at your mother’s funeral

your name is one of the things your father can’t stop thinking about. it is why street children see him, carrying a massive dusty hair with empty tins of milk clanking against the other around his neck, and run after him to clap and chant:

papa Gozie dance for us.
dance like your mama’s daughter.
dance like your papa’s daughter.
like your daughter’s daughter.

it is why his madness is bigger than the weight of his problems. your father’s madness began at your mother’s funeral. at the funeral, your father was the first to throw earth over her casket. to sit on the floor and tell the crowd of the names he’d thought of naming you. to cry. to wish you were with him. to throw himself at the foot of your mother’s grave and shout, ‘my Chiasoka, you were not supposed to die too.’ to hold the pastor by the neck. to spit on his face. to demand that he resurrect your mother like Lazarus. to ask the pastor the reason he could not move like Jesus, why could he not be like the son of God? why was he not God so his slaps could carry the weight of his grief off his shoulders. to chase away everyone who came to pay homage to your mother. to cane these people with the dried dogo yaro tree branches littered on the floor. to return home and make himself a hot cup of bland tea. to sip the tea. to throw the mug at the wall. to pack the broken pieces. to unpack the broken pieces. to call your mother’s mother over the phone—your grandmother—and call her a witch. to end the call. to call her back and apologize. to laugh at himself. to sleep. to wake up and go back to sleep. to trail the walls of your mother’s room, looking for signs from God, a writing on the wall. to find nothing except the last scan of you in your third trimester, fully formed, ready to come to life. to pack his clothes. to unpack his clothes. to write a note to your mother’s mother saying:

You should have left Chiasoka for me. My wife was coming to see you when she died. You took her and our daughter. You should have left Chiasoka for me.

to send the letter. to unsend the letter. to sit at the foot of your mother’s wardrobe. to flip through the photo album. to hate himself. to blame himself. to decide to unalive himself. at your mother’s funeral, your father was the first to never let go of the grief of losing you both. to never stop living in his imagination. so, he let his hair befriend dusts on the street. and marvel at the name he would have called you had you not died. and snarls at street kids who chant and clap for him. your name is one of the things your father can’t stop thinking about.

***

Mustapha Enesi is Ebira. His story, ‘Kesandu’ won the 2021 K & L Prize for African Literature, he was a finalist for the 2021 Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize, theme winner in Aster Lit’s 2021 Fall Writing Contest, shortlisted for the 2021 Arthur Flowers Flash Fiction Prize, and his flash fiction piece, ‘Shoes’ was highly commended in Litro Magazine’s 2021 summer flash fiction contest. His works appear in The Maine Review, Kalahari Review, Litro Magazine, Eboquills, The Story Tree Challenge Maiden Anthology, and elsewhere.

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