I can remember this date quite clearly. We were running around, and for once, my mother hesitated before telling us to mind ourselves as to not disturb the neighbours downstairs. Which I never understood. How could our neighbours even hear all our thudding around with a series of thick layers of wood acting as a barrier between us? I never understood. Not till I was older, of course. But it had always seemed to me that our small, childish feet made steps of a butterfly, not the monstrously loud steps we were actually making. But I digress.
My mum had hesitated to tell us off because she thought we were all going to die. And I was very aware of this fact because I had overheard grown-ups muttering such words over hushed whispers not to be listened to by a child my age. But I had already taken it upon myself to listen to everything these adults said. Even when I wasn’t supposed to. Even when they were whispered over loud music. I listened. Anyway, my dad had hardly hid it from us during the week of the proposed date.
He was sitting in his throne where he had his evening paper acting as a curtain for his face for a while. I’m not sure if he read it there, but he was certainly muttering it to himself in disjointed bouts of English and then Twi.
“Stupid old white people… End of the world?! I wouldn’t put it past them if it was another way to kill all the Africans.”
His crinkled old face had pushed itself hard into a frown. Lips puckered and nose scrunched as if he had smelt something bad, he exclaimed at the notion of death on New Years Day. But the fear on my mothers face as she placed his dinner on his lap had me more than a little bit frightened. She seemed to believe it. But then again, mum believed almost everything. So, I tried not to worry too much.
Plus, I was a child. I was going to heaven whether I liked it or not. Jesus would make certain of it. Or rather, my mum would.
She bathed us in a mixture of oil and holy water every other day till New Years Eve. She would’ve done it everyday, except we didn’t have the money for such a luxury. Dad controlled the money in the house. And dad wasn’t having any of it. Every time dad saw mum doing it, he would scowl and call her stupid. He even gave her a hit or two. But I don’t think mum cared too much. She just got on with it, like any other mother who feared the death of their children would.
There were five of us. I was second to last. My brother was the eldest, then you had my two elder sisters, me and then finally the new born – my little sister, Harmony. She was born in August. I never payed her much attention, much to everyone’s dismay. I think they were hoping for a reaction. But I didn’t give them any. And it wasn’t on purpose or anything, it was just that I couldn’t really care less that she was born. Not in a rude way, it was just that I was quite indifferent to her presence. She hardly woke me up at night, and I was never allowed to hold her because I was too small, so I guess we never really made that instant sisterly connection. I didn’t mind too much. But like I said, the rest did. In my personal opinion, I think they thought I had some type of hidden agenda. Which I didn’t. But, I digress again.
For purpose sake, I’ll name my siblings after the day they were born. You had my brother who was born on Saturday, my eldest sister who was born on Friday, my other sister who was born on Thursday and me who was born on a Wednesday. And then of course, Harmony.
Anyway, as I was saying before, my mum had hesitated but had swiftly told us off. And I can imagine her thinking:
“We may be dying, but we will still respect our neighbours like Jesus told us to.”
She didn’t say it. But she could very well have. It would’ve been granted given the circumstances. Even though my dad was a Muslim and would not have readily tolerated it any other day, I think he was scared as well, so wouldn’t have minded. He called this supposed “dooms day” hocus pocus, but I could see he believed it anytime I looked into his eyes.
And by amount of canned food he had purchased.
Anywho, it was time to sit down in front of the telly to watch the fireworks. Saturday had fixed the satellite really well to make sure there was little interference. My mum had bought crackers for us all. I mean, she bought it for Christmas. But I think she wanted to celebrate our lives a little bit more than she had Jesus’. Plus, Granddad had died on Christmas only two years prior, so she had lost her taste for celebrations on the day her dad died. And I couldn’t blame her. Though, when I was a child, I didn’t ever really understand. I just thought she was being stubborn and “wouldn’t Granddad understand if we had a nice Christmas?” I never said that to her, but I let the thought cross my mind one too many times that holiday.
But what would it matter? We were all scheduled to die this year. So, Christmas’, birthdays, deaths… It all wouldn’t matter. Because we’d all be dead by the time we’d open our eyes come morning.
So, imagine my surprise when I opened up my eyes and found myself alive in my bed. Sleeping alone, on the lower bunk that I shared with my sister, Thursday. I could hear my sisters snoring away and I was smiling in hope just before my smile faltered. I had always been the first one to wake in the real world, so there was a high probability that I would be the first one awake in heaven. So I just had to make sure. I had run to my mum as quickly as possible to see if it was all real.
I had pulled open the heavy door to my room and bolted out of it. Down the corridor I ran and into my parents room. I stopped, stalled by the emptiness of the bed. Harmony was sleeping quietly in her cot but no one was there. My worry started to slowly increase. I jumped onto the bed and turned around on it for a second. I thought about bouncing on it but decided against it. I had already guessed that dad wouldn’t make it into heaven, but where was mum? I jumped off of the bed and sprinted to the kitchen. Empty. The bathroom. Empty. Until I finally reached the living room.
There sitting with her legs hanging gently off the sofa sat my mother. Tears dripping one by one down her shiny brown face, she had turned her blood shot eyes towards me and motioned me towards her.
I wanted to ask her if this was heaven and why Friday and Thursday wasn’t awake yet but I thought to wait a bit. This moment seemed important to her.
So, I crawled into her outstretched arms, careful not to harm any bruises. Her arms wrapped around me and she began to rock me back and forth. She cuddled me to her chest, praying loudly to God. She was smiling but sad.
“God, thank you for giving my children another year. Thank you for keeping my children alive. Thank you for being there for them.” And she continued this way, until finally she closed with “in Jesus name, Amen”. I echoed her and we sat in silence, me and her.
She continued to rock us both, stroking my hair ever so gently. It gave me time to think for a bit. I began to think about her prayer. And how she never referred to herself. How she never once thanked God for her survival. And I thought and thought about it. Because I should’ve realised. As soon as I had saw her crying, I should’ve known it was real.
I turned my head up to hers and kissed her cheek, haunted by her still, timid movements.
Maybe we were supposed to die.