By Grace Song
This was the place we found the sun. In this water. Lékè and I. I was 14. He was 16. He saw it first. “See, the sun dances.” But his finger did not point to the sky. It pointed downwards. To the water, tired from the strokes of dirty little boys; moving slowly to the soft music of the wind, its ripples kissing a shrub. And the sun danced with it, the wind nudging it until its steps matched with the water.
We sat on the rock where the water broke, on one side of the sun. Lékè asked us to dip our fingers into the water. Into the sun.
“Just one finger.” He was a wild one.
“What if it burns?” I asked. I knew it would not.
“It won’t. Water cools everything, even the temper of the sun. See, the sun is happy.”
And the sun wrapped itself around our fingers. I smiled and looked at him. His eyes were closed and his face looked to the sky. He smiled. He knew I was watching. Then he pushed me into the water. I did not know how to swim, then, so I beat the water in a frenzy. He laughed and jumped in.
“So you cannot swim.”
As we squeezed out water from our shirts, I told him the story my mother told me when I asked her about my name. Omísore.
“I am a child of the water. That is why mother never brings me to the village; because the river may call its own.”
“So what are you doing here?” He stood in front of me. Defiant.
“Ìyá àgbà is dying and she asked mother…”
“No. Why did you follow me?”
I looked at my muddy feet. He walked to where we kept our slippers. I followed.
“I did not know you were coming here.” I lied.
“You will not tell mother?” I did not have to ask.
He turned. Smiled. Broke a stem off a tree.
“You are so soft. You don’t act like a man. The city makes people soft.”
There were no rivers in the city where we lived. If there were, I did not meet them or the little boys who chattered excitedly on their way back about their swimming prowess, their arms moving in fast strokes in imaginary water, the water still clinging to their ear lobes.
“We will sneak in through the back. This path leads to the back of the house.” Lékè beat the bush with the stick in his hand.
“What if the river calls me?” I half-ran to keep up with him.
“Then you will answer. We are all children of the earth.”
“Was that why you ate the ebo?”
He stopped in his tracks. Turned to face me. For a moment there was fury in his eyes. Then his lips stretched into a smile.
I heard the story of the ebo from mother’s mouth. She was telling father about it. Ìyá àgbà had called crying that Lékè wanted to kill her. He had eaten sacrifice placed at oríta méta and did not want to go for cleansing. I wanted his bravery. I dreamt about him. About us. How we ate the foods of the gods together. I wanted to be one with him. One with the gods. And he had a part of them in him. That was why I followed him to the river.
We came to the river every evening until I went back to the city. He taught me how to swim but we did not swim with our clothes on because mother almost caught us one time while we tried to sneak in with wet clothes through the back. Sometimes we did not swim. We sat on the rock and watched the sun dance with the river. With the trees. To the wind. To our laughter. Lékè laughed whenever I told him I heard drumming in the distance. “You have changed a lot,” he would say.
And I would stand and dance to the beats. I felt close to the gods.
Lékè died yesterday. They said he climbed a tree which had a red cloth tied to its trunk. He slipped on a branch and fell. I laughed when mother told me. Then I went into my room and cried. We came to the village today. They had already put his body in the ground before we got here. I stood by his grave wondering if this was the type of death he would have wanted. If he had planned it this way—climb a forbidden tree and fall back to the earth. Death by the gods. I’m at the place where we found the sun. The place where I met the gods. The sun is here. The wind. The trees. The rocks. The water. I am here. I squat and scoop into my mouth a little bit of water. A little bit of Lékè. A little bit of the gods.