All Illustrations by Taabu
I now love water the way I loved men- with caution. There is no way water had nothing to do with all of the things that happened. I know it handcuffed your wrists and wrapped itself around your legs and lifted one and lifted the other and made it seem like you were taking yourself to the fire. When I was a child, I used to read detective stories and usually the person who was present in every crime scene in a series of crimes ended up being the culprit. I am not blaming anyone out loud because they told me not to bring up god’s criminal record even when I had evidence. But sometimes I sit back and think about all of the times I was here on this earth before; every time they said the water was present but it was innocent and only watched from a distance. So I loved water the way I did lovers whom my body knew could turn into something that burns and how can you convince someone that Water- so still and calming- turned into fire while they were not looking and charred you?
All of the darknesses when I looked for myself and could not find me ended with me begging Water to give me a glimpse of myself. And when Water would wash over me I would keep my eyes wide open and catch a reflection of myself but it was blurry, hypnotising and only for a fleeting moment. *My primary school Science teacher who used to touch my cheeks on Friday mornings with bloodshot eyes and the stench of alcohol wafting out of his mouth was one of those teachers who taught directly from the textbook.* He would warn me drugs could only give you a little taste of relief but not enough. To make sure you have to keep going back, he said. That is the same relief Water gave me when it let me see myself a little. Some days when I walk up to the altar and beg the priest to baptize me again and again and again it makes me think I am that really hot woman in red lipstick and a black scarf over my head in a Naija movie walking into a mud shack to beg a jujuman with grigris around his neck for something to relieve me of my suffering.
What suffering, love?
I do not know. But my soul tastes ni kama haina ladha. LOL
I know, lady. Me too.
She laughs like the sound of water boiling- to popni as my mother and her mother call it– when she watches me discover that Mr. Eazi does not say Mami Wata because who knew that he says Pour me Water? But I tell her that is why I do not trust Water- the two-faced bastard. She tried to hold me but something would not let her. I am not blaming anyone out loud but can you imagine what luck Water had for god to make him transparent and nobody can prove he was ever anywhere?
I did not think I remembered the year the taps ran out of Water in Embakasi. But that day she brought me to a waterfall and then coaxed me to remember what the water did while it was there I told her to kindly take two steps back urgently and I was 12 and I was strong about it and it definitely did not leave a mark and I made it so that another version of myself in another dimension made a deal with Water to give me a break and it did but now a version of me owes Water a thing I do not know and what can you do to appease something that has swallowed the world whole at least once before? So I keep sacrificing things to pay my debt to Water but it keeps gobbling them whole and then belching only to tell me that was not what I owed him.
I shall not take it upon myself to quench the thirst of Water.
Everything feels like a tragedy now- the way Oedipus had to sleep with his mother no matter how many ways he tried to run away. And you know what, Water reminds me of an African politician because as long as it delivers its tithe to the devil it does not have to answer to anyone ever.
One time I got tired of begging Water to show me myself and I tried something stronger and I saw myself and I hated her and she hated me so I went back to Water and she charged me the same bank-breaking registration fees to onboard me as it did all the first-timers.
I think that the reason this betrayal aches is when I stood next to an ocean and my dress flew in the wind I thought I was all of the things all of the versions of myself have ever wished and will ever wish they could be.