It’s nine minutes to midnight, none of this feels right. Outside, the empty realm of darkness mocks me.  It’s all wrong, life is wasting away and I can’t find my missing moments. I feel alone, tired, and abandoned in the night's phantom touch. A heavy sigh deflates my chest as I cross my legs atop the duvet. The night could have been a silent one was it not for the chirping of weaver birds - strange.

My thoughts wander from the spreadsheet on the laptop’s monitor to the birds outside the studio apartment. Must be mating calls. You can only mate on a full stomach. Oh, birds of the air, fed by God Himself. A constant reminder for us to not worry, to not be afraid. It will work itself out.

I want to be a bird, to be satisfied by the space of a nest, and feed on God’s palm. I don’t want to have to worry so damn much.  To my mind, the world is a dark four-walled cave closing in on me. Rent is due tomorrow. Tomorrow is eight minutes away. Today’s rickety bones crack their last, fading to a night grave.

I still haven’t paid back Leshao and Successa the monies I owe them. I hate that they have to ask me, yet it’s I who went to them. I need to find some money from somewhere.  Where? Ongujimi. He is the only person I can think of, now that I haven’t received enough gigs this month. He would give me whatever amount I need at the drop of a hat. But I never bring myself to ask. He is a great and decent guy, but I feel like our boundaries balance things out just fine. Besides, I don’t know how his girlfriend would react even though we are friends. Once or twice I’ve noticed her curl into a ball of uneasiness whenever her man is around me. I take it in a stride though, because I am up to my neck in a murky night, I don’t want to be drawn into a catfight.

By my side on the bed, Shiferaw gently snores, her mind carried away on the wheels of dreams. I’m awed by her little nails and pudgy fingers as they dip and heave with her chest. Her hair, soft as a dandelion, mats on her temples. What a gorgeous and wonderful girl! Sometimes I think that I don’t deserve to be her mother.

Three years on, she is my beacon of hope, a mountain of joy, the tether around which I circle. She sleeps soundly without a care in the world. It warms my heart just seeing her. I feel the edges of my mouth taut into a soft smile. She makes everything worth it.

Of course, she will never know how much trouble we have been through together. How I ran away at the very last minute from that dingy clinic. How her father panicked and did a Houdini. How scared I was.   How my father greeted the news of her existence with anger and tempest. Mother hiding her disappointment behind a mask of stoicism, her tongue pinned as father chased us from our home - his house. How I had to start out on my own under an opaque cloud of uncertainty. She will never know of the days we slept on this cold floor all alone, clueless, petrified and hungry with just her tiny bean-like body in me.

I bet that even though she was still a foetus, she remembers our joy when we finally got that tongue-thin mattress and the small meko gas cooker. It was a great achievement, and surely a future talking point.  I’ll definitely tell her how I used to cook vegetables first so that I could use the same sufuria for rice or ugali. That was the extent of our menu, not that it has grown much; but tomorrow is still another day in paradise.

I am glad all that is in the past, now I just have to figure out how to navigate the future. The red in my totals column in the excel sheet that tabulates my personal finances tells me that I’m on shaky ground. Life is a tightening noose and I have to figure out new ways of earning more money. Freelance article writing simply won’t cut it. The hours are too long and the money is too short. Perhaps I should start selling ladies bags and shoes on Telegram, perhaps floor rags. Maybe I should draw people’s profile pictures and print it for them on a T-shirt. This could be a niche. I don’t know. What if it doesn’t work? I just need more money fast.

I think of Risper, something grows in my throat, it tastes like jealousy, it feels like jealousy, I hope to God it’s not the green-eyed monster. It must be the Instagram pictures of her in Dubai.  Oh, what a life. For a moment I consider getting in touch with her, to finally give in and ask her to show me the ropes, not once has she offered to. I immediately dismiss the idea. I know that I will hate myself after, besides I could never stomach the sick and eccentric desires I heard that the hairy men of the desert love exploring; not even for all the money in the world. I’m out of real options. Penury has cuffed itself on me, its numerous appendages leeching me through my pores. Something has to give.

I’m racking my mind when a WhatsApp message comes in. At this hour I already know it’s Timi. As sure as the rain comes from above, it’s the bloke. It’s a goodnight message to me and my daughter. Knowing him, I can read what he really means. That he is thinking of me at this hour, and definitely not saintly thoughts.

I wish that one day I will gather enough courage to tell him that I really don’t care for his friendship because he is always looking to score while pretending to care about my child. I wizened to his type and I had seen him coming from eighteen yards out. I send back a gratitude emoji and immediately go offline. In my mind, I regret ever taking the 1000 Shillings he gave me. I never asked him. I was desperate though and he saw it. That was over a year ago. He never used to camp down in my inbox that much before. To think that I should have learned that a man’s giving hand is as sticky as a chameleon’s tongue. Thank God for Ogunjimi though.

I close my old laptop, rest its hot mass on the side stool and slide out of bed to go to the light switch by the door. It’s the only door in our house, but this is home now, I have to love it.  Shiferaw stirs at my movement and I cross my fingers hoping that I didn’t wake her up. Her little eyes stay shut and I sigh with relief as I head to the switch. She is a heavy sleeper. Just like her father.

As I walk back under the cloak of darkness, it registers on me that it’s the first time, in weeks, I have thought of Shariff. As I carefully slide into bed, I realize that I have, to a great extent, get over the sense of betrayal and heartache. I even imagined him fixing an extension switch by the bed so that I wouldn’t have to always get out when I need to switch off the lights.

I and Shariff were always destined for this now that I see things without the googly lenses of love (infatuation?).  We were never meant to be. He ended up marrying from his own religion and people, just like his parents would have approved. I have never bothered him with his daughter’s needs. I won’t be that type of girl. I love my baby, and I won’t use her for whatever reason. She is not a tool, and I refuse to be bitter. I will raise my girl on my own the best way I can. It is what it is, if he cared the slightest bit, he would at the very least reach out. Let him enjoy his young family, and may God forgive both of us.

A Guest post by Odah Brian.

Photo credits, PIXABAY. 


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