History and Hysteria

By Overcomer Ibiteye

Thirty years later, and you’re explaining to your kids how dreams dazzle when broken like communion bread. You teach them to recite the kyrie eleison over and over again because you were taught that life and death are in the power of the tongue. But when they point out that your tongue and the rest of your body are antonyms, you reply that a body is meant to be marooned in sizzling contradictions. What is a body if not a blancmange of errors? You hiccup your history into a song, a proverb, a tear, anything to make them remember but it feels like you’re storing a remnant of yourself in formalin jars, waiting to be examined and discarded. When this is over, you’ll begin a battle for names; a clamor to be known, to be called something. You’ll beg for an identity, something that connects you to this family tree that’s about to be broken into half. Identity reminds you of your loss, and existence. In the middle of your hiccups, you will borrow words like “mistake” and “unintentional” to soften the thud of a body, falling into oblivion. Then you’ll sniffle and continue talking. Your history is a tale of woes that mirrors a wife sprawled on asphalt concrete like stars splashed across the night sky in a haphazard design. Your history is the throat of an automobile gulping down dust, smoke and bones. Your history is a colony of drinking and driving and kissing and driving and dying and driving. You are doling rumpled Naira bills to the patrol officer and he’s cancelling something on his writing pad, and it looks like he’s changing the cause of accident from drunk driving to something more likable. Thirty years later, and your memory is three-forked with jammed brakes, sequels of somersaults and blood and you’re explaining to your kids and their faces are orbs of repressed screams and there’s no name for this feeling.

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Overcomer Ibiteye is a Nigerian poet and writer. She’s an alumnus of the SprinNG Writing Fellowship. Her works have appeared in anthologies and magazines like BPPC, Iskanchi, Scrawl Place, Poets-In-Nigeria, Uncanny Fiction, Land Luck Review, Apex and others. She was also shortlisted for the African Writers Awards 2021.

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