Despite being 2 years older than me, David has always been there. When we played house as children, I was always his wife and assumed this role by making him and our only child, Jojo the dog mud Funkaso cakes, with a sprinkle of sand for sugar. Jojo had been our son until Sagi, my baby brother was old enough to replace him. David had always enjoyed my muddy Funkaso. He would often show his appreciation by rubbing his belly the same way father did when mother made him Suya spicy kebabs with rice.
As we grew older, David assumed the role of a big brother. He walked me to and from school everyday, protecting me from other older boys, mainly Balarabe. I remember one time, Balarabe went through a phase of flipping girls’ dresses and actually managed to pursue his mischievous aims for quite some time. This was until the fateful day he had tried to flip my dress. David beat him up so thoroughly that he never tried it again!
However since I turned 16 last year, my relationship with David has changed into something I can’t quite understand. He avoids eye contact, hardly speaks to me and yet, he is still always there. For example, our families often attend each other’s celebrations and funerals. As my mother’s only daughter such gatherings are always a very stressful time for me. There is flour to be kneaded, vegetables to be chopped and Daddawa to be stewed. But, by far the most difficult task is the killing of the chicken. I am terrified at the thought of taking life, even that of a fairly insignificant and rather tasty chicken. My mother always insists, “Hauwa, you need to stop this silliness. You must learn to kill a chicken or else you’ll end up marrying a poor man and eat vegetables for the rest of your life! Your father and I are not paying 50,000 naira per term for you to marry a pauper”.
I’m tempted to take my chances. My stomach starts churning at the sound of Sagi my baby brother chasing his dinner, the chicken. The pursuit is often a dramatic one, which lifts the dust around the compound and has Sagi shrieking somewhat maniacally at the terrified chicken. Eventually, the bird succumbs to fatigue and Sagi pounces. With a huge triumphant grin on his face, Sagi presents the bird to me.
I feel its little heart beating fast in my hands. My own heart is often thumping pretty quickly too. I’ve come to believe that all living creatures have a 6th sense for death or impending doom. I can taste the bile rising up my throat as I pick up the blunt knife. It’s important that I place my foot firmly over its flapping panicked wings. If my foot shifts slightly, the wing often snaps during its struggle and rips through the chicken’s white fIesh, causing it to squawk in pain. Even worse, sometimes the chicken comes free and starts running around the compound headless, its broken wing hanging off awkwardly. At this point, I am heaving into the dish of hot water I had prepared for softening the bird’s quills, ready for plucking.
It is always in that moment before I have to make the cut that David turns up, as if from nowhere. He takes the bird and knife from my hands and swiftly kills the chicken. Despite the fact that David hardly speaks to me (in fact, he speaks to my friend Maryama much more than he does me), he’s always on time to rescue and protect me.
Two more days to go until David comes for me. I wonder what he’ll say. Perhaps he’ll ask me to be his girlfriend. It’s good that absence makes the heart grow fonder, lol!
Can you imagine it? David and Hauwa both studying at the American University of Nigeria. One doctor and one judge – what a match! I’m bubbling over with excitement. Just 2 more sleeps to go…