By Hazel

I want to tell you a story, will you listen? I’m assuming your answer is yes since you’re still here. So here it is. A night didn’t go by that I did not sit with my friends under the mango tree to listen to Oga John’s tales. He called them the tales by the moonlight. That used to be the best part of my day until he told story which has brought me here to tell my story.

I am no storyteller I don’t even know how it is done, but I just want you to listen- ‘cus no one will. Mama says I don’t know what I’m talking about. She may be right because I don’t recall anything that happened after Oga John lifted up my skirt. I shut my eyes and I shut my mind. And I kept asking myself, “Is this what Tawa was trying to explain to me that the mechanic did to her? Is this what happened that got her pregnant?” I couldn’t feel a thing, I didn’t think about the things he did with his hands. I don’t even want to remember if his hands were all he used. Like I said, I shut my mind.

I think I should stop here. You don’t seem to be interested. You’re not even paying attention to me! Yes, I know, because if you are, you’ll be looking at me. You don’t believe my story, do you? Your answer’s probably no. You are just like Mama. Hmmm… Do you know she’s the one who sent me under the mango tree that night? I told her my friends weren’t going but she said, “Did they born all of you together?” She sent me away only because her lover said my presence irritated him. Please don’t think I’m making this up. It’s true. The open-toothed young man said he hated the way I was gaping at him. “You people didn’t train this one well, look at the way she’s looking at me.” That was how I ended up alone with Oga John in the dark of the night, under the mango tree.

I shouldn’t have gone there, that’s what you’re probably thinking. I should have gone to Esther’s house, abi? Have you ever heard any of Oga John’s stories? When he tells them, I listen as if hypnotized. I look straight at him as if to catch the words as they fall out of his mouth. He loves especially to tell stories of the tortoise. There’s one where the tortoise is a king, there’s another where the whole community hates him, there’s… oh, I’m sorry, I’m deviating. Pardon me. Where did I stop? Okay, yes, thank you. So with the two of us under the tree, Oga John said it was preferable for me to sit on his laps. That was how it began. I wish I could tell you more. This may be my only chance to tell this story… But, there’s not much I can say because I don’t remember. How can I speak of something I don’t know?

Wait, are you laughing? You don’t want to hear this, do you? What was I even thinking? Maybe Mama is right. I can’t tell this story. I don’t even know how. If I did know how to tell stories, why haven’t I mentioned Mama’s occasional lovers to Papa? Why do I speak of only the meals Mama and I ate when Papa asks how we spent the day? Why do I forget the face of the previous lover immediately there’s a new one.

Maybe Oga John will know how to tell this story since he’s the storyteller. He should remember the things I don’t…but sadly, even him has quit telling stories. He hasn’t come by the mango tree since that day.

I’m sorry I brought you here for nothing. I really thought I had something to say. I’m sorry for wasting your time. Before you go, did I mention that the stories about the tortoise were my best? Well, you know now. Why were they my best? Because I love the tortoise! It reminds me of me. Not because it’s smart, cunny or brave but because it has a shell just like I do. I’m going into my shell now. Go on already, I don’t want to bother you anymore. Maybe Mama is right, maybe there’s no story.

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