what if mary auntie called me on my birthday | Akwaeke Emezi | Granta

what if mary auntie called me on my birthday

Akwaeke Emezi

‘i hear you’re not talking to your mother,’ she says, and her
is a slippery crush of green olives, a sweet fig, patient and
centuries old, i never ask about her birthdays anymore, ‘is it
because he’s married?’ she asks, ‘or is this the one who had the
baby? i’ve lost track.’

none of them, but she thinks all my heartbreaks are connected,
‘i’m so tired,’ i tell her, ‘i don’t want to talk to the start of
summer or her loud wonders.’ all the love letters sound the
same, all the men think they’re special, i buy my own selling
spiels, i mean them all, i am so bored

‘i remember when my son was like this,’ she says, ‘have you been
to the desert? little gods like you always have to go.’ i try to guess
what is at her end, wine or weaving, a bird or bread, a flaming

‘in and out,’ i reply, ‘you know how it is.’ the gaping fall, the
rotting manna, the gush of final salvations, the hills, the caves,
so much dies out there. mary auntie sighs and a flock of
sparrows crashes against my ear

‘how old are you by now,’ she asks, and my hands grow sandy
fault lines as i try to count. ‘i’ve forgotten,’ i confess, her voice
creaks through the phone like latticed wood, like a dark cube,
‘me too,’ she whispers. ‘me too.’


Image © Ellen van Deelen

Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is the author of the memoir Dear Senthuran and the novels The Death of Vivek OjiFreshwater, Pet, Bitter and the forthcoming You Made a Fool of Death with your Beauty. In 2018, they were chosen as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35. Photograph © Adam Vo

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