Open 2020, Short Stories - Jedidah Olayinka Johnson


A day like us

By Jedidah Olayinka Johnson  


This day reminds me of us. It is the wind caressing the greytressesoff my shoulders, the unruly locks now sway to the whispers of Freetown’s mid-morning gale. It is the sun- warm, not unkind, mellow and subdued. It is the leaves that rustle like clothes starched stiff andthe scent of brine from the nearby Atlantic. Everything about this day reminds me of our love.


I am Ann and Ann is short for somethingI cannot quite remember.Thinking these days leaves me weary-even more so than usual, it easier to serenade in ignorance.Outside the scent of the moringa effuses,stronger than the methylated spirits massaged into bonesstiff like porridge left-overs from a week ago.


Last month I planted drab, oval seeds like little pebbles lining the earth, now theyare a luscious green elegance of Moringa outside the patio. There is a magnolia stool in the center of the whirling stalks, burnished golden to reflect the silvery moonlight on those nights I want forget that everything perfect is a façade that would not last.


They say Moringa cures malaria, two spoonful twice daily. It is good for the liver, onesteaming cupful weekly and it also works as a laxative- drink liberally, exhale then release.I had moringa tea this morning because it is good for me, now I am havingcider because I can, I am old enough to be mischievous and not care if I am scolded.


The man I live with wears an orange t-shirt and grey overalls with traces of dark soil because he has been gardening. It is too late to hide the glass of rum from him, he rolls his eyes and decides not to chide me this time. He wears claret lace ups as if in defiance to the aging forming wrinkles that are congregating at the side of his mouth,and the new streaks of silver adorning his head, with hairline receding and sagging eye-bags to go. In ten years he would have lost the will to make an effort, another ten years after that and he would be me, dragging days out, trying to remember, trying to steady hands and straighten legs.


Hemakes soupfor me.The soup tastes like soggy oats, the gooey bits are supposed to minced chicken but they are hard like the stony pip of dried out moringa. I warn him to stop wanting to poison me. He rolls his eyes again, this time he looks amused and he insists I finish the soup because he sits in front of me and I cannot empty the bowl into the sink. When I finish eating, I sink into the butter soft sheets on our bed,they are beige, or brown, but they could be crimson, against a background of folded triangles-triangles have a pair of parallel sides or maybe not. I cannot remember.


Night- peeks, the stars are drawing regal patterns on the emerald leaves of moringa. The man holds my hands and we take delicate steps to the garden. He lowers me gently onto the stool and I gently stroke the leaves. The serenity of the moment reminds me of you. I ask the man if he knew you, he smiles and does not respond. He seems tired so I tell him he can sleep on the couch.


Moringa is the miracle plant with a thousand uses. You were my miracle, I remember the first time youwalked into my life,you had your arms crossed like you were thinking, head bowed like you were praying and feet shuffling like you were none too eager. I waited for you to lift your hazel irisesneatly swept under lashes that were long and curled.Then I held your gaze unabated until you walked up, dragging languid feet and asked if I knew you.I took in your pimply youth before I shook my head uncommitted. But yourwordsfelt likean auger whirling through my knees and I felta weakness I was certain wasn’t bonesrasping under the weight of all that arthritis.

“Do you want to go out some time?” you asked.


I am old enough to scold you, to fuss over you, to tell you to wear a scarf in the blistering harmattan cold, I almost said.But your eyes were seeing the warmth and calm where I had creases because time had not stood still for me.So we had dinner- something quick and greasy, maybe a burger,I can’t quite remember. You took me to your home where we eased into your butter soft sofa and singedourselves with blazing desires.


We had good years. But now your memories make me angry because they are the only things I cannot forget.You left, you betrayed me. You left, you betrayed what we had.I start my tirade of screaming since I can no longer fling my limbs about theatrically.


The man wakes up, he is wearing grey pajamas and looking concerned. He looks familiar but I cannot quite remember him. I cannot quite remember anything these days. I cry helplessly and wait for him to hold me.


“I am right here Ann-Marie, I never left.” He tells me.


He is you, he never left, he loves me the same.We hold hands in the moonlight with the scent of Moringa surrounding us. I want to let him sleep in my bed but by morning, he would be forgotten.


Jedidah Johnson is a doctor from Sierra Leone. She started writing as a child and had a novel published in 2014 when she was still in medical school. This book is currently being studied by M.Phil students in literature at the University of Sierra Leone. She has taken up a program for a nation-wide tour of schools to promote extra-curricular reading and was named one of the fifty most influential young people in my country. When not reading, writing or saving lives, she dreams in classic writer’s fashion or playing with her dog Casper


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