‘Let’s Tell This Story Properly’ by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi


Image by Pekka Nikrus

From Granta:

If you go inside Nnam’s house right now the smell of paint will choke you but she enjoys it. She enjoys it the way her mother loved the smell of the outside toilet, a pit latrine, when she was pregnant. Her mother would sit a little distance away from the toilet doing her chores, or eating, and disgusting everyone until the baby was born. But Nnam is not pregnant. She enjoys the smell of paint because her husband Kayita died a year ago, but his scent lingered, his image stayed on objects and his voice was absorbed in the bedroom walls: every time Nnam lay down to sleep, the walls played back his voice like a record. This past week, the paint has drowned Kayita’s odour and the bedroom walls have been quiet. Today, Nnam plans to wipe his image off the objects.

A week ago Nnam took a month off work and sent her sons, Lumumba and Sankara, to her parents in Uganda for Kayita’s last funeral rites. That is why she is naked. Being naked, alone with silence in the house, is therapy. Now Nnam understands why when people lose their minds the first impulse is to strip naked. Clothes are constricting but you don’t realize until you have walked naked in your house all day, every day for a week.

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