Insane in the Membrane
“When the baby is born, you wrap him in this towel. None of that diaper nonsense”
“Babies, they don’t know diaper or towel. They shit too much.” The mid wife bit on her chewing stick aggressively.
Faded tattoos and blackened lips, her earlier life must have been wild.
“Breathe and push with all your might.”
“Aargh” I pushed.
“God if you let this baby live, I’ll be the best mother, I swear.”
“Look at this one, becoming religious, because of common labour.” she laughed.
“My friend, push like a woman!”
Just as she said that, the power went out.
Panic embraced me.
“Oh God what is this?” I cried.
“My friend, forget about the electricity and push! Do you know how many babies are born without power in this neighbourhood?”
What kind of life is this child being born into? I sobbed.
I swear this baby will be something good, someone who would take me out of this slum.
I bore down and pushed with new determination.
“Ehen! That’s it!”The mid wife smacked my thigh.
Wiggling the baby, carelessly, in my face.
“It’s a boy!” she smacked his bum and he squealed in pain.
“Ayomide.”I sighed and reclined.
Listening to the best song ever sang, my baby’s cry.
In seconds he was washed and cleaned and in my arms.
“N500.” She stretched out blood stained hands to me.
I unfolded the wad of cash from my bra and handed it to her.
“I’ll be back in the morning to help you with the recovery.”
She counted the cash again and let herself out.
Out of routine, I knew where the lantern was.
I got up and guided myself, lighting the little lantern and then holding it over the make shift crib.
I looked into the eyes of the most beautiful baby.
Love overwhelmed me and I cried.
I was truly glad that no one else was there. This neighbourhood had no time for tears or fickle emotions.
I had not made a lot of myself, but my child would. I grabbed his feet and swore it with my life.
I truly had not made a lot of myself; dropped out of school at fourteen, pregnant at twenty.
Tears welled up in my eyes.
Perhaps when I was born, my mother looked over me as I did him and prayed over me, but she could not give me what she did not have.
I had no hope, and to be honest, I didn’t know how or where I’d find some, but I needed to get it quick for my son’s sake
The electricity returned, flickering for a brief second and going off again.
It was as though someone at the office was sending an official welcome.
“Welcome to the land of haves and have-nots. Dear Ayomide, you are a have-not. Goodbye!”
I grabbed the only pillow I had and lay it under him.
My neighbourhood had not intended on being a slum.
It once stood high in the middle of Lagos, a proud site.
Fresh paint air, shiny windows and balconies that looked on to the gardens below.
It definitely had not intended on becoming ‘the slums’.
But what was it to do when the hundred and something people it was intended for invited a hundred and something more.
I was in the number, of the hundred more invited.
A sparkle in my eyes, determination in my heart to make it in the city of prosperity, Lagos.
Everyone was told a story of the person who lived in a village and then moved to Lagos and suddenly became a ‘somebody’, everyone wanted their own nugget of the goldmine.
On a rickety bus with over thirty passengers I rode from Akure to the City of Excellence.
Lagos herself welcomed us. Arms opened, throbbing, alive.
My first five minutes in the city included being in an accident with a motorcyclists and then having my wallet swiped.
Lagos, Lagos, Lagos, like the heartbeat of a race horse, always pulsating; always alive.
I struggled as hard as I could to become one of its success stories, but the harder I pushed forward the more the inflow new comers made it more difficult.
Ah, I see you snickering at me and rolling your eyes.
I tried, you really must believe me!
I tried hair dressing, dress making, cleaning, cooking, nothing ever lasted, as soon as the next idiot from some village came, I was out.
In the end, I was introduced to Madam Rosa.
Madam Rosa ran an institute for women. The women were entertainers you see, it really wasn’t a difficult job; lay down, shut your eyes, get paid.
It became my life, until Ayomide.
Ayomide was a strong boy.
He was unlike any other child in the neighbourhood.
The women downstairs were always complaining that I spoiled him.
They complained that I never found him guilty of any offense.
How could I, to begin with, my Ayomide could do no wrong; he was a sweet young boy.
I do admit that I had seen an occasional pencil or candy that wasn’t his in his school bag, but kids would be kids right?
As my dear boy grew, I knew I had to stop working for Madam Rosa.
I was determined that my son would go University and become ‘a somebody’.
I was awfully surprised when I learned that Ayomide had skipped out on most of his SS3 and University was far from hopeful.
I spoke to him about it and his explanation seemed valid to me.
We decided that in his best interested, a trade would be worthwhile.
Still neighbours whispered behind my back, ‘She’s spoiling that child! She should have smack him, she should have…’
They didn’t know Ayomide like I did; he was a sweet young boy and would hurt anyone.
I cannot deny the fact that overtime, the pencils and candy had gradually turned into money, clothes, phones etc.
I knew they were gifts they just had to be! My Ayomide had no iota of wrong in him.
My high esteems of my dear son came crashing down one sunny Saturday morning, when from outside my window, I heard violent chants.
One of the women downstairs mumbled something in Yoruba about ‘a child that doesn’t learn manners at home will be taught somewhere else.’
“Ayomide!” I ran to my son’s side but I was stopped by the neighbourhood’s chief vigilante.
“Madam, wait there!”His voice, rough from years of drinking and drugs, most likely.
“That’s my son!”
“Ehen, so? This boy na thief, we just dey wait make im mess up!”
It was then I realized that he was holding a can of kerosene.
“What do you think you’re going to do with that?”I screamed.
Seeing that I was about to lose my mind, the neighbours held me down.
“Ayomide, tell them! Tell them you’re innocent!”I wept as my boy was stuffed into a tire.
“Ayomide!”I screamed, tears streaming down my face.
“You knew then as you know now!”He smiled.
Why the hell was this stupid boy smiling at me?
“Ayomide, please tell these people that they are wrong.”
“Eventually it had to come to this! Eventually some justice was to be carried out, if not by you then, I guess by them.”
“I blame you though.” He continued.
All this while, the big man with the rough voice was dousing him and the tire with kerosene.
“I’m not blameless in this, but I blame you. If you had done something earlier, we both wouldn’t be here right now!”
I sat on the floor, watching helplessly as my dear little boy was consumed by the flames.
The neighbours chanted and screamed. Most of them pointing at me and whispering.
I was forced to sit there, on the muddy dirty street and watch as my son burnt to a crisp.
The vigilantes made me sit there, until the flames finally died down.
“Ayomide…”I crawled to his burnt remains and held him.
Not caring that the embers burnt my skin, I lay there and fell asleep, apologizing for all my errors.
This story is my opinion of Boko Haram and the current President.
I have long felt that Boko Haram and their acts, where no more than a little child acting up and throwing tantrums for attention. When I was a kid, I did stupid things, but as soon as I did, a parent was there to stop and curb that habit!
In my opinion, these so called terrorists have been testing the ‘discipline’ of the President and so far he’s been very tolerating.
As in the above story, with Ayomide’s mother, who knew what her son was becoming but refused to curb it, these ‘terrorists’ very much like Ayomide are only going to get worse. In the end with Ayomide, it wasn’t the police who ‘disciplined’ him, it was the neighbourhood vigilante.
I believe a time is coming when people aren’t going to wait for the parent; they are simply going to march into the streets and take matters into their own hands.