They came in their numbers at dawn. When Aya heard the distant wailing, she thought she was dreaming but it got louder so she woke up, and it became louder still. Then she heard the knocks at the main gate. She also heard Yoofi walk out of his room to go and open the gates. The wailing was now at its loudest.
“Owuo ayε ma di ooo owuo wa yε ma di. Ah we di mi ewu” screamed a woman, she was addressing death as though it was human. She said he had taken something precious from her. Her voice was hoarse, perhaps, from shouting too much.
Aya got out of her bed and crept towards the window. She could see them, they were clad in the traditional black and red mourning attires. Many of them were women who wore black scarfs on their heads, black wrappers around their waists, and red bands on their wrists. The screaming woman was lying on the ground, and the others stood in a somber semi-circle around her; their quieter sobs, the chorus to her mournful song.
The woman stopped crying to blow her nose into the cloth she had around her waist. The sound tore through the compound, loud and long, it felt like she was forcing decades of goo out of her insides. She looked up towards someone, Aya could not see the person from where she hid behind her bedroom curtains so she tried stretching her neck and standing on her tiptoes. A hand reached down to help the screaming woman stand up and sit on the bench in the compound. This time Aya got a good look the wailing woman. She was fair and lean, she had a protruding forehead, a big flat nose, and thick dark lips. Just like Paapa.
“Yoofi, my son, tell me what happened.” the woman was saying to Yoofi. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen, and still had tears in them.
Yoofi was about to speak but was interrupted by a lanky old man. “Young man, it is too early to talk about what happened. Tell your sisters to bring your aunt and the rest of us some water, then call your mother for us. This is a matter for older people to address” the man cleared his throat.
Aya slipped into the black and white dress that hung on the door of her room while she waited to be called to serve the mourners; It was the same one she had worn to the hospital yesterday. The same one Paapa rested his head on when in the car while she watched as his breath stopped and pupils became still. She shook her head fiercely in an attempt to clear the memory.
Yoofi didn’t come to call her. Aya went back to the window.
The old man was addressing Mama now. “Nana Esi, thank you for receiving us, and for telling us what happened. It is the wish of the elderly in every house that they are buried by the younger ones but death has his own timetable and has decided to call my nephew Joojoe.” He cleared his throat again and continued. “As custom demands, we shall meet here again on Tuesday to have the one-week rites and announce the funeral arrangements. Send word to your family, and take heart.”
Aya sat on her bed and blocked her ears, tears flowed freely from her eyes and there was a sudden tightening in her chest that made it hard to breathe.
Yoofi finally came into her room. He was dragging in two suitcases and a large handbag.
“Who are those for?” Aya wanted to ask, but she said nothing.
“The people called family,” he said, answering the question in her eyes.