Like everything else about her, Kiitan’s hair was difficult. All her life, only one hair dresser had not complained. Aunty Toyin, from Jakande Beach Estate. Only that sweet rotund woman had spoken lovingly, maybe sometimes in awe, about her thick, long and very unmanageable hair. Everyone else had complained; her mother, her aunties, even her friends who should know better. It had been years since Aunty Toyin touched her hair yet Kiitan had fond memories of sitting between the woman’s hefty thighs as she massaged Shea Butter lovingly into every strand before braiding. Her hair had been beautiful, maybe even easy, under Aunty Toyin’s management but never again.
“Hair always tells the truth” Aunty Toyin had once said. “When I touch someone’s hair, I can know if they have been resting well, eating properly, whether they are happy or sad, healthy or sick…Hair never lies.”
So when Ladi reached out to touch her hair that special night, she had pulled back and hurt his feelings. Not all his feelings mind you. Ladi was a man with many feelings and always in his feelings. As far as Kiitan was concerned, it was a little bit much sometimes but for the most part, it was why she loved him. Maybe he could teach her to feel in places she had gone numb.
“Touch anything else.”
“But not the hair?”
“Not the hair”
She wanted to explain but then her Uber had showed up and then she only had time to kiss him goodnight.
On the ride home, the ring he had just given her weighed heavy on her finger. She didn’t like rings much but Ladi didn’t know that. He might have a PhD in electromagnetic theory but in the theory of Kiitan, there was still so much that was abstract.
“You don’t even like rings” Maimuna said to her later that night as they discussed the impending future.
“The one man that finally managed to want me, I should drive him away with my oddities abi? I should have said ‘yes’ to the man but told him to return the ring abi? Do I blame you? It is because Baba has lined up suitors waiting to sweep you off your feet back home in Kano.”
“Shut up jor. I am a divorced Muslim Hausa woman. My father will not rest in peace until he can prove that Alhaji Umar can bring up a well behaved woman and we all know I am his last chance with that.”
Maimuna had two other sisters-Aunty Mairo, the eldest had recently packed up and left her husband for a younger lover. Miriam, closer to Maimuna in age, had never married. She wore jeans for evening prayers and swore like a sailor. Baba had long given up on her.
They laughed over Maimuna’s unusual kinfolk for a while but soon turned their minds back to clueless Ladi.
“Let him touch your hair tomorrow”
“Tomorrow is Sunday, a holy day”
“Are you Samson?”
“How you take sabi Bible pass some Christians is just wonderful”
“When my roommate is Iya Jesu nko?”
Kiitan went to bed light and heavy at the same time. A man loved her, at least the parts of her he knew. It was a truth that made her feel like she had wings and all she needed do was flap a little and flight.
But she wanted him to love all of her truth, not just the truths he had arrived at with no basis. She wanted him to know her and love her- the tough hair, her independence, her moodiness, her quirkiness, her hatred for rings and predilection for sneakers, the toothless grandmother in Ijebu Remo she never spoke about, the unfenced childhood home in Akute she still saw in her dreams, the onion morning breath that nothing seemed to be able to cure.. yet she was afraid to let him see these things- she didn’t want to lose him the way she had lost the others.
Just before sleeping, she took out a jar of Shea Butter from underneath her bed where she had hidden it from Maimuna’s prying fingers and took off her ring. She massaged the cream in gently as she remembered Aunty Toyin doing. Then she went to bed praying for miracles and that love would last. Tomorrow she would let him touch her hair.
Song of the day: India Arie – I am not my hair