Below the cluster of the banana trees, under the velvety beauty of the half moon..my Grandfather immersed me in the murky depths of the Crystal pond. The pond was his crystal ball; where he beheld the future…saw visions. When a custodian of the gods died, before his corpse was committed to mother earth, his tongue, two thumbs and heart was retrieved from his remains. The heart-his experience, the extremities-his works and his tongue-his oratory talents. Which seer could function effectively and efficiently without any of these?
My Grandfather came from a long line of seers and wizards. He was given up to the gods early in age. His exact age at that time not known. Record keeping wasn’t the best back then. He was a promised child of his parents, a proverbial Samuel. His mother had him late, her only child. He never married, custom forbade the custodian of the gods to cater to a mortal woman but he had one son. A son he raised with single-mindedness. My father. My father was sent off to learn a trade when he became a teenager in neighboring town. He excelled and was very successful. How could he not be? He had drunk from the crystal pond. The pond that gave others light surely will go before the only offshoot of its caregiver illuminating his path and flooding him with favor.
As a child I would visit Onilekeara, my grandfather frequently with my father. I would sit and play across the yard while they spoke in varying undertones. He was a sight to behold, my grandfather. He wore six long braids, from his temple to his nape. Each braid adorned with white cowries, the braids were long and stopped before the swell of his buttocks. He always wore a snow-white loin cloth indoors but out of his abode, his beautiful ibante covered his upper torso and a while long wrapper his lower body.He was a tall man with muscular arms and an immobile face. You could never know what he was thinking, his eyes a deep pool of brown pebbles, his skin like polished mahogany. That he loved my father and I was obvious though. We were his only family. My father he called Ife. Love. And I, Ifemeji. The love of two.
My father feared for my safety. He worried being a girl-child I would be subject to less-of-a-life. I was young with keen ears and the wisdom not to share with my mother whatever I heard during those many visits. Later in life when my choice of spouse was determined by my father but my heart chose another, I was accused of adultery. My husband was several years older and successful. My father chose him wanting to secure my future. My in-laws didn’t like me…I was too powerful a force in the household and they wanted to get rid of me. I maintained my innocence even though I knew I was guilty. His family insisted I insisted I drink a mysterious brew from their village necromancer. The brew would unleash instant death on the guilty after the victim foams in the mouth and undergoes a seizure. My husband’s protests were drowned out by his mother, an old shrew…my hatred for her was mutual.
On that fateful dawn, on my knees before the village square with my husband and his family in tow….all foaming in the mouth with hatred like a bunch of vampires before their prey. I took the gourd which contained the brew with steady hands and raised it to my lips. I drank my fill and jumped to my feet. I smashed the empty gourd on the stony ground, stamped on the broken pieces further with my slender feet. My husband lounged forward prostrate before my feet, his arms around my ankles…..crying…poor man. His mother swooned in a dead faint, she never recovered.
From the corner of my eyes, I saw the flash of white of his ibante…and under my tongue a cowrie-the antidote.