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Grace Okoliko – “Merry Mary”

“You can’t commit suicide”. I said it, so it sounded like a dare. “You’re too selfless for that”. 

“Hey, Mary! Mary Mother of Satan, have mercy on us”. They jeered. “Got any pot left for us?”

I kept moving. “Mary the chimney” they continued. “She doesn’t tire of weed, it gets tired of her” They all laughed. I poked a lanky middle finger at wasted adolescents that had become too familiar and irritating over the years and kept moving. They were always there. The truants, the communities ‘no do good’, were everywhere. It doesn’t matter to them. From shacks and uncompleted buildings to the jungles, streams, and hills far away, they were there. We haunted freedom and escapism, it haunted us to. At least, for a while. If it were some other day, I’d give them a wicked comeback, on good days we’d exchange words and maybe some little flimsy bony punches, but not today. Not with this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t get high today, just needed to clear my head a little. Some cigar and a little codeine were all I had.

My name is Mary, they call me “mother of Satan” but that’s not why I wear long skirts or make dark paintings or smoke weed. Not why the only thing I care about is my weed, my crackers, and Mercury, my bestie. 

It started to drizzle so I increased my steps. In about 24 minutes, I was home. Okay, my home housed just me, remnants of what Papa sold from our archaic furniture and occasionally, Dad. It was easy getting into our house. Mom was the only one bothered about jam locks and padlocks. When she was around, she would make sure she bought a lock, and everyone had a key. She was wary of the crime that was the other of the day in the neighborhood. I remember how she discourages us from playing with the other kids of which she was certain were bad influences. 

So, she made sure we looked better and went to secondary schools in better neighborhoods. We didn’t blame her, our neighborhood, after all, is legendary the worse neighborhood in the city. 

Dad was home. He smelled of alcohol and grease as usual. He’s sitting on one of the worn-out sofas and polishing his shoes. He comes home every noon to take his bath, have some lunch before polishing his shoes and going back to his workshop. 

Dad has a local automobile repair shop, everyone calls him the mechanic which is fitting because that’s where he practically lives or at least spend the good chunk of his time. He regrets and sulks over three things: the early death of his wife, my mom, being incapable of loving us (he feels he can only love us with money and a mom), and his inability to realize his life long dream of winning a car race competition and owning a sports car. One thing amuses me about him still, and that is his style. I’ve always believed that dad would have made a fine model if he were younger for his interesting choice of clothes. Those are the only things that still evoked warmth about him now. Mercy took that from him, I didn’t, I’m always the opposite, and Mercy happens to always be on the good side. For the record, Mercy is my twin. 

Right now, Papa has on a denim jacket over an orange checked shirt and green baggy but fiercely ironed pants. Not forgetting his shiny shoes. “Good afternoon dad,” I said as I walked to my room. 

“Afternoon Mary, how was school?” 

“Awesome”. I said and shut the door to my room behind. 

“There’s beans in the pot.” He called. “You can warm it up later”. 

I pretended not to hear. 

“Your bones are gon be shooting out your meat anytime soon,” he said it at the top of his voice now and I can swear there was a hint of anger in them. 

That is the problem, I wish he’d try using love and not anger most of the time. 

I still did not answer. There was a pause and then I heard the door of the living room shut. 

I hate him. 

Hated his bloated red eyes and fallen face. Hated how his lips twitched when he spoke. 

Hated the fact that he bought a mirror and he admires himself in it as if trying to prove he’s happier than everyone else. Why do I even hate him? I thought. I hate that. 

I go to feed my dog. Her name is Mercury. She’s a sweet girl not a bitch like the humans. 

My phone rings, it’s Mercy. Mercy is my sister which sucks because she’s better than me. 

This time she was sent packing out of her self-contained lodge. She asks if she can come crash with us I told her there was no problem even when we both know there is. First off, Mercury dislikes her. And she’s messy no pun intended. 

With the 3-inch-thick layer of dust covering our furniture all gone allowing Mercy back home wasn’t such a bad idea anymore. Apart from the major sanitation, she also cooks. But all that is a front, give her two days tops and her piggy self-springs back and then I kick her round butt out. what’s interesting though is the fact that I don’t have to tell her in verbatim to go. The last time I made her leave was simple. I got Mercury to poo over her clothes which fortunately she had strewn all over the room. She did a horrendous amount of laundry and the next two days she found some other place to squat. 

I don’t do much cleaning, there’s hardly any need to. Since I’m not reckless and I declutter as soon as I can. But there was no phony from Mercy this time, she does look genuinely happy. 

She came home the other night. Her shoulders were down and her hair disheveled. It was unusual how she slumped upon the orange couch with so much weight that it made a cringing sound. I didn’t take my eyes off what I was doing just observed her from the corners of my eyes. The Mercy I know will come out when she’s ready. It’s one of the reasons I like her, never one to hide her emotions. So, I did not budge. 

She affirmed my confidence when she walked up to the dining where I was. I pretended to be engrossed in my drawing. But persistent mercy pulled up the seat next to mine and sat down. This was one of our several differences. I won’t stand being snubbed. She was sobbing now and took what looked like a table cloth or cushion napkin and blew her nose hard into it. Irritated by the sound of dragged mucus I looked up. She looked like shit. Her face was smudged in blush, foundation and eye shadows, a cacophony of colors! Black tears streaked down her soft cheeks she looked like one of my paintings. 

“What happened?” I asked and then she hugs me all of a sudden. 


“Sorry I forgot you hate hugs” she muttered after pulling away. 

Something about how she said that made it sting. Was it the memories of my mum that it brought? I wondered. 

“I’m tired, I want out”. 


“Ken broke up with me”. 

Finally, I thought. 

“Then you’re out already, good for you”. 

“I mean, I want out of everything”. She doesn’t look at me, she stares blankly ahead. “I’m committing suicide”. 

I regarded her for a few seconds and I knew she lying. She wasn’t one for suicide. There are tears in her eyes but no pain in them. Her voice was laced with tears, but they weren’t drowned in fear like those of them at the creeks and uncompleted buildings, by the abandoned dam project behind the campus. Ironically it became the home for the abandoned. People like me; those were the ones capable of committing suicide. 

“You can’t commit suicide”. I said it, so it sounded like a dare. “You’re too selfless for that”. 

She hugged me again. How mushy I thought. But this time I hugged her back. It didn’t feel awkward. It felt good. I should have known that was the last hug. Just like Mama’s, it escaped me again. 

I would later see my sister the next morning, lying in the pool of her own blood, the knife plunged deep in her stomach. On cue, there was a rumble in my stomach and I had to throw up. I tried to scream but I couldn’t find my voice. My legs were too weak to move. 

Everything became a blur. 

“How are you”? I heard Papa’s voice ask, his breath reeked of alcohol. 

“Close the curtains” I managed to say squinting then I tried to sit up but my head ached. 

He pulled down the blinds and I was grateful for a dimmer room. 

“I’m sorry,” he said, his eyes looking downward. 

“I didn’t look at him, didn’t say anything. “Take some water, I’ll be right back,” he said and stepped out. 

I went into the bathroom, took off whatever I was wearing, and got into the shower. I turned up cold water and allowed it to bring my body back to life with its cold sting. I stepped out and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was a sight for sore eyes. I didn’t know how I became this thin overnight. I haven’t really been keeping records anyway. 

In the bedroom, I saw where mercy’s body laid earlier, all mopped up already. Then I heard a noise from the window. I drew closer just to see dad shoveling sand back into a four-cornered hole. I stood transfixed by the sight and thought that my sister, whom I saw about 24 hours ago lies beneath that heap of sand. 

On prompt, the sky grew darker as clouds clustered. Oh, heaven better let loose some serious tonight. Papa also tried to quicken his pace, but the rain beat him to it. Soon the hole was all covered and rushed back in like a wet puppy. I thought of Mercury and shook my head at how much nothing no longer mattered. My thoughts rolled back to Dad. Poor Papa, what on earth did he do to deserve this? Has he done something really terrible in the past and karma was coming to catch up with him now? Dude has been through hell and back. The only good thing he had left now gone. And me? Well, it makes no difference, my absence or presence. I went over to the wardrobe I and Mercy shared. Of course, 90% of them were her clothes. My eyes caught her neon green shirt. Mercy loved that shirt, she loved colors and attention which I thought was ridiculous. I reached my hands for it but stopped and instead took an old jean of mine. I got scissors and ripped it into half, I wanted it to pass for a bum short. I also found one old yellow sweater of mine, it had a weird smell, but I wore it anyway. Went to the bathroom and took a look at myself in the mirror. I looked partly a bitch and partly a moron. Dissatisfied, I rushed back in and emerged with a red lipstick which I found while rummaging through Mercy’s makeup box. 

I never applied anything more vigorously before. With my lips caked in red, hair tangled and my lanky legs on full display I smiled and stepped out. It was still raining. I strapped on my boots. They are always by the door. I took an umbrella which was also by the door. 

I stepped onto our balcony and studied the torrents outside. Lighted and cigar and took a long drag before puffing it out. I watched it snake upwards before it vanished. I butt it out against the rail on the balcony and stomped off. The knife strapped up my boots vibrating with every step I took. 


Photo by Om Prakash Sethia on Unsplash

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