Why are you proud to be Nigerian

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Dreams and assorted nightmares

Everyday life 2017: Family in Maiduguri (Nigeria) cooks in front of their hut | Photo (detail): Kristin Palitza © picture-alliance

Play the short story as audio: read by David Mayonga


Nobody knew the name of the place halfway between dreams - a piece of earth with a murky river nestled on one side and enclosed on the other by a series of sad-looking hills and a dark forest - a place where travelers rested before setting off again, so they simply called him Zango. The stopover. At least that was what Laminde's grandmother Kaka had told her when they were peeling peanuts for soup. Kaka's serious face, like wrinkled, dusty khaki, had a permanently brooding expression and her old woman eyes stared down at the little Laminde as if she wanted to burn out any doubts the child might harbor about this story. But Laminde's seven-year-old mind was convinced that Kaka was as old as the world and sat on the branch of a tree nibbling gurjiyas while she watched God's magic separate heaven and earth.


“For years it was just a sleepy stopover until a few travelers got drunk on their breaks and forgot to continue their journey. Their wives and children, and in some cases their husbands, got tired of waiting for their return, packed their belongings in ashasha sacks and joined them, ”Kaka said, gazing at something behind Laminde as if the story would occupy her memory as if the child had disappeared in the haze, unnoticed, undecided, just as Zango had been brought into the world. It was not until years later that Laminde would fill the gaps that made up Kaka's long silence with facts that she picked up in conversations in the markets, at school, and other places where one could get secret stories.

After the arrival of the wives, prostitutes to serve the traveling men set up permanent wooden booths not far from the park, where the roar of truck engines and the roar of horns covered the sounds of indiscretion, and Zango finally became a home. Her grandmother never told her that part, but Laminde knew about it anyway. Everyone knew. The prostitutes' shacks were still there, and if you looked closely you could still find traces of the dust in their rafters from the first men and their trucks that had made Zango a town.


"Before this place was called Zango, it was once called Mazade by a people who fell victim to a plague," explained Kaka, who stared in front of her as if she could see the abandoned houses being eaten by termites in the evening sun . But Kaka was already losing her mind by then, and no one was sure she was remembering anything correctly.

What Laminde would have known years later, however, as she sat at her window and gazed out at the streets filled with residents and travelers, was that deaths in Zango were often as dramatic as life itself. Sometimes they were bizarre, like when Babale was died on the eve of his wedding, pierced by a raging bull that had escaped his keepers. The bull, who fled after his bloody act, fell into a gaping sewer and broke his neck. Or when the matriarch Balaraba, who had long suffered from melancholy, was found dead in her wicker chair, a smile on her lips, her face turned to the door. Nobody knew what she had been waiting for or what had come through the door and disappeared with her soul. But her smile stayed, his mark still visible through her shroud even when she was placed in the grave.


Babangida also died happily. He had spent most of his life roaming the streets of Zango, feeding on what people threw away. One afternoon he stood rigid in the middle of the street and started laughing. He laughed non-stop for three hours and forty-seven minutes before collapsing. Once or twice a year a corpse of erect manhood was found by the river. If the rumors were to be believed, they were overdosed in the brothels Manpower died. The whores and their pimps used to carry them out and toss them into the river to be washed up elsewhere. Sometimes they just left them lying on the bank.

As for Laminde, none of the dramatic deaths had surpassed Vera's. Vera had been sitting in her usual place under the footbridge, as she had for years, plaiting the hair of a customer when she began to cough out strands of hair. When the first hairballs came out, a murmur went through the crowd of horrified women who had gathered, attracted by their violent coughing fits. They watched as she gagged and pulled out a long strand of braided hair that got longer and longer and longer until you would have thought she had swallowed a woman with a ponytail. When the strand slipped out, the whole meter and seven centimeters - because Zaki actually measured it - rolled up in front of her like a young python, Vera fell over. Her face, half buried in the mass of hair and vomit, betrayed the horror of what she had seen come out of her body. It was this kind of death, this special one, with all the horror and agony that went with it, that Laminde wished for her fellow wife Ramatu.


She knew exactly when this wish had settled in her heart. She remembered the exact moment at the General Hospital, a year after they began sharing a husband. But the resentment that allowed this seed to take root in the first place was sown long beforehand, on the day when her husband Bello stood in front of the pot tuwo da miyan Swap that she had served him and announced that he would take a second wife. When she finally found her voice, it was an incredulous whisper. "A second wife?" - "In fulfillment of the Sunnah, yes," he had replied. "Another woman?" She asked again. "In a fortnight, yes." Then he had taken off his cap, carefully washed his hands in the lime-green bowl she had placed in front of him, and started to eat. "Masha Allah! It tastes delicious, ”he announced as he reached for another serving.

Before that night, she had been married to Bello for three years. Three years of giving birth to him a beautiful daughter, of making love and laughing and arguing like lovers do. Three years of locking him out in moments of unbridled anger and enjoying hearing his pleading voice from the other side of the door. Her marriage was far from perfect, she knew that much, but it was not irredeemably lost. It was just a bloody marriage, like any other marriage. And then he had attacked her with this news, and these women who had brought a stranger into their house and fired mock rockets in their direction. "Now Bello will finally know that he really married a wife." - "When the sun comes up, no palm tree can darken its light." - "Malam Bello ya gaji da jagade-jagade.

You? Jagade-jagade? Like worn out flip-flops? Bello had called her Queen; his whispered promises had made gardens spring in her heart. He had sworn eternal loyalty to her and, in moments of passion as well as in his right mind, called her the most beautiful. You? Jagade-jagade?

Over time, that resentment turned into a cloud that floated in her head with neither the meaning nor the weight it had initially been. It wasn't difficult because her companion, Ramatu, gave her friendly looks the first time they met, bowed respectfully and called her Yaya. And treated them with the respect she would show an older sibling. Every morning she used to come to Laminde's door to inquire about her welfare and to have a little chat. When Malam Bello balangu brought home, she, as the younger wife, divided the seasoned meat in two portions and told Laminde to be the first to choose. On the days when Laminde's daughter ventured into her room, Ramatu would braid the girl's hair, paint her hands with henna, and use cabbage to draw lines around the child's eyes. Though she envied Ramatu's beauty, elegant posture, and fashionable lace and high-heeled shoes, Laminde hid her envy deep in her smile.


The first time the night brought Bello's moans to her, she jumped out of bed, afraid that he would die of a sudden illness. Closer observation revealed that he only suffered from intense lust which caused him to make noises that he had never made in all his years with her. She remained on her bed and caught her tears with a napkin. In the end she buried this misery in small tuwo portions, as she did with chloroquine tablets, and swallowed it. And the nocturnal noises? At first she countered them with the noise of the TV or the radio or with music from her cell phone. Ultimately, she learned to give her spirit wings and let it fly to the moon, where she reveled in solitude and heavenly light.

"Your daughter asked me last night if your new wife was killing you," she said to him one night when he came into her room. “I told her you would be attacked with delight. She didn't understand that. ”In the folds of his furrowed brow she read the secret verses of his shame until he turned away from her. "Could you please at least try to be a little quieter?" He hissed, took his cap and left.

*

She wished she could be mad at Ramatu. A lot. But when she was plagued by excruciating abdominal pain, the one her mother said was preventing her from getting pregnant again, it was Ramatu who promptly rushed her to the hospital, stayed with her, and looked after her daughter. “You shouldn't stay here”, Laminde tossed and rolled on the narrow bed, “the mosquitoes, your condition.” - “No problem, Yaya. I am well prepared. I have my socks and an extra blanket with me. Everything is fine, ”replied Ramatu. She sat down in the chair on the edge of the bed and put on her woolen socks. "My dearest, what are you doing here?" Bello asked when he came that evening and leaned over Ramatu. "What are you doing here?" He patted her cheek and wiped the sleep from her eyes. Ramatu grumbled something about taking care of Laminde, which led to protests from her husband. He caressed Ramatu's baby bump, whispered something in her ear and ordered her to gather her things. As he led his bride to the door, his arm around her waist, Laminde wanted to swallow her heart and die. He didn't even look at her as she lay there in the narrow hospital bed. That he ignored her bothered her less than what he called his bride. My love. In their presence. She always was matannan - as if she were any stranger he'd picked up on the street. This woman. A nameless thing, not worth any tenderness. This woman.

*

It was in that same hospital that a few months later the seeds of hatred broke out in her ribs after she was roused from sleep by Ramatus' sharp screams because the child inside her wanted to get out. When the noise reached her, Laminde thought at first that it was a resumption of the moan that had initially tormented her. But that night Bello lay snoring next to her while Ramatu's voice reached her through the night. She hurried out of bed to find Ramatu crawling out of her room, her face glistening with sweat. "To the hospital, quick!" Said Laminde. "Get a car," she instructed Bello, who had been woken up by the sound of the door opening. She gave Ramatu a drink of water and got the things for the delivery that Ramatu had put in a plastic basket on top of the cupboard.


At the hospital, Laminde wrapped Ramatu's son in a scarf and placed it on his mother's chest. She stayed by Ramatu's side until the morning when the doctors came on rounds. Laminde took the child from the mother so that the doctors could do their work. She was still holding him when they left and Ramatu's aunt and sister came in.

"Why did you let her touch your child, you fool?" Asked Ramatu's aunt, waving her clenched fist. As she took the baby from Laminde, somewhere between her clenched hand and the coils of the scarf, a leather-wrapped fetish fell and slammed onto the hospital floor. "My God! Looks! A laya! ”Ramatu's sister exclaimed, waving around frantically while she kicked the fetish away. The thing skidded over the tiles at the base of the wall. Ramatu leaned out of bed and stared at the small square patch of leather. “You don't let a woman like that touch your son. Who knows what she's up to? What a curse she wanted to conjure up on him, ”scolded the aunt. “Your child is the first son. He's going to inherit his father's house and you let her touch him? ”Asked Ramatu's sister. “Wallahi, that is really not very wise of you, Ramatu. Really not smart. "


Laminde stared at them with open mouths, too perplexed to say anything, the thought that someone would try to fool them like that, the thought that they hoped they would deceive someone with this charade. Ramatu had looked at her with narrowed eyes, a V-shaped crease between his eyebrows. She reached out to her baby and hugged it close, away from Laminde.

*

She was surprised by the speed with which the seed sprouted; it found nourishment in Ramatu's silence and her accusing looks, as well as in the events leading up to the naming ceremony. There was Bello's excitement as he ran in and out of the house with baby clothes, a new crib with baby blue frills, his nervous repainting of Ramatu's room, which later spread to the entire house except for Laminde's room. The only one of her possessions that came into contact with the new paint job was her daughter, who got a splash of sky blue across her face when Bello shook out his brush. "Get out of here," he snapped at the child. "Jesus Christ, Laminde, keep an eye on your daughter!" Your daughter? As if she, Laminde, had locked herself in her room for a whole year, stuffed herself full of vegetables and then ended up shitting a baby. Her daughter? As if she were a nuisance. When the girl burst into tears, shocked by the violence in her father's voice, Bello tossed down the brush, rushed to her, and picked her up. He wiped the stain and tears from her face and carried her out of the house. When he brought her back he had a bag of candy, cookies, and other bait suitable for a three-year-old. He set her down in her mother's room, leaned against the doorpost and sighed as he looked at Laminde, who had buried her face in her hands.
"I am ...", but the words got stuck in his throat. He reached into his pocket. Counted off a few bills and put them down in front of her. Then he pulled back, in reverse, before turning and leaving. She looked up, examined the banknotes. She reached for them, neatly piled them up, tore them up, and let the rags fall to the floor around her feet. She pulled her daughter over and kissed her head.

*

In the weeks that followed, Ramatu's silence condensed into a concentrated tar of hostility that manifested itself in various forms.Laminde used to sit in her room and listen to Ramatu singing, sweeping half the property and marking out her territory with her broomsticks so that a line of rubbish marked the boundary between their respective halves of the property. The line was fluid, however, so that each morning Ramatu returned it shifted and moved closer and closer to Laminde's door. And slowly, like an occupying power, Ramatu was moving its things to the newly conquered territories. The drying rack with baby clothes moved forward a few inches, a chair today, as was a clothesline that appeared overnight. Even the nocturnal noises became borderland when Laminde was kept awake by Ramatu's passionate groans whenever Malam Bello was in her room. Mixed with Bello's grunt, it made an obscene symphony. Laminde never thought that making love could be such a noisy affair, apart from porn movies. And when it turned into an almost nightly performance months after the boy's birth, it became clear to Laminde the real purpose of this riot. On the nights Bello was in her room, the only racket he made was his snoring, which was triggered as soon as his body fell into bed.


In the afternoons she watched Ramatu sit in the courtyard, stretching her legs in front of her and singing praises to the mothers of sons who would inherit her husband's house. At the top of the list of the things that disappointed Laminde the most was the fact that Ramatu fell for such a cheap trick by her aunt, or believed that Laminde was trying to harm her son with teeth, fists, or fetishes. What broke her heart most was Ramatu's unwillingness to even listen to an explanation from her.

“I didn't marry our husband to inherit anything. I married him to keep him alive, ”Laminde said one afternoon. “Claim what you want. My son is the firstborn, ”replied Ramatu. "And you don't touch him." Laminde clenched her fists. Ramatu glanced at her and hissed. “It wasn't my poor bucket who married our husband, but me. If you have a problem with that, take it out on me. ”If it came to a fight, there could only be one winner. Laminde had no doubts about her ability to beat Ramatu, but what would she get out of it? A Pyrrhic victory? It was this moment that put away the last reservations she still harbored for Ramatu about a Vera-la-la-Vera.

*

When she left the house that morning she was sure what she wanted, what she had always wanted. She had heard of the malam from some of her friends, the ones who had gone to him for amulets, to win her husband's favor, to gain business advantages, to beat off their fellow wives, to get a job on the local school board. Almost everyone in Zango had heard of Malam Sadi Kankat.
"You don't say anything, Hajiya," he encouraged her as he drew patterns in the sand. He sat back and studied her with raised eyebrows. "I - uh - think I have ..." - "Yes?" - "I have a stomachache," she said. "Yes, I have a stomach ache," she said firmly, as if she wanted to convince herself.


"Indeed, it is," he smiled. "Truly, I see it here." He smoothed the patterns in the sand and drew new ones, frowning. “But that's not why you're here. You come because of your fellow wife. You want something bad to happen to her. "

"Uh ... I thought I want that, but now, uh, now I don't think I want that anymore ..." He proudly pointed to the display case behind him, filled with bottles that contained colorful liquids - smoke gray, red like Coagulated blood, bottle green, liver brown, cobalt blue, neon purple, an endless assortment of elixirs in dark and glowing bottles. “Don't worry, Hajiya,” he grinned, “this is Zango, and here we have assorted dreams and nightmares in bottles. You just have to choose one and it is yours. "

"Wow! You wanted her to suffer Vera's fate, ”he exclaimed, glancing at the sand in front of him. "How do you know?" He smiled. “The sand doesn't lie. I am a seer, you understand ”, he stroked the sand and wiped the board clean. "Oh," she slung one end of her veil over her shoulder. "Well, I really don't think I want that anymore."

“It would be easy,” he said, then added, his voice lowered to a whisper, “Vera's fate. That was my work, you see. Easy. I could do this for you For your fellow woman. Make your leaf fall, just like that. ”He snapped his fingers.

"No ... it was terrible of me to even think so, sir ..." He held up a hand to silence her, his brow furrowed in concentration as he read the inscriptions on the sand. He wiped the sand and drew, wiped and drew again with a trembling finger. She was troubled by the trembling of his lips, by the film of sweat that streaked his forehead.

"Oh my god!" He muttered. "What, sir?" - "The needle dug up a hoe?" He muttered to himself as he wiped the sand and drew wildly. “A storm of leaves! The tree! There's a tree, can't you see that There'll be a storm made of leaves, can't you see it? ”He asked. "I don't understand," she replied. “Can't you see, we are all linked to the fate of the tree. We all! We all!"

"I think I'll just go home now," she said, convinced that it was all a huge mistake. He got up and pushed her aside, stumbled past her. "Beware of the tree!" He shouted as he went out, frightening the other women who were waiting for him. Laminde heard his voice ebb down the path she had walked moments ago with his somber warning. Her hand lingered over her pounding heart as she tried to catch her breath. This is Zangoshe muttered to herself, strange things are happening here. This is Zango! As if that explained everything, as if it should.

*

Again the curtain of silence fell with an absoluteness that stunned her. The cessation of Ramatu's sneering songs and their expansionist purges surprised Laminde as much as her sudden hostility had previously, and when that silence lasted for days, replaced by the sounds of Ramatu flitting into her room every time Laminde stepped out into the courtyard became hers Curiosity aroused and she began to pay attention. Bello, who didn’t seem to feel at home in her room since his marriage to his second wife, began to avoid her gaze and mumble in a corner when he wanted to speak to her. And when she once brushed against her husband in desperate haste to reach her daughter, who could not breathe, she felt his breath catch up. He got into the habit of stealing into her room late at night, slipping into bed when he thought she was asleep, and rushing out long before the morning prayer call.


In this silence she settled down, even wore it like an ornament, so that she didn't even notice the haze of silence around her when she picked her daughter up from school. It was at the end of one of these pickups that she was confronted with the reality that was staring out of her daughter's eyes very clearly, lying in the drawn corners of her mouth. She knelt down in front of the little one and asked her what was wrong with her. “Faruk said his mother said he shouldn't play with me anymore,” the girl explained.

Laminde wasn't exactly sure who Farouk was - some best friend of her three-year-olds, possibly, but she looked around and saw that a bubble of free space had formed in the busy school grounds around her and her daughter. She noticed the furtive glances in her direction and how parents and children discreetly dodged this bubble.

On the way home, her daughter shuffling beside her, she watched the conversations, which fell silent as soon as she came into sight, how they started again after she had passed when whispering behind her, as her neighbors suddenly acted very busy, when she approached so as not to have to exchange greetings.

"What did Faruk say to you?" She asked her daughter when they got home. "He said that his mother said not to play with the bad woman's daughter," she explained. "Bad woman?"


"Yes. That you are so full of evil that you drove Malam Sadi Kankat insane because you wanted to do bad things to Ramatu. ”-“ Oh. ”Laminde gasped,“ What is evil, Mama? ”

*

The padlock on Ramatu's door lingered there for days and nights until Laminde concluded that her companion had fled the marital home.

"She lives elsewhere now," Bello explained when asked. She sighed. "You'd rather live somewhere else now, wouldn't you?" She asked him. He looked down and writhed.

"How come you never asked me about it?" She asked. “All the rumors that are being told about me. How come you never said anything? ”His lips trembled. “Malam Sadi Kankat is now wandering the streets mumbling incomprehensible stuff. They say you were the last one to be with him before he went mad. There were witnesses. "

"I see." She did. For the first time. She had been found guilty of carrying an evil so sinister that it had driven insane the man who had instigated the worst evil in Zango. Convicted by a court that never asked her version of the story, never asked her plea, she was found guilty and sentenced to a prison of silence.

When she woke up that morning to find a huge wad of banknotes on the table and no trace of her husband, she knew he wasn't going to come back.

*

“Mom?” - “Yes, my sweet.” - “It's terrible outside.” - “I know. I feel the same way. ”-“ I never want to go to school again. ”Laminde pulled her daughter close and hugged her tightly. “Can we stay here forever? Just the two of us. ”-“ We can try, my darling, ”she replied.


That evening, a week after seeing her husband for the last time, and satisfied with the amount of groceries in the pantry, Laminde locked the entrance to the property, paneling it with the boards that were used during the renovation that Ramatus gave birth were left and took great pleasure in driving nails into the wood and locking out the world and its judgments.

"What are you doing there, mom?" Asked the little one. "We're locking Zango outside," she explained to the astonished child. “We keep the world at bay. Come on, pass me the nail. "

When she had driven in the last nail, she dropped the hammer and examined her work. It would last, she knew that. Laminde strode into the center of the courtyard, keys in hand, and looked at her daughter, whose eyes were full of questions. She tossed the bunch of keys over the fence into the bush beyond and spread her arms to hug the sunlight.

author

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is the multiple award-winning Nigerian author of the novel “Season of Crimson Blossoms”, published in German by Residenz Verlag under the title “Where we stumble and where we fall”. The book was critically acclaimed and translated into several languages.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., online editing
December 2019

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