Olumide Manuel


The only thing that Ghostboy wears is the night—except for his body, which slacks at the neck and knees, so that he looks like one of the nocturnal flowers climbing out of the termite-ridden mantelpiece. Ghostboy brags that no dawn can undress him. His pride stills the air and the light every time. We do not breathe and we do not argue. We leave Ghostboy in the drunkenness of smoke and ego. 

He once hid in the cracks of a wall and sirened a joy that made ears bleed. Our lady became frantic as she searched the whole wretched whorehouse in vain. Her ear bled and her breasts were heavy even though the only baby she ever had was parcelled in a black polythene and dumped in some wild garden because she was too young and too poor. Her regrets groomed us instead, but we are not one baby enough.

For days, she looked into the mirror that blocked the sun from reaching the cracks and asked, God, am I crazy? 

We sighed behind her, and we whispered among ourselves, Aren’t we all? 

She laughed loud—did she hear us?—and donned a black nightgown and makeup, her laughter choked to tears, her tears streaming black. A gramophone played a funny song, a distinct mix of blues and rock. She set the door on fire and arranged for herself a stool and a rope. We grooved with the fire and tautened the rope. 

When the smoke and day were gone, Ghostboy came out—unscathed, wearing the blackest of night with a slanting smile on his drooping neck—to play poker with charred flowers and shadows. 

The shadows won. We always do.

Olumide Manuel came from a line of firsts; that is, the first child of a first son of a first son and the first son of a first daughter. He reaps all the stress into his lean body, and sleeps like a cat. When he’s not sleeping, he is reading or tweeting @Olu_midemanuel.

A Song for Olumide

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