The first time anyone ever called me a witch was in primary school. It was during break time in the playground so it was pretty unexpected. If anyone called me a witch today, I would probably cackle loudly in their faces and thank them. On the sandy playground that day, however, I did not cackle. In fact, I felt slightly insulted but also powerful because I finally saw through a weak boy who tried to tear me down after I shoved him hard when he tried to bully me.
I have been called a witch by so many people after that and I sometimes believe them when I think hard about it. Not because of how the word rolls off the tongues of men with disgust or with a glint of mischief when I say a few witty things, but because I have what I jokingly call a ‘personal natural disaster radar’. In as much as I sometimes have this deep sinking feeling in my heart just before things go sideways, I never prepare, like the clumsy person that I am.
As humans, we are gifted with critical thinking skills, and as such, we are capable of postulating multiple outcomes from a possible occurence, all things being equal. This doesn’t mean we always win though, sometimes we try inspite of our evident failure. This is why we know to swiftly kill fat blood-fed mosquitoes with a swift slap of our hands while the skinny ones sometimes get to live to sing another day no matter how hard we swat.
Maybe this gift of calculation is what I have, or maybe it is just another manifestation of anxiety, which on its own processes thousands of disastrous worst case scenarios at a time. And perhaps, this was why I saw my grandmother’s death before anyone else and even bade farewell weeks before she breathed her last. Mama’s death was slow and not exactly painless. While the stroke finally disappeared like it never previously twisted her mouth like a spiteful elder, her body revolted and her mouth sealed itself shut while her eyes screamed the words her lips couldn’t say. Nevertheless, at her burial, I knew death was not done with my father’s family. He came and took more people within the following three years.
But death is not the only thing I know. I know life and I know love. I met a man at 21, and I knew I was going to fall in love with him the very first day we spoke. Eventually, he almost ruined my life and like humans try fruitlessly to prevent malaria by weakly swatting away mosquitoes, I hoped and tried to no avail to avert that disaster.
As I am writing this, the hilarity of my then effort dawns on me as I chuckle and then sigh. But at the end of that sigh is the reminder of the journey that led me to the hands of death. In knowing life and thankfully, my body, I became aware beyond any reasonable doubt of the fact that I was carrying a child at 25. After fighting my fears and worries of birthing an unplanned child, I prepared for the journey ahead of me. I was not the first to do it, neither would I have been the last.
My ‘witchcraft’ caught up to me again, like the inevitability of Lagos traffic on Monday morning, creeping up slowly and convincing me of a way out until the reality trapped me within myself. Following a few tasteless jokes from the pesky doctor who took my scan, I knew death had come for me. Not just for me but for my witchcraft. No second opinion or scans could have put a child into the dark blackhole that had swallowed what was supposed to appear in the scan.
I bled nonetheless and it hurt like my uterus decided to punish me for the deceit. I survived but a part of me died along with what was left of my child. Now, the witch in me has manifested into a worrisome, anxious, angry, paranoid entity who only yields to breathing, soft winds, self-care and good food. I used to have an unshakable feeling of not living past 30, but these days, I don’t feel anything anymore. I sometimes feel life, love, worry, disbelief, even death but not with the reassurance of my ‘radar’.
I may not know anything anymore, maybe I don’t want to know anything anymore.