by Obioma Okafor
This is a small story about my sister. Our oldest actually.
There was a time she used to be an angel. I mean this literally. She was that nice it was nearly pushing to a fault.
She doesn’t say much, or scream. She easily let go of things. Even things ordinarily one wouldn’t easily let go of.
My sister was peace, just as her name said it. Peace.
I liked her so much. We all do.
Then one day she changed. Suddenly and completely. I can’t explain it. None of us could.
She barked at even the slightest provocation and would be ready to fight to the death.
It surprised us all.
So very much. We didn’t understand it—the reason behind her sudden change. It was that strange we often came together to talk about it.
We are a family of five siblings. Excluding her that was oldest, I came after a boy and another boy and a girl came after me.
We would sit together and ask each other questions—if anyone knew what was wrong with our first-born.
Udoamaka, that was her name. She looked so much like my mother, yet with my father’s strength.
Strength she never used, we never even knew she had. Until she became someone else.
She turned a fighter, a noise–maker and would often sit by herself grumbling.
It was saddening. Greatly so. Most times I felt I was the more bothered. For you see, we were very close.
Used to be...before she became the tiger we were all scared of and avoided.
But there is a limit to her aggression that we could take. Each and every one of us.
It wasn’t long that we started to fight back, scream back…survive her.
One evening, she and our youngest fought. Over a pair of scissors.
It hurt me. Their noise jarred on my head. I was terribly disturbed.
But the next day something very bad happened.
We lost our sister.
She’d cut herself in the night and bled to death in her room.
I never understood it. I still don’t.
It was the most awful feeling ever.
I blamed myself and others and even my parents.
In the blood-stained piece of paper we found beside her body, she’d written, ‘Okwa ihe mere ede o jiri bee nwii.’
It is an Igbo proverb, translating: ‘It is something that caused the cocoyam to cry out.’
My sister knew a pain we didn’t know.
Harboured it all alone.
She didn’t talk to us.
But we didn’t ask questions either. Or maybe we did, but not just hard enough.
We didn’t try enough.
It was that crazy.
I would have said with this experience that it would be the best thing to always speak out whenever the pain becomes too hard for you to bear, but what do I know?
Like my boss, Dan, would say: a problem shared is not always a problem solved.
From sharing it, it might escalate to something else.
But then if you keep on keeping it in, what if it suddenly explodes within you?
It’s just a crazy world out there.
So very crazy.