Adaku’s Pillow

Adaku coughed all night.

“Did you sleep a wink?” Her father asked her after their morning devotion around a table that is older than all the children in the family. “I bought this table in 1991,” Adaku’s father would say with pride. Today, there was fear in his voice as he asked the question.

“I slept a wink or two,” Adaku said; “just that.”

“You will take medicine after breakfast,” her mother said. “And I will seize your phone. Too much pressing pressing of phone is the cause all this.”

But Adaku wasn’t listening. She was thinking about Lagos. After NYSC shut down their camp and asked them to go home, she didn’t. Home was Port Harcourt but she boarded a bus from the gate of Okada Camp to Lagos to see Clinton her Instagram crush and music producer.

“Uche, sweep this place then boil water for your sister. She will take the medicine with hot tea.”

Adaku wasn’t listening to her father, she was in a bus heading to Ibadan to see Bayo her Twitter crush and Social Media influencer.

Adaku’s younger brother Uche left the room. Adaku’s mother left her seat to sit where Uche left, by Adaku’s side. She put a loving palm on Adaku’s cheek. “Your temperature is high o,” she said. “Do you have a headache?”

Adaku didn’t hear her. She was on a bus heading to Enugu to see Lizzy her woman crush and cake maker. She had planned to spend one night in Enugu but ended up spending three, under three different roofs. There was Ebuka with six-packs and there was skinny Pius with small shiny teeth and big dimples.

“Enugu,” she whispered with remembered joy.

“What about Enugu?” her parents asked.

“My head feels like I am climbing the top of a hill.” Enugu means the top of a hill.

“Let’s call Doctor Ossy,” the mother said.

“Let her take the medicine with hot tea first,” the father said.

“I want to lie down.” Adaku lied down with her head on her father’s laps and her feet on her mother’s. She had a dream where she was eating bread by the roadside. A mad man snatched the bread from her hand and ran off. A Keke rider stopped his tricycle and beckoned her to get in so they could chase the man. But it wasn’t a Keke, it was a canoe; it wasn’t on a tarmac road, it was in the middle of the River Niger. Someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned just as the person pushed her into the river.

Her yelp woke her up.

“Nnem, ogini?”

“It must be a nightmare,” her mother said. “Why am I not surprised when she is lying on your bony laps? Adannem, come to a real bed.” As the mother led the daughter to her room, the father rushed to his room to get his pillow.

Somewhere in the corner of the room, COVID-19 was looking at Adaku and grinning.