By Temi Olusola
Content warning: sexual abuse
He thinks of waters as one thinks of mirrors: just a reflection.
My father is on the hospital bed and I know he is never going to return back to the human box.
The ghost will kill some and give life to others.
My grandfather has been hovering over us for some days now. He comes and goes like a patch of blue sky that shows itself on and off on a cloudy day. He was in my dream this morning and it is his voice I am hearing now in my bathroom saying, “we are going.” I don't know and certainly do not care how my father takes this, especially when it is coming from his father, a heathen. “We are going,” my grandfather says again through my father's mouth over the phone, his voice like a wind traveling through villages and cities. “I am coming,” I replied. After nineteen years of having to manage this cage I'll now be free: free from this guilt, from the heaviness of this world on my shoulders. I exhale, ready to journey home. I am not so weak as to stay. I am not giving up, just going home to rest. My head is too heavy.
There is strength in leaving, too.
“Your father is dying,” my mother says over the phone, her voice a cloggy “please, come home.” I turn on the water in the bathtub as I slide into it. It pours and pours as I wait for grandfather to take me home, too. He alone knows the way home, not just because he is old and has journeyed home before but because he knows why.
He knows what makes a nine-year-old boy sad. He knows the shape of grief in a boy’s body: the finiteness and infinity of loss.
I was nine and was the liar. But grandfather knows where to find truth in a boy's soul.
“This is what happens when you're hard to the Lord’s word,” my father said that night, slapping the bible on my chest. “You become sad and sadder every day, you hear me. Just sad.” This was six years after the man of God left our lives and I was a fifteen-year-old boy waiting for my admission to the university so I too could leave.
I wanted to say everything grandfather knows, but I was the liar, it was written on my forehead: LIAR.
The man of God said he saw me kissing another boy in the basement of the church—true.
And that he saw me slid my hand inside his son’s shorts—lie.
“He needs to be delivered,” he said, sitting in his chair in the church’s office. “So he does not influence the other children.” My parents left me and the man of God. First, the man of God took my palm and wrapped it around his penis. Then my mouth. And the pain. And the words.
Nights are less scary for children of the light.
That night I felt my body sinking into everything: the bed, the floor, and all. I snuck into the bathroom to wash myself, did it over and over again till I bruised myself. It was still the same. That night, I left for grandfather’s place, and for once I wasn’t scared of the dark. I wanted to be muddled up in it and left unidentified.
“What are you doing here?” grandfather asked.
“I am running,” I said.
Some words are silent but understandable.
The following morning my father came for me. He refused to enter because the house was not of the Lord. It was dirty and had a cloud hovering over it.
“You are the one teaching him these devilish things, abi?” he asked grandfather.
“Come back home. It’s been years. Your father is dying,” my mother is saying, forcing it all out.
“I am coming home.”
Grandfather appears again.
“Home is for the old; try harder. Be strong,” he says.
I turn up the tap. Grandfather does not know I am the waters, not a reflection of anything. Just waters. That I can vanish in this bathroom, flow away with the waters and be unseen.
“I am coming home,” I say, as I wash myself.
Temi Olusola is a Nigerian writer with stories previously published in Litro UK, Uites Write III and the YELF '18 anthology. He is also an alumnus of the 2018 YELF Creative Writing Workshop and second runner-up in the 2017 Eclipse Poetry Slam. In between reading and writing, Temi enjoys sending voice messages to people he cares about.