He had been cheating on her. He had been doing it for over a year. She had always known. But they had never talked about it. Neither of them dared bring it up. Him, for reasons she could only guess at. Her, because she could not bring herself to believe it. She could not confront that reality, so she dismissed the thought every time it occurred to her.
When he woke up, he was enveloped in thick darkness. There was dust in the air. It grated against his throat with every breath. He felt something shuffle next to him. Then his name was whispered. Softly. A name came into his mind. Leyla. He reached out his hand in the darkness. It got arrested midway. Something metallic clinked. A chain?
The sky was big and open, a vast blue canvas on which a few small clumps of clouds lazily drifted. Thomas stood in the middle of the graduation square and stared at the dais ahead of him. A few moments before, he had received his first class degree from the chancellor.
I can hear them breathing. Panting like hunting dogs. Each of them. Dusty air rushing through tensed tracheas. Blood pumping through strained jugulars. Feet pounding the pavement. Startled passers-by turning to locate the source of the commotion.
James stepped onto the aisle and flashed his instinctive smile, looking at no one in particular. He briefly scanned the interior of the minibus and smiled again when he noticed the empty seat beside the aisle on the second row from the back.
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As men came, my father was of average height, neither too tall nor too short. But he was thinner than most men his height, which gave him just enough mass to not be lanky. Which means he didn’t exactly stand out. Nevertheless, if every man was required to stand out in some way, then there was one thing for which he could be said to do so. He was a very quiet man.
I don’t recall exactly when I started addressing my father by his first name. It must have been sometime after 2000 though, because I distinctly remember calling him baba at least once that year. I was in standard seven.
When I was in standard one, some men came with barbed wire and fenced off the section of the parish grounds furthest from the highway. Onyi and I tried stealing some of the wire, but the men were too vigilant. Two weeks later, more men came and dug foundations for a long building. Over the next year, they built a dispensary and three houses for the nurses.
Onyi was my best friend. He was a year behind me in school. His father, a stout man with pudgy hands and a neat moustache whose bellowing laugh was rarely out of earshot, was a primary school teacher. Ayucha, where he taught, was on the other side of town. Onyi’s mother sold sneakers on market days. His three older sisters also went to school at Awasi Primary. They stayed in the unit at the other end of our row-house, our landi.