By Komlan Aloysh
It was 6 o’clock on harmathan morning. The sunrays entered my room, peering through the loose and transparent peach-looking cloth that hung as a curtain to my room window. The sun reflection caressed my sleepy oval face, reminding me that it was daybreak and time to fetch water for the house. Still half asleep and annoyed by the early morning awakes and work, I stretched my dried ashy harmathan-licked legs loosely off the bamboo-made bed covered with a few of my lappas, to the dusty floor in my room so as to find my tire-made slippers that grandma bought for me on last week’s market day. The roughness of the floor angrily kissed under my ashy feet with a reminder of the poor shape and condition that the room carried. I quickly threw on my long white socks that looked yellow from overuse and over-washing.
“Whey pley ma slipper eh nah?” I groaned to myself, [in Liberian English]. I swept my left foot under the bamboo-made bed and across the floor in front of the bed and to the lower side of my bed. No luck. I couldn’t find them.
“Ah! Leh n’em here seh!” I said, finding them right behind the bamboo-made door that closed my room halfway. It never went beyond that point. I also grabbed my lappa and faded orange sweater perched on one of the nails behind the door for clothes hanging. I walked out of the room and grabbed the wooden handle of my bedroom door with both hands, lifted it up and pulled it with relentless force. It was the easy way to close it. That was the optimal way to close it.
Grandma was still asleep. I walked by her room, but I couldn’t hear her talking, as she does around that time when I awake to fetch water. I walked to the kitchen and looked behind the cooking pots that I washed last night under the full moon light, and that was where the yellow and white jerry-cans and the big blue tub sat. I remembered after washing them last night, I put them right behind the cooking pots so that I would not find it difficult looking for them early in the morning when it’s time to fetch water from the village scream.
I walked by grandma’s room on the far left toward the living room. “ma! ma!” I called.
No response. And I could hear her snoring, either.
“Eh look leh grandma sleeping plenty ley morning oh. She slee late in ley morning wen she pray too much in ley ner,” I thought.
As I walked out the door with the yellow jerry-can in my left hand and the blue tub and a small piece of cloth torn from grandma yellow and flower-ish lappa that I use for catta in my right hand, I saw my friends Monjue and Neeyonnon dressed in their immaculately pressed school uniforms, walking confidently to school. I waved to them and greeted softly.
“Yor morning oh!” I greeted.
Only Monjue responded to my greeting and waved back to me. Jenweh only gave me that supercilious look and then looked away, as if she didn’t want to say morning to me. I wondered what I did to her that she didn’t even bother to respond to my greeting. I looked after them as they walked to school. I felt deep sorrow for myself and strange admiration for them, for they are blessed to have such wonderful chances to be in school and become whatever they desire in life. A scream of pity sprinted right through me. I just wish I were like them and didn’t have to fetch water every morning at 5 or 6AM and wash clothes and cook with no end. I just want to go to school and become a Nurse one day. Just to be happy. I always dream of becoming a Nurse, so that I would be able to take good care of grandma, as she’s getting sicker and sicker at the passing of each day. But this dream seemed farther from my reach.
“Eh… Gor, when I wey ever go to skoo too eh,” I said pitifully to myself.
Grandma and I live in a small two-bedroom muddy house with rusty corrugated iron roof. The exterior walls are rough. The house was not build as a regular house. Sticks were planted into the muddy ground with finger-sized bamboos running across them and tied up, creating about five to eight inches squares, and using mud to form the walls. After few days, the walls got dried and strong enough for inhabitation. That was the kind of house we live in. It was built 20 years ago when I wasn’t even born yet. I heard that Grandpa did a lot of work, cutting and bringing to town all the sticks used on the house. Grandma sometimes tells me some interesting stories about how she and Grandpa got married and everything about their time together. She would say, “Yor grandpa wor hansum and he care for pepo oh. We no straight we goo for each sholor.”
Before moving in with grandma in Torweay Town, my mother and I lived on Benson Street in Monrovia. My life changed on a sunny Wednesday afternoon when I was just 10 years old. Mama had just left the communal yard where we lived, and she walked to Jalloh’s shop across the street. She was cooking and forgot to buy pepper for the soup. So she decided to run across the street to purchase pepper from Jalloh’s shop. As she stood and waiting for all the cars to go by before crossing, a taxi lost control and ran into her, while she was looking the other way trying to cross. She died before being rushed to the nearby clinic by by-standers.
I know this because grandma told me one day when I was plating her hair. I saw tears running down her face when she told me. Every time I asked for mama, grandma would say that mama traveled and she would come next week. It was always next week, and that next week never came. But on that day, I didn’t know what I felt when grandma told me. It felt strange to me, and I was sure that grandma expected me to start crying immediately. That didn’t happen. I didn’t know what happened and didn’t know what to do. I continued doing her hair, but later I went to room that night when I started to think that mama was not coming anymore. I was there to stay for good. Now that I am 21 years old, I’m not feeling much. I was just nub and confused and the pain had dried and evaporated with passing time and the patience of waiting.
Grandma’s illness always worried me. Two years ago, she fell down in her room while getting dressed after evening bath and she hurt her left leg, and since then she has never been in her good health. I bathed her in the evening – at least that was once a day.
I left the blue tub on the three linked-together concrete bricks at the back of the house. I usually leave it there and filling up with the water that I fetch from the scream. I only had the big yellow jerry-can and the piece of grandma’s lappa that I used for catta.
I walked down the tiny steep trail heading to the scream where the entire village fetches drinking water and washes clothes. As I approached, I saw that there weren’t that many people at the scream this morning, only Jayway and Waiyonnon. The scream is usual packed with people that time of the morning. Maybe everybody went to the farms that early.
“Ah! Why ley pley emtey ley morning eh?” I said. “la onley Jayway and Waiyonnon?!”
Jayway and Waiyonnon had just arrived too, it seemed, and they were deep into their gossip about everything that’s wrong other people this village. I must have caught them red-handed. If only they knew that I didn’t hear any of their gossip. When they saw me climbed down that tiny trail on the steep hill, their conversation abruptly ended, awkwardly. It became a complete silent place and weird stare at each other. The kind of awkwardness and quirkiness that make you think whether that person overheard your gossip about him/her.
“Yor morning oh!” I greeted while putting down my jerry-can and finding a seat on the big surfaced root of the bre,adfruit tree on the other side of the scream.
“Yea, morning oh, Mamie” they responded in unison, as if they were guilty of something.
“Where every baley” I asked jokingly.
“Take la bucket and bring it here ya..!” Waiyonnon commanded Jayway, ignoring me.
“La only two of yor here?” I asked.
“Ah! En la or you see here?” Waiyonnon said annoyingly.
“I jes asking becor plenty pepo can be here in ley morning,” I said softly.
“Well, dey nah here,” she said.
I didn’t say thing back to her. Instead, I just walked in the river to fill the jerry-can, with the stopping me at waist level. I swept my hand over the water with the idea that I was clearing whatever that might be on the water before filling the jerry-can. I filled the can and dragged it on shore.
“Jayway, yor plee help me ya to put ley gallon on my hay!” I said, asking for help to put the filled jerry-can on my head. Jayway dropped the clothes and came to help me up.
“Ah..! ley tin heavy oh. Leh me ask Waiyonnon to help ya…!” she said.
“Waiyonnon! Waiyonnon!!” She called.
Waiyonnon came over with her hand covered in foam of soap. She was actually washing her clothes.
“Mamie, I wan ask u some tin. Wheh tan you weh go to skul seh? Yor skul buziney seh in pepo eye” she said mockingly while laughing. And they began to laugh.
I have always been the one who talks so much about education and its importance to me and what I want to become when I grow up. Many of the young people, especially the girls, got to know about passion that I carried with me when I talked about school. But sadly, I have not gotten any means to enter school. I dropped out in 6th Grade in Monrovia few years after mama passed away, and things spirally headed downward for me.
Waiyonnon mocked me that I talked so much about school and not even in school. She said that jokingly, but it touched me deeply. I felt ashamed and desperate and the deep urge of really pursuing what I want in life. I felt like my life had come to a blunt stop, with any chance of picking up soon enough.
I didn’t respond to Waiyonnon’s mockery of me. I came down to my knees and both of them lifted the jerrycan and placed it on my head. And they assisted me up on my feet.
I slowly walked out their sight with heavy heart and pain and desperation and wish. I was numb and desperate and yearn for a chance to be a student again and realize my dream. As I climbed up that steep hill, I showered in tears and scream of sorrow full with life’s neglects. Nothing would matter to me in this world than taking a seat in a classroom – my wish from a far away village.