Ipoba River Matron helped finance my mother’s burial ceremony, everyone knew that. She did more than I expected by paying for the musician and the abundant drinks. On the night of the obito after everyone had eaten, drank, danced and left, she called me inside the house and said “Itohan don’t worry, I am your mother now and I will sen d you to Europe so you can further your education there with my other daughters,” I thought I was hearing double, “there are good nursing schools there; you can work part time to pay your school fees. And once you graduate and pass your board exam, you will make a lot of money.” I fell on the ground and started worshiping her dust-coated feet. Matron’s promise lifted me from the sorrowful depth my mother’s death threw me. I could not thank her enough. I hear voices behind me. I turn, Matron is here now; she is wearing a long ceremonial gown. She looks more serious than when she is trying to force patients to take their medication. She is followed by a short man dressed like a high priest; a white shirt with red lines running from top to bottom follows her. Soon I see Prince behind the short man, wearing his usual big jeans, tight fitting T-shirt and big gold chain necklace. Two handsets dangle from both side of his belt like guns. Even if my eyes were closed, I would still have known that Prince is in the place because his perfume is always very strong as if he bath in it. He had helped Matron arrange all the paper works without me stepping into any embassy. Matron said she will pay all his expenses once I succeed in entering Europe. Matron is not looking like a mother today; maybe she is upset about something. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE I stare at the dark glassy running water; it is not dawn yet and everywhere is quiet except for chattering weaverbirds on the palm trees. I am shivering and small fear is entering my stomach. Matron had said I would meet her here, but she is not anywhere to be found. I do not have my phone because she said I should only come with a day old chick required for the river goddess and a white wrapper, nothing else. I got the day old chick from Matron’s friend who owned a poultry near Uselu Market, not far from the psychiatric hospital. I never knew a day old chick was more expensive than a fully grown chicken. The poultry owner explained: “It is not easy to watch egg hatch to be sure the chick is actually a day old. Na because Matron send you, I go charge you five thousand.” And I wondered how much it would have cost ordinarily. Morning is getting brighter, yet no sign of Matron. A batch of bats rises from a swamp tree and clouds the sky, everywhere is dark again. Are bats really blind? If so how do they fly? Why does Matron even want us to come here, we have already been to church to pray about my journey. Maybe she really wants to make sure nothing goes wrong with my trip to Europe. Matron can be over caring sometimes; people say it is because has no child of her own that is why she cares so much about other people’s children. She has already sent about twenty girls, whom she affectionately calls daughters, to Europe. She is so proud of them and they send her plenty money and gifts. Whether the hospital pays salary on time or not, Matron doesn’t care. Rumor has it that she has houses in Lagos and Abuja. Everybody loves Matron, Iyenorkhua — Great Mother. Even the worst mental patients love her, one word from her and you will see the craziest of them behaving like a small child. Gossipers in the ward say Matron uses otumokpor to deal with the patients, but I can assure you she is not a juju woman at all because she is the most active member of Christ Living Faith Ministry. She donated the refectory to the church, a fanciful building she built all by herself — there is a “Thank you” plaque with her name by the entrance. 7 I hold a paper bag in one hand with my blue uniforms, which I will later wear, after this ceremony, to the hospital where I work as a Psychiatric Ward Assistant. The wrapper round my chest is pure white; whiter than the straitjacket we use for tying patients to beds at the hospital. My upper body is naked and I am shivering in the morning cold by the bank of Ipoba River. The coconut trees sway in the early morning breeze. I came through the small path and I am sure I have not missed the spot Matron described for me. The river can be seen from the old rusty bridge that links Ipoba Hills and Ramat Park to the army barracks, where we used to live. Though I grew up around here, I have never stepped on the banks of the famous river, until this morning. I did not know people come here to make sacrifices; I know builders come to the bank to load their tippers with white sand. They can be seen from top of the hill when you are riding the tuke-tuke bus to Guinness Breweries.