“I need you to tell me the truth James, forget about work, forget about being my boss, please just for this moment, I need you to be my friend. A friend who has always encouraged me to work hard. I started taking some law courses, because you encourage me to. I want to become somebody more important in the society, am striving hard because you lead me in the way. You are my inspiration James, now, I want to know the truth cause I swear my head is going crazy right now, I don’t know what to do.. Please, please tell me why Alisha is marrying Chanda, why did she just dump me?” I asked as we sat at the bar.
The loud Music could not deter me from achieving my goal with James. I had to find him and find out what was truly going on. I had no intentions to move him out of the bar, so I bought some beers and joined him. He raised his head up and rubbed his beard before speaking
“Well, she obviously didn’t love you as much as you thought” he shrugged
“Don’t give me that bullshit, you saw us together. We have been going out for more than a year, your sister loves me and you know that” I argued shaking my head
“Why not ask her, am sure she can talk to you and tell you what is going on” he shrugged again totally trying to doge the question but I was not letting him escape.
“No, she cannot talk to me, she moved from her flat and I have no idea where she is, she blocked me I cannot call her. So yeah, I wished she could say something reasonable to me before dumping me man. I deserve that much, you know me James, am your guy, am not perfect and all but you know me, am into your sister and I can do anything for her, so save me this pain in the fresh and tell me what the hell is going on with your family,. Why are you making my girl marry that clown of a man” I spoke angrily and throbbing the bottle of beer on the counter table the sound of it made James sit up and sigh.
“Okay, you think you can take it huh? You got the balls to take the shit about all this?” he asked and his language told me he was getting drunk, which was a good thing for me cause I knew he was not going to hold back.
“Okay so my sister is the only salvation for my family man. She got to marry that guy, no matter what, my mother needs medication, expensive medication and unlike the picture that they have been painting, my parents are broke man, they have been living on debts for years now. Well, I tried to warn them but” he shrugged taking a break and drinking some of his beer
“Yeah, so they have been broke man, my sisters school fees, my mothers escalating meds and practically everything they had to run was on debt man. Chanda`s family being the main sponsors on friendship basis. I guess there is nothing free in this world huh. You got to pay for every shit man, every bit of shit someone favors you with.” He paused again staring at me his drunk eyes shining through the lights in bar.
“So you are telling me she is marrying him because your parents have to somehow pay the debt to that guy’s family?” I asked wanting him to continue
“I know you are not so dull Joe, you got that right. My mother has some sort of cancer, she needs meds man, and my father says we cannot afford it, I tried to help but I can’t get it all done, you know our pay check is not much. Then one day Tembo, my father’s childhood friend, the father to Chanda came home and offered to take my mother out of the country for the treatment she needs. Everyone was happy of course, before we could hear the condition attached to this offer. Tembo smiled and said, “My son, is the one willing to pay for all the medical expenses on a condition that Alisha marries him”
“What?” I chirped in gulping my own bottle and striking the empty one down the counter, the bar attendant had to give me a warning look.
“Yeah, that bastard had it all planned out since high school, he was into my sister but she never had an eye for him. Later on she fell in love with you and she could never see eye to eye with him. so he knew the cards to play, he knew my father and mother will not turn down such a deal, after all, it’s an added advantage that Alisha marries into a rich family.” He shrugged
“That’s bullshit! And you know it. You also agreed to such foolishness?” I asked angry at him too
“Mind what you say to me man, am your boss, and I don’t pull the strings for my family Joe, as much as you have no say in yours , your father calls the shots so does mine. What he says goes and right now, he wants to save his wife`s life, so yeah, the only thing is to sacrifice the beautiful daughter for all of it” James ended with a sheepish smile shaking his head.
“I don’t care man, Alisha is my girl and am not sitting here and let that bastard take my woman man, never “
“You will back off Joe, you hear me, you back off! The family had made its decision and no one is changing any shit! Take it and live with it, find another chick or something stay the hell away from my sister” James stood up and yelled in my face above the music
“Look man, it’s nothing personal, but Alisha agreed to the arrangement, my mother has been flown out for treatment and in a month my sister is marrying that Chanda guy and we cannot do anything about it okay? So I will tell you one last time man, I like you, I like you, you are one of the best guys on my team, your ranks are escalating and soon you will make it to my rank even higher, but I beg you, stay the hell away! This is final!”
James spoke closer to my ear I could smell the beer from his mouth making me want to push him and kick him for not standing up for his sister. He was being a coward but at the same time, I realized, he was hurting about the whole arrangement too. He didn’t like it but like he said, it was not his decision to make. It was all his parents and later on Alisha whom from the look of things went with it all, she was marrying that other guy and I was left in the cold.
“I bet that`s it then man, thanks for telling me this” I nodded my head looking at him.
“Yeah, great” he sighed
“Do me a favor, tell Alisha to be happy okay, I love her and I will try live without her, its hard but a man got to do what he got to do right?” I felt tears in my eyes.
“Yeah, that’s my man, now let’s drink to bachelorhood!” he yelled raising his bottle and I raised mine too as he burst out laughing and started dancing to the music. I on the other hand sank back in my chair broken and torn apart, no matter how many bottles of beer I drunk that night I didn’t seem to get drunk so I walked out and drove off. I headed home, I felt maybe a word with my mother will comfort me.
The entire yard was silent as I got to my parent`s house. Memories of my childhood hit me hard I looked about without moving any step further
“You see, your young brother has managed to tie his shoe laces, but here you are still struggling like a girl! You are pathetic! You will not amount to anything Joe! You are so lazy! “My father yelled at me in his drunken voice, he pushed me back so hard I fell off and hit my head on a stone nearby. I felt dizzy and blacked out.
When I woke up my shirt was wet and I was laying my head on my mother`s laps. She looked worried as I shook and tried to sit up.
“Joe, are you okay?” my mother`s mouth was trembling, her eyes spilling over.
“My head” I whispered looking about. My younger brother was standing there looking down at me. My father was sitting on his chair smoking his cigarette like nothing just happened
“Iwe, he is okay, that lazy boy must learn to man up, if you keep raising him this way, he will become a no body, he will be so weak. Let him learn being a man is tough!” My father screamed
“He is only 5 years old Atake Mary (father to Mary), he is still a child, you cannot be this cruel to your own son” my mother cried lifting me up. I could feel the impact on the spot where I hit the stone and my head was still throbbing.
I could feel tears in my eyes as I stood there watching my father`s house. I sighed deeply and wiped the tear that threatened to spill and took steps forward. If I was not hurting so much, I could have not bothered to go home, it was less pleasurable but I felt I needed to see my mother.
She walked out with a bucket as I was about to knock
“Joe! My son, long time” she smiled placing the bucket down and opening her arms to hug me. My mother always so tender and loving, making me feel like I was the most special child in the entire world.
“Mom, how have you been?’ I asked stepping back.
“Am okay, are you? “ she looked closely at my face.
“Um, yeah, am okay, I just missed you, how is Paul?” I inquired of my younger brother who unfortunately for my father, had turned out to be drunk and never left home. He was very intelligent and clever growing up and the only one spoiled by my father. He started drinking when he was in grade 9 and he has been drinking ever since. He went in and out of college for 4 years, always drinking up money for tuitions. Frustrated, my father stopped paying for him and now he was their biggest headache, always stealing things at home selling them off for drugs or beer.
“He is out there God knows where, your brother will kill me one day Joe, he.. he just.. I don’t know, I have tried everything but..” my mother was becoming sad and I shook my head holding her hands
“It’s not your fault mother, Paul is no longer a kid and whatever he does is on him, don’t beat yourself over him, he will come around” I tried to comfort her but she went on another 20 minutes complaining of Paul and what he had done.
I don’t know what I could have done Joe, you have got your brother out of jail so many times this time he could have been serving years in prison” she cried.
“Mother, if you continue crying over Paul, I swear am leaving and am not coming to see you any time soon” I threatened her and she wiped her tears faking a smile
“Am sorry, my child, you are welcome, come inside, your father is in there” she held my hand but I pulled back
“No mom, am not here for him. I needed to talk to you, things are just messed up right now in my life and I thought of seeing you and just.. I don’t know” I shrugged taking a stool from the corner veranda and sitting on it, my mother followed suit.
“Are you in trouble? What have you done?” she asked concerned
“Mom no, I have not done anything come on” I faked a smile too.
“Well what then? What is it” she insisted without giving me a chance.
“Its about Alisha mom, she.. Um, she left me for another man” I summed up everything and my mother shook her head
“Oh, why? Did you cheat on her? Did you beat her?” my mother asked one question after the other. Am sure in her world that was the only thing that could make a woman leave a man.
“No, I don’t want to talk about it” I shook my head
“Joe, are you okay? I mean, you can talk to me, tell me what happened, I really liked that girl I found at your house and am sorry about her. Tell me what happened” she pleaded but I could not get myself to do it. I was not going to start narrating the torture I had to go through with Alisha`s story. So I changed the subject and started talking about something else. In a minute my mother had turned in and we were laughing over her stories. She was so warm and comforting she just gave me what needed, a break from all the pain in my heart.
The clearing of the throat by my father made us both stop laughing we looked up.
“Atake Mary” my mother moved in her seat.
“Hi dad!” I greeted him casually
“So this is what I get for raising you, you are here and have been talking with your mother without coming to see me, you want to greet me casually like am your friend along the street huh, Joe, will you ever change, will you ever grow?” he scoffed angrily
“Well I was going to come greet you, but you are here already, so” I shrugged
“Oh, I see, is this what you plan to do, abandon me in my old age, I gave you an education, I took you for training by force and now you are an officer and you have grown wings. I your father is useless? is it?” he went on complaining in his anger
“Atake Mary, this is why you push away your children, you are always talking and rebuking them, Mary was here the other day and you said the same, please can you stop and let my children be free to come home, I miss them you know.. Please stop” she begged.
“You always support their nonsense. That is what I …”
“Excuse me, am going to take my leave mom. I will wait for those vegetables with groundnuts this weekend, bye for now” I kissed my mother`s forehead and stood up looking at my father staring at me with an emotionless face. I could not stay any longer, knowing my father, he would end up saying a lot of hurting words that would make my situation worse.
“Dad, good night “ I waved a hand at him and he didn’t respond. He just looked at me as though I was a stranger.
“You see, this is what I say, they don’t respect me, they don’t consider me, am their father and look at the way he walks out on me.. “ I could hear my father rant as I made my way to the car. He just disturbed my comfort moment with my mother and I hated him the more for it.
“Well, Joe, he is your father and I can feel it, you hate him” Father Tom spoke when I took my break from my long talk
“I do father and I feel I will never forgive him for what he did to me growing up “ I responded
“Well, you will have to one day, but we are not talking about your father yet. Tell me what led to you killing that man you said you killed” Father Tom touched my hand. We were still in the adoration room and now Father Tom was also spreading his legs down like I was. Listening attentively to every detail I was telling him
“Well, I killed Alisha`s father” I spoke and I could feel my heart race and my mouth tremble with a mixture of feelings.
“What? Your girlfriends father?” Father Toms eyes were wide open
“Yes father, I mean, i.. It was not supposed to me like that but.. He got in the way and I .. I killed him” I stammered my hands sweating at the memory of it all. I saw Father Tom sit back and taking a deep sigh. He looked at my miserable face and shook his head.
“Well?” he asked obviously wanting me to continue.