“He is my son, my only son so why can’t I take care of him myself?”
“But mama, he’s my husband. I vowed to be by him in good times and bad times, till death do us part”
“So you want my son to die okpehia?”
“That’s not what I mean mama, mama please dan Allah”
Even though I was under the influence of the sedatives, I could hear their voices faintly outside the male ward of the specialist hospital in Maitama.
It was my fourth night in the general ward, the very kind female nurse told me I was in the emergency section for a whole week before I was transferred here for the final phase of recuperation.
I was brought in unconscious and bleeding from the ears and nose. “broda, na god save you o”, the nurse echoed in her deep Yoruba accent as she conducted her ward rounds earlier, just to remind me how lucky I was to be alive. I could only offer a faint smile in acknowledgment as I beckoned on her to help adjust the pillows behind me. The constant beeping of the dialysis machine was hitting my brain so hard; I wished she could switch it off for a little while. I have always hated hospitals I was a kid; the sight of needles was so scary, not to talk of that nasty bitter taste of chloroquine! Those trips to the hospital back then were the worst part of growing up and so I made it a duty to live healthy just to avoid hospitals.
“Your people are outside. You know it’s not visiting hours yet so I can’t let them in till 6:00pm and it’s just past 4:00pm now”, the nurse said as she turned to close the door behind her. “But as you be correct person (a title I earned only after giving her some cash my boss dropped when he came yesterday), I’ll allow one person to enter first”. Still holding the door handle, staring at me and waiting on me to give the permission, the choice of who amongst my “people” outside was a puzzle I hadn’t yet decided. “Ok”, I replied faintly without stating whom among them.
As the door swung back and forth behind her, my heart raced faster, with goose bumps covering my entire body. Who will she pick? How will the other respond? These questions in my head worsened as my head began to ache. But I was helpless.
It all started in my early childhood days. As the only son of my mother, it was a norm to take me everywhere with her. We weren’t rich but we were quite comfortable. There was no domestic staff, so my mother and I did everything together, from house chores to security…Yes, ensuring our little house were kept safe. My father being a custom officer was hardly around as he was transferred almost on a yearly basis. Even though he came around as often as he could, my hero and friend would always be my mother. She always took me to school and brought me back; she would always hold my hands before crossing. The fact that I complained about other female pupils making fun of me, did not make any difference. Not even the pleas of my father to allow me attend the Federal Government College Port Harcourt which was not much of a distance from his work place, yielded any results as she claimed she would be “alone” in the house. I finally ended up in Government Secondary School Warri and not as a boarding student.
But my big break came during my National Youth Service Corps program. All efforts by her brother, Uncle Omoh to influence my posting failed and I was posted to Kaduna State. On sighting the call-up letter, my mother asked if Kaduna was part of Nigeria as she had never travelled out of Warri all her life.
I had to attend two night vigil prayer sessions in our church as prayers were said specifically for my “safety” from the northerners, who she said loved their cows more than their fellow humans.
All those doctrines quickly faded away when life proper began in Kwoi village, Jaba Local Government Area of the state. The people were nice and peaceful and i didn’t even see as many cows as my mother had preached! “She should visit this place one of these days”, I thought as I walked to the community secondary school where I was fondly called “malo korfa”, an easier option for them as my name Rukvewe was hard to pronounce for most of them.
I remember it was public holiday, so I decided to take a walk round the village that evening. And that’s when I sighted ‘her’ buying oranges down the street. I immediately felt the need to speak to her. I couldn’t help myself so I walked right up to her. “Sannu”, I said, trying to speak the general hausa dialect I was taught. When she turned to see who greeted, I was swept off my feet by her beauty. Her round piercing eyeballs looked up at me with curiosity, I repeated the greetings again “Sannu”, in a bid of courtesy. “I heard you the first time, and straight away I knew you’re not from here” her accent was that of a properly schooled lady and that got me even more inquisitive. “Good evening. My name is ….and that’s when she cut in “…malo korfa” with a spice of sarcasm to her voice. “My younger brother speaks of a new corper in his school called malo korfa, you must be the one, right?” Yes, I am. But my name is Rukvewe, I replied quite frankly but confidently. “The rest” they say, “is history”.
Three years later, I proposed to her immediately she finished her bar exams from the Abuja Law School. She was part of the batch from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Throughout our relationship, my mother made no attempt to hide her reservations and unapproval about my choice of a woman. She preferred Okemute, a longtime family friend of ours who had been making advances to her on my behalf.
I was reluctant about disclosing my engagement to her, not until a month later when I visited for the Xmas holiday, from my base in Abuja. As expected, she felt broken, cried and nagged for days. According to her, I was supposed to pay an official visit to Okemute family compound on New Year’s Eve! My mind was made up; I loved Simnom and would definitely marry her. My father gave his blessings and we got married. “Let them live their lives, we have lived ours” my father would always say whenever my mother threw a tantrum.
Two years after we got married, my mother’s stand hadn’t changed. Her visits were always a trying period. ” You don’t feed my son well enough, he’s losing weight! And your banga soup is not thick! Who even told you I eat Oha soup, which you put in the microwave to warm? Tufiakwa!”. I tried protecting and defending my wife as much as I could, but my mother was relentless.
I was caught in between the two most important women in my life. I loved them both so dearly that would give anything for them to live peacefully but it wasn’t happening. Simnom would cry late into the night, my consolation chit chats with her were no longer having the desired effect anymore. Both of them were expecting so much from me but the disappointment I was bringing them was very obvious.
My mother was convinced a northern man was not an ideal wife for her son, “One day, you will push my son far away from me!” she barked.
My productivity at work was being affected; I was beginning to lose concentration. The last being my shambolic presentation at the stakeholders’ meeting last month. “Mr Rukvewe, get your acts together or you could be joking with your job”, my boss retorted as we walked towards the parking lot. My world was falling apart, and I had to do something…and fast!.
Presently, it’s been so difficult trying to deal with the issues erupting in my marriage. “This has to stop!” I said to myself, as the car engines roared to life. I am going home to tell my mother a piece of my mind and that is final! I am never going to divorce my wife! Neither will I allow her become a stumbling block to my relationship with my mother.
They were so engrossed in their argument inside the guest room that they didn’t notice me entering the living room. Not until Vera the house maid, greeted me, did they realize I was around.
My wife stormed out of the room, ran past me and headed straight outside, towards the gate. I ran after her, but slipped as I was about to grab her hand. That allowed her gain some yards ahead of me, by the time I got up she was already outside the gate. Not concentrating fully on events happening around me, but solely on catching up with my wife, I didn’t see the bike coming. By the time I realized it, it was too late! He did try to avoid a collision but it was too close. The impact threw me some good meters in the opposite direction. Instantly, everything went dark.
Three days of being in coma, with various tests and examinations, I finally regained consciousness but everything was foggy and vague. One week later, I was strong enough for leave the intensive care unit, but was diagnosed with a collapsed left lung.
“If I could survive that accident, then surviving family issues should be child’s play” I said to myself. Just then, I heard the bell ring indicating the start of visiting hours, I had been off for almost two hours. As the bell stopped, I heard footsteps approaching. As I lifted my gaze, towards the door, my wife entered accompanied by my mother. Apparently, the incident had done some good. They had settled, unconsciously I guess. After the Doctor had also told them my survival was hinged on it, they had no choice.
Now I have the two of them not just loving me, but also loving each other in great terms.
I pray the love grows stronger even after I’m discharged. But for now, I will enjoy every second of this new found paradise.