Anger

19 Bush Street : Part 2 of 2

For eight years we pleaded with God to bless us with a child. I prayed fervently, cried diligently and fasted religiously, starving myself until my pot belly deflated, my cheeks became hollow and my collar bone threatened to break free.

“Eat my darling, please eat!” she would cry, fearing for my life. Eat? Was food going to improve the quality of my sperm?  How could I eat, knowing I was the reason we were childless? Every night we knelt to pray, I asked God to forgive me for not telling her the truth; for not telling my wife that my non-existent sperm count was the reason we were childless.

My fast was a signal to God; I needed Him to feel my desperation, needed Him to see how much I was willing to sacrifice if He would only make a real man out of me.

“It is God that gives children,” they said, but that was no encouragement to me. Had I done something wrong, something that deserved such a severe punishment? I gave to the poor, fed the hungry and looked after widows hoping that God would see what a good person I was and have mercy on me.  I clung to hope, to the belief that the God I believed in would end my misery.

And then one day, the very thing I had been praying for, we had been praying for, finally happened.

That day, the day she told me she was pregnant, everything changed. Hope turned to the darkest form of despair, sorrow to a blinding rage. I knew then that I had surely offended God. After everything I had done for him, given up for him, how could he sit back and let this happen to me?

I saw fear in her eyes as she stood before me, silently begging for my understanding.

Shame embraced me tightly as the reality sunk in; another man had given her what I couldn’t. A better man, a real man, had stepped in and excelled where I had failed so miserably.

Shame turned to anger and I struck her across the face; twice. She stood still, tacitly urging me to carry on if it would make me feel better. It didn’t but I slapped her a third time for good measure. Still she said nothing, gave no explanation and in that moment, I knew that she never would.

There was no miracle about her pregnancy; no divine intervention or immaculate conception. Someone had impregnated my wife and neither I nor God was responsible. I knew it, God knew it and she sure as hell knew it. For months I had been unable to handle matters in the bedroom. The pressure to father a child and the guilt of the secret I was carrying had taken its toll on my libido.

Anger coursed through my veins as I imagined another man flooding her womb.

Did she love him? Did he love her? Was it a one night stand or were emotions involved? Who was he; someone I knew or a stranger she just met? Did she even know or were there a number of potential candidates?

Months went by and the bigger her belly grew, the hotter my anger burned. I wanted to tell the world she was no better than a common prostitute, selling herself for the seed of a man. I wanted the world to hate her for betraying me in the worst possible way but to do that would be to admit that I, the same man who cruised the streets of Lagos in cars ten times the size of my flowing agbadas, could not impregnate his own wife.  So I smiled when people congratulated me and sang praises to God on my behalf. And the more I had to smile the more I loathed her for making a fool of me.

I gave him my name but even before he was born, I knew I could never love him. I watched him as he grew to see if he resembled anyone I knew but he was the spitting image of his mother. I saw how her eyes would light up when she looked at him and hated him with every fibre of my being. He was a constant reminder of my inadequacy as a man and yet I had to feed and clothe him and pretend he wasn’t some faceless man’s bastard son. I prayed she would go and take her trash with her, but I should have known better. If my prayers didn’t work when I was giving away my wealth and starving myself, it certainly wouldn’t work now that I was at war with God.

I pummelled her, hoping she would pack her bags and leave, but she didn’t. I beat the crap out of him hoping the so called love of a mother would compel her to whisk her bastard to safety, and still she stayed. No matter how mean I was, how monstrously I behaved, she wouldn’t leave me.

I knew what she wanted, what she craved more than anything, but over my dead body would I give it to her. She would have to turn to God to absolve her of her guilt because I would never forgive her for defiling our marriage, for taking what was left of my pride and burning it to ashes.

19 Bush Street : Part 1 of 2

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His face was redder than I’d ever seen it, eyes bloodshot and spilling hot tears, scalding tracks along his cheeks. I’d see him cry many a time, usually in silence, but this, the state he was in, was new territory. I heard the cracks as his heart splintered, the sharp edges piercing his lungs, drawing blood and cutting off his air supply. I caught him in my arms as his knees gave way. It was then I felt the throbbing welts peppered across his back. Anger burned within me.

How could he do this to him?!

Yet I was powerless to act. I lowered myself to the ground, taking him down with me, gently rocking him as he cried out in agony, silence, no longer an option.

“It’s okay Baba, it’s okay,” I whispered over and over again as I continued to rock him in my arms.

“Why does he hate me so much, Tega?! What have I done to him?! I want to die Tega, I want to die! God please let me die, I am tired of living!”

I wanted to tell him everything would be alright but knew I’d be lying. If the things I had witnessed in the two weeks I had been living with them were anything to go by, it was only a matter of time before Baba’s wish would be granted.

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I’d met Big Uncle once before I came to live with him; when he came to Warri for Papa’s funeral. He was the golden boy of the family, the only one for generations to break free from the clutches of poverty. His hands fed many mouths, mouths that multiplied as poverty continued to breed poverty. He was a demi god, the saviour of the family. When he mentioned in passing that he was in need of domestic help, Mama latched on to his words like a baby suckling its mother’s breast. She offered me up speedily, eager to please her saviour. With Papa gone, life was about to get even tougher for her. Being in our benefactor’s good books was of the utmost importance.

I was excited, eager to see Lagos, the land of opportunity and the birth place of Big Uncle’s fortunes. The schools they said, were better and to Mama’s horror, Big Uncle had agreed to fund my education when I cheekily asked. The only reason she didn’t beat me black and blue was because He seemed pleased with the idea. I would go to school during the day and cook and do chores at night. I had dreams of going to University and the thought that I could potentially be the second ever graduate in the family, a student of Unilag, made me giddy with excitement. My chest thrust itself outwards and I walked around the family compound like a peacock about to take flight.

The day I told Papa I wanted to go to University, he laughed so hard, Mama had to pat his back furiously to stop him from choking. To prove a point, I sat JAMB and passed with flying colours. Not that anyone cared. I wasn’t going anywhere when Mama needed a hand frying akara in the market. Yet, here I was, packing my meager belongings, getting ready to leave the smell of stale oil and soaking beans behind.

When I arrived at 19 Bush Street and realised I would have a bedroom all to myself, I danced in circles till I became unsteady. I would no longer have to share a room with all three of my siblings. After years of dodging my younger sister’s fists as her subconscious dealt blow after blow in the midnight hour, I would have a bed all to myself. A proper bed complete with a mattress and bed sheet! Collapsing on the bed, I stared at the ceiling in awe. A fan stared back at me. A fan, a ceiling fan in my bedroom?! Heaven was finally smiling down on me.

The first time I saw Big Uncle beat Baba, I knew for sure that heaven had tricked me. I had traded in a lesser form of hell for the ultimate damnation. I had seen many parents beat their children, received many beatings from Papa myself, but this beating, was like nothing I had seen before. He unbuckled his belt, backed him up against the wall and flogged him till he collapsed to the ground. But for the sound of the leather slapping against Baba’s skin, the room was silent.

The speed with which Big Uncle’s hand contracted and relaxed as he swung blow after blow, left me speechless. Tears pricked the backs of my eyelids but I didn’t think I had the right to indulge in tears. If Baba could lie in silence while Big Uncle beat him for dead, who was I to cry?!

I stood motionless till satisfied with his handiwork, Big Uncle left the room. A part of me feared the blood stained body lying still against the wall, was a corpse. Staring intently, I willed it to come alive. What would people say if they heard that a man had used his hands to kill his own son?!
And then I saw his chest heave. Tears of relief streamed down my face.

Everything would be alright.

A Time To Die: The One With No Title

I feel the moisture crawling down my neck, slowly making its way towards my spine. The air is still, the heat hovering, suffocating. A violent kick sends the duvet flying off the bed. Even before my brain is fully alert, I know she’s been in my room.  Why won’t the woman mind her damn business?! Reaching above my head, I flick the switch on the air conditioner. The low hum as it comes to life soothes my irritation. Eyes still shut, I rehearse the speech I’ll be giving that woman come the morning.

“Mum, I’ve told you to stop turning off my air conditioner. You may not like the cold but I do so please, for the zillionth time, leave it alone!”

“Your air conditioner, did you buy it with your money?”

“Whatever mum, it’s in my room so please, just leave it alone.”

“You can’t tell me what to do in my own house. If you’re tired of me, pack your load and go to your husband’s house. “

Here we go again.

“You are so unbelievably predictable! What does your turning off my a/c have to do with me getting married? Is the fact that I’m not married your only problem in life?”

“Yes, it is! How many of your mates are still living in their parents’ houses?”

“Do you think I like living here? Believe me, the minute my man appears I’m out of here.”

“That’s your problem, is it by magic he will appear? Instead of you to ask your friends how they found husbands you’re there waiting for him to appear.”

“Am I God?! Or am I supposed to parole the streets of Lagos begging men to marry me?”

“Has God not already created men?  If you like don’t pick one, be waiting for heaven to deliver him to you. “

“ I’m sick of this nonsense mummy, when he comes, he comes and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t  I’m not about to kill myself because I’m 35 and single. You are my mother for goodness sake, show some support!”

“Support your manlessness? Aren’t you ashamed? Your younger sister is married and you’re there chasing a career.”

“Well excuse me for wanting to make something of myself. It’s my fault for living in this house. It’s about time I got a place of my own where I don’t have to deal with this crap.”

“Over my dead body! You want to bring disgrace to this family? You will not turn into one of those wayward girl that are proud of being single. What kind of woman moves out of her father’s house before marriage?!”

“In that case feel free to drop dead. I’m getting a place of my own. I’m done tolerating your insults!”

“I should feel free to drop dead?! You are a stupid girl, that’s why you won’t find a husband. I blame your father, he is the one that sent you to England where they talk to their parents anyhow. Idiot…”

I’d had enough. Picking up my car keys I stormed out of the house, her insults trailing after me, hot tears burning my eyes.

Does she think I don’t want a husband and children? Does she think it doesn’t hurt knowing she’s ashamed of me?

I drove to the nearest estate agents to find myself a place to live and three hours and two viewings later, realised I was kidding myself. I couldn’t afford the extortionate rent on the Island, not comfortably anyway. Anger deflated, I made the journey back home and headed straight for her room. Annoying though she was, she didn’t deserve to be spoken to the way I’d done.  I could just lock my bedroom door before going to bed to keep her out of my room and give us one less thing to argue about.

“Mum, are you there?”

Knocking gently, I let myself into her room. She was there, slumped against the wardrobe, inhaler lying next to her lifeless body.

The Trust Series: My Auntie Pearl

Saturday 3rd of September, 2011

Auntie Pearl is my favourite auntie! Whenever I get into trouble with mummy, she always helps me out. She takes me out and buys me treats on her way home from work. I’m no longer mad that I have to share my room with her. She is fun!
She tells funny tortoise stories at bedtime that make me laugh and when mummy pokes her head round the door to find out why I’m not asleep, we both make snoring noises so mummy thinks we are sleeping. He he.

Monday 5th of September, 2011

Why was Aunty Pearl crying last night? I heard her when I woke up to go to the toilet. I asked her who made her cry and she said she wasn’t crying. I don’t believe her.  😦

Tuesday 13th of September, 2011

Aunty Pearl cries a lot but she tries to hide it. Sometime she comes out of the bathroom and her eyes are red, like mine after mummy’s spanked me for being naughty. It makes me sad. I asked mummy why Aunty Pearl always cries and she told me to mind my business. Hmph! Nobody tells me anything, they say I’m only a little girl but I’m 7! Hmph!

Sunday 18th of September, 2011

She told me! She told me why she cries a lot. She misses her husband. They had a fight that’s why she came to live with us. She says she can’t have babies so her husband doesn’t love her any more. God, please let Aunty Pearl have babies so her husband will love her. She is sad without him and I don’t want her to be sad. She cries a lot God, please don’t let her cry any more. Amen.

Friday 4th of November, 2011

Aunty Pearl has gone.  I’m sad but I’m happy too. Can I be sad and happy at the same time? Her husband loves her, he came to the house to tell her. He is nice, I like him. His name is Uncle Kenny and he’s REALLY tall, like a giant. He carried me on his shoulders and I touched the ceiling! He he. He said I can come and visit anytime and Daddy said I can go as long as it’s during the school holidays. They live in Port-Harcourt though so Daddy says I’ll have to fly in an aeroplane!!!!!! I’ve never been in an aeroplane before, I can’t wait!

Saturday 10th of December, 2011

I’m going to Port-Harcourt tomorrow! Daddy said I have to come back before Christmas though so I’ll be back in Lagos on the 22nd of December. Mummy told Aunty Pearl she mustn’t spoil me while I’m out there and she agreed but when I spoke to Uncle Kenny, he said I’d be so spoilt, I’d be rotten and they would have to throw me away. He he. Adults say silly things sometimes.

Sunday 11th of December, 2011

I’m in Port-Harcourt! The plane was scary! It kept shaking and I cried all the way. The lady looking after me said it wasn’t always like that but it was really windy so the plane had to fight the wind. I don’t know if I believe her but I’ll try one more time. If it happens on my way back to Lagos, I’m never flying in a plane again!

I like it here. Uncle Kenny’s house is big, bigger than our house in Lagos. He has many cars. I think he is very rich. Auntie Pearl took me out for ice-cream this evening and when we got home, Uncle Kenny had loads of DVD’s for us to watch. We watched Shrek. The donkey was so funny! Uncle Kenny said there’s a part two and three so we’ll watch them tomorrow. I love Port-Harcourt!

Thursday 15th of December, 2011

Auntie Pearl beat me today and I cried! It wasn’t my fault that I broke the handle of the kitchen door. She told me to get her a glass from the kitchen and when I tried to open the door it wouldn’t open. I went back to tell her and she slapped me and said I was a lazy girl. It really hurt so I cried. She said I shouldn’t come back to the living room unless I had the glass with me so I tried really hard to open the kitchen door and the handle fell off. She beat me with her belt and there are marks on my arm. They hurt.

I was still crying when Uncle Kenny cane home from work and when he saw the marks, he was angry with auntie. I could hear him shouting and I was scared so I went to my room. Not long after, auntie came into my room with the belt in her hand. She said I came to her house to destroy her marriage and then she beat me again. I didn’t tell Uncle this time.

Saturday 17th of December, 2011

I don’t know why auntie doesn’t like me anymore. She treats me differently and doesn’t talk to me unless she wants to send me to get something. I tried to hug her yesterday and say I was sorry I broke the door handle and she pushed me away. I wanted to cry but I didn’t so Uncle wouldn’t get angry with her again.

I still like Uncle, he’s nice to me. He took me to the amusement park today and we had fun. Auntie didn’t come with us, she had a headache. We went to the supermarket and uncle bought me plenty of toys and a new dress! I really like it! It’s yellow and has black flowers all over it. We had dinner at Chicken republic before we went home.

Auntie didn’t look happy when we got home. She asked Uncle why he was carrying me when we walked in. She said if my legs weren’t broken, I should get down and walk. Uncle put me down, kissed my forehead and told me to go to bed. I tried but I couldn’t sleep. Auntie was shouting at Uncle and I could hear her.

Sunday 18th of December, 2011

I want to go home! I told Uncle Kenny to call my Daddy, I want to go home! What have I done to auntie? Why does she hate me so much?

This morning we all went to church together but Uncle had a meeting so he didn’t come home with us. As soon as we got home Auntie told me to go to the kitchen and chop some onions. When I told her I didn’t know how, she got angry and called me a spoilt brat. She dragged me by ears to the kitchen and told me to start chopping the onions. I wasn’t happy anymore so I told her I didn’t want to chop onions, I wanted to go home instead. That’s when she started beating me and shuting at me. She said I’m a prostitute, that I came to her house to steal her husband. I don’t even know what a prostitute is. She pushed me to the floor, took off her belt and wouldn’t stop hitting me. I screamed and screamed but no one came. I think I slept because when I woke up, I was in Uncle Kenny’s bed and he was stroking my hair. He said he was sorry for what auntie did but I still wanted to go home. I tried to move but my body was paining me. I started crying and told him to call my daddy.

Daddy sounded angry. He said he had missed the last plane but he would come and get me first thing in the morning. When Aunty Pearl came into the room I screamed until uncle told her to leave. I made him promise not to leave me so he lay beside me and sang silly songs to make me feel better. His voice is funny, just like mummy’s voice.

Monday 19th of December, 2011

Daddy is here! I’m going home. I hate Port-Harcourt and I’m never coming back.

I hope I see Uncle Kenny again. He promised to buy me a Nintendo Wii if I come first in my class!