Mary Had A Little Lamb (July 6, 2019: 12:08am.)
Hello! This is Osi.
I hope you can hear me.
Mary is dead.
She died less than twelve hours ago. She was standing under the shelf. Baba Sumbo had warned me about that shelf more than twenty times. About ten times after he started warning me, Mary and I shared our first kiss. It tasted like gbegiri but it was all soft and Mary smelled like Hair Wonder. Under the shelf. She died under the shelf. I did not mean to get anyone killed talk less of Mary. The whole shelf fell. Please help. How do I untangle time? Whom do I ask for help? I need to see Mary again. I must undo this or I die, by my own hand or by letting another man be my savior.
I beg. Please.
I love her too much to let her go without me.
Osi’s First Glide (July 25, 2019.)
Fadugba gives Osi the keys to the car. Plate No: LSD-1842. It is an old Volkswagen Beetle. Bright cyan skin scarred with atlases of rust. It must have been dead in the sun forever. The car is in Fadugba’s backyard under a mango tree. It is parked, small, inside a rising splash of green weeds, old tools and long dead tree branches like skeleton hands around the tyres. No tree. The earth is a soaked ochre under the exhaust. The key to the car has three cowries attached to it. Every time, Osi glides through time, a cowrie goes.
One cowrie costs $1000. Fadugba says he got the car from betting right on an eagleflight race, seventy years ago. And getting cowries for it involved knowing where to look. Time cowries were everywhere.
Fadugba explains why Osi must buy more than one contract in sand — First, sand expires with the rising of the sun, so no saving for tomorrow. Once the sand is in the engine, it must be used. Second, Fadugba has things to also correct in time, for his Brotherhood and its constant war with rival Brotherhoods in their Endless War, and last, no one ever corrects, or realigns, when they jump out of the temporal Circle in one try.
They walk to Fadugba’s backyard. The backyard of the neat brick house that he and his Brothers built. Fadugba says Osi came to the right place. Fadugba is an original. He did the big exam for babalawohood.
Fadugba opens the door of the Volkswagen Beetle. Nothing pours out. The air is a bit sterile, a latex-y cleanness stains the air. They sit and the seats are buttersoft. Inside the car, it’s all black leather, chrome accents and buttons of pure crystal, all suffused in the clinical glow and blink of the more overt technology on the side Fadugba sits in.
Fadugba is reading future possibilities on the touchscreen under his nose, smiling. Fadugba makes him nervous. The man has such a chewy element to him, asides his aromatic chewing stick that smells like fire, his skin looks all tough, like an alligator’s and his eyes go milky then clear then milky again. His silver hair is cut too trim and he looks 25 going on 150. To find Fadugba, he had had to ride in a basket on the back of an omiran to get to Amunudun, the forest village in Osun State where he was hid.
There is no steering wheel in front of Osi, only a spiraling of water in a white marble bowl etched with the names of the five Oosha Igba, Madiens of Time (Iseju, Bai Bai Bai, Nsinsin, Titilai and Igbakiigba). Another unknown language, curls inside the bowl, like worms desperate to be seen, a language written in breath and blood and thinnest gold.
“Say when you want.”
Osi whispers, “July 4, 2019. Baba Sumbo Mechanic Shop. At around six in the evening.”
The water swirling in the scrying bowl purrs, gurgles and with a splash, a bust forms. The woman wearing heavy grey aso-oke from head to sternum, the grey so heavy it could be iron, rises to face Osi. Diamond strips hang from her ears. She has three tigerscars on either side of her face and her eyes are shrewd, certainly avian. Osi starts to blubber, to confess to her after looking into them for five seconds.
She shuts him up and speaks politely. “I am Igba’naa. Offspring of Igbakiigba. How much time do you need?”
“Just ten seconds! To fix the shelf.”
Fadugba slaps his arm like a child who has spoken out of turn. “Ehn, Eye, an hour of sand is what we desire.”
“And what will you pay for it? I’m still waiting for the school of rare rock fish whose ancestors were confidantes of Mother Osun that you promised me. I better talk to the boy, you’re too slippery, Fadugba.”
She turns to Osi, her ears blazing white fire. “He charges in that dollars. We charge in things that time has swallowed.” She says.
“Do you have any such objects? Old clothes, books, cutlery, china, or even better jewelry?” Her voice rises a pitch on jewelry but it had seemed very hungry from old clothes. Fadugba holds Osi’s arm to keep him quiet and turns to Igba’naa. He says, “I have such an object. A statue from the time you walked as woman.”
The maidenspirit’s avian eyes turn human, wide with need. “What?” She says. “You can have a day.” Then she slips back into the water like a thing that wasn’t.
Osi wonders why Fadugba would give something so valuable away for him then he remembers the money that he is going to have to go to another babalawo to get. Before the glide, as Fadugba called it, the sky got so black that Osi thought he was going blind, until lightning struck the engine and then they were flying with a swarm of titanic babies, burning blue with sorrow.
Square One: July 4, 2019. 6:00pm : Baba Sumbo warns Osi about the shelf and Osi-1842 knowing Fadugba is waiting for him in the Beetle outside, waits for Osi Original to close shop, then he sneaks in and hammers the shelf back into place a bit too hastily, in this process, he dislodges a paint bucket full of heavy screws and bolts. He makes it back to the car within an hour and he and Fadugba spend the remainder of their day of sand driving around as helpers in worlds full of men and women fighting battles against night.
Square One, Part Two: July 5, 2019. 11:01am : Mary enters Baba Sumbo Mechanic in her sunflower yellow dress. Baba Sumbo is at home, eating eba and egusi and watching action films. She knows Osi loves her, is ready to leap onto a train track to save her from herself. She also knows she is going to die, but she doesn’t tell anyone. Osi (back in native timestream) is under the car, his shirt torn to reveal his fine earthtone torso. Mary looks and looks. She leans against the wall. The paint bucket lurks.
Osi slides out with a smile. “How far?”
Mary pushes herself off the wall forcefully, so she can meet him before he meets her, so that the kiss will have a stolen quality. A rushedness. The wood of the wall shudders.
The paint bucket drops and Osi tastes blood.
Osi’s Second Glide (July 25, 2019.)
Fadugba is reading future possibilities on the touchscreen under his nose, smiling. Osi is watching the water swirl, the strange serpentine language etched and colored inside the bowl seems to say many things, but it says nothing Osi can understand. The water is mindless. Swirling and sparkling with its own amber light. It purrs, gurgles and with a freezing splash, another bust emerges.
The second cowrie begins to melt.
This time-maiden is young and wide-eyed, shaven head fuzzed with blonde, looking directly at the air in front of her and so still Osi thinks she’s a statue wrapped in aso-oke with moons hanging from her ears. She feels deaf to him. Then, she blinks three times and out pours a torrent of talk.
“Bai Bai Bai is my name and immediately is the game. When, where, what, who? Do you need to seek the exact moment that your iPhone slipped into the gutter? Or do you want to take it back to the time you told your mother she was a liar? The now of then is alive in my breast. Tell me what you have for me so I can go now, now, now!”
Osi just stares. Fadugba looks sick, like the embodiment of cyclical moments that feel forever present talking up the scrying bowl isn’t giving him good memories. He runs out of the car like a shot. Osi watches him jump and catch something. Fadugba runs back inside the car. He opens his hand. A moth, alive.
Bai Bai Bai eats it, says “30-deg of sun!” and goes back into the bowl.
A girl with sand in a fluted calabash comes and fills the car with it. Osi sees the golden sparkle of it as it pours into the engine. He didn’t see her the last time. The hood shuts and the sky turns blind. Lightning again and the car is riding through Regret, a land where a century of men bash their heads against boulders, senile from eating their own children.
Osi doesn’t come out of the car this time, he just slips into the moment, aware of the rerouting of time (sand).
One body, two senses of time.
Square Two: July 5, 2019. 11:08am : Mary pushes herself off the wall forcefully, so she can meet him before he meets her, so that the kiss will have a stolen quality. A rushedness. The wood of the wall shudders. The shelf collapses. Osi pushes Mary to the side. The paint bucket gouges the earth.
Square Two, Part Two: Immediately After: Baba Sumbo once put some jagged metal rods in the corner, lying horizontal on their side to produce a perfect weapon. He believed there was nowhere else to stack them. They were hidden, but out of the way, slipped between a crack in the wall. They used to joke about falling on it drunk. Osi looks to Mary. She is impaled on them, the raw iron rods, stacked carelessly in the corner by her own father.
Osi’s Third and Final Glide (July 25, 2019.)
Fadugba is reading future possibilities on the touchscreen under his nose, smiling. The bowl swirls. Osi can’t believe Mary died even worse when he was trying to save her. Nsin Nsin shows up. Maiden of the moment just lost, with the permanent face of the surprised bride. Her ears are bare but her aluminium gele is like a satellite.
“Just now?” She asks as a form of greeting.
“We are on our third and final cowrie for this session, Eye. Take us to the moment just missed in my friend’s native stream.”
“It cannot happen. The thing that you want. You die or she dies. You’re just wasting sand and cowrie. You can go to the moment a million times, death has marked her. And she knows.” Nsin Nsin has tigerscars too. Three, neat as light rays in shadow. Her response is brusque as her voice.
“Yes. She has clarity.”
“A gift from Olodumare. Sight and knowing beyond time.”
“So she knew and still came to see me. To die beside me, so terribly…?” Osi feels the ache that had chased him into a forest village to ride in a piece of arcane technology with a babalawo come to a point so sharp that he sobs.
“I’ll die.” Osi says.
Nsin Nsin sighs and shakes her head. Fadugba asks Osi how he is going to pay for the cowries.
Square Three: You Didn’t Even Say Goodbye: July 5, 2019. 11:07am : Osi slides out from under the car, a minute early. “How far?” he says and leaps faster than Mary Sumbo can catch. He swings her around and kisses her before pushing her away.
The shelf falls, slices through his neck, severing spine, killing instantly.
His Fleece Was White As Snow
Square Four: Mary, You Lied: July 5, 2019. 11:11amMary Sumbo is standing very, very still over the body of the man she loves. She cannot look into his face, all she has to look at is the open gash and the flopped neck held by mere tendons. Baba Sumbo Mechanic Shop is empty because it is Thursday and the assistants don’t come till hot afternoon, after they are done from public school. She cannot cry. He took her place.
She had peed a little in her pants this morning before she stepped into the shop knowing what the clarity had told her. He had stepped in her place because he knew somehow. Mary Sumbo is still. Her entire being a question, as it always is whenever the clarity double crosses her like this. Usually it is with smaller things – where she’ll find soursop, maybe it will rain, a song heard by only her.
How did Osi know to move into the oath of death for her? Fadugba walks in and sees. He turns away, lights tobacco and doesn’t cry. He speaks to Mary from this position. She jumps because she didn’t see him come in and turn away.
Fadugba says, “Come with me.”
July 26, 2019. 7:47am
Mary Sumbo is carrying Osi on her shoulder.
Not his body. Fadugba had reprimanded her for looking at that for so long, her shock hitting so solid it felt like peace. The body mangled, torn apart or dismembered should not be looked at for so long.
Osi’s bodyless soul takes the form of a man the size of a bottle of wine, hooded and cloaked in white, so densely that the shadow of the head only suggests his face.
Mary Sumbo knows it is him. Fadugba said he saw him clinging, formless and heavy as phlegm on Mary Sumbo the moment he had stepped into the shop. The babalawo says his soul is so visible because he died while spilt between two time streams.
First, Fadugba drove Mary to the future in a small ugly car with insides of chrome and leather, then he had scraped Osi together, off her shoulder and sides, with a golden spoon and brought him to boil in a lined ball of gold. When the ball had opened and steam tall as a man rose to fog the room, Mary Sumbo took a step back, because she saw Osi for a split second behind the white.
Then suddenly, Fadugba had started calling praise to Osi’s soul and she had looked down into the golden bowl and really seen him. It was like seeing a viper. The soul, stripped and boneless, riveted to a spot, unable to move yet.
After a while he moved, walking (sliding forward) at a tilt like a thing going against the wind. He reached Mary and she lifted him in her hands. It was like holding a rushing icy wind. She kissed him without knowing. Their reflex.
“Osi?” There was no response. The soul just stared at her from that shadowed hood. Mary Sumbo moved him to her shoulder and said, “When you are ready, you will talk.”
Fadugba stands wrapped in white cotton from waist to toe. His body is marked with white lines of chalkwater. He looks at the crowd of ancestors gathered on the altar of his divinatory; all no taller than his arm, carved from white, black, red and blue chalk. He asks for help as he confesses he loves them. He hears them, feels them toe across the room like tiny hurricanes.
Mary Sumbo just keeps on doing the clarity exercise Fadugba has given her. Looking into a bowl full of blackwater, trying to see tomorrow. She sees herself cradling a lamb.
Fadugba stands up at the same moment and says, “We need to get a lamb, white as snow, to serve as host for the soul of Osi until his time of upper migration comes.”
He Followed Her to School One Day
What is Osi?
Dissolved man with only love.
He fell the moment he asked the question not often asked, and also when the lamb ate him like a frozen yogurt to his utter dismay.
If you wish to edit time, prepare to die, or something. And who is it who knots us so? Seeding little bombs between the ribs of our loving, so that we never see each other more than once in a hundred lives, until memory is all that keeps us breathing. Until even winding down the moebiuses of time won’t bring love back.
In Mary’s arms, warm cotton cradle. No death till I am of horn. This spilling of blood must be done by the hand of the one I love upon a rock in desert sun. But first, we leave the city for the cornfields of Ogun – me and Mary on a farm, forever, for now.