My brother was going to be beaten to death today, and I wish I didn’t have to go home to watch this. Jama was always quiet but he was life itself. He would laugh at every joke, funny or not, and smile 5 minutes into a conversation with anyone. Mind you he wasn’t trying to be nice or considerate. It was just who he was and everyone loved him for it, everyone but him. My father. He considered Jama to be weak, in his own words he was “less than”. “how can you be so soft , don’t you know you can’t be WEAK in this country, ehnnnn? Everyone will take you for a ride” he would grip Jama by the back of the neck, while slowly tapping his chest and scream this right in his face every time he detected a hint of weakness, every time. He was 7.
10 years of this and my brother had lost his smile. To strangers, my mother and even to me . He was indifferent to everything and everyone and worst of all he stopped taking shit from my father. It was a full on civil war and my mother and I were left with the brunts. Scattered pieces of broken furniture, calming a clearly deranged man, and nursing my brother back to health.
It was Friday and we were supposed to be at the usual church vigil. My father couldn’t make it home to get us today so he had called my mother and ordered that we take the bus and be present for the service. 15 minutes later we were done, yet jama hadn’t come down. My mom shouted his name severally but there was no response, she eyes met mine and I knew that was the sign to go up and call him. I went up and saw jaja just laying on the bed, he wasn’t dressed for church and his demeanor hinted that he wasn’t going to go. I didn’t wait to ask him anything and ran downstairs in full force with tears in my eyes. My mother understood immediately when she saw me. Jama had hinted several times “jokingly” that he would one day not go. My mum was already in his room, begging and pleading for him to follow us but he was adamant, he wouldn’t budge. And for the first time in a long time I saw Jama smile. We were running late so we left him. My mum held my hands the entire ride to the church, my dad had kept spaces for all of us, and my heart was racing when we got to him . He didn’t see Jama, neither did he asked . Service was over and we were waiting for him in the packing lot, he was shaking hands and laughing at jokes like Jama did . I felt sick . He walked towards us and finally he asked where my brother was, my mother had replied that he was sick. He looked at him then gripped my arm so hard, I thought it would break . My mother tried to come between us but all he needed was one arm to stop her, he asked where Jama was once again. My arms were hurting and there were tears in my eyes, and like a dog whimpering I had replied that he was indeed sick. He opened the car door and we all got in and as he was about to start the car , he adjusted the mirror and looked straight in my eyes “even if he was dying, he should have been here but since he doesn’t need God’s healing, I’ll heal him”. It’s still as clear as day to me, his crooked smile, the unevenness in my breathing, the pain in my arm, the death in his eyes.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.