PORT MORESBY - I walked in and looked at the corner where I spent last night. The couch cushions were still on the floor where I had left them in the morning. Not tidied up.
The filthy sheet was still stuck in the window pane where I’d tried to shut out the early morning chill.
I read something into that. The message was clear. I was persona non grata in my own home.
I had found refuge there in the night after I stayed under the house all afternoon. I was not going to come into the house after the fiasco with Soluhoto shouting out the dlolly word.
I was not going to chastise her for my own stupidity.
And I had no rational explanation why some people posted such things on my FB messaging page.
My daughter had pulled from out the blue the words ‘dolly’ and ‘lolly’. The word the person used in the inbox message was totally different word.
The FB friend had sent two messages 10 minutes apart like it was a desperate situation.
I don’t know where Soluhoto got the idea to substitute this exact word with lolly or dolly. I did not want to ask her that because it was going on to uncomfortable ground.
I might have to explain why I was allowing my FB friends that talk like that on FB.
And the nude selfie…. It was too much to be thinking around about at this precise moment.
It felt eerie coming into a house where no one was talking to you. Even the dogs had not wagged their tails.
I dropped my laptop bag and left my shirt with the phone on the bare couch frame and tried to get myself a cup of water from the kitchen tap.
The sospen was not in its usual place on the shelf over the stove. I took a furtive look behind the door but there was nothing resembling a sospen.
I felt a bit elated but it was short lived. There was the sospen on the kitchen table under some aibika and kalapua banana. Was that a cover?
When Ma walked into the kitchen, I was anticipating an all-out sospen war. Her face did not show any emotion.
But the same face was there – the one with the twitch in the corner of the mouth that gave her a supercilious smile.
When she smiled, the smile pulled her face opposite to the twitch and radiated from that side, not that I expected a smile right now.
She was blank and mute. I swallowed the bile at the back of my throat and slowly squeezed past her, making myself as small as possible as not to touch her in that corner of the kitchen.
I must have had my eyes in the back of my head for when her hand moved to the water tap, I lost it. I was shaking, skin grass kirap nogut tru anticipating the sospen missile.
The hairs on the back of my neck quivered for a while. It was not time yet.
I walked to the toilet to knock out the butterflies in my stomach.
I resolved to talk to her - no, both of them.
“Soluhoto! Where are you?”
“Da, you don’t need to shout. I’m here right behind you. I want to use the toilet.”
“Okay, when you are done, I want to talk to you.”
“What is it that you want to discuss with her? What fokofi has troubled you this time?”
Oh, the blank mute has a voice now.
That was not a good conversation starter.
They were not questions though they sounded like it. They were statements where she knew she would not get any answers.
I walked out of the house with Ma’s sarcastic air following me to the vegetable garden. I was not going to egg anyone to do battle.
I walked around the aupa plot four times without pulling any pigweed, meditating to my best self, mumbling about nothing.
I edged up to Soluhoto sitting at the edge of the aupa plot and pulled her close.
“Solo! Apo! Yesterday you mentioned dolly or lolly. I looked up the Facebook messages and there is no mention of lolly or dolly in the message so where did that word come from?”
“Da, some person in there was saying that they want to do something that boys at our school are always swearing at us or sometimes these boys get into the girl’s toilet and write graffiti there that mention what the boys say to us.
“The word in the phone is the same. We – girls, being girls, substitute some of the words and this word, we changed it to lolly. I did not say dolly.”
I looked at her with tears in my eyes. Gosh, what was the world coming to when children in primary schools are becoming cleverer than they put out to be?
“Da-a, you think that I will call that word for the public to hear?”
“Apo, I think our neighbours did hear that and they could make connections between FB and lolly and especially when a small kid shouts it out or puts it out in an inquisitive way.”
“There was one ass nating meri in there also.”
“Apo, say that again.”
“Honest, I saw a picture of one ass nating meri on your mess---!”
I woke up seeing myself amongst the aupa plants with a glorious rainbow arching over me and a soothing waterfall cascading down on me with more than a few stars still going off between the waterfall, the walls beyond the rainbows and the heavens.
I was not sure if it was me just taking off to the nether world as I saw my own world crumbling when my daughter told me she saw a naked woman on my FB page or that the sospen had landed.
I was prostrate on the ground with a burning bump on my balding crown and Soluhoto leaning over me, trying to revive me. Her face was all wet from the water or tears or both.
She however was wearing a smile a mile long and the water from the handheld hose was all over me and my cracked balding head and the cracked and mangled phone beside me.
“Da-ah, I am so sorry. I did not see Ma come up behind us.”
Ooh, pleeaase - cry me a river.
aibika - vegetable prevalent in the Pacific
apo - endearing word used by Eastern Highlanders (Alekano, Tokano, Eastern Highlands)
ass nating meri - naked woman (Tok Pisin)
aupa - vegetable common around Port Moresby
Dlolly - combination of words dolly and lolly (for this story)
em nau - there now / that’s it (Tok Pisin)
fokofi - woman with loose morals, including sex workers (slang)
kalapua - round cooking banana common around the Pacific (Kuanua, East New Britain)
persona non grata – unwelcome guest
skin grass kirap nogut tru - hairs on the skin stand erect (Tok Pisin)
Soluhoto - girl’s name (Tokano, Eastern Highlands)
sospen - saucepan, a pot with a handle sticking out the side (Tok Pisin)