Selorm wiped her eyes one more time as she sniffed, somehow surprised that her tear glands could still work. These past two months had seen her shed tears on the daily, as she struggled to get over what had happened.
She was the first born of two children born to Benjamin Brese and Emefa Dogbey. Benjamin, after the birth of the second child, Mawuli, finally got what he had been fighting to get for a long time. An American visa. She had just turned three when he bid the family farewell, with passionate promises of how he would come back for them and how wonderful a life they would have in New York.
Promises that were yet to be fulfilled as she stood on the chair in her room. He had never gotten back in touch with them.
With time, their mother accepted the reality that the father of her two children had run out on them and took on the task of being a single mother. If there was anything Selorm and Mawuli would ever say with confidence, it was that their mother worked her head off. To her, rest was almost like a curse word. She refused to let off one minute for slacking; the future of her children was far too important to do that.
Her hardworking attitude was highly commendable, no doubt. But it came with the disadvantage of not spending as much intimate time with the children as she should have. She was out of the house by 6 am, and came back home around 10 pm, so the connection between them was not as strong as one would’ve expected.
And as Selorm and Mawuli grew up, disagreements were sure to be a part of their life, but they sometimes took the normal ‘sibling rivalry’ beef too far, with petty little disagreements often turning into huge fights. It was a miracle that the only time fists flew was one Friday evening, just as their mother walked in.
“SELORM! MAWULI! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO!” she bellowed in their local dialect. “DO YOU WANT TO KILL EACH OTHER??”
That night, a long stern discussion about respecting and loving each other followed, with Emefa making the two promise to settle differences amicably.
Six months later, Emefa spoke to Selorm, who was now 21, as they were standing outside their house. “Selorm, please, remember what I told you about dealing with your brother. You two are all you have. Excuse me to say, you can change friends easily. But you can never change your sibling. Never. At least, you two don’t fight as much. But please, don’t get nasty with him. You have quite a sharp temper. Keep it in check.” She rubbed her chest, muttering about it hurting as she entered the house.
It turned out that chest pain was a symptom of something very serious. The next morning, the two entered the room to find her unconscious. Rushing her to the hospital, the doctors delivered a nasty blow.
Emefa had suffered a heart attack early that morning and didn’t survive.
The two youngsters were devastated. They had grown indifferent to not having their father around, but losing their mother at this point in time was just too painful. For the next fortnight, the siblings were inconsolable, particularly Mawuli, who had shared one heck of a bond with her. As they were joined by one of their aunts in the home, who did a pretty satisfactory job stepping in for their departed mother, the pain slowly subsided, and it seemed like the contention that often rose between them had passed on along with her.
The way they had stuck together all throughout the period of their mother’s funeral seemed to suggest their fights were now six feet deep.
Within six months, however, Selorm’s self-centered attitude – which in reality was the major catalyst for many of their face-offs – began to show up once more, and Mawuli was not very enthused, as usual.
One Saturday morning, their aunt gave them a list of chores to do, then stepped out to do some shopping. As Mawuli mopped the veranda, he noticed that Selorm was not washing the cups, plates and cutlery like she was supposed to. He went to knock on her door, already guessing that she had gone back to her room. “Selorm, the things in the sink ooo!”
“Ohhhhh, ah! Don’t you think I already know? Leave me alone! I’ll go and wash them.”
Mawuli got irritated at her rude speech. He entered. “Selorm, I don’t like the way you responded. Ah, I was just reminding you…”
Five minutes later, and the tension between them was raised back to life as they shouted at each other and traded nasty insults at each other. Then things took a turn for the worse.
Mawuli, still in possession of the mop, raised it high and struck her on the arm. Incensed, she retaliated by grabbing a hairspray can and striking him twice on the forehead. Her counter seemed to do more damage, as both hits sent him tumbling to the ground, holding his forehead and grimacing in pain.
“Fool! How dare you hit me with that dirty mop! How stupid can you get, you useless good-for-nothing?”
Mawuli looked up as his sister, driven by a fit of fury, rained the nastiest of words upon him. At that point, he felt nothing but hate for his big sister. At that point, anywhere far from her would be heaven. He just wanted to get out of there.
“Selorm, I can’t stand you and your selfishness. You’re a terrible person, and I do not want to be anywhere near you. I hate you! I’m getting out of here!” With that, he sprung to his feet and stormed out of her room.
As she followed him, mocking him for running away, he took his money on the dining table and stormed through the front door. And as he went, Selorm yelled after him.
“YOU CAN DIE FOR ALL I FREAKING CARE!”
She slumped in one of the sofas nearby. What a stupid boy!
She remained there, still steaming for about an hour or two.
Then she heard her phone ring. She rushed to her room to answer the call. After hanging up, she noticed the screensaver.
It was her and Emefa.
She shook her head. “Oh Ma! Hmmm. If only you were here…”
Just then, a sharp flashback occurred. The last few words her mother had spoken to her.
You two are all you have…please, don’t get nasty with him…
An immediate twinge of guilt followed. Oh God! What have I done? She was right. I should’ve been more gentle with him. Oh God!
She quickly dialed his number.
She tried five more times. Same response.
Fine. I’ll wait for him to come home. Then I’ll apologize. I really have to watch myself now.
Midday came, and the aunt arrived from the market. No Mawuli.
Three o’ clock came, and still no Mawuli.
As she continued to try calling, her aunt, who was watching the TV, suddenly exclaimed, “Ei, Selorm, they say there’s been a terrible accident on the George Bush Motorway. A trotro colliding headfirst into a stationary truck. My goodness…… it seems there are no survivors ooo…”
Her heart skipped a beat.
About half an hour later, an unfamiliar number flashed on Selorm’s phone screen. She usually hated seeing ‘strange’ numbers call, but she answered. “Hello?”
“Um, hello, good evening, madam. Please, is this Selorm Brese?”
She got a little nervous. “Uh….y-y-yes?”
“Please, do you know any young man by name Mawuli Brese?”
The knots in her stomach grew tighter. She swallowed hard. A cold sweat broke out on her forehead. “Yes… h-h-h-h-he’s my y-y-younger brother.”
The male voice on the other side sighed reluctantly, as if he had no desire to say what he was about to say, yet had to say it. “I’m sorry, Ms. Brese, but it appears your brother was involved in a motor accident…”
+ + + + +
Selorm shook her head as she placed the noose around her neck. The memories just would not go away. Emefa’s last words… their final fight… those terrible words she screamed at him before he left the house… the sight of his lifeless corpse in the 37 Military Hospital… they couldn’t stop reverberating around her cranium.
She closed her eyes as she felt the tough nature of the rope around her neck. Three months in, and she couldn’t be any lower than she already was. Nothing really mattered to her. Suddenly, she felt there was no reason to live. Pastors had spoken to her, family members and friends had done their best to console her, telling her to stay strong and not give up, but the guilt and grief had eaten away at her soul too deep. There was no fight left in her.
I’m sorry I disappointed you, Ma. And I’m sorry I insulted and cursed you so badly, Mawuli. I don’t wanna do this anymore. I’m calling it quits.
She hopped off the chair.