“Daddy is calling you, Kachi.” Somadina announced as I was dicing the last finger of what seemed like a breed of plantain and banana. The short fingers were pale yellow, nearly the shade of the bananas I bought on my way back from Nsukka. They transcended in my hands from fingers to circles to cubes. I thought about how pale they looked, about how stout they were and wondered the possibility of them turning reddish brown in hot oil like the usual plantain I ate at Nsukka. I thought back to the sizes of the plantain I bought from Mama Amuche around Hilltop gate. They were stout like the ones I was dicing but not quite as soft and watery. I thought about different things; the series I was watching, the people at Nsukka, the new height of the fence walls. All because Daddy had called. I thought about all those because I didn’t want my mind thinking about the main issue I was summoned home. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I was about to face an intervention in Mama’s room since that was where Daddy had gone into. I didn’t want to think of the stern look that would envelope her face as my misfortunes were being discussed. I didn’t want to think of Mummy raining abuses and curses on me because that seemed inevitable. I didn’t want to think of Uncle Arinze being there to hear all that was about to be discussed. So I thought. I thought about the full moon peering into the dimly lit kitchen as I salted my plantain and levelled them into the simmering oil on the gas cooker.
“Dike, biko keep an eye on the plantain, I would be back soon.” I said as I left the kitchen. I knew it was a lie. I wasn’t going to come back soon; actually, I wasn’t sure I was going to eat the plantain at all after what was about to happen. I firstly went into my room to wear three boxer shorts under the stay-home short I had on. I wasn’t sure what could arise.
I still refused to think. I had thought about it all at Nsukka; I had thought about what to say to convince them that my way was the right and only direction to take. I had consulted all my friends and read them the lines I had recited for over two hours after Daddy called to summon me home. “I know I have wasted time in school already and it’s not because I’m not intelligent but because I have been studying a course that I do not have a passion for. I want to go into Radio, television and film. It’s a course I applied for in a university in Cyprus. Please give me this opportunity to follow my dreams, and I promise not to let you all down.”
They all thought it was a great speech. No parent would hear that and not want to understand. Ekene had said, measuring and cutting a black and white floral printed cotton fabric.
I garnered the courage to knock on Mama’s door; a door so familiar. I stared at the sticker on the brown oil greased door that read “The Lord is my Strength.” I had never believed in those words as much as I did that second.
“Come in,” a voice from inside said. It was Mummy. I knew she was there but somehow I wished she could just vanish into thin air as I opened the door. She always made everything worse. I pushed the silver handle and the door steered open.
“Good evening,” I said, not sure to whom it was meant for because I had earlier greeted all of them individually.
“Ehen, ngwa welu oche,” Mama said. Take a seat. Mummy laughed in that low he-needs-it kind of way.
Still refusing to think, I moved the mug of zobo from the single seat that no one occupied, smearing the red liquid that dripped from the mug to the seat. I pulled a strip of tissue paper out of the roll beside the bed and wiped the seat clean before placing it near the door to sit on it. The position was best, just in case of possible occurrences.
Daddy was the first to speak. He was directly in front of me, so close he could reach out and slap my face with ease. He directed the speech at Mama. “Ngwa Mama, listen to what Kachi has to tell us now about his school.” Then he turned to me, in a very low tone, “Kachi, what are you still doing in Nsukka?” he spoke in Igbo so that Mama could understand completely the question he had asked.
“Daddy, I do not have any problem with my results, if that’s what you’re asking.” It was a lie, a big lie, but one I was willing to cement.
“I did not ask if you had cleared all your results, I asked what you are still doing in Nsukka. Don’t change the question.”
“I’m trying to work with Lion Fm, the radio station there.” I said, this time looking him in the eye, hoping he would see the sincerity I hoped my eyes would hold. The sincerity that consumed my time in front of a mirror.
“The radio station. Hmm!” He sighed, making a face I didn’t not exactly want to understand. “ Ngwa nu, Mama inugo? Have you heard? He’s trying to work with the radio station in his school. That is what he’s doing in Nsukka.” His voice was low, the same low tone I had heard earlier when he asked how my trip back was, void of its usual rhythm that vibrated as he spoke. His words were cold; each word chilling me like droplets of freezing rain on my back. He waited for it to sink.
Mama shook her head, Mummy aimed to speak but babbled and chewed down her words. Uncle Arinze robbed his wedding band, he was still getting used to it being there. “So what exactly do you do for them? And can’t you do it here in Enugu? Why do you have to do it there? Do you have a certificate yet? That’s the only things we need to know from you.” Uncle Arinze blurted out. He seemed tired of the delay. He wanted quick answers because he had a lot on his plate. I tried to understand.
“I don’t have any exam to write in school at the moment, the only problem I might have now would be my clearance and the fact that my file isn’t complete. According to MIS, my profile has one complete year’s fee missing from their records, and I have shown them the receipt for the school fees and they still insist there’s nothing they can do. I also have an issue with the records department where they claim my file lacks the course outlines for a few semesters. I don’t presently have any exams to write.” I spoke swiftly, trying to let it all out. Trying not to fumble with my premeditated story, because that was all I had.
“Course outline,” Daddy picked out, like I knew he would. “If you don’t have your complete course outlines, you would never be able to graduate.” He went ahead to tell Mama again what I said in Igbo. Of course she could understand me; Daddy just wanted her to understand what I said better. Mummy still hadn’t said anything, and as much as that excited me, I couldn’t help but fear the worst.
“You are a disgrace to your parents and me. You have failed them again, ugbolo abuo. Tufiakwa. Look at your brother, see how well he’s doing. He’s serving now and still wants to push further to do his masters. I cho I ga Cyprus. You want to go to Cyprus. Come and go, who’s stopping you? Tufiakwa, Chukwu aju.” Mama said, snapping her fingers. My brows cringed.
I didn’t want to look in her direction so I faced the floor. Suddenly, my legs gained more importance. My toes nails had begun to grow out looking very dishevelled. I needed a manicure. I moved on my stool, enough to balance the ache in my buttocks. Still staring at my legs, still refusing to think, even refusing to listen, I bore harder at my feet, noticing the shedding of my skin. Mummy told me many years ago that the skin on my feet were shedding because they were expanding, making the skin break because those parts couldn’t grow with the rest. Not to seem rude, I left picking at it for later. I still didn’t want to think, listen, even feel. I imagined myself back in my room at Nsukka, laughing and fighting with Edobi. I imagined telling him about this intervention, and what he would say, “Your folks are so ancient, this is the 21st Century for crying out loud.” In that exasperated way. I imagined laughing and being my sarcastic self with Ekene while he cut my fabrics which must have stayed with him for nearly two weeks. I wanted to…
“Isnt it true?” Mummy asked. I didn’t realize she had started talking. Her voice was high pitched and I wondered if she had asked me the question previously before I heard it. Trying to recall the question, I remembered a voice saying something about JAMB and Pharmacy and Filling forms.
Putting them together, I formed the answer to the question I had vaguely heard. “I only applied for Pharmacy because you asked me to. You made me think, feel and breathe sciences even when I never wanted to do it. When I told you I wanted to study English, you laughed and told me I was only being a child, and that I had to do a professional course. Even you, daddy, the day I told you I could write, all you did was laugh at me and make me feel stupid. No one has ever been in support of…”
“Just shut up.” Daddy cut in. “Don’t annoy me. You don’t want to annoy me now. You’re very stupid. Who did you tell?”
I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead, I was trying to play the victim card. It always worked. They would cave.
This time mummy spoke again, her inner gum between her teeth. “Okwa I fu gi? You see you? You would never find peace if I don’t find peace. I would curse you every day of my life. You’re a curse to my family. Who did I wrong that sent you to me? As of today, you are not my son. Mama, you gave birth to me, and I would never curse anybody in front of you unless it is necessary. This boy is a fool. A failure. Nothing good can ever come from him.” She spoke in a fluidal motion that they bore scars deep enough to hurt. I bore a grudge.
I wondered how the conversation went from a slow flow of words to an exasperating gush of hurtful words and curses. The look on her face wore no makeup, everything she said, and everything she felt, her face carried. I bit harder against my lower lip holding back tears. This wasn’t the time to cry. This wasn’t the time to feel pity for myself. This was the time to speak and be heard. Convince and have my way.
“Mama Junior, jili nwayo, Take it easy. There is no need to curse anybody. He is still your son. Stop talking like that. You would still want to reap from him tomorrow when he’s successful. Take it easy. Stop talking like that. All we need to do now is discuss what next to do about his school. There’s no point throwing curses around. Kachi has disgraced us all, let’s patch up from where we can.” Mama said before spitting into her saliva bowl.
“We are only making this discussion longer.” Uncle Arinze started, “Let’s ask him the actual questions he needs to be asked.” Now facing me, “Kachi, I bu Homo? Are you a Homosexual? “