It all started because she wanted to be light skinned, so she burnt herself up….
Olije wasn’t like the rest of the girls, while others were playing and acting mama and papa drama under the stairs- I would see her recoil and enter their flat. I was very curious so I would follow her silently to know if she had another drama happening inside her house that we didn’t know about, as curious as I was back then, I was also clumsy.
It was my clumsiness that made Olije caught me watching her from their wooden net door and it was also my clumsiness that made me join her and ruined our chances of being lit fair girls.
“Maggi go be my pikin for this drama o, if not I no dey act abeg- and I no like how Tobe dey always pull him nicker when we wan sleep for inside, and again that mat dey smell piss piss, make we change am use dem Suwa mat, Railah just dey lie, she still dey piss for bed jor, if not why their mat go dey smell piss piss every time.” This was Fatima, giving us her laid down rules and complaining as always anytime we want to start the drama. “Hadiza go carry that broom sweep under the stairs and no throwaway the dirty for gutter o, if mama koyum catch you- my hand no dey o.”
Olije said she wasn’t feeling too well and that she wouldn’t be acting today. “Shey na every time you dey sick?” Fola asked, and everyone looked at Olije, expecting her to say something but she eyed Fola and mumbled something in her language that we all perceived were insults, then she started walking towards her house.
The boys were getting impatient with Fatima and her many complaining and rules, they wanted to get to the part where they’ll pick their wives and enter their house (their houses were under the stairs with a wrapper demarcating each room from the other). “Fatima make we start na.” Victor said annoyingly. “Oya pick your wife.” I pick Hadiza. Hadiza had just finished sweeping, so she dropped the broom and went to Victor her husband.
The rest of them started making their choices when I silently sneaked away to know what Olije was up to. They lived upstairs so it was easy for me to go and put my face on their net door without no one seeing me. I saw Olije mixing what looked like bleach in a bowl and trying to use match stick to make a fire.
At first, I thought she was trying to do witchy witchy drama on her own, I used both my hands to cover my mouth so I wouldn’t scream. She lit the match and put it in the aluminum bowl, it made a small fire and that was when my feet failed me, I dropped to the ground out of shock, Olije must have heard the sound, because she came outside almost immediately to find me on the ground outside their door. “Wetin you dey do Olije?” I wan change my skin from black to fair like Cheluchi own, you sef black, so you fit join me so that Somto go like you.”
I didn’t even think about it, I stood up and entered her house. This was not the day Olije burnt half of her body and was rushed to the hospital but this was how it started with me included.