It was raining outside…the constant drone on the zinc roof accompanied with the claps of thunder that shook the very walls of my house jerked me out of my light doze. I looked to the window pane on my right, dawn was here. Today feels perfect already, the smell of newly bathed grass wafting through my un-shut window, that unmistakable clean air that follows the showers and the coolness I feel even as a drop of sweat trickled down from my forehead to the edge of my ears, I guess today is good as any to die…
Just beyond my door, directly opposite this room, is the room I once shared with my wife for thirty years…everything in that room is perfection…by this time, the sun will be filtering through the curtains, the open window pane would let in sporadic gusts little breeze, wafting through the filmy lace blinds giving them a life of their own…the small alarm clock on the bedside table, the first complimentary Christmas gift I ever got from work, would be getting ready to emit its annoying monotonous jingles, of course, she would be awake by then, she always wakes up before the alarm. I could almost hear her making the usual bustling sounds, moving the pots and pans around, whilst humming to herself in the kitchen downstairs as she made our breakfast…
During the weekends though she relaxed a tad bit and woke up late. Sometimes I would wake up early, just in time to catch her in that light sniffling snore, or see her ruby red lips curve in that shy smile I fell in love with, her long lashes would be resting against her high cheekbones, fluttering almost shyly while she rouse… then I would dwell on the very first moment I really saw her…with her big Afro and her buttons earrings…and yes the bell–bottoms and the clogs…
The years when Michael Jackson was still black and his nose hadn’t fallen off…
I had known my wife for way longer than I the day I saw her, she was the gawky tall kid with an overly toothy smile and the penchant for climbing the tree at our back yard…the same tree under which I got on my knees and proposed to her, where we had our first kiss and where I spent hours gazing into her pixie shaped eyes while time seemed to stop.
I lose my train of thought when I look outside again…the rain had stopped, even thought I cannot see them, I hear the chirping birds, they seem to be singing an ode to the rain for falling and the sun is beaming at me, almost as if it is happy I’m still breathing. I sigh heavily; she will come in soon with my breakfast and my drugs.
I hear the door open before I see her face, she is expressionless as she lifts up my head and feeds me breakfast…oatmeal porridge. I hate oatmeal but I eat it with relish because I know the repercussion of not eating…and because I am hungry… it has a slightly bitter taste but I swallow spoon by spoon until it is all gone.
Then comes the drugs, intuitively I have always known that the drugs were useless, but I still open my mouth like a good little soldier and swallow with water. I see her repulsion as she wipes the side of my mouth, where some drops of the water escaped.
When she is done, she cleans my forehead and proceeds to wipe my body from head to toe, she then changes the sheets…someone must be coming to visit. I wonder who it is…Mother? Or my beautiful little angel? Her dress makes a whooshing sound as she bends to pick up the tray of empty plates…and in a second she is out the door again.
I float to a light slumber again as a little housefly buzzes lazily in the room before it settles on the back of my hand…maybe two hours, maybe four passes, I have no way of knowing. When I wake up again, Erin is here, she always brings a smile to my face….Oluwapamilerin… she literally laughed out of her mother’s womb…
She is also in the room, pretending to dust and clean as she watches us; I can feel the venom oozing from her body like wisps of putrid acid floating through the air towards me. Erin looks worried, but I am too weak to reassure her, so I smile at her round cherubic face not unlike her mother’s close my eyes yet again…
How did I come to be in this horrible this single bed, with a needle in my arm? Ah yes I remember…I made a mistake….one stupid and arrogant needless mistake……albeit a small mistake, but a mistake nevertheless.
My wife loved me the way a man should be loved and I loved her the same way, together we made a home. Erin was our only offspring, borne of love and laughter.
I cannot blame my mother because I should have known better. Of course man’s inherent arrogance is thinking he is right when that decision is based on pure pride. I listened when she said it was Shola’s fault, I listened while the words like little revolting maggots ate away at the love I had for her…soon angry painful words were all that remained between us.
That was not my mistake…I’m afraid the mistake was much worse than that. I had told myself I needed something more. I decided to look for it in a little scintillating morsel of a woman just after Erin got married.
I knew she knew…I could see it in her kind brown eyes across the table while we ate our dinner, heard it in her silent sobs as we slept on the same bed, felt it when I kissed the top of her head as hurried out of the house to work but I didn’t stop, I couldn’t stop, or so I told myself. It was as if I had something to prove to myself and to the world.
It was not long before I got the other one pregnant. I brought her home brandishing her like a prize I deserved, showing her off to the love of my life, the woman I had kept without chains for 30 years… the woman who took me as I was; with the bad and the good. She felt betrayed, I knew it. She did not utter a single word but welcomed the stranger into her home and my arrogance told me she would get over it, said it was the way of the world, what stupid and selfish ignorance!
Shola was gone by the end of the week, she left me in the house with a stranger…my scintillating morsel I called her yes? Determined not to look like a fool I married her…I did not want my child to be a bastard, I told myself, and my mother was very happy…I never saw Shola’s winsome smile again, or heard that warm welcoming laughter that was hers alone, never woke up to her light snores or heard that humming sound in the kitchen that told me she was making breakfast…
I brought the other one into the bedroom I shared with my wife, past the spot where the scent of the bottle of Victoria Secret rose and champagne eau de toilette which I bought her when I went on a short business trip in Europe, had broken and till now still haunts the room, past Shola’s dressing table that was stained with years use of dark red lipstick and different kinds of eye-shadows and mascaras, to the bed where Erin was conceived, to the pillows that caressed Shola’s soft cheeks…
It was not until three months after the wedding that I noticed something was wrong, her stomach did not grow nor did she have the normal symptoms, even then I was trusting and gullible enough to listen to her lies. She lost the baby just before the wedding she said; she didn’t know how to break it to me. She thought we would be able to make another, lies!
Lord knows we tried, again and again…still nothing. Every day was a new plan, a new strategy, a new doctor, a new pill, a new diet, a new remedy for our problem. She was desperate, she was sure I was going to send her packing without a child.
By this time I was numb but I still wanted a baby, I never wanted anything more than to hear a child’s cry in the house again so I obliged her. I told myself I had more of a chance to make it with this one…the lies I told myself.
Of course I started to get bored, why wouldn’t I? Shola was my companion through and through, we could talk for days about anything and everything, but this one? She was as mentally stimulating as a piece of wood…it was not her fault though she just did not understand me.
That was when I got sick. It started with a lethargy that made me too weak to leave the house. I didn’t bother much I was retired already, spending the fruits of my labour; I had managed to acquire a lot of wealth along the years. She started to fret scared that I would leave her alone in the world, she had reason to be and I hadn’t left my bed in days.
Make a will she said, you have to make provisions for me. I resisted the advice ignorant of my mortality but then I never recovered. It only got worse, my strength quickly gave away to fragility as I spent weeks at the hospital, the doctors were bewildered, coming up with nothing and I was released. I ended up in this depressing room, with each day that passed, I became weaker. That was almost one year ago.
She came just the other day, with my lawyer, and two witnesses. Between them they had colluded, he had drawn up a will in her favour and I was told to sign. She tried to cajole me into signing it but I was adamant, the will was not my testament. Then she told the others to leave the room and come back in a few days.
I saw the snarl on her face and I knew that something bad was about to happen. She bent to pick up one of the pair of socks she removed from my feet earlier in the day, it lay in a the dirty clothes bag in the corner of the room, she held it with intense distaste on her face then stuffed it into my mouth. I was too weak to stop her. Then she lit the candle that lay unused in the drawer of the beside-table on the right side of my bed.
“After all I have done for you, taking care of you while lay there sick, and as helpless as a baby, you still won’t reward me. Haven’t I suffered enough? Where is your precious Shola now ehn?”
Then she went to the foot of the bed, and moved the bed covers aside to reveal my feet, a drop of wax fell on my right big toe and I winced, I felt the intensity of the heat more than I should have, maybe it was because of my illness I do not know.
“I really do not want to do this, but I need to be taken care of” her voice was cold full of purpose,
She put the candle-light to my the back of my right foot, it took a minute or two before I felt the burn but when I felt it, I really felt it. The searing pain engulfed my body and I tried to move away from the candle, her hands were strong, vice-like holding my foot in place. This went on for hours but I still refused to sign the will.
By the end of the week, both my feet were raw from the burns and I was less obstinate for she was relentless in her gruelling torture. I asked…no begged to sign the will. I was even too weak to hold the pen on my own; she had to guide my hand, the shame of that moment still haunts me…
I woke up with a start, she is back again with the drugs for the night. Erin has gone home. She goes through the same process, feeding me the poisonous food that is killing me first, then giving me the superficial drugs and watching like a hawk while I swallow. I doze off before she leaves the room, dreaming of the past.
Its morning again, the birds are at it again determined to out chirp one another. It didn’t rain today, I sigh heavily when I realize I am still alive. The day begins to unfold; the morning sun starts to illuminate the shadows in the room, and maybe today is the day, who knows…
‘Jumoke Adekoya May ‘10