Life was better for me when I was a goat, roaming shepherd-less in the bush, eating grass, yam peels and, once in between moons, stealing into a careless house and helping to disburden the barn of precious yam. But I thought that was diminishing, life as a goat. I wanted to walk on two legs, wear shoes, wear clothes and ride on machines. I also wanted to talk and laugh differentially, not bleating when I meant to laugh, bleating when I meant to cry, bleating when all I needed was to talk. It can be trying, life as a goat. So I clamoured for humanity. My fellow goats warned me against it; I remember they thought I was arrogant and wanted to become someone who owned goats and ate goat meat; but I knew it was jealousy. No one wanted to be born goat; no one who has courage wants to remain goat; they are cowards, I am not. I didn’t pay attention to them. I left and was born human.
I was conceived in the womb of a woman who didn’t want me. She was a student, from a family that was anything but rich. To make matters worse, my father was an abusive boyfriend who was a nightmare to my mother. And by the time she conceived me, he was a monster whose memory was a brutal reminder of her worse mistake, her disastrous past. Keeping me was something her emotions, nay sanity, couldn’t stomach. Something her time, energy and resources couldn’t accommodate. To end my career in her womb was a task that must be done. Because my mother was broke, she couldn’t afford medical surgery for this, she relied on cheap liquid solutions which her friends recommended, which had worked for her friends, which, I believe might have worked for her if I were a normal human being, but I wasn’t; I was a goat and it was my billy toughness that kept me. At the end of the first trimester my mother nearly gave up.
‘This evil child won’t go away,’ my mother announced to her friend.
‘We will do D and C,’ the friend said.
‘How do we raise the money?’
‘I don’t know. But we will; somehow.’
My mother sighed. ‘Please do this for me. I so so hate Bash. And I hate his baby.’
This broke my tiny heart. I loved my mother. I believe it is one of human frailties, to love. Love was something I didn’t know of as a goat. It is a weakness goats, wisely, don’t entertain but as a creature making its transition into humanity, I felt love, or at least, I knew it. I believe love is a byproduct of genetics. Hatred is sometime you grow to learn in the world, but love is something you are born with. Perhaps that is why humans refer to mating as lovemaking. So I loved my mother, by default, but after she said she hated me, I hated her a little. And my father, I hated most.
But I was determined to live. I wasn’t going back to being a goat so soon. I wanted to show my mother I was worthy of a complete term in her womb. I wanted to get to meet her and comfort her and make her happy. I had completed the first trial (trimester) and I was determined to see through the second one (knowing that my mother cannot get rid of me at the final trimester). So I fought hard, and began kicking the wall of the womb at just fourteen weeks old, five inches tall and weighing twelve grammes with my brains, muscles and heart still forming. I think this doesn’t make sense, not to my mother who was, in fact, primiparous; it didn’t make sense to me. The only sense was survival, my survival. So I fought and fought until my mother fell ill. I don’t know if the evil friend raised the money for the surgery to terminate me but even if she had, my mother was too ill to consider it.
By now my grandparents knew that their daughter was pregnant. They were poor but they understood life more than my mother and, for them, there was no thought for abortion. They were the Christian kind that believed children were gifts from God, even if they were fathered by Lucifer. They tried to reach my father to get him take responsibility but the devil denied involvement. He cursed them. My grandparents considered suing him in the child welfare court but they were a little afraid of him, a little wary of the stress of the inconsistencies of Nigerian legal system, a little uncertain of the verdict, a little too broke to finance the suit, a little too busy to see it to the end and, perhaps, a little unsure of the veracity of their daughter’s claim of her child’s paternity.
By a stroke of luck, the universities went on their annual ASUU strike and my last few weeks in the womb were made easier for me. My mother still cursed me in the privacy of her frustrations, but I was spared the loud vitriol of her campus tag-team and the secondary starving of me through starving herself. Her mother forced her to eat. I even enjoyed antenatal care, if you call that an enjoyment, I do.
Goodluck Jonathan was president, in the height of his popularity, when I was born, I believe that made my grandmother whose meager salary got increased by his administration, name me Goodluck. My grandfather named me Olujimi (God has compensated me); my mother called me Asedanu (an effort perpetually fruitless); my surname, Tunji. The acronym of my name is GOAT (Once a goat, forever a goat I suppose).
My mother barely breastfed me beyond twelve weeks before she dropped me with her mother and returned to school. My mother’s mother was a menial worker at the library so I was left in the care of the sea of cousins, brothers and sisters in the compound. I think they took turns to miss school to baby-sit me. A task they hated. They treated me like trash, or better than trash to say the truth; a little lower than a goat, actually; and I grew up feeding on pap, dust, tears and misery. No, it had nothing to do with growing. I think it was surviving; I was surviving and dying, swinging between the two: surviving, dying, surviving, dying…
My goal was to survive, maintain a strong hold on survival and begin to live. Sometimes I dreamed of not just living but living far from my present, this confinement in penury and lovelessness. The more I grew the less I found human life worth living. As a goat I had little parental care, now, as a human being it was far less. Life as a human being was terrible. My mother made it more terrible when she came home for holidays. It was hell when she graduated and came home to wait for her compulsory national youth service. It was at this time that I learnt to talk and my first word was ‘mama’, and my last word for a long time for my mother beat me with a small fresh stick, my size as she said, until my buttocks were red with pain and rejection.
‘He is wild,’ she said when a relation asked what my offense was. An irony because as a goat I was anything but wild, even humans testify to that hence they call us domestic animals. But by virtue of transforming into humans I have become wild, undomesticated by the same species that birthed civilization. I had come to humanity because I was tired of a life of being a goat, eating grass and bleating for basic communication. Now as a human being I was tired of life completely, I couldn’t even see grass to eat and crying was the only communication.
One day, I was five or so, still yet to begin school, my mother, whom I call Aunty, done with NYSC but mercifully jobless, came home to see that I have torn my pair of trousers, one of the two or three pairs I owned. This pair had been with me for three years now. When the journey started it was a full length trouser handed over by a generous cousin, now it was three-quarter long and would, I suspect, someday become knickers and still serve me. The pair of trousers was like second skin to my lower part and I was sorry to see it tear below the zip as I chase grasshopper, my only sport. My mother beat me so hard, this time with a stick a little above my size, that she might have killed me if I wasn’t goat-tough, perhaps she wanted me dead, and was achieving her aim when I suddenly turned into a goat. Terrified, my mother’s face twisted into an ugly bowl of flesh that I had never known she was capable of, that would have frightened the men who had found her desirable; she let go of me as though I was a monster or something dangerous other than a goat, and ran out of the compound wailing like a mad woman.
I left the house through a small opening in the zinc wall and joined my family of goats. I have trod as human but I am back to where I belong, a happy goat.
You may also like The Screening of an Ape