Dear Precious, wake up,
My first deployment had come. Before this business of war, on that May morning, I listened to her snore, scratch, and whimper. The empty room played tricks with the preemptive blue-purple chill of dawn. The place stale from bodily gases and bad dreams, and the worry that rocked us to sleep and jolted us awake. The smell of her bedwetting. Unspiritual. We never discuss it, as she laid the mattress like an open sin in the sun. Her urine, a cruel oil-dark pond with tributaries. The pocket radio hung dead from a copper wire antenna tied to the window bar. It’s defiant squawking gone.
My letter lay underneath the heavy lid of her sewing machine [sewing, a habit, she inherited intact from Maman by sight]. Bright white did its silver buttons shine in the purple of dawn. Hard to miss in the perfect timing when she’d come wide-awake, speedy from an outlandish nightmare – as if to repair something forgotten the night before. Her waking ritual: the scratching at her thin neck and bony ribs, the sharp inhale of frigid harmattan air, the turning to train her too-white eyes on mine, orbs in the near dark. She would sprout from that wet mattress flat as ground, to find my eyes gone. It will be news to her, the poor thing. But I had planned for this all my life.
Dear Uzo, guess what? — the letter announced. I am off to war! Yes, real war! Don’t cry for me. I will be back a man. Not like Papa. Better. I promise. By then, she’d stop reading because it’s hard to read through tears. She would no longer be herself, and I will no longer be myself.
At the ripe cusp of teenage angst, she pounced with rage and questions, I was told. So angry, she spat, ran into walls, punched a window, beheaded a platoon of lizards, kicked chickens in the head, and went hungry for a whole afternoon. Then by evening, with the wisdom that comes after a long hearty cry, she made peace with it. She forgave me and Gd, those who started wars and those who fought them.
And just as so, she forgot why it was she wanted to burn the world to ash.
Excerpt from an in-progress novel.