I could tell you about me, about nights lying awake wondering where the next meal was going to come from. I could tell you about being black, being proud and being hungry. I could tell you so much about the times I walked the stairs, my heart in my mouth as fear rode me like a monkey on my back refusing to let go. I could tell you so many things I could tell you about me. But where do I start?
Let us start with my mother, for I knew her before I was born in climes of golden rain and blue sunsets, where the water spoke to you of the journeys it had made from the green sided mountains when silence and the winds were songs that caressed her heart. But then she swayed to a different music and came through bands of light so bright into this realm and promptly forgot why she came. We called her Jasmine but she needed lessons and so travelled down to earth and she got the name Fehintola, which in their language will mean she leans on honor.
Mother knew she was a victim of repeated still births and in the tradition of her culture was told that a child from the spirit world was the cause of her troubles. She had watched her husband Ayo, stayed silent and hurt as his attentions wandered away as he picked another bride for himself for it was taboo to have an infertile man in his family and he really could not wait any longer.
The nights she stayed silent in the other room and cried as she listened to the sounds of passion from the room of her mate and her husband. The social outings she could not attend because she was afraid of the pitying looks. She could not be angry nor could she make demands so she became a prayer warrior. She prayed to the Lord to remove the rebuke, and shame the devil that made each pregnancy an agony of nine months wait and a tragedy of birth. Some of the births were painful as sometimes the child would wait long enough for love to blossom in her heart and then leave very quietly. The child will maybe have a slight fever, and before she could do anything, the child would be gone.
Her husband was beginning to be tired of coming to her bed for she knew he was asking himself what was the point of all the passion if he was going to have to bury another child. Some evenings, Fehintola would stare into space unaware of her surroundings just wishing she could die and then shiver that such thoughts should come.
One morning, a simply dressed young woman knocked on her door, gave her a beautiful smile. She had stared at the lady wondering who she wanted to see. The lady had identified herself simply as a priestess and usher in the house of the goddess Yeye. She was invited to the shrine to respond to the summons from Yeye.
Fehintola blinked and shook her head even as she sent her respects to the young virgin. It was an honor to be visited by the priestess of Yeye but how was she going to explain that to Ayo?
The young lady smiled, ”it is to ensure that Nemen Yeye when she comes is given the right surrounding” the lady had finished.
“You are to be pregnant again and we have decided that this is the final time she would try to cross the bridge into you. If we do not mend the bridge, she would not come and you would remain barren.”
Fehintola sat up electrified by that information and tears came into her eyes. She was suddenly resolute. She was going to keep the appointment with Nemen.
Ayo was skeptical when she told him. He gave her a long look, she sensed that he was maybe wondering if she was half way normal. The last death had almost unhinged her and so she suspected he was not sure.
“Please Ayo, I understand it is my last chance,” she pleaded in some desperation.
And what did you say the name of the girl is?”.. he shook his head, “honestly Fehintola, are you not taking things a bit far?”
Fehintola was silent fighting to hold back her tears. She did not want to cry as that would only irritate him and making him totally refuse to come along. The message was she was to come with him.
There was silence in the room she could swear she almost heard her own heart beating and she could almost smell her longing. He stood up and she remained in her seat because she felt if she tried to stand up her legs would not be able to bear the weight of the pain she was going through.
Ayo got the door and then turned around, “what time?”
She replied softly, “Four in the morning by the river”
He turned completely round and stared at her, “You have not gone completely crazy have you? You expect me to meet some mysterious witch at four in the morning?”
“Nemen is not a witch…”
“Like hell she is not, she just simply sends her apprentice to invite you and me to a stream at four in the morning? What does she want? My blood or semen sample?”
She sighed and walked past him. What was the point?
She tried to decide who really had cursed her? Her mother or her mother in law? Both of them had been furious when she ran away with Ayo. It did not matter that a stained cloth had been presented to her mother. Her mother in law had one of those smiles and simply said she was going to kneel only once and her mother could accept a dowry if she liked.
Ayo found all the fuss amusing and she had been terrified that she would be disgraced if he did not follow through with the wedding plans until his uncle had come and vouched for her saying she had been under his care until that very wedding night.
But then each pregnancy had ended in disaster, with her mother strangely silent never showing anxiety nor coming over to the North to help her to look after her baby as was customary.
Ayo became restive and one day walked into the house with a young Arab girl. Pain like hot lead had streaked through her whole being but she had stayed silent. She had gone through a very awful night as Ayo snored by her side. Her heart ached, the days looked uninteresting and the nights while plans were on for her mate to come in were awful.
She could not cry, or rage only she kept breaking things and then she discovered she was pregnant. It became a relief for her. She looked towards the coming baby and in fear, she joined the “aladuras” a white garment church, that was a mix of orthodox Christianity with a large dose of traditional, visions and revivals thrown in. It was a fast growing church.
Then she lost the baby and her agony was immeasurable. The Arab girl had moved in and was pregnant too so Ayo had little reason to be miserable. Ajide, the Arab girl was very beautiful, young and had very winning ways and Fehintola saw her husband was besotted.
She wanted her own love, and she hoped if she could have a baby then she would be happy too. She railed at the stigma of being the mother of an ‘abiku’ even as she was warned not to call the child an ‘abiku’.
She was puzzled why they all said the child was one and the same who kept coming back. One evening at Prayer sessions, as the clapping was reaching a frenzied peak, the ‘spirit’ entered one of the young girls and she started speaking. The ‘spirit filled’ girl had insisted that Fehintola would soon be a successful mother but she was to follow all instructions she would be given later.
It was while she waited that she had received the visit from Nemen Yeye. Could she blame her husband if he was not keen on following her to a stream at that off hour? She slept off and was rudely awakened by an irritated Ayo shaking her and saying if they were thinking of making that time she had better get dressed.
She was so happy at his willingness to come along that she rushed into her clothes looking for a stale chewing stick to chew as she got ready.
A house of flowers, running fountain, and peace. She had sat quietly until the young lady of the day before came and took her hand offering her a glass of cold water. I think I should introduce myself the young lady had said.
You can simply call me Yeye. I know your name is Fehintola and you are married to Ayodele. You have had five children now who all have died at infancy. We want to help you. Are you willing to listen?
She had nodded, stunned by the knowledge of the young lady
Yeye had smiled at her and explained that the incoming spirit was special and thus she was to be in contemplative state. Then she gave instructions that kept both of them stunned and silent. There were quite simple instructions really. No ritual, in fact it was strictly forbidden. She was instructed that the incoming Nemen Yeye will talk to her and send down her Earth name when the time was right.
“Every morning as you fetch the water you need from the spring water, you will talk to no one, until you return home. You will fetch only the water you need for the day. You will also ensure that there is no disharmony for as long as you are pregnant. You will always think of Nemen Yeye and listen in to yourself for in quiet meadows your mind will open and you will see glimpses of Nemen Yeye.”