I must have been in a trance the other night, because I saw my dad walk into the living room and asking me to go inside and take off my wet clothes. Even if I had tried, words would not come out of my mouth; not even “Good evening sir”. At first I hesitated, in anticipation that it was a decoy, but on a second thought, I’d rather die by father’s whips, than let the harsh cold kill me.
My teeth chattered loudly in the room, I thought my mom would wake up. As I stood at the door, contemplating whether to go back to the parlor or not, my dad walked into the room and said, “I think your food is in the cupboard”. I still didn’t say a word. I walked out to the parlor with my mat and wrapper that served as my duvet. Somehow, I slept very well that night. It felt like sleeping in a dream.
The next day was Saturday (environmental sanitation). Nobody woke me up to join the rest of the compound for sanitation. It felt strange, because I only got such treatment when I’m ill. I could perceive the scent of stew coming from the room. I decided to check the room to see if my mom was inside, and yes… she was serving rice and stew for breakfast. She looked up, and called me by my native name, “Nduka, Nduka, Nduka… mbgorole kam’ kporo gi?
“Three times, ma”, I replied.
She stretched a plate of rice to me, and said, “Fly wey no dey hear word, dey follow dead body enter grave. Even the Bible says, a word is enough for the wise”
I was actually hungry and my mom’s speech was not new to me. It’s actually the same thing she says when she considers my behavior as extreme. I ate with the fear that my dad could walk in and punch the spoon into my throat. My taste buds instantly became numb. Each sound, of footsteps in the corridor increased my fear. I could be in danger with my dad. For my mom to sound like this, it could mean she and my dad had discussed my ‘fuck-up’ and my dad might have an actual plan.
I couldn’t even finish my food. I heard my younger brother asking if I was full, so he can have the rest of my food, but I couldn’t care less. I ignored him. The plate almost slipped out of my hand, when I was trying to drop it on the cupboard. I heard my dad’s voice chatting and laughing with a neighbor on the corridor. I didn’t know if I should stay in the room or go to the parlor. Before I could make up my mind, my dad had entered the house. “Where is Innocent?” He asked, and something inside of me answered on my behalf, “I dey inside room; I dey drink water”. He just said “Ok”, and that was it. I probably would have remained in the room, if I had not heard my dad say he was coming into the room to change and go have a bath.
Reading my school books was easier when I’m in trouble. Before my dad walked into the room, I had rushed to my bag to take a couple of notebooks. My dad didn’t even look at me, as I walked past him to the parlor. I sat quietly on the floor and buried my head in one of the notes, thinking of what my dad could be up to. Why is he acting like it is ‘business as usual’?
In no time, my dad was ready to leave the house. “Daddy bye-bye”, my brother waved excitedly, as the door closed after my dad. I wasn’t bold enough to say goodbye, but I was happy he was going out.
It didn’t take too long before Nuru came knocking on our door. “How far na? I just see your papa enter okada dey comot. Na him, I say make I come check on my guy”. If Nuru had stopped there, it probably won’t be a problem, but the fool continued, “Omo, Michael get fat koko for him right eye, him papa nearly kill am”. The idiot ignored all my efforts to communicate with my eyes and hands.
My mom was in the room and I’m sure she could hear Nuru and his big mouth. I was confused, but I knew I needed to stop him before he mentions anything about the hotel. He was going to open his mouth again, when I shouted, “I reject you this demon; arise now and leave my house… you worker of iniquity!” Before Nuru could absorb what I had just said, I topped it up, “Mommy, come tell this boy to get outside, before I blow him eye oh”. Nuru got the message eventually, as he gaped in surprise and sneaked out.
I was wondering why my mom did not come out after my loud protest, so I stylishly walked towards the room to listen through the door, but there was no sign of movement. I decided to go into the room and interestingly, my mom wasn’t there. She had gone out through the back door to probably go have a bath. This discovery was so funny to me. I laughed really loud at myself and my stupid friend. I couldn’t wait to see him later to share the gist.
My mom left a few instructions about warming the soup for lunch and changing the newspapers in the cupboard before leaving for the market. I was finally free to go outside and personally see what has become of everybody, including Ebi that we did not see during the Police raid at the hotel.
To be continued…
TALES FROM THE GHETTO: BUSINESS AS USUAL