BY IFEOLUWA OGÚNYINKA (My first daughter. 16 year old 11th grader.)
Since the day I was born, I had always had this weird addiction of collecting fireflies. Living on an old rusty barn helped a lot, especially in the night. I never really understood my fascination for ‘em fireflies but I knew one thing for sure. They were real beauties.
My Pa would always give me the leftover honey and jam jars for me to store my fireflies. For as long as I can remember, Pa has always been a rugged farmer. He did it all. From cow-milking to seed-planting to honey-collecting to tree-planting to … I could go on and on, but the point is Pa did it all. Not just for the income, even though that was highly important, but for the “passionate passion for workin’ o me land” he’d always say.
My family had always been poor. In fact, it felt like every time an elderly died we would get poorer. So poor we didn’t have a house, we lived in the barn. Well, everybody except for Jake, my older and only brother, who felt weird sharing the barn with our cows, mum, dad, my three other sisters and I.
As a child I never realized this, but I discovered later on that my little silly firefly-collecting hobby was the source of light for my family at night time.
My life was boring. I never went to school, or even parties. Heck! I didn’t have no friends, just my sisters and Jake. And the farm animals. Every day, we ate eggs and milk for breakfast, nothing for lunch (‘cause it was a sisi meal) and porridge for dinner, except on Sundays when we kill one chicken and eat with the porridge. There was no excitement or fun whatsoever, except for firefly-hunting, but aside from that… it always felt like we were just waiting to die all our lives, like grandma and grandma and their parents and their parents. An endless cycle.
The only thing that kept me going, except for firefly-hunting, was New Year’s Day. On that day, weird people (who I realized were actually city folk) would travel down to the country or the end of the world, a few minutes away from the barn and throw parties. I was always fascinated by their speedy shiny cars and bikes.
On New Year’s Eve, I would sit at the edge of the farm land so I would be close enough to hear their fast and slow party songs.
The best part was midnight. The city people would scream out a countdown which was loud enough for me to hear and then the best thing would happen. Fireworks! I loved them, they reminded me of my fireflies only these were bigger and strong enough to dance in the skies and they came in different color! It was fabulous. While my family lived to die, I lived for New Year’s Day.
The only downside to this, I was never allowed to attend these parties. My Ma would say, “Lil’ sisi’s like you ain’t gonna remain innocent if you venture into such.” And I’d always remind her that wasn’t a sisi. The point, I was banned from such parties. It was unfair because Jake always snuck out for these parties and would disappear for days! Everybody would know where he went but nobody would comment!
This year though, I turned 14 and I was determined to “venture into” the New Year’s Party, I had the best plan ever!
Over the years, I had mastered Jake’s route to the party, so getting to its location was easy. I was prepared, I wore my best dress under my nightwear rags, had two full jars of fireflies ready for the journey and that was it! After super, I waited till everyone was asleep by this time Jake was already long gone. I wish I could follow him but Jake had the biggest mouth ever created.
I quietly hurried out of the barn and made my way to the party with a victorious grin on my lips. I let out a relieved sigh when I got to the party, an effortless smile on my lips. My smile began to fall as I absorbed the party going on in front of me.
Bodies, skimpily clad, dangerously gyrating, filled the party grounds. Green bottles littered the poor fertile soil. People sucked on each other’s faces and fiddled with one another. Some weren’t even wearing their sorry excuses of clothes. At the corners of the ground, huge boxes produced loud music. The point was, I was disappointed beyond belief. Ma was right. Oh! My poor virgin eyes.
Before I knew it, I was pushed into the party by a drunken man and so it went on. It was all a blur, getting shoved, smacked at odd places and even getting kissed! The horror. At this time tears were flowing freely down my cheeks. A flicker of hope ignited in my heart when the people started to count down.
“10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! Happy New Year!” They screeched. Again the pushing and kissing continued. Nobody paid attention to the fireworks. I couldn’t even focus, I was getting shoved around. And then a body fell smack on me and I couldn’t take it anymore! With supernatural anger and strength I pushed the idiot off me.
“Kathy! Kathy wait up!” The idiot slurped out behind me. I turned around swiftly to find Jake looking like our scarecrow.
“What?” I yelled, utterly disgusted by him.
He busted into tears. “She is pregnant again!”
“What are you saying, idiot?” I muttered, and crouched to help him stand up.
“I… I… pregnant again.” He gasped and passed out. I dumped him on the ground, my anger and irritation rushed back.
I left Jake at the party. I knew he would find his way back home like always. When I got to the barn my Ma was wide awake, waiting for me.
“And where were you lil’ sisi?”
“Out gettin’ more fireflies.” I told her and handed her both jars. We both knew I was lying, but like Jake nobody commented.
Jake came back about a week later with a pretty face called Melissa. Surprisingly, she was pregnant and was carrying a little boy in her arms.
That New Year’s Day marked the last time I ever went firefly-hunting, 10 years now. I just couldn’t see the fascination anymore.
I started living to die.