She still didn’t wake till we arrived at the pastor’s home. They were awaiting us and as soon as we arrived they began. Mama had tied a scarf on my sister’s head while she slept. Anointing oil flowed, and I was sure heaven heard our voice, or so I thought. For my sister remained unchanged and desolate. Her fever worsened, and she kept complaining of a migraine. At a point I felt she could throw up her whole intestines, and that her neck had become stiff and would not move. More prayers made. The man rolled on the floor in tongues and his colleagues dancing, like as if they were cut out from a comic drama series.
God still did not hear us. Mama was sad and as we journeyed through the undulating roads of Anambra, she did not sing. She clapped for the man who raised an off-key verse, but there was no song. Her face stuck to the window as vast land of vegetation sped past. Mama wasn’t one to be quiet, twelve years of living with her would make you realize that. I looked at my sister still asleep. she slept more these days. She does less; moving sluggish and sleeping. It was all her fault, I formed my hands into a fist. Her condition dragged me to all corners of the earth. From the bad roads of the East to the dusty roads of the North and the stretchy roads of the west. For all the night vigils, the anointing oil that I drank and the bitter kolanuts that I chewed. It was all her fault. How could she sit there and do nothing while I had to suffer all this.
As time went on, I distanced myself from my sister. She was a different person. There were times I would feel she was desolate. When she was not sleeping, she would look at me and her eyes would communicate of her loneliness and of how she was tired and wanted all these to end. I would turn my face away. It was all her fault I would whisper. I hated myself for that, for leaving her and not being there. She was different. This neck stiffed, sluggish person was not my sister.
Occasionally I did what a big brother could do. I sat awake and watched her while she slept, a bowl of water and a towel ready, to arrest the high fever that usually attacked her at night. I would sing to her till she fell asleep, patting her and fanning her, because that’s what big brothers do. There were times I would pray, kneeling or prostrating whatever I thought was most pleasing. I wanted my sister back. But God did not hear me. Didn’t he love my sister? She never stole meat from the pot unlike me. God never heard Mama, he never heard me. I had learnt the reason. He wasn’t a mediocre like many had taken him to be. My principal had told me as I, frustrated and exhausted, told her about my sister.
“She has meningitis, take her to the doctor,” she said. I memorized the word. ME-N-GITIS I mumbled as I trekked back home. I told Mama what my sister’s problem was. She wasn’t possessed or neither was she an Obanje. She was just sick and needed to see the doctor, I told Mama with excitement. She frowned her face and struck me on the face twice. “What do you know?” she pointed her hand vehemently at me. I was confused, it was supposed to be good news. Perhaps, Mama felt overshadowed by my intelligence of me knowing what was actually wrong with my sister. Her insecurity poked her ugly head once in a while.
“We are going to see a spiritualist in two days,” Mama said. “He prayed for a man with leprosy and he got healed.”
I sat still and dumbfounded. A new emotion began to rise inside me. It swirled higher and higher as I curled my hands into a fist. Was she mad? I just told her the solution, and here she was going back to that never ending cycle of high hopes and nothingness.
Later that night I turned and turned, restless as I lay awake in bed. I looked at my sister as she slept. I couldn’t let her pass through this again. It was terrible and scary for a six-year old girl. I was weak. I decided to pray because there was nothing else to do. I didn’t kneel, nor did I prostrate. I just lay on my side and let my heart bleed because I was hopeless.
The next day, a group of doctors on medical missions came to my school. They talked to us about germs and how bacteria were a bad thing.
“My sister is sick. She has meningitis,” I said, my expression bland and confident. The head doctor after few minutes listening to me blab about my ordeal, decided to follow me home.
“Everything will turn out fine in the end,” the head doctor told me as we were at the door of my house to talk to Mama. Somehow I believed him. The clouds hung so low and full with hope. But sometimes hope can be a crafty thing.
Couple of hours had gone, Mama was in tears as the head doctor patted her at the back. My sister would be herself again. Her treatment would be free. The head doctor would pay. Mama stood up and shook her waist vigorously as she sang. We all got up and joined her till our body ached. Finally, my sister would return.