“Your lips are a door, your mind is the key.”
Those words your mother whispered to you scream louder in your head than her ensuing screeches as they placed the machete on her throat and drew it back letting out warm, scarlet liquid. You stop your breathing for fear that if you exhale, it will be entrenched in reality that they killed her for something you know.
The abode of your father’s Fort Knox loot from the erstwhile coup was a place many undesirable oddities of humanity would kill to find out. They had you both tied in a woodshed – men whose hearts and skin were as black as the night sky’s spit. You and your mother have been here for months. You’ve watched them do vile things to her to get information, things that if she were ill-fated to survive would make her want to seek vendetta against existence with each new day. Now, you have to sit and watch life flow out of her, and even in the agony of death, you are bound.
Those words like an anthem quell your quivering soul that fluttered forwards and backwards, like a butterfly with riven wings. You begin to see images of death, blinding white — as clean as mother always wanted your school uniform to be. Don’t play with the other children, she said. Your father is royalty, she said. You are of the blood that does not turn dark red when it is poured out on the earth; it is still as bright as the hope flowing through your veins.
You remember your father, thoughts of him always visit you in his flowing white agbada, the one you saw on the floor in his room on the day of his swearing-in ceremony. You walked into the room and your gaze fell upon him on the top of a woman whose cackle was slightly higher than mother’s. A girl must learn to keep shut, he nagged afterwards. You’re not a girl anymore, your furtive breasts are like town criers calling the useless drunks as well as the finely sculpted masterpieces to sit round a bonfire lit by the fire of your virginity. In a room about this size, you watched your mother crumble like finely granulated sugar, pouring herself out to fill a cup father kept making holes in every time she caught him with another woman whose skirt’s hemlines seemed to get shorter with each peculiar laugh.
You rock your head, murmuring : “Your body is a three door house, a man with a slippery tongue the key to the door between her thighs hold. A man with the songs to match its beat the key to your heart holds. Your mind the key to your lips hold. This must you keep locked.”
You recite this thrice and your captor holds up your trembling head. With two fingers, he signals his goon to come. Soaking in a grim smile he says, “call the locksmith.”
Header photograph © Sue Michael.