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Long time ago; before I knew to hold a pen and etch the contents of my imagination on paper; before I understood that the content of my mind is tangible enough to enrich others if I shared; when I still bed-wet every other day and would strive to keep it a secret; before I learnt to draw water from the well by myself and didn’t have to wait for my pastors and teachers to do that; before I washed my cloth myself, until it sparkled; long before this time, I had music ringing in all over my head. Spontaneous rhythms, enchanting melodies, raw tones…

I was not alone. I had you in it with me. Once upon one of those days, we had walked the 45-minutes-or-so route home from school. While we did, we hummed beats we couldn’t recall where we’d heard. We modified, improvised, freestyled and we never stopped humming the melody all the way home. I tapped my fingers on the door, imitating the tones that were playing in my head while you bent to pick up the house key from under the empty drum where we normally kept it, still breathing that tone on the dust.

Once the door was opened, I made for the drawer beneath what will, years to come, become my reading table, and pulled out our toothbrushes. You had my biro and yours in either of your hands. At that moment, in our minds, we were world-class drummers about to display a masterpiece. We had set up a couple of empty Bournvita and Peak Milk tins, a pile of mummy’s books and an empty cup as components of the concert drum.

Time stopped ticking, nothing else mattered, and we just drummed away, totally engrossed and high-spirited. There were house chores to be done before mum returned. But it didn’t matter.

I was in the middle of a stunt, an ecstatic roll when the toothbrush in my right hand hit the milk tin in the wrong spot and was split in half. Dam dam!!! We froze. I held the broken pieces together, to see if they could be mended. Maybe glued. It was mine. I looked at you, I could swear I saw a sigh of relief on his face when he noticed that the broken brush was mine and not yours. You weren’t going to be the one to explain to mummy how less-than-two-weeks-old toothbrush she bought for us was broken. So, for about a week or two after that, I used a half-length brush to clean my mouth every morning.

That was a sad experience. But it wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t make those beats in our head go away. I didn’t stop us from drumming, it only thought us to be creative with our choice of drumsticks. We ran into bushes at some points or pulled down fresh branches from the Dogonyaro at the front of the compound.

I remember that. Like it happened yesterday.

I remember dragging that belt with you. I know it was mine. If you’re being honest now, you’ll agree it was indeed mine.

But you insisted it was yours on that day. I pulled on one end, you pulled at the other. We said things that hurt and angered us. A wise man once said that it isn’t the conflict in itself that breaks up the relationship but the things we say to those we love during the conflict.

I was fed up with being the first child, otherwise, I would have done the reasonable thing—leave that belt and wear the second one. You were fed up with being the cheated one, the child who gets to use only stuffs his elder brother had used.

I pulled my end of the belt towards me, trying hard to snatch it out of your hands. You did the same. We kept pulling, holding our grounds, being more deviant. Refusing to give in. Until the belt gave in, snapping a pair of leather that couldn’t be used for anything else. We both lost the belt.

But that same night, we slept on the same bed. We stayed awake long into the night recounting funny events we had experienced and some cool beat we heard somewhere.


That was what made us family.

Dedicated to Victor Ibezimakor.

Happy birthday to you.


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