Winie says … Coulda-been-in-laws (COBIL)

COBIL

Coulda-been-in-laws are family members of your significant other whom you get very close to over the course of your relationship but get stuck with even after the relationship ends. It’s painful to form relationships with them, prepare financially, emotionally and mentally to be part of their lives, and then experience a break-up with the person that brought them into your life. It also becomes very complicated trying to analyze, what kind of relationship to maintain with them when you are no longer with their son/daughter, uncle/aunty, brother/sister, niece/nephew, etc. How do you introduce your ex’s sister to your new beau when you run into her in the mall? How do you relate with your ex’s mother that took you in as a daughter or son? How many of these awkward relationships do you want to have in one life time?
Some relationships fail after a long time which might make meeting and knowing each other’s family almost inevitable. Sometimes, you unintentionally, meet the person through their family member which might give you the pre-in-law status very early in the relationship. But there are some very unnecessary acquisitions of COBIL. COBIL might make it difficult for you to move on; constantly expressing wishes that things had turned out differently or bringing back memories that you may be trying to suppress. In my opinion, the more of those we have in our life, the more complicated relationships we acquire too. I have observed three common situations that lead to unnecessary acquisition of COBIL.

Helpers: Very early in relationships some people begin to run errands, buy items for the other person’s family, attend intimate family functions etc. Sadly, some people see it as a way to secure their place in the other person’s life. While it’s unrealistic to have set time when these things should happen, it should be when the two people involved have decided they are part of each other’s future, not when the relationship is new with uncertainties.  As nice as it is to help the family of someone you care about, when it happens too early, you only endear yourself to the family and vice versa without taking enough time to build on the relationship that actually counts. If you two end up together, you have the rest of your lives to buy gifts and help each other’s family. If after you advertise yourself as a ‘helper ’and the relationship doesn’t work out, all you have is a family that loves you and a man/woman who doesn’t. You would have acquired COBIL.

One Chance: There are those bad-belle people who look for people to date because they see a gap in their family that only that kind of relationship can fill. They have no long-term plans for you or the relationship, just the service they want you to offer. A few years back, one of my girlfriends entered a relationship. After a few weeks, the young man asked her to travel alone to another state during her free time to help his elder sister that just had a baby. (Bros!! how far?).  So, he found a girl that he thought was good enough to send for Omugwo. My friend is sharp; she didn’t go. They broke up a few months later; you can imagine. The list goes on: for women who turn young men to their family bank, or the guys that find a girl and promise her heaven and earth just so that she can help his mother when he travels abroad.  Sadly people fall for this plot and enter one chance. When they realize what’s going on, it’s too late, the relationship has gone too far, and someone has dashed them COBIL.

Back Door: These are the people who on purpose go through family members in an attempt to win a person’s heart. This is called using the ‘back door’.  In this case the people either have unsuccessfully tried to approach the person directly or believe using a family member is a surer and faster way. They get close to the person’s family members, buy gifts, inject themselves into their lives, and use them as weapons or use their own family members as baits and tools to lure the person to themselves. There’s a high chance of not winning the person of interest through the back door; this might equally earn you or make you give someone COBIL.

On the part of the family, it’s not also fair to introduce someone to them, and yank that person out of their lives when the relationship fails. I’m sure some of us that grew up with uncles and aunties know that feeling of pain when the person that supplies you biscuit and sweet stops coming. I mourned the end of some relationships of my relatives. Not just because of the goody-goody, but the connection that was made with these people was lost and I missed it.

Bringing family members very close at the beginning of a relationship has its downsides. They make decision-making and building a relationship a little tougher. I’ve witnessed situations where family members like a person more than the other part of the relationship duo. Hearing your mother’s voice in your head about how awesome a man or woman is, when you don’t feel the same, might just mess up some things for you. Of course if the opposite is the case, the hatred or dislike might not allow you make a right decision on what to do.

Finding a life partner is not easy; I’m absolutely convinced that family plays a huge role in the decision.   I support discussing the person of interest with family, talking about qualities, asking questions, etc. and hopefully having someone in your family that you confide in and get guidance.  But a face to face meeting, I believe should come later, because personal interaction is a different ball game. The marriage will be between you, the person and God. Those are the only people who should matter at the initial phase. I like to think of it like building a house. You start with the foundation and you make it as strong as possible. Get to know each other to a certain extent; at least be sure to a point that a future potentially exist. Then you can build the ‘house’ further by bringing in family. A strong relationship foundation can withstand a lot, peradventure you have issues with family acceptance but a weak one won’t stand a chance. When that foundation is strong, family love and acceptance will strengthen it and not complicate it. You also minimize the pain of a break-up when it’s necessary and save your family the trouble.

For those of us that are still yet to tie the knot, I suggest we avoid coulda-been-in-laws (COBIL) so there would be space for the real ones.

These are just my thoughts. Who agrees? Who has had an unnecessary COBIL or an encounter that might have led to one and how did you handle it? Who has a different opinion on when family should be involved, at what point and why? Do not hesitate to share in the Comments below.

While you’re at that,

Winnie says Have a Winning-Day!

WAW

Roses and Angels III

roses and angels

…continued from here

Mama died on the second week of her mourning, and the villagers shouted hosanna. The gods had again shown their inestimable strength and had done justice to Papa.

Three weeks passed, and you joined Uncle Ofodili and his family to their house – a house which few weeks ago you shared with your parents alone. Your cousins took over your little fancy room, and you slept in the kitchen.  You hated the hardness of the floor, and the cold which could not be absorbed by the faded wrapper that had become your bed. But you were grateful for the privacy it afforded you. So, you spent the nights praying, dwelling on the life you had with your parents, and studying your old books with the hope that Uncle Ofodili will one day ask you to resume school again.

But even that was short-lived. Your privacy was cut short by Uncle Ofodili who sneaked in every night and persuaded you in his baritone voice to ‘open your legs’. You were not sure what he wanted with your open legs, but your instincts and that leer in his eyes told you that what he desired of you was bad, very bad.

A week passed, and Uncle Ofodili did not stop coming. He was even more forceful with every passing day. The last time, he struck you, and when Aunty offhandedly enquired the cause of your black-eye, you lied to her that you fell. You feared that the worse will happen if Aunty found out herself, so one morning, after Uncle left for work, and after you had bathed Chika and Ikem and made breakfast, and done the dishes and scrubbed the house and dropped the children off at school, you braced up, and confided in Aunty. 

At first, she was shocked. She struck you with the china ware in her hands, and further pummeled you with every item within her reach. You pleaded with her, you told her you were sorry, and you will not err again, but her beating and curses drowned your pleas. That night, she called you a cursed child, and sent you out of the house, wearing nothing but your open wounds and a broken spirit.

It was Madam Janet, your new neighbour who took you in for the night. You recounted your ordeals to her and she let you spend the night in her apartment. She cleaned your wounds and offered you her guest room. Though you could still feel the pains running through your body, though you were still shivering in fright, you saw a glimmer of hope in Madam Janet. Maybe she would take you in, you thought.

But the next day, she asked you to leave. She feared for her young marriage. You pleaded gently, tears flowing like a spring, she said no. So you left, dazed, weary and craving for death.

Years passed and something happened within you, strengthening you, and  drowning your past. Until today, you have not given a serious thought to your parent, home, poetry or music. But today, history has not only resurrected in your mind. Today, history has taken a bold step towards you, and Uncle Ofodili, who was only a figment of that history, had journeyed out of the past, and found his way to your bedside.

You are shaking. The lights are still off when Johnny walks in. He is seething with fury and with his eyes as red as palm oil. He has obviously drowned himself in Cocaine again. Chief must have told him, but you do not care.

“You,” he spits, “you’re such a pig”

You give him reasons, but he doesn’t hear. “He’s a dick,” Johnny retorts, “just as the rest. Uncle or not, since you had fucked him, you shudda got me my fucking balance”.

He is holding your neck with such force you think it might as well snap. You scream, desperately flailing your hands on his stoic face. Vexed, he lets go of you, but before that, strikes his heavy fists on your face. He has hit you many times before, but this time, your screams are louder and your thoughts are still hung on the past, refusing like your shadow, to let go of you.

That evening, you resolve to leave Johnny, and your wrecked existence.

You park your few decent cloths and tips you hid away in your old shoes, and you leave town. The taxi driver is running at dangerous speed like an angry cheetah. But you do not even notice, so you do not complain. Your thoughts wander again.

The very next morning, Madam Janet true to her decision, sent you packing. You were stranded, lonely, shivering and hopeless. You walked the streets until dusk came and you panicked, while hunger gnawed at the ligaments of your belly. Slowly, night drew its dark curtains over the firmaments, and full blown anxiety sank into your heart. You were a solitary figure, a poignant image under a rotting electric pole, watching the people walking back and forth to their waiting destinations. No one spoke to you. Their faces were straight, and their feet, eager with motion.

 Then it pulled over, a small gulf with tinted glasses.

to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

Dear future me…

dear

Dear future me,

WHO AM I?

That is the question I was born with this morning.

In between puffs of cigarette smoke, our mutual friend asked, who are you? You should remember…I laughed, loud and hard, and opened my mouth to answer – but nothing.

I did not know. I do not know who I am.

You know me very well, brother, so you can understand why it came as a shock that I couldn’t answer that question. Shouldn’t I have had it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have had for an answer, words of wisdom, with fancy conjunctions stringing together their exquisitely-woven philosophies? I should have, right? But I did not. And I can‘t help but wonder if that is an answer by itself.

I do not know how long it has been for you since we wrote this letter, but I hope – I really hope – that you have an answer by now. There is also a lot more that I hope you are by now. There are some I hope you aren’t as well.

I hope our family is a huge part of who you are. I hope our parents are alive and aging well. I hope Poppa hasn’t gone bald (for both our sakes) and he still enjoys walking around the house in baggy Ankara trousers and looping singlets. I hope he still derives pleasure in swinging that broom – to rid cobwebs from a corner – or machete – to trim those flowers – or whatever equipment it is he is besotted with at the moment, with which he tends the house. I hope he has a lucrative line selling in Onitsha or Nnewi and that the umunna meetings he attends these days are filled more with laughter and camaraderie than anything else. I also hope he now has time to sit in the garden at night, surrounded by luxuriant grass swimming in a flood of garden-light, sipping something healthy and reading books. Somehow I know the dude is a reader, he just had to give it up even before he had the chance to choose it.

I hope Maama is old and agile, like granny; I hope the calls are less frequent, where she narrates her dreams and prescribes the bible verses that would cure the impending doom. I hope she still calls to pray for you and run her business ideas by you. Even though you do not need it, she probably tells you about every new job opening in the Federal Ministry because “government jobs dikwa very reliable”; I know you know to pretend to listen every time and say you’ll think about it. I know she’ll probably never be worry-less but I hope she is very happy, and that she got that doctorate degree she always wanted. I hope she has a horde of grandchildren whom she can fuss over, and worry over, and whom she can tell more of those folktales we heard very few of.

Talking of grandchildren, I hope you contributed – maybe even still contributing – a sizable chunk of that lot. I hope our siblings are well and alive, and still bound together by the laughter and unpretentiousness that made our childhood memorable. I hope you and Piro found a way to buy more land in one place, so that you built your houses within walking distance of each other, no gates or fences in between. I hope the girls visit during Christmas with their families, and I hope you all stay awake long into the night, gisting about nothing in particular, reminiscing and playing video games. And when the kids fall asleep, I hope they can do so easily and stay till morning regardless of whose house they are in at the time, Poppa’s, Piro’s or yours.

Fiona thinks what I just wrote doesn’t make any sense – yes, she’s reading over my shoulder; the woman never learnt either of courtesy or coyness. You know how big and chummy a family she comes from so she can’t possibly understand why I would, in her words, “make something so little to coman be looking imirimious”. This woman i

It’s been six hours since I typed that last ‘I’. After Fiona yabbed what I wrote, I shot back – I called her Phyno and told her to go collabo with Wande cole if she had nothing better doing. She hates it when any reference is made to the straggly hairs that occasionally sprout on her chin but I have boyfriend immunity so I call her Phyno. When I hit her with the line, she smacked me over the head; I spat chewed gum at her, and she started a pillow fight. We went through the throw pillows in the sitting room and went on to the large-size fluffy pillows in the bedroom and then…why am I recounting this? You know exactly what happened afterwards.

Anyway, Phyno is asleep now and I hope you married her. Because she’s a great girl. She says I only say it to get in her pants but you and I know I mean it when I say that she makes imperfection look perfect. I hope you married her and if you didn’t, I hope you married a truly beautiful woman who is your best friend. And I hope she married a man who loves her even more than I love her now.

Because you married her, I am sure that you love your wife with all that you are and will ever be (if you still have time left). I hope that she loves you just as much. I hope your dreams and passions align so that neither of you has to die so that the other can live; movies make those sad endings look sweet but really, man, the Word says that God gave us the earth and its fullness for a reason – to savor it!

I hope you know the Bible well enough now to know what verse it is I just quoted…and I hope you just smiled because there is no such verse. Or is there? Anyway, I hope you love our God nearly as much as I try to and I hope you worship him in the people whose paths cross yours every day.

I hope the future isn’t as shitty as we fear it will be. If it is, I know you have found a way to be happy while keeping life sane and productive in your immediate environment. I hope you have not given up on hope of a better future too; tell the children the lores of how we right now live in fear and suspicion of our own kin; use characters like the tortoise and the lion to relay to them how we in their past, go to bed afraid we’ll never wake only to wake wishing we never did. Don’t scare them oh, you bully; okay, scare them a little if you must, but let them learn the lesson – they must learn to live together like brothers or they will perish together as fools. For the adults, the ones with whom we dreamt big, drank down and pissed it all away, tell them you lot haven’t failed yet. For as long as you breathe and your hearts thud, failure cannot laugh in your faces yet. Don’t let him.

If it isn’t – if the future is not as shitty as we fear it will be – then I am glad I was one of those who hoped. I am glad that somewhere along the line, we did something right, something different, and turned it around for better. And I hope I played my part.

I read Long Walk to Freedom again today – don’t bother saying it. It’s just that I am constantly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the sacrifice he and all those other good people had to make for the prize of freedom. There are times when I find that I am all fired up about the good fight – like two days ago when the members of parliament ‘turned up’ in full glare of the public eye, or that time Piro was arrested and detained for not giving up his seat on the bus to a uniformed man. Times like that, I see thorns, red thorns.

But there are also those times when I think about the ‘goods’ of my life, and I find that I am not fired up for any fight whatsoever, good or bad. Like yesterday, just sitting, all snuggled up and watching Chioma Jesus music videos with Fiona; and that time last week when I stumbled upon that video clip from last Christmas, of mum dancing Alanta while we cheered. Times like that, I see roses, red roses.

I hope having to worry about such is already in your past. Because it would mean you survived it all. Evil thrives in a society when the good men do nothing – true; but it also thrives in a society where the good men are in a hurry to be good and get themselves killed off. There is a reason martyrs never get to laugh last.

I hope you never have to choose that path; I hope you never have to choose between the people or/and the things you love. And if it ever happens that you have to, I hope that somewhere in the life I have already lived, the life I am living now, or the life I will live before I become you, we learnt something that will help you make the right choice.

If you kept your part of our bargain, then it’s our birthday today. As you celebrate, I hope you have grown – not just aged – but really grown with every passing second of this shy but ruthless fellow called time. I trust that you are not worse, neither are you the same person I am right now; you are a better person. For that reason alone, it’s a pleasure knowing that I’ll be you.

Happy birthday.

Yours,

Me.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

Be kind, share and comment.

UNFORGIVEN – THE END

unforgiven

The dial tone came on as Ethel anticipated and she waited to hear her voice. Sheila. A name that would have been perfect for her daughter.

“Hi Daddy!” Sheila’s voice was young and strong.

“Hi Sheila. This isn’t your…daddy. This is…”

“Please no. I beg you. Don’t do this, please,” Charles was begging, unashamed.

It was the first time Ethel was seeing Charles express so much emotion over someone that wasn’t him and it touched somewhere in her unexpectedly. Why?

“Hello? Hello? Who is this?”

“I…I think I better let you talk to your father,” Ethel glanced at him, “he has a confession to make.”

“What? Daddy?”

Ethel held the phone towards Charles. “Either you do it or I do. I think she’d be able to take it if it comes from you, though. Your choice, honey”

“Please…I’ll…do…it. Just please, let me go,” he was bleeding less now, although the sheet beneath him was bloody.

“Tell her everything.”

And he did. Every sordid detail. There were times Ethel could sense that he wanted to stop talking, or even add a white lie but one look at her determined face changed his mind. He wept as he spoke; a captive of his own immoral craving.

As she held the phone to his ears listening to him confess, she waited for the feeling of relief, of fulfillment. She waited for the pain that hung in her heart like a road block to subside.

It will come, Ethel. Be patient.

She knew when he was done talking because he let out a loud wail that pierced the air. Sheila had hung up the phone on him.

He didn’t say a word; he just lay there sobbing.

“You want to know how I felt when I found out that you’d taken away what I treasured?” she asked. “Exactly like this. Now you will know a little of the pain I felt. Both physical and emotional.” She raised the knife again ready to deform him some more.

“Ethel! No!”

Her name rang out from somewhere behind her; she paused, her hands poised in the air.

“Ethel, drop it. Put down the knife now” It was Amaka.

“Why?”

“Because you don’t heal by hurting someone else. It’s not going to work. You’ll only be opening a new wound.”

“Don’t spin me those clichés, Amaka. What do you know? You’ve not been through what I have,” she didn’t lower the knife, neither did she look back. “You should stay away from me.”

“Well, if you want him, you’ll have to go through me first,” with that Amaka rushed forward and wedged herself between Ethel and Charles.

“Get away from him, Amaka”

“You first”

“What are you?” Ethel asked, exasperated.

“Your conscience. A voice of reasoning. Listen to me Eth, if you do this, God will forgive you alright but you…you will never forgive yourself.”

“Let her kill me. I have nothing…else to lose,” Charles whimpered.

“Don’t listen to him, Eth. You don’t need this nightmare, you don’t need more problems.”

“But…how do I stop hurting? How do I go on living, knowing what I know? How?” Ethel couldn’t stop the tears that were flowing from her eyes.

“You can’t do it on your own, honey. God is here to help and so am I. Put down the knife, sweetie, please,”

Ethel lowered her hand.

“I can’t live with it. I just can’t,”

“Crazy bitch! Kill me! Kill me!” Charles screamed.

Ethel stood still for a split second and then suddenly she crumpled to the floor.

“Ethel? Eth?” Amaka dashed to her side, “Jesus Christ. She stabbed herself! Ma! She’s bleeding! We need to get her to a hospital now!”

Ethel’s mother materialized from where she’d been hiding and rushed to her daughter’s side.

“Eno! Eno ooh! Jesus ooh!”

“That won’t help, let’s get her to the car and you drive her to the hospital, okay?”

The blood was gushing out from the knife wound and Ethel’s head lolled from side to side as she fought with consciousness.

Both women heaved Ethel across the house to Amaka’s waiting car with Ethel’s mother muttering ‘blood of Jesus’ repeatedly.

“Take the car; I have to go attend to that man. Take her to the Specialist hospital close by. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

Ethel’s mother was weeping as she took the keys from Amaka.

“Don’t worry, ma. I’ll be praying for her.”

With that Amaka returned to the house to set about freeing Charles.

*****************

 

The day Ethel was discharged from the hospital, her mother was there helping her along; little wonder since Ethel’s bones seemed to be threatening to burst out of her skin. She was weak and had lost a generous amount of weight.

Her survival was a testimony Amaka couldn’t stop sharing. She told how Ethel had been in the theatre for thirteen hours because the knife wound had been fatal and deeper than expected. It was obvious that she’d intended to kill herself.

Even after the surgery, the doctors had kept her heavily sedated because she was still fragile. It wasn’t until four days later that she opened her eyes and even then she kept slipping in and out of consciousness. The doctor who kept checking on her told Amaka that Ethel’s problem was more psychological than physical. She seemed to have lost the will to live and if that was the case, no amount of surgery could save her.

For the first time since it all began, Amaka cried for her friend. She knelt by the bed and broke down in tears. She sat beside her all day and talked to her even though it didn’t seem like she could hear and then she told Pastor Tim everything.

When she finally revitalized her will to live, her mother was on hand to hire a personal therapist for Ethel against her will.

“I almost killed him. What does that make me? A monster, yes. I am a terrible, terrible person. Why should I live?” Ethel often told the therapist.

“But you didn’t.”

“I wanted to. I would have, I know.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted vengeance. I wanted to stop the pain.”

“How do you feel now?”

“Like a monster. I know everyone thinks I’m crazy. Am I?”

“What do you think?”

“I asked you a question and you are asking me back. Isn’t it your job to tell me whether I am crazy or not?” she sighed. “Go away. I’m tired.”

And so the sessions continued. Sometimes Ethel was calm and reasonable, at other times she was irrational and lashed out unnecessarily. She also hated the fact that her mother moved in with her temporarily.

“Don’t you get it, Amaka! She’s still the same person she was years ago! She caused this!” she screamed one day.

“I think it’s time you stopped playing the blame game. Your mother has nothing to do with what is happening to you now. This is you, Eth. Until you accept that, you will never truly be free.”

“You’re being harsh. You’re taking her side.”

“No. I’m telling you the truth. I love you Eth but I can’t bear to see you like this. You can’t forgive your mother, how do you expect to forgive yourself?”

“I feel dirty. I feel like I can’t talk to God anymore…after everything I did.”

“Sweetie, that’s where you’re wrong, Jesus is here to intercede for us. Because of Jesus you can approach God’s throne without fear or guilt. He still loves you as much as He did when you first accepted Him.”

The words brought tears to her eyes and Ethel marveled how Amaka’s perceptive words usually did more for her than her sessions with the therapist.

It was four months after her suicide attempt that Amaka dropped the bombshell. She was doing better already; had regained her former weight and returned to her job and also the church, her sessions still continued but she was coping better with them and with her mother.

“I have something to tell you, Eth.” Amaka’s face looked grave which was strange, especially since she had just finished teaching her kids.

“Oh no. What is it now?”

“Pastor Tim just told me. You might want to sit down for this.”

“What is it? Spill it.”

“It’s Charles. He was involved in an accident last night. They said he was drunk and driving when he collided with a tree.”

“Oh my God! No! Is he okay?”

Amaka took a deep breath, “by the time they found him he was dead. He suffered a brain hemorrhage.”

“Oh…no…no…no.”

“I’m sorry dear,” Amaka opened her arms and embraced her.

Ethel felt the walls closing in on her. Why did this have to happen just when she was finding peace with herself and God? Charles was dead because of her!

The guilt came flooding in like before.

“When is the funeral?” she asked quietly.

“This weekend. What, you want to go?”

“I have to. I don’t know why but I have to. This is my entire fault. He’s dead because of me,” she sniffed.

“Stop it Eth. This has nothing to do with you. You’ve paid your dues, hon. Attend the funeral if you’re up for it but not because you feel guilty.”

Ethel leaned forward and hugged Amaka again, smiling through her tears.

“You’re the absolute best. Thank God I met you,” she said.

“Same here, hon. But I need to know…how are you doing? How do you feel?”

“I had a dream last night. I think I saw angels…then one of them smiled at me and said, ‘you’re forgiven’. I woke up feeling absolutely refreshed. I even had a real conversation with my mother. So I think, I’m not where I’m supposed to be yet but I’m not where I am months ago. I actually feel forgiven.”

“Good. Because you are.”

“You think life will ever return to normal for me, Amy?”

“Better than normal, Eth. You have a blank page in front of you…write in it.”

Ethel beamed at her friend. Those were the best words she’d heard in a long while.

 

THE END.

 

 by Mimi Adebayo

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The ride has been a pleasure for me, the writer; thanks to you, my faithful readers and to Chisom for featuring me. It’s been a pleasure writing this series knowing I’d have y’all here waiting to read. I couldn’t have asked for better.

                Now I know the Charles and Ethel saga might not have ended as you wanted or expected it to, but this is how my Muse led me; my Muse being God Almighty. Life has never been a bed of roses (clichés, I know), the question is how do you handle the thorns, the things that deter you? This is a story of thorns and road bumps in the journey of life; I hope that among other things you were able to learn something remarkable from it.

                I appreciate those who read and took the extra step to comment. Wow! Lovely people y’all are. As for the silent readers…hehehehe, there is God in everything we’re doing. I assure you this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me. I hope to always see you on here. And please endeavor to mark the end of the series by dropping a comment no matter how short or tacky.

Lots of love, everyone. Ciao!

– Mimi A.

               

 

UNFORGIVEN X

…continued from UNFORGIVEN IX

unforgiven

“What does this mean? Why would she have written this report? Are you saying she…” the import of what he was about to imply hit Ethel with a wave and she stumbled.

“Eth, you okay?” Amaka asked.

“No. No I’m not. That bastard had the guts to take me to the hospital his wife worked in! And what is this about an induced abortion?” the picture was coming together in her head slowly.

“Er…I don’t want to make assumptions but it seems you ingested a fair amount of Mizoprostol during your pregnancy which eventually caused the loss of your baby.”

“Are you saying my miscarriage was deliberate? I don’t understand, tell me!” Ethel was near hysterical.

“Calm down Eth. Tell me, did you take any medication at any point during your pregnancy?”

“No, I don’t think so. I…wait. Yes. Both times Charles gave me some prescriptions which he said…he’d gotten from his doctor…he said he was…taking care of me…” her voice shook as the tears pooled in her eyes.

“Eth, did you…check what the medication was? Did you even ask?” Amaka’s voice was soft.

“I trusted him! He said it would make me feel better. Take away the morning sickness…” she sank to her knees, hugging herself. “He lied…he lied…he killed my babies…my babies…no…”

Amaka knelt beside her and put her arms around her; not knowing what else to say to comfort her friend.

“He lied… murderer. My babies…my babies…”

“We aren’t sure yet Eth, it might have been something else,” even as she said it, Amaka knew it was a lie. Charles was the culprit and he’d used his wife to cover up his crime.

“No! No!” Ethel thrashed around, hysterical. “No, my babies!”

Tayo rushed into the kitchen, his eyes wide in alarm.

“Babe, what is it?” he asked as he surveyed the scene before him.

“Tell you later hon. Please help me get her to bed. She’s just had a bad shock and I don’t think she can stand; please babe.”

They both helped Ethel to her feet and dragged her limp figure to the spare bedroom.

None of them could tell what was running through Ethel’s mind because her eyes took on a glazed look as they lay her on the bed. She whimpered between intervals calling out to her babies.

Amaka was torn apart as she watched her friend. She wished she could help but knew that this was a battle Ethel needed to fight alone. She’d been through a lot; that much Amaka had figured out over the past few days.

Suddenly she got an idea; she picked up Ethel’s purse and fished out her phone. She scrolled through it, found what she wanted and made the call.

*******

Sleep evaded her like a thief on the prowl but she didn’t notice. Her mind seemed both dead and alive at the same time. The voices were louder and more frequent as she lay on the bed in a foetal position.

He killed them. My babies!

He saved you from being like your mother!

You would’ve been a terrible mother; the worst.

He never even gave me the chance!

You didn’t deserve one.

And as she lay on the bed struggling with her thoughts, her head began to replay the events of the years before.

Charles’ transformation from the angry boyfriend to an overly caring father-to-be, his constant waiting on her hand and foot. The insistence to take her to his hospital when she first began experiencing her second miscarriage.

It all made sense now; he’d planned it, carefully and without any mistakes. He’d cold heartedly taken away her babies. He hadn’t wanted to upset his wonderful, picture-perfect family so he’d taken away hers.

Damn him!

Will God punish him? Will He make him suffer like she had suffered, like she was, even now?

Or will he live life as usual? Leaving her scarred?

She didn’t notice when the room was bathed in darkness as Amaka left her, neither did she know when she drifted off to sleep with her tear-stained face.

******

When she opened her eyes, it took her some minutes to adjust to the brightness of the room.

“Eno, how are you?”

She jerked at the sound of the voice. Her mother. No one else called her that except her mother. What was she doing here?

She sat up, her head feeling heavy.

“What are you doing here? Who called you? What do you want?” she croaked, apprehensive. The memory of the previous night came flooding.

“Eno, calm down. I heard you were not…feeling too fine and I…” her mother reached out to touch her.

Ethel jerked away with a squeal. “Don’t. Touch. Me.”

“Eno, please…” her pain oozed out of every pore on her body. It was always a difficult thing when a mother was rejected by her child.

“Leave me alone! Get out! I want to be alone! Where’s Amaka! All of you are betrayers! You! Charles! All of you!” she was hysterical now; thrashing about, a near-crazed look in her eyes.

Mum stared at her, her hands spread out in a helpless motion before her.

I don’t need you anymore ma. You were never there when I needed you so get away from me! Ethel screamed aloud in her head.

“Amaka, I want to see Amaka,” she spoke out, “I want my phone.”

“Eno, she went to work. She asked me to stay with you because…she felt you needed help.”

“I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help! You are a traitor! A prostitute! Don’t you see what you are?”

The slap was unexpected. Ethel couldn’t remember when last her mother had touched her – affectionately or otherwise. She was momentarily stunned.

“Are you mad? Or do you want to be? Nonsense. Don’t ever talk to me like that. I don’t care how sick you are. I gave birth to you and raised you so you better watch your mouth, young lady,” Mum said.

Ethel refused to heed to the tears that threatened to pour, instead she pulled herself up from the bed, picked her purse that lay on the nightstand and made for the door.

“Where are you going, madam?”

She didn’t answer as she stormed out of the room, banging the door behind her.

“Eno! Eno!” Mum called, rushing after her.

“Leave me alone! I hate you!” she screamed as she dashed out of the house and into the street, nearly running into a car.

In her distraught state, she flagged down a cab and jumped in, gave him her address and smiled in satisfaction as he zoomed away, leaving her mother waving frantically at her in the distance.

You’re crazy.

No, I’m not. She deserves it. She’s terrible.

You’re going to hurt yourself.

I can’t be anymore hurt than I am now.

The voices were at it again; louder than ever this time.

“Shut up,” Ethel whispered. She didn’t notice the cab driver glance at her in his mirror.

She rummaged in her purse and took out her phone and dialled.

“Hello Charles. It’s me. Oh, yes. Ethel. I..uh…decided to take you up on your offer. What are you doing right now?” She paused, listening. “Uh…can you come to my house now? I have something special planned for you. Oh yes, I changed my mind. Because I missed you…and I can’t take it anymore. I want to see you…in like, thirty minutes. Uhmmm…yes, yes…okay bye!”

As she hung up, she felt the bile rise in her throat. She was going to see him one last time and give him a present. She’ll make him pay for every tear he caused her to shed. And for her babies he took away.

Pay-back time, Charlie boy.

When the cab driver dropped her off, she rushed to her bedroom to get ready. Charles was going to be here any minute. She opened her box, the one she’d taken with her when she left her mother’s house three years ago. It was the box that Charles had left her when he’d thrown her out. She hadn’t opened the box since she came to Abuja and restarted her life. It brought back bad memories so she had kept it locked away.

Now, as she took out the red lingerie he’d bought her years ago, the tears threatened to pour. This man, who she’d given four years of her life to, had repaid her by taking away her babies. A man she had considered spending the rest of her life with!

The rage gripped her as she thought of the past. She slipped out of her clothes, slid into the lingerie and went in search of the handcuffs.

Charles had liked kinky sex. According to him, he never had that with his wife. So, he’d bought her cuffs and a few other sex toys which she’d kept locked away.

She’d never known she would need it again. Until now.

She stroked the cuffs, smiling at her plan. If God wasn’t going to punish Charles, she was. She wouldn’t wait till the judgment day and the Lake of fire. He deserved punishment now.

Her next stop was the kitchen. She retrieved what she needed from there and went back to the bedroom.

At that point, the doorbell rang. Charles could never resist a booty call.

 

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

A MOTHER’S HEART

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Narrator: KC’s phone rings just as he steps out of the shower. He is going to ignore it because he is late for work…no, make that VERY late for work; but his eye spies the caller ID and it is Mummy. He shoots a furtive glance at the wall clock and the positions of the hands on the timepiece elicit a sigh from him. He takes the call.

You will find out more about Mummy at the end of this story, but for now, let me share with you two things about her calls. One, you better pick them; everyone knew that if Mummy called and you didn’t pick, she would only keep calling back. And if your phone turned unreachable, she started calling everybody she knew who knew you and she would badger them until they badgered you into calling her back. The second thing to remember about Mummy KC’s calls is that they were never short: so the first thing you bought immediately you left home long-term was a Bluetooth headset.

Back to KC now; he adjusts his headset and while struggling into his boxers, takes the call.

Mummy: Helloww

KC: Maama! How far?

Mummy: (snickers) Nna m, I’m fine. Itetagokwa ura?

Narrator: Hehe…I know right? See, Mummy is one of those women who don’t like to be reminded just how fast the world changed in the time it took her to birth, raise and watch two children grow into adulthood. She once said that whenever KC calls her ‘Maama’, she feels like Mama Gee – Gee for General!

KC: Yes, mum, I’m up. Err…I’m preparing for work now so…

Mummy: Have you heard?

Narrator: I mean, who is he kidding? The toad doesn’t run in the daytime for nothing abi? Tsk tsk tsk

KC: (sigh) Heard what, mum?

Mummy: Ebola nu nu. They said you should put salt in hot water and baff with it before six o’clock. It is the only way to escape that disease now oh.

Narrator: KC freezes with one and half of his trouser sleeves on. He wonders if he just heard right.

Mummy: Kaycee? Hellllooowwww?

KC: Mummy, anom ebea. I heard you. Biko where did you hear that one from?

Mummy: Oh so you haven’t heard? Kai, devil is a liar! Oya, go and take your bath now now, with plenty of salt. It’s almost six o’clock oh…evil people. Who knows where they were hiding this news since and people have been dying like fowl, na-anwusi ka okuko! Tufiakwa!

Narrator: By now, KC isn’t listening anymore. He has his trousers all the way on and belted on tight. He has just done up the collar button of his shirt; now he pins on his cuff-links and reaches for his tie.

Mummy: Kenechukwu! Ahn ahn…what is wrong with this network people bikonu

KC: Onwero, mummy, nothing. The network is fine, I heard everything you said.

Mummy: Oh, thank God. Have you plugged in the mmiri oku? Get plenty of salt to add to it and…

KC: Asago m aru, mummy. I’ve already had my bath and I am late for work.

Mummy: Oh! You see their plan? Okwa ifuru ya? See why they did not spread this news kemgbe. Hm…don’t worry, nnaa, you will drink it. Just put cup into one salt of hot water and – chai, what am I even talking sef. (flustered) KC, nwere nnu tinye

KC: Mummy, I heard you the first time. I cannot do that. This is ridiculous nah, don’t you know salt is a serious dehydrating agent and can kill somebody when drunk carelessly? Haba!

Narrator: The man is getting angry now, more flustered than angry really. And Mummy can hear it in his voice – she birthed him after all. The wise woman knows she must change her tactics and quickly, she does.

Mummy: Oh ok, nna m. You are correct. I remember now, it is true. Ngwanu, just pour it on your body. You can boil small water – ntonto mmiri – with salt, run back into the baffroom and pour it on your body sharp sharp.

KC: And be smelling salt-salt when I get to work? Because I am now Ukwu nnu, okwa ya?

Mummy: (laughs)

KC: (hesitates for a split second…and laughs too)

Narrator: I laugh too jare. Heehehehe…okay, let me help you understand. ‘Ukwu nnu’ literally translates to ‘waist of salt’; it is a term used among Igbo folk, to address a lady who has a great future behind her. You know the ones bah? The ladies who are generally well endowed in matters of the waist and behind.

Anyway it happened that as Ada – Mummy’s other child – grew into maturity, she fit the ‘Ukwu nnu’ specifications more and more. Her brother first called her the name in a bid to spite her but she took it very well – too well, in fact – and soon, she was christened Ukwu nnu, in-house only of course.

That’s the joke. Oya back to Mummy, she is saying something…

Mummy: This boy, aru adiro gi. I’m serious joor. It is even Ukwu nnu that sent me the text message; I called her and she told me that she was baffing the children with hot water and salt already.

KC:  mock02

Narrator: Ada, a.k.a Ukwu nnu, is a doctor; not a doctor of Nursing or of Psychology or a native doctor oh – a MEDICAL doctor. She is practicing too, not as much as she would have loved to though because she and her husband have three children all below the age of 7, but practicing nevertheless.

So you know what KC is thinking: “Ada too?”

Mummy: Kaaayyyceee! Talk to me nau.

KC: Mummy, this is silly. How can Ada bath those children in salt water? Do you know how salt feels against the skin when left for long without washing it off? And how it smells?

Mummy: No no…mba nu, not like that. Immediately you baff with it, the salt will penetrate inside your body and kill all the Ebola. The small that remains on your body you can wash out with water and even rub pomade sef; onwekwanu onye ga-ama na iji nnu saa aru? Nobody will know.

KC: Mummy, just stop it please. These things you are saying don’t make any sense to me and even if they did, I am late for work. I can’t go back into the bathroom to have another bath!

Mummy: Ok, nna m, don’t shout oh? But you’re wearing long sleeve and trouser to work, okwa ya?

KC: No, ma. I’m wearing net singlet and iron pant – today is Cultural Day at the office.

Narrator: Oooooh boy…dude is not smiling!

Mummy: (lets out a half-hearted snicker) silly boy. Please can you just take a little hot water, mix it with salt and wash only your hands and head?

KC: Mummy…

Mummy: Please kwanu, nna m. For my sake, biko. I know you don’t believe it but do it ka obi ruo nu nne gi ana. Ehn, please let your mother’s head be at rest nau.

Narrator: If you have a mother, you know what comes next. She will tune her voice to that frequency mothers alone know which will make the inside of the left side of your chest feel liquid. Then she will start to talk in a voice that is choked – but really only SOUNDS choked – on tears. And she will soon remind you how she carried you in her womb for nine months and how your birth was especially the hardest among all her children because your head was so big.

KC: Kai…what kind of wahala is this now?

Mummy: Kenechukwu biko, do this for your mother. I will never beg you to do anything like this again, maka Chukwu – I swear.

Narrator: Story!

KC: (sighs) Fine I have heard. Oya cut the phone and I will do it when…

Mummy: No, don’t worry, I have credit…I want to hear when you’re doing it.

KC:lonely02

Narrator: Poor guy!

So he is fully dressed right now but for his jacket, and the time is just five minutes shy of 6am. If he will avoid the worst of the CMS-Marina traffic, he will need to leave his house latest 6:15. He also knows that these five minutes before 6am will be the most miserable of his day if he doesn’t heed Mummy; so he click-clacks into the kitchen, plugs in the kettle and perches on the kitchen counter waiting for the little water to boil. Through all of this, he tries not to dwell on the fact that his mother is on the other end listening to him bustle around – it feels weird because he thinks that this situation is the kind one only found oneself in with a lover.

The kettle whistles.

Mummy: Enhen, it has boiled.

KC: I know joor, shebi it is me that plugged it?

Mummy: Ok sorry. Ngwa put salt and wash your hands and your head.

Narrator: KC pours a little hot water in a bowl, dilutes it with even less cold water, pours in some salt and begins to wash his hand in it. Then he shuts his eyes tight, bends his head over the sink and starts to wash his head, taking care not to wet the headset stuck in his left ear. He has this odd feeling that he ought to be saying some incantations, to complete the ritual. And he feels thoroughly stupid.

KC: (voice muffled by lips pressed nearly shut against the torrent of warm salty water) You said what?

Narrator: What? She said something? Oh wait…she is praying! Lawd, we nearly missed that. While KC is doing the rituals, Mummy is doing the incantations.

Mummy: (speaking in tongues) Roboskatatatatat Yerimamamamamam Shokotoreskitidididi. Every monitoring spirit of virus and viruses, all the evil Ebola demons trying to steal Kenechukwu’s soul. My son is a son of the king – nwa Eze – and no weapon fashioned against him shall prosper. I send you out now, you stupid Ebola. Holy Ghost…fayaaa! Holy ghost…fayaaaa!!

Narrator: At this point, KC doesn’t know whether to feel loved, grateful or embarrassed. He has ad enough; he calmly removes the headset from his ear and pours the last of the saline mixture over his head, unsuccessfully trying to keep it off his collar. Might as well finish what he started.

He walks back into the bathroom, wipes the wetness off his head and hands with a towel and afterwards, dabs on some cream. He unrolls a strip of gum – he hasn’t had any breakfast – and pops it in his mouth before shrugging on his jacket. Then he grabs his keys and briefcase, and rushes out.

He has just driven past the estate gates when Mummy calls back.

KC: (sigh) Mummy?

Mummy: Nna m, don’t mind this network people. I have prayed for you, you are covered with the blood of Jizoos oh?

KC: (dryly) Amen

Mummy: (exhales) Enhen, they also said you should be eating aki-ilu. You know aki-ilu nau – bitter kola?

KC: (distracted) Unhuh

Mummy: It is bitter oh, but it has antibiotics and anti-fungus. You know I read Biology in Sandwich, I know. It is very powerful oh.

Narrator: KC can’t help the smile that creeps across his face, just before he shakes his head. This woman has indeed mastered the art of being impossible and adorable, both at once.

KC: I know, mum. It is very strong. In fact, I am chewing some now

Narrator: He blows up a tiny gum bubble, pops it and continues to chump with a smile. It is banana-flavored, his favorite.

Mummy: Oh, wonderful. Thank God. Kenechukwu, okwa ima that if you do fast and marry, I won’t be disturbing you like this again. Your wife will be taking good care of you and I will only be calling her as a consultant when…

KC: (bursts out in loud laughter)

Narrator: EL-OOOH-EEL!!!

Mummy: (chuckles)

KC: Mama the mama! Nne m, I have to go now biko. We will talk later, bye bye.

Mummy: Ok, nna m. Bye bye.

Narrator: KC is now sitting in traffic jamming its way up Eko bridge towards the Island. He sighs. She finally did it, he is thinking, got me to go to work late. His phone beeps and he flips open the message; it is a picture file from Kunle:

images

 

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

 

UNFORGIVEN IX

…continued from UNFORGIVEN VIII

unforgiven

She told how she’d met Charles, in a night club on the day she turned twenty-two. Her ‘friends’ had taken her out to celebrate and she and Charles had hit it off almost instantly. He had been wearing his wedding ring that night, which was unusual and yet that was what had thrilled Ethel. She’d long since made up her mind to live the kind of life her Mum did but in a classier way. She didn’t sleep around with every Tom, Dick and Harry who had money, she picked her men. Older, married and damn rich. She didn’t want love so she went with married men. At least those ones had wives to have and to hold; all she did was stroke their egos and satisfy them how she knew.

At the time she met Charles she’d been single. Just ended a relationship with a former lecturer who wasn’t ready to meet her financial needs. Stingy man and not so good looking too!

Charles had been it. Many married men took off their wedding ring when hitting on a girl, not Charles. He’d confidently struck up a conversation with her and eventually asked her to dance. Their first dance had been breathtaking and intense. Their chemistry was instant and standing so close to him had made Ethel feel like she’d explode with longing. And yet they had not touched each other that first night. Not even a kiss. He’d dropped her off at her hostel and requested a date.

“You sure your Missus won’t be mad?” she teased, drunk.

“Definitely not as mad as I am for you,” he’d re-joined.

One date turned into two, then three and finally their fifth date they couldn’t stay off each other anymore. They sat in his car, afraid to touch before the passion exploded beyond control.

“What do we do?” he asked.

“We can’t go to my hostel. We can’t go to your house.”

“A hotel?”

“No. I don’t want that. We have to reach an agreement.”

“I’m listening.”

“What do you want from me? A one-night stand?”

“Sweetheart, we’ve had one too many dates for this to just be a one-night stand.”

“Good. So you want more. And I want more too but not love.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I am not interested in falling in love with you and I want it to be clear. There isn’t going to be any love declarations blah blah blah. You have your life. I have mine. I will not sleep with anyone else while I’m with you, though.”

“Why not?” he was smiling, not believing that they were having this conversation.

“Because unlike some people, I do believe AIDs is real and I want to live awhile. Besides I will be too spent to juggle more than one guy, after I finish with you,” her voice was husky.

“So where’s the catch?”

“I want an apartment where we can meet. Then of course, my upkeep. I am, after all, to be your mistress.”

There and then the deal had been struck. The next time they met it was at Ethel’s new apartment and finally all their desires were sated.

Life with Charles was good. He treated her well; there was no time to fight because they knew nothing about each other to fight about. Everything about them was physical. Until ‘disaster’ struck.

Ethel became pregnant in the twenty-fifth month of their relationship. It was unexpected and obviously unwanted. A lot of blame went around; Charles blamed her, then she blamed him, he blamed her again until they realized they needed a solution.

Ethel didn’t want kids. Not with the kind of childhood she’d grown up with. She wanted a life free of encumbrances. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the thing growing inside her. Fear impeded her. What if she died? She’d heard stories of girls who went in for abortions and never came out the same. They were either dead or damaged. Did she want that?

She told Charles of her fears and eventually decided to have the child and give it up for adoption or something. She was that afraid to be a mother. Charles saw she’d made up her mind and stopped arguing with her and instead became more attentive to her. If she was going to be the mother of his baby, he’d better treat her right, he said.

It didn’t last long though because it was somewhere in her tenth week, she started having cramps and saw blood. She was alone at home that evening and had called Charles who immediately came over and took her to the hospital. The doctors confirmed that she’d lost the pregnancy.

It hadn’t hurt that much then. She consoled herself that it was answered prayers. She didn’t want the child in the first place so God had saved her and the child further grief. Charles spent more time with her as she recovered, treated her like a wife and not a mistress and it was during this time that Ethel realized she’d begun to fall in love with him. She wanted more. She wanted to feel like she actually belonged to someone. To him. She didn’t know whether it was the pregnancy that had made her go soft, all she knew was that she wanted more of him.

The second pregnancy had been planned by her, in the fourth year of their relationship. She’d done everything she could to get Charles to commit more to her; to fall in love with her but it hadn’t seemed to work. And truth was she’d begun to feel the pangs of motherhood. The first pregnancy had opened up something in her that made her rethink everything she’d formerly believed in. And it suddenly dawned on her that she wanted children, a family with the man she loved.

When she got pregnant this time, she waited till her twelfth week to tell Charles. She wanted to be sure that the danger of miscarrying the pregnancy had passed.

Charles froze. He yelled. He couldn’t believe she’d gotten pregnant again after the first mistake, hadn’t she learned anything?

She’d screamed at him too; excuse me for getting pregnant for you! I didn’t know I’d make such a terrible mother!

It’s not about you, woman! Don’t you get it?

Well, it’s my body and my baby and I’m having it. So prepare to be a father!

How far along are you?

Three months.

And you’re just telling me now?

I wanted to make sure it stayed.

How come I didn’t notice?

Because you were too busy admiring my breasts that had grown bigger.

The shouting abated and Ethel tried to convince Charles that this was a good thing. They could start a family together.

Maybe that would’ve happened if the pregnancy had stayed. It hadn’t. A week later, the cramps came in fuller force that brought tears to Ethel’ eyes. For the first time in a long time as she doubled over in the toilet, vomiting and losing blood at the same time, she prayed. She asked God to save her baby. Just this once.

He hadn’t. Like before she ended up in the hospital, worse off than the first time because she was broken in body, soul and spirit.

Charles had dropped her off in the hospital and disappeared. She later found out that he’d paid the bills in advance. Her recovery had been slow and painful and the cramps had continued for a week. At a point Ethel had thought she was going to die.

She cried day and night for her unborn child and eventually she’d been discharged. When she got to her apartment, she found that she’d been locked out and Charles had left her.

It was like another nail in her coffin. Her man had left her without a word. She’d swallowed her pride and gone back to her mum.

That had been the lowest point of her life. She’d fallen into a depression so bad that she’d once attempted suicide.

It was after her suicide attempt that she packed her things and moved to Abuja.

 

“That’s it, Amaka. Charles showed up in church on Sunday and he’s Pastor’s step-brother. I didn’t know what to do,” she concluded.

“That’s not important for now. What I want is to get to the bottom of this,” she waved the paper in front of her. “Who gave you this report?”

“I don’t understand what that means. I recently got a visit from…er…Charles’ wife,” Ethel shrugged.

“Why would she give you this?”

“She said something about it telling me the kind of man Charles is. Tell me what it is.”

“It’s a medical report. Look, it’s dated 2010. Do you remember the name of the hospital Charles took you to when you had your miscarriage?”

“Er…that was when I had my second miscarriage. I can’t remember the hospital’s name.”

“Okay, wait. Look at this. The signature of the doctor that wrote this report. It looks like someone’s name. Does it look familiar?”

Ethel took the paper and stared hard at the signature. It was difficult but eventually she made out the name.

“Felicia…Umoh,” she read out slowly.

It was only when the name had escaped her lips that it dawned on her.

Oh. My. God

 

To be continued next week…

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN VIII

…continued from Unforgiven VII

unforgiven

“What on earth are you talking about Amaka?” the bewildered expression on Ethel’s face couldn’t be faked.

“You know how you promised to talk about Charles Umoh before you ran out on me that day?” Amaka was glowering at her.

Ethel nodded slowly, “I’m sorry about that Amy. I just…I guess I wasn’t ready then.”

“And now?”

“Now I just want to go home. I’ve had a long day and…what’s this about…an abortion?” the meeting with Charles had left Ethel in a disagreeable mood and really she didn’t want it to rub off on Amaka. Her sense of urgency, the need to get out of church to where she’d feel a bit saner, was increasing.

“I think you’re gonna want to hear this, so tonight you’re coming home with Tayo and I. This hide-and-seek you’ve been playing with me, ends now,” it was the sternest she’d ever seen Amaka and Ethel knew she wasn’t getting off this one easily.

“Amaka, please…”

“No. No pleases tonight Eth. We’re going home to talk about this.”

“I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Not a problem. I’ll make sure you’re home early enough tomorrow to get set for work. Or better still, if you finish off your story early…we’d get you back home tonight. Capiche?”

“Yes ma,” she let the sarcasm creep into her voice.

“Now I think you’d want to look at what’s in that envelope before we talk. Tayo should be here any minute with baby Sharon.”

If there was anything Ethel hated, it was being put on the spot. She knew however that there was no hiding away from this confrontation with Amaka. She had to come clean about everything. Even yesterday. But would she be bold enough to tell Amaka that if not for the fact that she and Charles had wound up outside last night, she’d have willingly jumped into his arms, his bed again? What did that say of her? She’d been willing to give the devil a chance at her again!

Would Amaka understand that this thing between her and Charles couldn’t be salvaged by time and distance alone? Would she know what it meant to feel such a destructive love for a man? She, after all had the perfect life. Perfect husband and child, everything about her screamed perfection and sometimes it hurt Ethel that she couldn’t have a normal life like Amaka. Those were thoughts she didn’t intend to voice, though.

“Are you reading this at all?” Amaka’s voice jolted her from her reverie.

Ethel hadn’t realised that she’d taken out the paper from the envelope and had spread it before her. Her thoughts had been elsewhere. Now to read this mystery-something; she blinked, looking at the numbers, squiggles and letters. They were written in doctor shorthand. It was obvious it was a medical report. The only thing that made sense to her was her name written in the space provided for ‘Patient’s Name’.

“What’s this? I don’t understand. You know I can’t read a doctor’s report,” she accused.

“Well, good thing I can.” Amaka had done a stint in the nursing school during her earlier years. She retrieved the paper from Ethel’s hand and spread it out.

“Wait, shouldn’t we wait till we get to your house? I’m not comfortable doing this in church,” Ethel looked around nervously. She had a feeling Amaka was about to open up a can of worms and she wanted it done somewhere private. Although the church was almost empty now, Ethel couldn’t help feeling like God’s eyes were staring down at her, huge and disapproving.

“Let me get Tayo and we’ll leave. If that makes you comfortable,” she sighed as she stood. “If you like, disappear again. It is what you’re good at, abi? I’ll take this paper with me, as insurance.”

Ethel didn’t reply. Amaka had never reprimanded her in such a manner before and she knew she had a right to be angry. She’d behaved like a child to the only person she could really call a friend in this town. No matter what, Amaka deserved an audience and no matter how squeamish it made Ethel feel, she knew she couldn’t bail out on her again.

The drive to Amaka’s house was quiet except for bursts of laughter from baby Sharon and the occasional flippant question from Tayo. Ethel didn’t know whether Amaka told her husband everything and frankly, she didn’t intend to find out. Let him judge her! Let him look at her with pity, she didn’t care! None of them knew what she’d gone through so they had a right to their opinion! So she wasn’t perfect like them, she didn’t have the most spectacular Christian life but Lord knows she was trying. God, how she was!

So, go ahead and judge me Tayo. Look at me with those glassy eyes of yours and pretend to not feel anything, even pity. I don’t care!

The painful thing was that she did care. She cared what these people thought of her because she was actually making an effort to be a better person.
Stop making any efforts. Let me do that for you.
She knew that voice anywhere. It was coming from somewhere deep in her soul. It was different from all the other voices; calm, soothing and all-knowing. It was deep calling out to deep. This wasn’t her head talking or her mind rationalizing, this was better – a voice providing solutions.

Cast all your burdens on Me; no worries.

In the backseat of her friend’s Volkswagen, Ethel felt her heart begin to come apart. She wanted to do so many things at the same time. Scream, weep, go on her knees and even sing but she sat, still. Holding on to the cherished words of assurance.

When they got to the house, Amaka led her without a word to the kitchen after handing baby Sharon over to her husband.

“We can talk here but first let me say something,” she took her friend by the shoulders, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been fair to you. I got angry that you left without a word that day and I forgot how difficult it must be for you to spill all those things about your life to me. I should’ve understood. It’s what Jesus would’ve done. So, please forgive me and if you don’t want to talk tonight, that is okay; I can drive you home now.”

Ethel responded by opening her arms and hugging Amaka. She was too overcome to speak. No one had ever apologized to her for something like this. Not her mother, nor Charles, nor any of the runs-girls she’d moved with, in the University.

“Forgive me,” she whispered, “I am ready to talk now.”

And she did.

“I was pregnant for Charles but I…” she began.
“You know what? Start from the beginning. How you met Charles,” Amaka prompted.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

 

EBOLA-RIOUS

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The sky was a brooding blue-grey up above as I navigated the human maze of the popular Marina market in Lagos with Chidi. It was well into the rainy season so the atmosphere was more humid than hot; yet there was a cloak of heat that hung in the air, from the many human bodies around. Now and again, I felt it fritter over my skin. And every time, an involuntary shudder swept through me.

Some moments ago back in the car, we were listening to the news updates on the Liberian who had been diagnosed and eventually died of Ebola in Obalende. The newscaster ended on a warning note, advising caution as there was a likelihood that the virus had broken in the city. Marina where we had just arrived is in the vicinity of Obalende. As we parked and joined the traffic of human bodies brushing, shoving, milling in and around it, I whispered to Chidi that if there was even one person in this market infected with the virus, we were all dead. He laughed. And I laughed.

He told me that we should avoid skin contact with other people as much as we could. I told him it was easy for him to say since he was wearing long sleeves and mine were short. The words were scarce out of my mouth when something brushed by me from behind. I stumbled forward a few paces struggling to regain balance even as the young man who had pushed me sped past with a shoebox in his hand.

I felt the chill of it even before I looked down at my fore-arm and saw a wet smear of perspiration that was not mine. Heart thudding, I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped it off as quickly as I could. Chidi had seen it too; he shrugged, smiled a half-smile at me, and barreled on through the crowd of people. I followed, cursing my racing heart to calm the frack down.

“Anyi erugo” Chidi said. We are here.

And he turned left into one of those many half-tracks that served as in-roads to stalls. I followed him, angling my body so that I could slip through the tight enclosure, my left hand in front and my right hand behind glued to my right hip. There were wares all around us, hanging, sitting, sampled in various displays and traders stood by them calling our attention.

“Bros, shebi na me dey call you?”

“Yellow, see am here! I get am”

We studiously ignored them, in the way that every Nigerian who is above market-travelling age learns. Just as I made a right turn still following Chidi, I felt a hand grab and hold on to my right hand. In the split second before I yanked my hand back, my skin registered the moist texture of the palms and fingers like hooks that dug into the flesh of my palm. Pointed hooks injecting Ebola into my blood stream!

I saw red as I turned on the guy who owned the hand.

“Guy, no dey touch me anyhow” I yelled. “You no know say Ebola don enter Lagos?”

I do not recall now much of his features but standing out on his face, were his mouth which stood agape and eyes which vacillated between startled and wary, gauging my sanity. A palpable tension enveloped us as his fellow customer-hunting traders stopped to stare at me; other passers-by also paused mid-stride for the tiniest of intervals to look me over before heading on.

I spun around and stalked off, brushing past Chidi who had also stopped at my outburst. Shame washed over me like cool water of ‘the living spring’; it took a better part of my confidence to walk away without cringing. My eyes stared up ahead, and my hands stayed down at my sides, clenched into fists – just in case anyone else got adventurous.

Chidi – heavens bless his soul – made no mention of the incident as we meandered through Marina buying items. Interestingly however, standing just as tall beside the shame I felt was an indignant conviction that my actions had been justified. I mean, how dare he grab my hand like that! Hadn’t he heard of Ebola?

We bought all we had come for and were on our way back to the car when I remembered a certain tray of roasted groundnuts I had spotted on one of the major in-roads. I had mentally booked it for later, marking the location of the woman seller with Sweet Sensation, an eatery just a few meters away. Chidi waited for me in the car with our purchases while I retraced my steps.

Just as I remembered, the woman sat there in front of the eatery with her tray of groundnuts. The groundnuts also looked just as I remembered – dry and golden-brown with dark brown lines through each nut that looked like frozen chocolate.

“Mama, one bottle how much?”

“Nnaa” she greeted me, “sooso three-fifty” People could always tell I am Igbo just by looking at my face, bearded or not. It was a cross I had resigned to carrying with pride, after getting over the disappointing restrictions it placed on my mischievous mind-adventures.

I scooped some of the nuts, threw them in my mouth and crunched down. They were just as I liked them – crunchy, sexy, smack in the perfect spot on that wide-lipped precipice between burnt and succulent. I knew I would buy them even if they were double the price she had said.

“Nyenum ya one-fifty” I haggled. Give it to me for one-fifty. God forbid that I buy something without haggling.

“Nwoke o-o-ocha!” Mama sexy-groundnuts cajoled. “Mba kwa, price ahu m gwara gi ka ono” She wasn’t budging.

As is common knowledge, being Igbo is no advantage in business with a fellow Igbo. Also my batteries must have died because my charms were clearly not working. So I gave up and asked her to fill up a bottle for me. While I waited, I scooped some more of the nuts from her tray into my mouth.

I was turning them into my palm from the bottle and munching as I joined Chidi in the car.

“You saw them ehn?” he asked needlessly.

I flashed a gloating grin at him with teeth that still busily chewed. I offered the bottle to him so he could share of my treasure but he declined with a shake of head.

“Ichoro ita?” I asked, puzzled. Chidi loved groundnuts.

“Ehn-ehn,” he shook his head again. “My hands are dirty”

I froze.

Like of a horror movie in slow motion, my mind retraced my steps through the market – the hand that had grabbed mine earlier, and the ones that had followed suit afterwards; the items I had touched; the notes of currency I had counted, and received; the sellers whose hands I had shaken after a transaction. Then the tape slowly, very slowly rolled up to Mama sexy-groundnuts – the groundnuts which she peeled with her hands, winnowed with a flurry of breeze from her mouth and packed also with her hands; the man who had been leaving her stall as I arrived, and the hand he had dipped into the tray of groundnuts as jara; the same tray I had dipped my own hands and retrieved groundnuts; groundnuts which I had thrown in my mouth, savored and swallowed.

The formerly sexy groundnuts turned to ash in my mouth, as a funeral dirge began to play in my head.

Chae! E-B-O-L-A!

 


 

STOP THE PANIC…ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE INSTEAD AND APPLY WISDOM.

I found this on Facebook and thought to share…

US STATE DEPARTMENT EBOLA ALERT

In order to help our Embassy Community better understand some of the key points about the Ebola virus we have consulted with our medical specialists at the U S State Department and assembled this list of bullet points worded in plain language for easy comprehension.

Our medical specialists remind everyone that they should be following the guideline from the center for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.

  • The suspected reservoirsfor Ebola are fruit bats.
  • Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.
  • Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.
  • Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.
  • Transmission among humans is almost exclusively among caregiver family members or health care workers tending to the very ill.
  • The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.
  • A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being 5-8 days before becoming ill. THEY ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.
  • Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).
  • If you are walking around you are not infectious to others.
  • There are documented cases from Kikwit, DRC of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult. Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.
  • You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.

 

Life is precious, and singular. Preserve yours.

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

My Beef with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

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The 57-year old former commissioner of Lagos state is the present governor of the state of Osun. Getting there was no ride in the park for him; he fought a dogged battle for his mandate following the results of the April 2007 elections, a battle which lasted nearly four years as he was not sworn in as governor until October, 2010.

I remember following the legal battles as a much younger man and rooting for him partly because I admired his tenacity, but also because I believed that only a man who was convincingly justified could hang on to a fight for that long. So when the October judgment came in his favor, I sent Governor Aregbesola a pat on the back via DHL – I am still waiting for him to acknowledge receipt.

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When I was posted to Osun state a few years later for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, it felt to me like somebody in the highest was rewarding my support for the engineer governor’s cause. But one year later as I packed my bags to leave, I was neither an admirer nor a fan of Ogbeni Aregbesola.

My beef with Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Executive Governor of Osun state (State of the Living Spring) is a very rare beef. It is red, juicy and meaty, laden with strips and strips of milky, stringy akwara-ndu.

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The beef is justifiable because a lot of it is based on my personal experiences during the year I lived as a khaki-wearing tenant in one of the more rustic communities of the state. Because one can only masticate so much beef in one mouthful, this beef is restricted to the governor’s mishandling of education in Osun.

My primary assignment in Osun was to teach students of a secondary school and like many of my fellow corps members, I approached the job with enthusiasm and a burning zeal to impact positively in the lives of the young ones. But that zeal was soon ruptured because I quickly saw that the system was not designed for much positivity. The educational system I met in Osun state was held high up as a brilliant executive make-over; it was heralded both within and especially outside the state as a revelation – the resurrection of a hitherto dead system. But in heart-wrenching reality, it was still a corpse, only better suited.

The following lines will explain why:

  1. Communication:

In my first class teaching Physics to the SS3 class, something very akin to the following scenario ensued.

“Did you learn about motion in your SS1 and 2 classes?” I asked.

The class nodded as one.

“And the laws of motion?” Nod again.

“Good. How about force and friction, temperature and pressure? You know them?” Nod. Nod.

I was on a roll, flowing and very happy they were following.

Then I called up a girl in the front row. “Ope, please stand up and tell us what pressure is”.

Opeyemi stood – she was a thickset light-skinned girl whose round face made me think of a happy doll with her low-cut hair and marked ample cheeks. She said nothing, just stood with her fingers splayed out, palm down on the desk before her and eyes set on me.

I thought she was shy so I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry,” I said, “You don’t have to quote your book, just explain it to me in your own words”

Ope stared on at me for a few moments more. Then she said, “Oga, só Yoruba

“What?” I asked, lost.

“Só Yoruba” she repeated, “Só Yoruba dí è dí è”

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Beautiful people of heaven and earth, she requested that I speak Yoruba to her, or in the least interject sprinklings of the vernacular in my lessons. The reason was that she could not understand the words I was saying in English. Neither could the rest of her SS3 classmates, who were all registered for and few months away from writing the West African School Certificate Examination at the time.

It was not just SS3 students though, and not just the students in my school. In Osun state, I met students who could not write if you dictated notes to them, and when you wrote the lecture notes out on the board, they drew it into their books because they could not read.

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I kid you not.

Maybe this deficiency exists in more Nigerian states than Osun. Maybe, but for Osun state whose government swears that education is a priority…tsk tsk tsk.

 

  1. ‘Free’ education:

Knowing his beginnings and the path that led him to the pinnacle of power in Osun state, Ogbeni Aregbesola should know that nothing that turns out good in life is ever given free of charge. Not good wealth, not good friends, not good health…and definitely not good education.

Perhaps the biggest irony of the government’s policy of ‘free’ education is that when critically analyzed, the system is not even free. A much-touted dividend of the ‘free’ education policy is the common uniform for all students of government-owned schools.

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About the ‘free’ school uniforms, parents in Osun state had the following to say: “the uniform wears out too quickly and cannot be purchased elsewhere than from the State approved company. We were made to wrongly believe that the uniform would be free as part of the Free Education policy when the first batch was distributed for free. However, purchasing another one afterwards costs about N2,000” (www.9ralife.com)

While we’re on the matter of parents, another sad result of the ‘free’ education system in Osun state is a complete and conscious self-dissociation from the education of their children by parents, especially the unenlightened. In many schools, the PTA was more or less nonexistent and where it did exist, it had no purse to fund events like student socio-cultural and end-of-term gatherings because the government decreed that parents not be levied. On market days, the classrooms dried up because parents sent their children to the market with wares for sale. And on other school days, one too many parents took their children to the farms.

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No chance, no time, school can wait.

In order to avoid such indolence by parents towards the education of their wards, and in fact, for the sake of reason considering the population of children involved, subsidized education is clearly a wiser path to tow than ‘free’ education. But His Excellency’s government will not hear of it.

 

  1. Opon Imo:

According to Aregbesola, Opon Imo is ‘a virtual classroom containing 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects for examinations, an average of 16 chapters per subject and 823 chapters in all, with about 900 minutes or 15 hours of audio voiceovers…more than 40,000 JAMB and WAEC practice questions and answers…mock tests in more than 51 subject areas, which approximates to 1,22o chapters, with roughly 29,000 questions referencing about 825 images’.

I wish I could confirm or challenge any of these claims but I cannot because in all the months I spent teaching in Osun state, I never saw an Opon Imo tablet. Neither did my students, nor for that matter, any students in my local government of primary assignment. My enquiries revealed that it was a similar case in many other local governments across the state.

I do not know which students received the 50,000 units of Opon Imo tablets that the governor supposedly ‘distributed across the state’…

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Oh, there they are.

Still, I wish more of them ended up in the hands of the younger students, more than two-thirds of whom are yet to own one. And if they eventually do get the Opon Imo, I would like to ask Governor Aregbesola questions like: ‘Are the learning materials in English or Yoruba?’, ‘Who will teach the children to use the Opon Imo? No, not all the propaganda about support centres and ambassadors…really, who will teach them?’, ‘And you say it will phase out textbooks? How? More importantly, why?’

 

  1. Re-classification of schools:

Another key point of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s education policy is re-classification of schools into elementary school (5 years), middle school (4 years) and high school (3 years), as against the national education policy of 6-3-3. In addition, the re-classification had attendant mega schools which accommodated many small schools bringing children from different religious backgrounds under the same roof to learn.

The administration claimed that this new system would give the pupils more time at the middle school so as to be “better prepared for maturity into high school”.

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From my vantage point at the grassroots, all I saw the re-classification doing was tearing apart whatever hope was left for the struggling Osun child. These children were being taught WAEC syllabus in local parlance, had very minuscule grasp of English language as a result and even less significant academic and social abilities. It was therefore very tactless, in my opinion, to force upon them the rigors of such a transformation.

Seeing as a good number of students still struggled to grasp the technicality of writing their own names, it was disorienting to learn that their class was no more JSS 2 for example, but Grade 7. Many of them quit school when their classes were moved far away from them, to one of the mega schools. And consequently religious havoc erupted in the state as Muslim schools protested against having to conform to Christian students in their midst, and vice versa.

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The re-classification activity was not just unnecessary but potentially damaging to the struggle of education in the state of Osun. It was a badly conceived move by the governor’s administration and even worse, poorly executed which explains why in many rural communities, the change was just too burdensome that it was made only on paper.

I do not think that Engineer Rauf Aregbesola is a bad man with intentions to ruin Osun state. I think he is an intelligent man – his media and publicity contraptions are so robust that to observers from outside the walls of the state, he can do no wrong; I think he is a shrewd politician who in spite of all, manages to keep both the grassroots and elite smiling for the camera; and I think he is a man whose good intentions for his people are constantly at war with – and losing to – his personal and party political ambitions.

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Come Saturday, August 9, 2014, the people of Osun state will march to the polls to cast their votes for the person who will sit in the executive seat of the state for the next four years. My beef with the man currently in that seat does not project any ill will towards him. It merely calls attention to the potentially fatal tilt of the education system which I witnessed under his leadership.

Hopefully, Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola or his successor will pay attention; because otherwise, I fear for the future of the children in the state of the living spring.

I rest my beef.

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Locate me @ojukwu_martin on twitter