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JOY by Okwuchi Uzosike

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(Featured photo from: Artist Carol Brown)

It didn't matter how many stories that have circulated before then, it didn't matter how many names she had assumed nor how many appointments she had been to. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, Joy felt an inward force, something that pvoed stronger than anything she could handle. At times she had to make up instant stories about herself, no she wasn't Nigerian, and no the name isn't Joy but Evelyn, which the Italian pronounced Evalina, then shortened it to Eva. It often amazed her how she could change and rewrite destiny, like  pieces on a chessboard, assuming the identities of countries she sure never would visit.

But the distress of that night was about the guy that would never shut up, Joy sat with her heart in her mind, she had come in from an 'outing', and it didn't end like the other ones where she would force her mind to forget, just forget, the power of the mind, Joy likened her mind to the blackboard on which Mr Iwu would scribble with furor and then dust out letter in a hurry. Mr Iwu taught History when Joy was still in secondary school.
That night no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't forget the talkative client.
'Gioia! Gioia!' she repeated to herself, inserting the Oriental Brothers Cd she kept in the cd rack. She needed to forget.

That was what he called her, 'Gioia'.
She never could quite understand where he picked it from. Yes it translated as Joy in her English but then it could never be the same meaning her parents intended when they named her Joy, the happiness that accompanied her birth and the beauty that nature bestowed on her.

No!, It was a different Joy, one that was begotten of carnal desire, of selfishness.
She thought of the moments she lay there, almost lifeless, her mind wandering in distant blankness, while he panted and sweated with each thrust. What annoyed her most was his constant talking, asking her if she liked it. She more than once felt an impulse to stop him and sit him down for some lecturing, how was she expected to like it?
To be spread out on a bed like a heaven and earth forsaken sacrifice, to be devoured by sons born of women like her, whose only control over her lay buried in their wallets. She wanted to ask him if he had ever walked barefoot a mile in any desert? If he had ever been crammed up like goods in sets of hundreds on a piece of wooden boat meant for just some little more than thirty people.

Had he ever seen death? Not the kind that occurs on a hospital bed, but the one that stands fearlessly a challenge when to your left and right you are in the midst of the ocean's blue, with floating bodies of those whose journey ended on the Mediterranean, either by accident or simply thrown overboard.

The music came on, first slowly and then Sir Warrior's voice took the lead, or was it Olololo? She wasn't sure anymore but she took to dancing, swaying and shaking like Uloaku, the elderly woman in Umudima, who when under the control of her spirits, would dance and quake until she had spoken out all the prophesies revealed to her.
It was she, Uloaku, who read Joy's palms years ago on her return from school in Umuachala.

''Ugonma nwa'm biakene, come my daughter, help me raise my basket to my head''

Joy obliged, but halfway Uloaku grabbed her left hand, as if she had just seen a ghost.
She stared into her palm a while and then pronounced what she had seen.

'You will go far my daughter,
you will go real far! my daughter,
I see roads everywhere,
I see dry and I see wet,
with wings spread to the wind
you will, daughter'

When she had finished she settled the basket on her head without the help she had called for, and she walked away in a brisker manner as if to avoid any questions or requests for clearer explanations of her vision.
Joy remembered her words and quite vividly, the voice still as clear and shrill in her head. She stopped dancing in that instant as new thoughts filled her mind.

'Is this the journey Uloaku saw years ago?' Was she on the path charted by her personal god, or was she just a collateral product of a clash between fate and destiny, between what is and what was meant to be.

Okwuchi Uzosike born was in Imo state in south eastern Nigeria, he attended Mater Ecclesiae Nguru where he wrote scripts for the school's theatre group. He moved to Italy where he majored first in Biology and then Pharmacy from the University of Bologna. He's a language teacher, a poet, writer. He's part of the organizers of the yearly African Students Week and the International Nelson Mandela Day both in Ferrara. He has published for online magazine "Il Versante Ripido"and in the anthologies "Under the Skies of Lampedusa".

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