During holidays, mama would always send Dubem and I to visit grandma. Akwa to me was an old movie, dull and slow moving. The air there was dry and it smelt of ancient times.
After our first visit to grandma, I never anticipated another. I didn’t want to see grandma’s wrinkled face hurling commands at me, her falling arm muscles pointing out directives and making me slave away to everyone, including Dubem. Ignoring me unless I spoke igbo.
The last time we visited grandma, just as we arrived her house, grandma said,”Dubem my boy, are you thirsty? Achike, go and get Dubem some water, he is tired.” As if I was not tired and thirsty.
Dubem however, loved to visit grandma, loved how much grandma thought him superior to me. He loved how much grandma would make me slave away to him even though I was the older twin. When the holidays were near, Dubem would often threaten to report me to grandma when I refused him something.
Every visit was slightly different, but there were so many things common to each visit. Grandma would often wake me earlier than Dubem, with a broom in her left hand. Telling me that women do not sleep so much and then she would say,”sweep.” On my first visit, I asked ,”Won’t Dubem help?” She looked as if I had said something abominable,”Men don’t sweep.” I was surprised but I never again repeated the question.
After sweeping, she would make me sit with her while she cooked. I hated cooking more than anything else. At home, mama never asked me to cook. The worst part was that grandma disliked the idea of using a gas cooker or electric heater, she said fire wood made food sweeter.
After breakfast, grandma usually had visitors. When the visitors were elderly men, she would make me come out to greet them and serve them drinks. Afterwards, she would tell me which one had a son who was looking for a wife. On some evenings after dinner, we would sit with grandma and she would tell us stories. I loved her stories. She would tell Dubem how he would become a big man, buy so many cars, build houses and marry a hard-working wife. Her word “hard-working” filled me with contempt. It was her only description of a woman. To her, it meant beautiful, great and others merged into one
Then she would tell me how I would marry a big man and have good children. I would forever remember how it made me feel shriveled and worn, like rumpled paper. How it filled my eyes with tears and how I felt disgust at the same time. I felt pity for this ignorant old woman but I wanted to slap the flapped skin on her face and watch it shake. At bedtime, I would think about the day. It would feel as though someone pierced a spear through my chest and I would cry in pain and pity till I slept off.
One of those days, grandma had called me out to greet her visitor. I met her saying,”she is a well behaved girl,full breasted and wide hipped, ripe enough for marriage”. When she noticed my presence, she told me that in a few years after my secondary school I would marry her visitor’s son. I stared at both of them. I was just fifteen. Then as my instincts commanded, I picked up his cup of palm wine and poured it on his head. After he left, grandma beat me mercilessly, saying I was possessed. I kept quiet all through the beating while Dubem stared.
Mama knew that I disliked visiting grandma. She knew because I did not pack my things days earlier like Dubem, did not smile when I hugged grandma and when I said goodbye to her. I never talked about the visit. She knew but she said nothing.
So this summer break, I made up my mind to go nowhere and when mama shouts that it’s time to go, I walk up to her and say that I am going nowhere. I tell Dubem to enjoy his holiday and I tell mama not to make me visit grandma because if she did, she might not pick me up alive. She is shocked, so she lets me walk into my room and lock the door.