When he called you Sunflower, you interjected. You said you were a Tulip. When he asked why, you told him; Tulips don’t grow in these parts. I am rare.
That was how it all began. A sweet beginning it was. Like the one in the Book of Genesis where Adam and his beloved Eve started life out happily till they weren’t happy anymore.
Your relationship with him, in the beginning, was like an endless cascade of petals until it wasn’t anymore.
“I don’t need a girl in my life right now.”
You laughed. It was most likely one of his jokes, you reasoned. The starter to the climax of the comedy show he was putting just for you but, there were no finishers. It wasn’t a joke.
“Wait, you’re serious?”
His eyes answered what his mouth couldn’t muster to say. He looked pained like he wasn’t the one calling it quits in the first place.
“Why are you doing this? Who is she? Is this going to be the end of our story? Nonso, answer me! Who is she?” you asked.
“It is a man! Tulip, a man like me has stolen my heart. I cannot continue living in denial.”
Then you held him by the collar of his Polo shirt. You were devastated, in agony, anguish. “Take it back! Take it back!” you cried.
He held both of your hands and peeled them away from his collar, away from his life, far away. Then he left. He left without taking back his words. That was the last you saw of him. Weeks later, you would hear from mutual friends that Nonso had traveled to Finland for his Master’s degree. He had left for good with the face of another man in his heart but, you did find comfort in the fact that wherever he went to in Finland, he’ll always be reminded of you. You’re after all a tulip flower and tulips grow in Finland.
You began catching yourself staring absentmindedly out the window above your kitchen sink. The one that led to the back of your house and showed the path leading to the spot where you and Nonso used to meet under the moonshine. You stretched and tiptoed hoping you’d see old memories of the two of you walking out of the backyard. Oh, yes! You saw them! You saw his chubby black arm holding firmly to the small of your back and your slender body leaning to his build as you both walked. People always said the both of you were no good together. That you were a pictorial representation of a union between a giraffe and an elephant — if one were so unkind to himself to think about it.
It was in November, when the harmattan wind was beginning to blow fiercely, that the youths in the community where you lived decided to take a stand against bad governance.
You joined in the dissents against your parent’s wishes without batting an eye. They said, “Tulip, please don’t leave your house. Stay indoors. These government people are crazy! They would kill all of you without thinking twice. You are our only child. Please don’t make us lose you!”
Anyway, you were out on the streets the next day. You were at the forefront. You were willing to take the first bullet too. It was going to be their perfect suicide — giving your life up for a good cause because you were going to take it yourself anyway. It was better to die a hero at the forefront of a good fight rather than dangling on a ceiling fan in your bedroom.
On the fourth day of the MARCH AGAINST BAD GOVERNANCE, the government released its most fierce soldiers. People said that these were more or less like zombies. They had no heart or human emotions. That they were bloodthirsty, lifeless men but that didn’t stop you from mounting at the forefront. You were prepared for the worst. Already, you had left a letter containing your Last Will Testament in your bedroom. You didn’t leave a suicide note, no one must know you want to die. It was only going to be between you and God.
The soldiers threw tear gas into the crowd, people were scouting for an escape route but you stayed back. Amid all the chaos, you felt someone grab your right arm and pulled you away. It was an agreeable male. He was standing on the very thin thread that distinguished a boy from a man. As he pulled you away, he didn’t speak or even spare a look at you. He was shirtless and had the appearance of a ruffian.
“Wetin dey worry you? You wan kill yourself?” he shouted angrily at you the moment you both got to a quiet spot.
“And I thought you were even going to kill me!” was what you wanted to say but instead, you said, “What is wrong with you? Is that why you pulled me here?”
“Wetin this one dey talk? As I save your life, na bad thing I do?”
“And who asked you to save my life? Did I tell you I needed help? You better mind your business next time!”
“Oh oh oh,” he did the thing people did when they understood something better. “So you wan die, ehn?”
“Oh please, shut up,” you said turning to leave, but he grabbed your arms again, this time firmer than the last. “Let go of me!”
“Calm down,” he said dismissing your cry. “Where you dey stay?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Just tell me where you dey stay. I get okada. I go drive you go house.”
He rode you to your house in silence. The aftermath of the chaos that took place that day was still visible in the streets. The boy-man had introduced himself as Seyi and when you told him you were Tulip, he didn’t laugh or ridicule you as most people would. He said Okay and kick-started his bike.
You muttered a “thank you” when you alighted at the front of your house. “Wait fess,” you heard him say behind you, “If you still wan March tomorrow, just tell me now. I go come pick you, then drop you back for here.”
“Why do you even care?”
“I nor want make you die na. You too fine to die so I just wan take you as my own responsibility. Before bullet go touch you, e suppose touch me fess,” he said with a half-smile.
The days that followed turned into a routine. Seyi would pick you at your house, you would march round the town with a placard, Seyi would bring you back home. The next day, you would repeat the same procedure.
It was towards the end of November now and the harmattan wind blew stronger than ever but it didn’t stop the youths of your community from taking the Walk Against Bad Governance. They were out with their cardigans and lip balm. There was no stopping them. Well, except the zombies of course.
The bible says; “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…”
It was in broad daylight that the zombies opened fire on the youths. The laughter of gunshots going off was unpleasing and stomach crunching. People were taking off and surprisingly, you were running as well. Seyi held your hands as you both ran, he didn’t want to let you go but when a bullet hit his thighs, he suddenly dropped and sat on the road, groaning in pain.
“Seyi! Seyi!” you cried.
“Dey run dey go! Leave me, dey run! Tulip, run!”
“But I can’t leave you!”
“I say dey go. Na today I go die. I don already know before. Just dey go, dey go!”
“Seyi, no! I’m not leaving you!”
Two of the zombies were approaching you. You had heard stories of them taking away any injured or dead youths they found on the streets. You dropped on Seyi’s torso and hugged him tightly.
“This girl, why you get strong-head?” his voice shook as he complained. “Open your hand fess,” you released him and opened your hands. He extracted a folded sheet of A4 paper from his pockets and placed it in your hands.
“What is this?”
“Just take am, later you go k–”
Blood splashed on your face. One of the zombies had aimed right at the back of Seyi’s skull.
“NO!” It was a scream. One that had pain tattooed all over it. The zombies dragged Seyi’s corpse away like a bag of hay. They threatened to shoot at you if you said a word or make an attempt to stop them.
In the A4 paper, Seyi had scrawled a letter in his bad handwriting. It read;
“Tulip I nor knw the wey body take do me this morning wey I wake up but somtin dey tell me say bad thing go happen. So if anytin bad appen to me today I nor wnt make u fear or cry sef. Remember say I nor get anybody for this life. If I die, nobody go miss me. I hapi say I meet u for this lyf o. I nor wnt make u die na e make me say before bullet go touch u e go touch me fess.
Yestiday night I ask one guy wey get android phone say make he help me find d meeaning of Tulip. E con check am, con tell me say na name of flower na I con say no wonder u dey do mekemeke sef. If small breeze blow you go dey do like say you wan fall. D guy tell me say that flower nor dey grow for this side sef. So if I die today I no go miss you because I go still dey see you for heaven because e sure for me say Tulip flower dey grow for heaven and you be the flower gaann.
Kathryn Oluwatosin Olushola is a twenty-two year-old Nigerian writer from Lagos State. Her works has appeared on Literary magazines/journals such as FictionWrit, Nantygreen, Arts Lounge, The Kalahari Review, The Muse, amongst others.
When she is not writing, she focuses her attention on her Department at the University of Nigeria, where she is studying to become an Agricultural Engineer.
Kathryn enjoys dancing and would accept any invitation to sing. You can read more of her works on her Facebook page; Kathryn Olushola.