On the third day she came to visit, all the sharp edges in my house fell to pieces. I discovered them hour by painful hour, as I moved from dusty corridor, to bath, to wood-floored bedroom dotted with several months’ worth of shed hair and fluff. Sewing scissors– their gold handle rusted over with neglect– sat scattered on my work table; screw, blades, and finger rests spread far from each other as though they had never been whole. The old-time straight razor I used to shave my head was also apart from itself, its cutting edge bent in half like it was made of paper and not steel. Even the keys jammed into my room’s locks were dull around their teeth.
“The keys too? Is that not a bit much?”
My voice scratched its way out of my mouth, hoarse from lack of use, but she behaved as though she hadn’t heard me.
She was still, just as she had been on her first two visits, careful not to make any forceful movements that would topple the unsteady kitchen stool she sat on. She usually stayed no more than three hours, sighing whisper-soft every few minutes, and rearranging her lean arms across her chest when she grew stiff.
“Girl. You are still mourning? Still trying to end yourself?”
Her voice lilted and chimed like a dinner bell, but there was some sort of distortion to the sound. It was almost as if my head was submerged in water, and I was listening to her through the muffle. I stood silent in front of her, watching the 4 o’clock sunlight spilling lazy orange warmth over the window sill and onto my feet, narrow and much-veined just like hers.
“Miss Freda, didn’t you die?”
She ignored me. We might as well have been taking part in two different conversations, running parallel and eventually away from one another.
“Anyway, I deadened the keys too, just in case. It would be torturous to go that way, but I thought you might still try.”
She laughed to herself like high heels kicking on concrete and added, “You this child of ours.”
“Of ours? I’m no one’s but my very own.”
Miss Freda kissed her teeth and rolled her eyes so far up and back I thought they would stick.
“Girl. You think you made yourself the way you stitch those clothes? You think you hold yourself together all on your own?
As she spoke, she adjusted the yellow film of fabric she wore for a dress. The way she called me Girl made me forget my real name. I knew she was the aunt that followed her sister, my distant and unloving mother into sickness and then death years ago, but I felt more lifeless before her brazen self. What did she want with me?
“Give the sharp edges a rest, girl. You are all of us. You are a wide sky inside too stifling a house. Let me show you–”
Zoë Gadegbeku (@HerWildness) is a Ghanaian writer whose work has appeared in Lawino Magazine, AFREADA, Brittle Paper, The Fem Lit Mag, Blackbird, Slice Magazine, and Longreads. She was a fellow in the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice during her senior year at Georgetown University, and a participate in the 2017 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop in Barbados. Gadegbeku recently graduated from the Creative Writing MFA program at Emerson College, where she worked as the Communications Manager for the Elma Lewis Center, in addition to teaching first-year writing for undergraduate students.
Related country: Ghana
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