Ma is calling my name again: she must have called my name ten times in three minutes. I have to help her do one or two things around the house. Every responsible child should help around the house, it is the custom here.
Every day that passes by, Ma is becoming more convinced of the diminishing nature of my responsibility. An unwashed pot, an unmade bed and dirty clothes are proof that I am not ready to walk into any man’s house. I am tired of hearing Ma scream, and these days I listen to the voices inside of me. They do not tell me good things: every whisper is a reminder that classes are on hold, and that postings are bound to resume when this lockdown is over.
The news reports amplify my voices: over eleven thousand cases of COVID-19 have been discovered in the country. There are few ventilators and health workers are on strike. I fear for my family, especially Ma. Her diabetes and party-loving nature makes contracting the virus easier for her. I think about the neighbours who throw parties every week, not considering the laws that ban such social gatherings. I worry about coming back to school and struggle with mental calculations on how possible it is to observe social distancing.
My fears are too strong: I must conquer them.
I busy myself with reading and watching movies on Netflix, scrolling through my phone. The blogs reveal news that is worse. Young girls are getting raped and murdered, celebrities are being called out on social media. The news is depressing, and I cannot go out into the streets to take a stroll. My anxiety is building up: policemen are collecting bribes from people who walk out without nose masks. I do not trust the cloth masks and the surgical masks are nowhere to be found. People keep saying the number of cases updated are a lie, and so they flood the street in their numbers. Like bees in a swarm, they are ready to sting you with their mouths when you say the virus is real.
I give up and focus on Ma: I am too much of an African child to call the authorities to isolate her for going to parties. I clean the house with bleach when I have a burst of energy. I force Ma to wash her hands with soap and water. I tell her to avoid going out. She doesn’t go out without a nose mask, the fear of the police is enough for her. In the middle of all these, I am tired. I am tired of the pandemic and the crimes in the country. I take a deep breath and answer Ma.
“Come and wash these oranges.”
“Make stew and boil the rice.”
I mimic her under my breath, hoping she doesn’t catch my impressions of her. Anything for a little laugh. Hopefully, one day this pandemic will come to an end.
Img Src: Shutterstiock (Andrey_Popov)