Friday, January 6, 2017

LOVE


Love. 17 year old Shola Agu grew up surrounded on the outer layers of this very word that runs the world. It extended from his 87 year old neighbor who has been married to Mrs. Lolade for 67 years, to the woman who usually brought akara to the house; she said that was only way she could make a living to take care of her two daughters since her husband died and his family stole everything because their brother left no children behind but mere girls.

This love also stretched down to the man everyone called Baba, who threatens every day to send his grandson out of his home if he came home riding on the back of trouble again. The old man was tired of confronting families of the child Ekong usually left bloody after a fight. Since losing his only child, Ekong’s father, ten years ago he’d been left to care for what remained of him.

Even down to the sermon from the pastor last week, love prevailed. He’d said that Christ, the greatest lover, so loved the world that he sacrificed himself on the cross to wash away our sins.  Shola had heard it all, had listened with his ears wide open and his clueless eyes on his mother. But on the inside, in his home, love hasn’t come around since the night he was made. It regularly only came along with the greasy smell of mama ChiChi’s akara, halting right outside their front door, too terrified to enter, too scared to be noticed, too frightened of the possibility of being abused, and of being neglected. So it follows mama ChiChi back home to a place where it would be fed.

Shola closed the curtain and joined his mother and three younger siblings in their sitting room which he hated called a living room. Because it seemed like all what the head of their home enjoyed doing is sit in front of them and fade away. Breakfast was ready now that mama Chi-Chi had come. They all gathered around him on the floor with their long throat hanging and watched as Shola divided the two hundred Naira bread into five pieces and distributed them with two pieces of akara on top. The youngest, Ifeoma, thanked him. Shola tried to hand his mother her share of the breakfast but she shook her head and said, “Give it to her, this one that she said thank you, she must really be hungry.” Their mother teased and the family laughed.

  Shola chewed cautiously, habitually looking over at his mother who usually looked as if she was far away in a place that had once been good to her.

“Mama, are you sure you don’t want, there’s still some akara remaining…” he asked chewing on a piece of bread. Mrs. Agu was proud of him. He was the most caring son she could ask for. Sometimes she wondered why a child like him was sent to a mother like her. But, “I’m fine.” She lied.

Later that day, Mrs. Agu arrived home from the market where she sold dried and fresh pepper. Today’s sale at the market had been great considering the way things were going in the latest Nigerian economy. Prices were spiking up as if on steroids. But this evening she’d wanted to surprise the kids so she bought chicken on her way home to prepare fried stew with. Laying the other items she’d bought from the market down, she asked Timothy, her second born for his older brother.

“We haven’t seen him since he followed us to school.” The eleven year old said.

Mrs. Agu stopped and asked, “Do you mean to tell me that he didn’t come to pick you, your brother, or sister up from school? He didn’t follow you people home?”

Timothy nodded.

“This boy will not kill me. What says the time? A quarter pass seven and he is not home yet? Hide me ooo, this children, hide me! Who will I now complain to? Who?”

Then she paused to catch her breath. “Have any of you seen Baba’s grandson since you came back from school?”

The three kids all replied in unison, “No.”

“Chinke! If by mistake Shola is with that good for nothing boy, I will so teach him a lesson he will never forget. I’m waiting for him.” She was angry, not at her son but at the boy Shola could possibly be with. She knew her son was not like Ekong, he will never be like him and she was going to make sure of it whenever he gets back. She was no longer in the mood to prepare the feast she’d planned. She told the kids to warm up the soup they had left in the house and use that for dinner.

An hour later, Shola wiped his bloodshot eyes before knocking on the door. His little brother opened. “Welcome.” Timothy greeted, “mommy had been looking for you.”

“Ehn, and so? Did somebody loss that she’s looking for me?” Shola hissed, barging into the living room to meet his mother.

“Why did you even bother coming back? You should have just slept there… are you saying that this house is no longer big enough for you and I to live in?” she asked, gradually rising up. “Which responsible 17 year old boy do you know that’s still out by this time? Answer me!” she shouted, picking up the broom by her side.

“Why don’t you ask the irresponsible man that impregnated you that question.” He said to his mother whose face had turned blank after her son’s response. Her head immediately felt too heavy for her neck.

“What did you say? Repeat yourself!” she screamed, steadily drawing close to him. Shola remained silent, not moving from where he stood. “Did someone say something to you at school today?” his mother asked, this time more worried than angry.

“Which school?” Shola hissed, releasing the button on his school uniform. “I’m not going back there again. It’s not for people like me.” He said and then tried to move.

“Come back here, people like you? Where did you hear that? Who are people like you? So you think you’re now a big boy abi, you want to be like Ekong?”

“At least Ekong knows who his father his.” Shola said, dropping yet another bomb.

“Don’t you know who your father is?” she asked with a taste of guilt on her tongue.

“I know what you told me. He died before I was born but mama if that was true how is it that I have three other siblings? Did you remarry, who’s their father? They might be too young to understand but I’ve caught you. You’re a liar!” he shouted at his mother who was quick to hit him in the mouth those foul words had spilled.

“You can only beat me but I won’t let you lie to me any longer. I’m no longer a child. We all use the same surname but that name is your father’s not any of ours! Ifeoma is fair, Timothy and I are not, you too. Evans, I don’t even know who or what that one looks like.”

“Me!” she yelled with tears already rolling down her cheeks. “You are all my children, you all look like me.” She added, beating on her chest.

“Mama, I’ve said my own. I’m not going back to that school until you tell me who my father is.” He declared before walking out on his mother.

Mrs. Agu’s feet were terribly shaking that she had to hold on to one of the old chairs in the room for support. The room was spinning and so was her head. Shola’s words, his questions, his facts, they were all replaying in her head. She was restraining herself from holding her head and screaming like a mad woman. It was all happening, the moment she’d been dreading since Shola became the man of the house. She knew he was too smart for his age and that was one of the reasons why she sometimes questioned God for sending him to her. To expose me, she whispered to herself in tears. But she was going to tell him, she was going to tell them all when she had everything pieced together but Shola! She called his name two more times. How would she begin to tell him that she had no exact answer to his question? How? She cleaned her tears with the hem of her wrapper tied to her chest and went into her bedroom in search of the notebook she used as a diary. With a pen in her left hand, she sat on her bed and began to do the math again…

Around the month of May 1999, Mr. Festus.
June 1999, Solomon.
August 1999, Mr. Contractor, but there were two more in between, Mr. Lucky with the big jeep, and Mr. Gideon with gap teeth.

 She retraced the time line she had jotted down in her diary. What of Timothy, she asked herself. There was Mrs. Kumi’s husband, she didn’t remember his name. Twelve years had passed since Mrs. Kimi came to her home when timothy was only three months old. The angry wife had boiled hot water from home and threatened to pour it on Mrs. Agu’s three month old son because of the rumor of an affair between her husband of fifteen years and Mrs. Agu, popularly known back then as “busy body.”

  Mrs. Agu sighed, she didn’t want to think about Julius, Ifeoma’s possibly father. His fair skin had attracted her to him. He’d been from the Igbo tribe like herself. He’d promised to take her in and her other three kids when he found out she was pregnant with Ifeoma. But one day he came over to the house after hearing stories that she was unfaithful to him to confront her. Mrs. Agu had thought she’d succeeded in putting those rumors to rest before Julius left that evening but that was the last time she saw him. He never showed up at her door step again and she’d been left with unfulfilled promises and her hope of a better marriage this time crumbled.

In between the many men who’d spoiled her with suya, the one who’d used as a punching bag and therefore abusing her whole essence, the ones who’d lied about wives they had, the ones who never gave love but took pleasure from her, down to the ones who’d made promises and failed; Mrs. Agu had been left with four children who had no clue whose eyes they had except their mother’s which they’ve only seen. But she was going to tell them just when her calculations were finally correct. Then again, it’s been 17 years with no luck. So she covered the notebook once again, placed it under her pillow and rested her head on it…

THE END

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Thank you guys for always reading,