I like this story because like many things, it came unexpectedly, and left just as quickly.
My father swears Adam was a feminist. The Biblical character; the one who fell asleep and “allowed” his woman wander free to frolick with snakes and strange creatures. He says it is a wonder Cain did not have 3 fingers and a tail, seeing as his mother knew how to do everything except sit still. He is passionate when he says these things. He slams his fists and coughs up torrential showers of spit. He leans forward in the sofa and does not fall back into it until I have nodded so much my neck hurts from all the locomotion. My father does not like feminists very much. Sometimes, I think he does not like women at all.
My mother swears the world is going mad. She wears a leather belt around her wrapper and is never without a head scarf. The belt is because once when she was younger and more voluptuous than she was wise, a strong wind had pulled her wrapper off her. She had dropped the pot she was carrying and scurried off into the bush, in tears, as useless village boys heckled and jeered at her. She does not like my sister’s skirts and is passionate about her dislike. She nods slower than I do when my father is giving one of his speeches. She sighs and leans back, then forward, then back. My mother does not like Dufie very much. Sometimes I think she had rather her daughter had not been born at all.
I am not sure how my sister feels about me. She comes through the door and then she leaves. Always quiet, except when she is screaming; always to herself, except when she is out. There’s a rabid itchiness to her when she enters the house. A discomfort that spreads its way around the walls, into the pipes and comes out of the water the moment her pedicured nails slip out of her heels and unto the concrete ground. I hear more from strangers about her than I find out from inside our house. Dufie does not walk when she comes home. She sprints until it’s time to leave again. She comes and she goes, she eats and she sulks. Chocolate when she needs me to open the gate at night, silence when she doesn’t. I watch from quiet corners as she goes about her make up, wondering if I too will catch the corrupt spirit that has arrested her in her youth. She wears lipstick and high heels, short skirts and crop tops. My sister is a bad girl, so I hide my admiration and wait patiently my turn; when I too will be corrupted.
My uncle has climbed over our wall and run into the street. A discovery has been made so we are going to the Hospital.
The car is quiet as we glide through Accra Traffic. I cannot see my sister’s face but I can imagine the moist remnants of tears hanging still on her puffy cheeks. In this moment, we pass as any functional family but earlier there had been screaming, and smashing of plates, and furious curses thrown about the kitchen. In the end Dufie had succumbed. Dufie never succumbs.
My mother has not looked at any of us since we got in. Her eyes are pointed at the road, but I think she is somewhere farther away. Father’s grip on the steering wheel is as strong as mother’s concentrated gaze. He too will not look us in the face, although I catch stolen glances from the drivers mirror when he thinks I am not looking.
The car comes to a slow halt at the Hospital’s parking space and Father turns around for the first time. He avoids my eyes and fixes a stern finger in Dufie’s face. “You are going to behave yourself”, he sneers, but something is different about this warning; it feels more performative than threatening. My sister keeps her face to the window. Like yesterday and the day before and the one before that, she does not flinch. My mother turns for the first time and I realise she has been crying.
The door to the hospital slams open and a 23 year old girl comes running through. She collides into a nurse and they both topple down to the ground. She scampers to her feet and screams for a Doctor.
She pauses briefly, and then turns a corridor, still running.
Behind her, an older man in khaki trousers and a shirt at least twice his size runs after her. Behind them, a woman clutches a little girl to her chest with one arm while struggling to maintain her wrapper with the other. A cacophony of voices rises up at once. Men and women seated around the Hospital’s reception area take to their heels too for fear of the unknown. The Doctor opens his door, confused, wondering what all the noise is about. The girls smashes into and past him till she is inside, holding her knees, breathless. The Doctor turns in surprise. When he turns back to the door the Older Man and Woman are before him as well, breathless, their arms against the wall for support.
“Doctor…Please, Please… Call the Police …. My sister …. Rape.”
My mother lets out a low moan and slams the back of her head against the wall. I glide off slowly from her hip and look around me at everybody. My father’s eyes are burning red and he looks like he is about to burst. My sister has gone back to crying and wrenching at her shirt. The Doctor looks around at my family and quietly takes a knee before me.
“You are going to be fine okay?”
I nod, but I still don’t know what is going on. Only that my sister has gone mad. Only that my parents are ashamed.
Art Credit: Katherine Streeter for NPR