You have been ignoring it, refusing to believe it. Ever since your dad called from Lagos two days back with the news that Ekwe had gone missing, you have refused to admit that you are indeed worried. It was a morning call; dad always called in the morning these days – not so early that you are deeply asleep but early enough that you still feel the strain of your erection against your drawers. When you took the call, you – as had come to be the tradition – connected your earpiece to it, stuck the foamy bits in your ears and dropped the phone beside your head. With your eyes still shut and your hand loving the rough hairs on your chest in a habitual dance of dawn, you prepared to listen to the litany of the latest wrongs your brother had done.
Only he hadn’t stopped at wrongs this time, he had run off. You started to pay attention at that point, your eyes opened and your hand on your chest froze. Your dad recounted the events of the day before and ended by repeating it. Ekwe had not spent the night at home and nobody had seen or heard from him since then. What about his phone? Dad had taken it just before he skipped out.
You remember how unworried your father had been; little brother had slowly evolved into a mean thorn in the flesh. He sinned against all the dogma of the quintessential Christian family mum and dad had built and never seemed to even want to change. And oh, he wasn’t so little anymore. He was 18. He was not worried, your father had reiterated, he was sure Ekwe would resurface once the money he left with got exhausted. You agreed with dad, the gruff in your voice deepened with sleep and a ‘manly’ fearlessness you intentionally inserted.
It has been five days now. And in those five days, you have called your distant step-cousins who he had developed an affinity for from the last trip to the village. The boys were just Ekwe’s type – showy braggarts with no depth and plenty of blingz. So they had clicked. They listened mute while you bumbled through several awkward attempts at camaraderie and conversation. In tones as flat as your attempts had fallen, they zipped you off – no, they did not know. You have also called his friend from secondary school, the one who swore his new girlfriend had made him see the light. He had taken to it alone though, Ekwe’s eyes were apparently too sensitive for the ‘Christian’ light. He too did not know where Ekwe was.
You want to call some more but it dawns on you – not for the first time – that you hardly know any of his recent friends. Since you left home for the university three years ago, the brotherly bond had grown thinner and thinner. And as you moved from semester to semester, the realities of life had loomed larger and larger before you. And you had bothered less and less about Ekwe and his aruruana, as Ego calls it. Ego is your older sister; she’s married with three kids. There’s just the three of you and she believes, like your dad, that your brother is best left on his own to realize the folly of his actions from their bitter results.
And every time you chat with her on BBM, you concur. You sound all ‘manly’ and unconcerned, you say “he is a fully grown man, he can cater for himself”. But when you put down the phone, you are not so sure. You remember all those times as a kid when Ekwe would do something silly and you would – after beating him, also silly – flirt with the idea in your mind of him dying and leaving you an only son; a motherless only son.
On those occasions, you imagined he got run down by a car in the streets or a bare electric wire fell on the bike bringing him home from school. You imagined you would run out to the streets when you got the news, and you would stare at his lifeless, (mangled or fried) body for a few moments. Then you would blink twice so that one tear – and one alone – would fall off, after which you would turn around and walk home. Very like a man. Then when he was to be buried, you imagined yourself walking up slowly but steadily to his grave, a spade in your hand loaded with moist red earth. This time you wouldn’t cry, only sigh very deeply and loud enough for the people nearby to hear, before dumping the dirt on his wooden casket and walking away. Also like a man.
The memories come back to haunt you as you sit at your computer looking through Ekwe’s facebook profile. One part of you is glad your mum died all those years ago, it would break her heart the things Ekwe is…was doing. The other part of you wishes she were here so you could lay your head on her lap and confess to her that you do not want to be an only son. You do not want your brother dead. And there is nothing manly about the tears you shed every night when you lay in your bunk bed.
A friend buzzes you on BBM and you remember the friend lives in Lagos. Before you can stop yourself, you ask him if he has seen your brother, that he is missing. Your friend says no, he doesn’t even know what your brother looks like. So he can see what Ekwe looks like, you type in Ekwe’s facebook name and stop yourself just before you hit send. You stopped because you remembered that Ekwe’s pictures on facebook make you feel ashamed. He has semi-nudes with ladies of mostly advanced ages in different compromising situations, and he has pictures displaying the dragon tattoo on his biceps and some with captions like ‘Smoke weed today…save a life’. They are not pictures you want any of your friends to see, they all know you are a solid Christian brother.
You tell your friend that you will send him pictures. When you check, you realize that you have no pictures of Ekwe on your phone. As you browse through his facebook albums for any pictures that will not shame you, your breath comes slow and heavy. And an ache builds in your chest, blurring your vision of the laptop screen. You have never done drugs but you’re fairly certain this is how it would feel if you had barbiturates flowing in your veins.
You find some okay pictures and you send them off to your friend. Then you pack up and lay down on your slim hostel mattress. You turn one way, then the other, and back the one way. Right on time, the tears burn through your corneas, sear your lids and slide out the corners of your eyes. You sigh a heavy sigh; it will be another very long night.