Black Coming of Age Creative Nonfiction

The small window is barely letting the weak morning rays passage into my cell. But I can see the outline of the warden's face. Even with the insufficient light, I can, by his smell alone, identify him - the supervisory warden. Horizontal tribal marks crisscrossing his rumpled face like a toddler's drawing book, a large nose, a wicked husky voice, and a a smooth bald head.

He is saying something while unshackling the cuffs on my legs, the morning sun glinting off the parabola of his bald brown scalp. He smells like raw fish - just like those chubby women at Ajasa Street who sold cartridges in large oval basins. I'm listening nor paying attention. The pitch and tone of his voice are different this morning, but it doesn't extend to what he's saying - something stupid. You don't need to know what, just a stupid question clearly.

After unshackling my legs, with my hands still in a handcuff, he stand and indicate I follow him. Reluctantly, I do so, just as he opens the door of the cell. Outside the cell, another warden is standing by the metal door, a bucket at his feet. A mean expression is hiding the tiny tremors of fear on his face. It is obvious even despite the weak morning rays. I see it beside the lines around his eyes, in his shrunken eyebrows, in the way he avoids my stare, like he was shy, like a 16-year old being wooed for the first time.

The corridor outside the cell is as quiet as the morning and the floor below my bare foot is as cold as my resolve. The bald warden set a slow leisurely pace, with me in tow, and the scared warden at the rear. and i I know what today is and where I am being taken to. It's slightly amusing, to be honest - not the reality that I am to be hanged sometime around noon, but the stupid idea floating in and around the respective skulls of these people that I should, somehow, recant and plead for leniency and forgiveness for my actions. I laugh, because it is as ridiculous as hell. 

I wonder why a human with brains would think that I'll have a change of heart on my final day alive. It was what this bald warden was telling me back in the cell; what the pastor with the shirt that smelled so strongly of cheap detergent from a couple of weeks back had pleaded; same as the two Catholic priests from last week; and the terrified group of faux pious women, in light green jackets and long shapeless skirts, a few days ago had tried telling me to do. These folks all said something about gaining forgiveness and closure from the almighty, for the redemption of my soul from the infinite tortures of the afterlife. Well, damn them and their feeble and pacifist Almighty. And try walking faster, you bald cow!

The corridor that runs from my cell to the block is like a maze of dust, and cobwebs, and age, from the deep bowels of mother earth to the startling brightness of the surface. Well, that's an exaggeration. Most times I exaggerate and say some outlandish things just for that bewildered look on the listener's faces. Like when I told that panel of of smug and condescending clowns in that fancy room with a high almost rectangular desk that I murdered the boy because he refused my advances. Which was a stupid lie. But I liked the stunning silence that had enveloped the room there and then. Loved the fear in their eyes, then the disgust, and the condemnation finally. 

But the truth is that the only advances I made to the dead fellow was advancing my hands to his tender chocolate neck, feeling the tiny veins there, the blood coursing through in fright underneath, the warmth, and crushing his wind pipe and vertebrae in one long wave of force.

But that's by the way.

After the long passageway we step through a hatch-like door, into a long room with a single yellow bulb. A bit similar to the interrogation from before - this also has a near rectangular desk, but the similarities ends there. This room is dark - inspite the single bulb - and moody and windowless. A half dozen plastic chair sat side by side around the desk, and another stood in the midst, solemnly. I guess this is mine. But as I make to seat, the warden behind, pushes me down. This vexes me, and I give him a fiery look. He draws back, clutching his baton warily.

" Sit down there. " The bald warden instructs. " Open that window, Peter. Soon Oga and those journalists them go come. Here just dey smell awkward awkward, like where they fuck person. 

I cough.

" Wetin dey funny? " He asks, turning.

 I stare at him, right through the bald shell of a face. 

" Mad man. "

I ignore him. In my time here, I've learnt that this bald fellow never liked hearing others' voices apart from his. Luckily, I fit his type. His narcissism doesn't concern me. His narcissistic self can never reach the level I have. He can only do small gra-gra.

On the desk are framed pictures of the deceased devil: on his first birthday party, his white eyes full of untainted innocence and smudges of cake on his cheeks; another frame depicting him on his first day in school, oversized black shorts and a checkers shirt, a school bag over his shoulders; and a couple more . These people want to blackmail me emotionally. I laugh. They don't know me. A few pictures of the devil when he was less evil doesn't suddenly make him an angel. I wonder why this is hard for them to understand.

Warden Peter opens the lone window directly opposite my seat and a stream of light caresses my face and seat. There is a rope tied to a nail at the centre. He fastens it somewhere outside, and in that moment that he bends and his head is outside, I have this thought, impulsively, of standing and kicking him on his buttocks. He will just tumble out of the window. On his head of course. Then he'll know that I am really mad.

And so I seat there, for minutes, until my buttocks start to ache. My restlessness increases as the room brightens with the passage of time, and the sounds of the early morning prison bells and warden chatters becomes more audible. The bald warden takes to scratching his bald head with one hand while dusting the chairs with a small rag.

Time pass.

The door creaks open and a group of people walks in: the prison Oga, two slim wardens, a couple on nice clothes but with tired facial expressions, and a guy with a small video recorder. I glare at them, especially at the couple. They return the glare, and in that moment, their tired faces transforms into hate - pure hate. I can see it straining their faces. It's funny. Now they must have had no inkling of an idea how I must have felt for years since that tragedy in Emene.

Everybody takes a seat, the earlier two wardens steps back, and half a dozen eyes pins me to my seat. There's different emotions emanating from their eyes: hate from the couple, indifference from the prison Oga, disgust from the slim wardens who, presumably, are high-ranking officers; and interest, from the videographer, who already was doing his stuff.

" Why did you kill that boy? " The Oga asks. His tone is sounding like he'd rather not be doing this now.

I smile, " Because I've always wanted to. "

A cry of pain from one of the couple. I look at her and try to feel pity. But I can't. It just isn't there.

" May God always punish you! " The other spat. His eyes, if it was a gun, would have riddled me with bullets already. The venom there is strong, but not stronger than the hate I've carried for over two decades.

" Fuck god. " I reply calmly. " God didn't prevent your poor boy's neck from my palms. I'll do it again if given the chance. "

A collective gasp. The videographer is looking weirdly at me.

The woman is crying, the man is shooting eye bullets at me, the Oga is writing something in his book, the other two slim wardens are shaking their head ruefully, I am smiling. I think the bald warden from earlier would be thinking of headbutting me with that rock of a head.

" I don't think he is normal. May you burn in hell! " The couple jumps up, as if choreographed.

I stand at the same time, as the tragedy in Emene replayed in my head. I remember the blood, the crushed tricycle, mama's shattered waist, Papa's caved in skull lying on the road, myself wandering at the wreckage, crying. I remembered the face of the truck driver, even though I was only five, but I couldn't forget.

" Hopefully, your kid burns with me. You killer! "

" Take him back. And push up the time for hanging. I want him to hang before noon. " Says the Oga.

I turn to see the bald warden and Warden Peter pull close, and they began pushing me out of the room. 

At the door, I stop, and turns back. Not to see their faces one last time, but to see outside the open window, and imagine - not with regret but wonder - at what would have happened if the mob at Emene had lynched the murderous driver then. They would have saved me the stress, of looking at him twenty years later; a crying woman by his side.

That window should close with my departure, I think. Now, the pain is well distributed.

June 11, 2021 05:38

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