstairs), I can’t remember now why I went with him or what he went to do, maybe he went to return bottles for the drinks he had bought for his visitors.
We were walking out of the shop and I was complaining about something I cannot remember now.
“Shebi you said xyz, shebi you did not do it” I whined.
Uncle Peter, one of her neighbours and my dad’s friend was beside him.
“Shebi, shebi” he said “Is your husband’s name shebi?”
“My husband is not Shebi anything!” I cried.
“Mrs Adaeze Shebi, when will you bring Shebi for us to see him” he continued while my dad laughed and laughed.
“Daddy tell him I have not married any Shebi” I sobbed.
“Don’t mind him, how will you marry Shebi” my dad soothed in a laughter ridden voice.
“Adaeze weds Shebi” Uncle Peter crowed and I hugged my daddy’s legs and sobbed.
“Peter leave my daughter alone jare” My dad patted my hair as he told him off.
“You will not marry Shebi, you hear. If Shebi comes, I will pursue him and shoot him with my gun, that one in the village that I kept from the war” he continued.
I nodded and swallowed my sobs as he wiped my face. As we turned to go, I stuck my tongue out at Uncle Peter and his laughter rang until we crossed the road.
Shebi is not a word you will find between my lips anymore