I don’ t know why thoughts of my late father keep coming to mind. I remembered my sister coming into my room to tell me he was gone…..gone as in dead. I stayed in my room, my beloved father was gone. How could he be alive one minute and gone the next?
When I finally left my room and headed to the living room, I met a spectacle. My mother sat on the long settee, I was expecting to see her face flooded with tears but the opposite was the case. She was in a jubilant mood. A glass of wine was perched in her hand while a half full bottle of wine rested on the table. She was chatting excitedly with my sister who was still chewing her bubblegum and blowing into it.
I stood by the entrance a little confused looking from mother to daughter, then back to mother again. She must have felt my presence because she lifted up her head and looked at me.
“Dante my boy, you must have heard the news.”
She called her version of my name fondly. Her eyes was a shade darker. She must have stayed awake all through the night. I could only manage a nod as I dragged myself to her side.
“I am sorry about your father.”
Those words pricked a chord inside of me. My emotions was let lose as I started shaking. I was trying my best to control the tears that kept coming with each happy image of my father that flashed through my mind. I was trying my best to act like a man. The ladies in the house were not crying. What did I know? I was only fifteen years old.
“Dante, stop crying. Act like the man that you are.”
My mother said to me dropping her glass of wine on the center table. My sister had gone to the stereo and switched it on. I looked at my mother in shock but she acted like she didn’t notice. She patted me on my back and continued drinking. Their nonchalant actions took me back to my room and back to my bed. I only glanced at my desktop with pains imagining how a PlayStation would have fitted perfectly in its position.
I sobbed till I fell asleep without even thinking of breakfast. All I had in mind was how I was going to survive my overbearing sister. I must have slept for some hours before finally waking up to wailing voices. It was a cacophony of noise. I sniffed, catarrh ran from my nose dropping in blobs on the bed. Using the back of my palm, I wiped it off.
It took me a moment to get it registered as I stood looking at my room. When it came my legs gave way. I had become fatherless. I allowed the tears flow as I made my way to the living room. The spectacle that greeted me was surprisingly more sorrowful than what I had seen in the morning. There, seated on the ground with her legs spread both ways and her hair scattered in a hundred directions was Mrs. Chinenye Aliyu, my mother. Three of her friends were consoling her.
At the far corner was my sister who had been doing the wailing that had woken me up. She was rolling hard on the ground, banging at the furniture with her body. She was surprisingly shaking away people who tried to restrict her. Where the strength came from I don’t know.
“Just let me die. Just let me follow him. I cannot live without my father. I want to join him. Oh father, how can you do this to us? How can you leave us so? Who will look after me? Who will tell me it is okay?”
She kept on screaming and crying.
“She must have loved her father so much. Poor girl.”
Those who were consoling her kept saying. She lifted her head and looked in my direction, our eyes locked against each other. Maybe her lips curled in a smile, maybe it was in pain, I just couldn’t tell at that moment.
“Dantata, baba is dead.”
The way she said it sounded like I was just hearing the news for the first time.
“Who will take care of you and mummy?”
Attention moved from her and mother immediately to me.
“How I wish your father will continue dying over and over again.”
My mother said looking at the money in front of her. We just came back from the cemetery where we had gone to raise a stone in honour of Alhaji Aliyu my father. Even though no grave was dug, my mother and sister acted like they should be the ones whose names was being chiseled on the stone instead of my father. It took a lot of energy to keep them on leash. I believe if corpses could talk, many of them dead guys would have come out to complain of headache. The screaming was just much.
It was also there I discovered that there are professional mourners aka wailing wailers. This lot sang songs and told stories of my father like he was their brother. Stories I have never heard before. Stories of bravery and horse riding and heroic feats and daredevilry. My father’s story sounded so much like the story of King Jaja of Opobo, what I had read about in my Intensive English textbook.
“Mama, ya za ki ce haka? Father has not been dead for too long and you are wishing him to die again?”
I asked my mother.
“Dantata, when you grow up, you will understand.”
I nodded in agreement. I looked at the wads of cash that was in front of her, then at Suresh who was busy chewing gum and making c–t-clat sound.
“With this money, we will send you to school after you attempt your senior certificate examination this year. I know my son is not dull and he will do me proud. Will you?”
Mother asked looking at me. I quickly nodded my head in agreement.
“Suresh will also get her school fees and other necessary allowances since she is in her final year. Immediately she comes back, she will get married to Otedola’s son or someone with same amount of riches. This will make us rich forever. Or won’t you Suraiyya?”
My sister blew air with her gum before replying.
“Don’t you trust me mum?”
“So Dantata, wipe the tears from your face, read your book and make mamma proud.”
She said looking at me. I only managed a nod. She must be going through a lot, I thought in my mind.
Seven years later I was back home, armed with a degree in Computer Science. Suraiyya who had finished before me was still at home chewing her bubblegum and waiting for the son of Otedola to come sweep her off her feet.
To be continued….