The memories flashed in my head yet again, I remembered how mama had called out my name that day before she had that heart attack, the one that eventually claimed her life.

She had returned from the usually stressful market to meet me, eight year old me, staring at the lifeless body of my brother hanging from the orange tree in our compound, the only tree we could boast of and we could boast only because it was quite tall and it always produced sweet fruits, unlike any other in the Village.

“Chinalu!! What is this?!”, Mama had called out that day, walking closer to where I stood, glued to the ground, a few feet from the tree my brother had chosen to end his life on. I was as still as his lifeless body was, dangling from a branch of the tree with a rope I recognized, the bright orange coloured rope I had bought the day before.

I wondered how Chidike got up there, he never liked climbing trees, he never liked doing things boys his age in the village did, Chidike was different, perhaps a tad bit too different. I wondered, I wondered why mama was now on the floor next to me holding her chest and shouting “Chidike!! Chinalu!!”, I wondered why she suddenly went mute. I stood there, still, while hot liquid dropped from my eyes and ran over my pretty cheeks.

The memories were hazy, yet very lucid in my head. Suicide was shameful where I come from, it was bad enough that everyone else thought we were rather too weird, only for Chidike to kill himself on a tree, a tree that was now going to be cut down.

I had experienced my brother’s age mates call him ‘weak’ in such a manner that suggested that he was less than all of them as we once walked home from the stream one day. My big, loving, strong brother who once beat up a notorious bully for picking on me, was called weak among his peers. Yet he ignored them, or so I thought, as we walked home quietly, this time with an increased pace, while the big pails of water were still sitting on our little heads.

Chidike had tripped over a log and had fallen, making the kids behind us laugh in no small way.

I stopped and emptied my own bucket of water so I could help my brother up. Mama wasn’t angry that we didn’t bring any water back for her, she kissed Chidike on his head and patted my back, telling us how proud she was of our maturity.

I wondered if she would still be proud if she knew what I was about doing or at least if she could see me now, what my life has become.

The flashes left my head and filled my eyes with that same hot liquid from years back, I looked up at the tree in front of my apartment in Chicago and down at the stool I stood on. I looked at the rope in my hand, bright and orange coloured, then I carefully placed it over my head so that it rested freely on my neck in a manner that suggested I didn’t want to die before I actually killed myself.

I wondered if this was how he felt too, when he was about doing it, I wondered if he too blamed it on societal pressure as I now did, I wondered if he too had asked for forgiveness, I wondered.

I closed my eyes and all I could see was Chidike, somehow I felt at peace because I believed I was going to join him, I was determined to join him, I had missed him so much.

With a slight tilt I shifted the stool so that there was now nothing holding me except the rope, I felt life leave me as I slowly stopped dangling and became still.

By Donald Njoaguani Instagram: @once.a.donald

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