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Timi Sanni

Like Foreign Things That Take the Name of Love

Mama tucks me between her skinny legs as she plaits my hair. She pulls the cutting comb through my hair and parts it with both hands. Then she begins to weave. Her hands are so adept at weaving beautiful, intricate patterns that the villagers wonder why she hasn’t yet woven a rainbow of our lives.

Mama doesn’t read the bible but as her thin fingers move through my hair working their magic, she says by the way of a soliloquy, “A kiss doesn’t always translate to love, Judas taught this lesson so well.”

I scrunch my nose in disagreement, because this is what a kiss reminds me of: the bell, closing hours in the village primary school, the tree behind our classroom, a boy that had magic for dimples and glory for lips, stolen moments under the watch of a distant sky, the lub-dub of two hearts like bass drums, the music that plays in the silence as two bodies meet and fill the void between, joy, bliss, unrefined ecstasy.

But here is mama saying a kiss doesn’t always translate to love. I douse the fire raging within me, the urge to scream, to tell her of Joshua, to tell her what she doesn’t know of love and sit still as her hands weave through my hair.

But then, there’s a nagging feeling that mother might be right.

I mean, like papa who suddenly disappeared from the village one night, eight years ago, Joshua too gave his body to Lagos and hasn’t been home in eight months. Like papa who before his disappearance, found courage within a gin bottle one night and unleashed his fury on all his troubles (mistaking them for me and mama), Joshua too betrayed his softness one night and struck me across the face when I laughed and refused to walk him to the river, because mama was waiting for me at home and because I knew what the boys did with the girls at the river at night.

Maybe in some ways, Joshua is like papa but unlike papa there are things he knows of love. Like the time I fell and hurt my leg at school and he carried on his back all the way home. Like the night before he left when we hugged under the moonlight and he gave me a beautiful, blue seashell promising to be back before long.

In the day, I wear this shell as a pendant and at night, my dreams find the shell beneath my pillow as I rumple the bedsheet, calling to Joshua.

Mama yanks a tassel of my hair and I yelp. She tucks me tighter between her legs. “A kiss doesn’t always translate to love,” I think. “But Joshua is not Judas, is he?”


TIMI SANNI’s works have appeared or are forthcoming in journals like the Radical Art Review, Writers Space Africa, Praxis Magazine and elsewhere. He was selected for the SprinNG Writers’ Fellowship in 2018 and recently won the SprinNG Annual Poetry Contest. He is also an editor at Kalopsia lit and Upwrite Magazine. Twitter: @timisanni.