The Grandest Place

The Grandest Place

© Folakemi Emem-Akpan

 

My husband brought death home to me, and I received it at love’s altar. Eighteen months later, he is already decomposing, and my immune system is gradually breaking down.

 

The hospital has become my first home, even as I fight against the demon in my blood. I am not fighting because of me, but for my children. Innocent, wide-eyed, still yet to recover from their father’s demise. Eight-year-old Bimpe has taken to sleeping in his frayed jacket, and Bunmi peppers every sentence with the word, daddy.

 

I desperately want to live. For them.

 

Then the unexpected. Yinka, my youngest is slowly being killed by the same devil that is about to make him an orphan.

 

I stumble out of the laboratory, blinking back hot sunshine and salty tears. My skull still feels empty from a recent bout with pneumonia. And my heart…feels like it’s being clawed apart. Something is scratching for all it’s worth, pulling my heart into a long crimson ribbon, and then sadistically feeding the weeping heart into a fireplace.

 

“Wole,” my late husband’s name involuntarily escapes my trembling lips, “I played the faithful little wife while you gallivanted about town. See what you’ve done to us…see what you’re doing to your children…” I stop suddenly. My anger at Wole dries on my lips. He had always been unfaithful. I knew that and still went right ahead and married him. But I’d hoped, oh how I’d hoped that marriage and responsibility would stabilize him. But how wrong I’d been. To celebrate Bimpe’s birth, he had gone to town with his friends and woken up the next morning in a seedy brothel.

 

 

****

 

Yinka is waiting for me at the doorway.

 

“Mommee, I’m hungry.” Typical of a four-year-old, he’s more concerned about his empty belly than his failing health.

 

“I’ll fix you lunch.” I answer shakily, wanting to be strong, yet desiring a broad shoulder to weep all my frustrations on.

 

His thin legs follow me into the kitchen. As I’ve done in the past months, I try not to take in my surroundings. Once, it had been filled with all conveniences, and even some luxuries. But it’s now bare save for the absolute necessities.

 

To give you life, they bleed your purse to death. In Nigeria, there are no subsidies for AIDS treatment, and one ARV drug is expensive enough to gulp one-month salary.

 

I don’t even have a salary anymore. I suddenly think. My boss, coating her rejection with fine words, had handed me my sack letter yesterday.

 

“Did the doctah tell you what’s wrong?” Yinka asks, “will he put the needle in my bombom?

 

I can’t answer his kindergarten questions. Not now. “Will you eat some eba?”

 

“Yes mommee. When did the doctah say I will be well?”

 

“Shh Yinka. Let me make you lunch first.”

 

He is very headstrong, just like his father. He displays his stubbornness now, “But I want to know? Am I going to die like daddee? My Sunday school teacher says that when we die, we will go to heaven. She says ‘ts the grandest place. Will you like to go there, mommee?”

 

I turn my back to him, as silent tears wash my face. My mother had brought me up a Christian but marrying Wole, I’d turned my back on the truth I knew. Sending the kids to Sunday school was a defiant act. Let’s see if this God can remedy a generation going to waste.

 

“If the doctah says I’m going ta die, can I take you along?”

 

For want of an answer, I bend and rummage through the thoroughly empty cupboard.

 

“Aww, mommee? Won’t you like to go? My teacher says the houses are built with gold…” he falls silent for a while, “mommee, what’s gold?”

 

“In my father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you…” Twenty years after, mum’s voice still rings clear in my head. She’d been reading the Gospel of John to me, but that particular passage had caught her attention, and we’d dwelt on it for days on end.

 

“Mommee!” Yinka shouts in exasperation.

 

“But I don’t want leave my children. I’m afraid…afraid to die.” I whimper as I rest my weary head against the cupboard.

 

“Mommee, will you like to go to that grandest place?” Yinka asks again.

 

Trembling, I sigh deeply and start to set out the ingredients for his eba.

 

I would think later.



13 thoughts on “The Grandest Place” by Folakemi Emem-Akpan (@Folakemi)

  1. Reading this with tears in my eyes, men and their unfaithfulness now see what he has caused his family…feel so sorry for young Yinka and yes Heaven is the Grandest place

  2. thanks @Kosnie. Should also serve as a warning to young ladies. Don’t ever think that you can change anyone, especially a man. Someone wants to have to change by himself. Never marry a man or a woman whose habits you detest, with the hope that marriage would make him/her a better person. It usually doesn’t work like that.
    Cheers

  3. Hmmmmm I just knew it was HIV, I thought those drugs were supposed to be free.
    Everything changes but our habits, the mc should have known better but then there’s human nature, sentiments our weakness.

  4. (MY THOUGHTS ARE IN CAPITAL LETTERS IN BRACKETS)My husband brought death home to me, and I received it at love’s altar. Eighteen months later, he is already decomposing, and my immune system is gradually breaking down.(NICE METAPHORS YOU USED HERE.I CAN EASILY DEDUCE THAT HER HUSBAND BROUGHT HOME A KILLER STD AND AS WE SPEAK,HE’S DEAD!)

    The hospital has become my first home, even as I fight against the demon in my blood. I am not fighting because of me, but for my children. Innocent, wide-eyed, still yet to recover from their father’s demise. Eight-year-old Bimpe has taken to sleeping in his frayed jacket, and Bunmi peppers every sentence with the word, daddy.(CLEAR AND PRECISE PARAGRAPH)

    I desperately want to live. For them.

    Then the unexpected. Yinka, my youngest is slowly being killed by the same devil that is about to make him an orphan.

    I stumble out of the laboratory, (THE WAY YOU SAY “LABORATORY”MAKES IT SEEM LIKE SHE JUST DISCOVERED THIS SICKNESS.SHE SHOULD BE COMING OUT FROM THE HOSPITAL.MOREOVER YOU HAVEN’T TOLD US THE DISEASE,I KNOW IT’S HIV,BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD TELL US)blinking back hot sunshine and salty tears. My skull still feels empty from a recent bout with pneumonia. And my heart…feels like it’s being clawed apart. Something is scratching for all it’s worth, pulling my heart into a long crimson ribbon, and then sadistically feeding the weeping heart into a fireplace.(YOU KNOW YOU’VE CROWDED THE FIRST HALF OF YOUR STORY WITH SO MANY METAPHORS.IT STARTED OUT COOL BUT NOW IT’S GETTING BORING.YOU SHOULD PICK ONE OR TWO AND CAPITALIZE ON THEM TO AVOID YOUR STORY LACKING DEPTH)

    “Wole,” my late husband’s name involuntarily escapes my trembling lips, “I played the faithful little wife while you gallivanted about town. See what you’ve done to us…see what you’re doing to your children…” I stop suddenly. My anger at Wole dries on my lips. He had always been unfaithful. I knew that and still went right ahead and married him. But I’d hoped, oh how I’d hoped that marriage and responsibility would stabilize him. But how wrong I’d been. To celebrate Bimpe’s birth, he had gone to town with his friends and woken up the next morning in a seedy brothel.(I’M SORRY,DID YOU JUST SAY SEEDY BROTHEL?)

    ****

    Yinka is waiting for me at the doorway.

    “Mommee, I’m hungry.” Typical of a four-year-old, he’s more concerned about his empty belly than his failing health.

    “I’ll fix you lunch.” I answer shakily, wanting to be strong, yet desiring a broad shoulder to weep all my frustrations on.

    His thin legs follow me into the kitchen. As I’ve done in the past months, I try not to take in my surroundings. Once, it had been filled with all conveniences, and even some luxuries. But it’s now bare save for the absolute necessities.

    To give you life, they bleed your purse to death. In Nigeria, there are no subsidies for AIDS treatment, and one ARV drug is expensive enough to gulp one-month salary.(FINALLY!YOU CONFIRM OUR THOUGHTS)

    I don’t even have a salary anymore. I suddenly think.(SHE SUDDENLY THINKS?WHY NOT SAY SOMETHING LIKE,SHE REALIZED OR IT DAWNED ON HER OR SOMETHING AND DON’T MAKE THAT A STATEMENT ON IT’S OWN.JOIN IT WITH THE PRECEEDING ONE) My boss, coating her rejection with fine words, had handed me my sack letter yesterday.

    “Did the doctah tell you what’s wrong?” Yinka asks, “will he put the needle in my bombom?”(I’M SORRY,I’VE NEVER REALLY BEEN AROUND 4 YEAR OLDS,BUT I DON’T THINK THEY PRONOUNCE DOCTOR AS DOCTAH,…just saying!WORDS THAT ARE NOT ENGLISH WORDS SUCH AS “BOMBOM” AND EBA SHOULD BE PUT IN QUOTES)

    I can’t answer his kindergarten questions. Not now. “Will you eat some eba?”

    “Yes mommee. When did the doctah say I will be well?”(I THOUGHT YOU SAID HE WASN’T REALLY CONCERNED ABOU HIS HEALTH,SO WHY IS HE SUDDENLY INTERESTED?DID YOU SAY HE WAS FOUR?4 YEARS IS TOO SMALL FOR HIS HEALTH TO START FAILING.HE’S STILL YOUNG SO HIS IMMUNE IS AT ITS BEST)

    “Shh Yinka. Let me make you lunch first.”

    He is very headstrong, just like his father. He displays his stubbornness now, “But I want to know? Am I going to die like daddee? (WHAT!THAT JUST DOESN’T SOUND RIGHT.PEOPLE TELL CHILDREN CUTE THINGS ABOUT DEAD PEOPL,AS A MATTER OF FACT,THEY HARDLY EVER USE THE WORD DEATH.MAYBE LIKE”HE’S GONE TO GET YOU A PRESENT FROM THE ANGELS OR SOMETHING)My Sunday school teacher says that when we die, we will go to heaven. She says ‘(I)t(‘)s the grandest place. Will you like to go there, mommee?”(GRAND AS IN HOW?THERE ARE A LOT OF DEFINITIONS FOR THAT WORD BUT I’M NOT EXACTLY SURE WHICH ONE DESCRIBES HEAVEN!NEITHER AM I SURE OF THE SUPERLATIVE FORM.i could be wrong.I THINK IT’S CRUEL FOR A TEACHER TO SAY THE WORD”GRANDEST”TO A 4 YEAR OLD.NOT A GARDEN,OR A BEAUTIFUL PLACE?)

    I turn my back to him, as silent tears wash my face. My mother had brought me up a Christian but marrying Wole, I’d turned my back on the truth I knew. Sending the kids to Sunday school was a defiant act. Let’s see if this God can remedy a generation going to waste.

    “If the doctah says I’m going ta die, can I take you along?”(DON’T YOU THINK IT’S DEPRESSING TO HEAR A FOUR YEAR OLD TALK ABOUT DYING?)

    For want of an answer, I bend and rummage through the thoroughly empty cupboard.

    “Aww, mommee? Won’t you like to go? My teacher says the houses are built with gold…” he falls silent for a while, “mommee, what’s gold?”

    “In my father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you…” Twenty years after, mum’s voice still rings clear in my head. She’d been reading the Gospel of John to me, but that particular passage had caught her attention, and we’d dwelt on it for days on end.

    “Mommee!” Yinka shouts in exasperation.

    “But I don’t want leave my children. I’m afraid…afraid to die.” I whimper as I rest my weary head against the cupboard.

    “Mommee, will you like to go to that grandest place?” Yinka asks again.

    Trembling, I sigh deeply and start to set out the ingredients for his eba.(INGREDIENTS FOR EBA?)

    I would think later.
    YOUR PUNCTUATION IS EXCELLENT BUT THE STORYLINE IS WEAK,TRY AND WORK ON IT.GOOD JOB THOUGH.KEEP WRITING!

    1. thanks @anastasia for your comments. They are the longest I’ve ever got since I joined NS. Cheers

    2. @Anastasia, I do not mean to be the Grand Defender of Madam @folakemiemem-akpan, but me thinks, she writes her sentences that way (short, broken) based on a certain writing style. It allows for an easy read. I have seen writers write whole books this way.

      On the weak story line, she keeps her stories simple on NS to pass a message. I think, for her, simple short story lines are the easiest way to do that (I do not know). She also writes regularly and it might be hard to write complicated pieces that often. ( I think).

      She has a couple of works outside here. Those are great. More complicated, if that’s your thing.

      Simple, short stories -incorporating simplicity and elements of flash fiction, are the hardest to write. I have tried. It is hard. It is not an art a lot of us can pull off easily. I guess that’s why people think she does just great.

      I see your points though and give you a thumbs up for pointing them out. Brave stuff. Valid insight too on the sentences and whatnot.

      Now, I shall go back in my shell. Or my justice league defender ship. Or whatever and stop making excuses for her.

  5. Now look at this mess!!

  6. @Anastasia, @onu-okparachiamaka, thank you both in your dedicated pursuit of better writing. To kill two birds with one stone, I do like to write in short choppy sentences, because I find that’s how a lot of people think and talk.
    And to be frank, this was a story I did in one seating in 2006, and did not brush up properly before uploading it on NS this year. Just watched something about spouse to spouse HIV transmission recently and wanted to put my own voice to it. That’s why I uploaded the story. As for four year olds and the way they speak, I do have a four year old now, and I am around kids a lot, so they do speak this way.
    Will work better to make sure that my stories read better in coming times. Thanks.

  7. The story is easily comprehend with…nd that is what majority of the avid readers do prefer.
    Although “ana” and “onu” had really made some genuine point of correctn,and I implore you to harness them, but I think this is a perfect educating short story…More strength to your elbow sis.

  8. Wow!This is awkward!So i kinda went through my critique again and i don’t remember saying anything about short and broken sentences.I didn’t even consider the overall presentation because i thought it was pretty cool.As for that weak storyline thingy,i understand that you just wanted a short simple story on hiv,but what i meant in gospel truth is that it doesn’t exactly send a message.hiv is a thought provoking issue,but the story isn’t.It could be though,with a little tweak here and there and i’m sorry if i offended anyone.@onu-okparachiamaka,I’m sorry i don’t understand what you mean by” complicated pieces”

    1. Hey @anastasia, I was referring to where you told her to link two sentences. A lot of her sentences run like that. I also thought I might add a bit about why she might have done that.

      On the “complicated pieces”, that came in when you said the story line was weak. I should have phrased that as “stronger story line”, maybe.

      I apologize if I seemed over the top. (Grin)

  9. @Anastasia, you definitely did not annoy me. I am aware that the purpose of NS is to sharpen our skills, and a writer that does not like critique will not do his/her best. Thanks and good luck.

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