Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
PEOPLE SAY ‘what goes around comes around’… killers get killed, adulterers get cheated on too; fraudsters defraud each other and so on but why is this happening to me? I haven’t done anything wrong at least none that I know of.
The night is dark in this small room and my mother is crying. She cries a lot most times but lately, she barely stops. She talks to me a lot like she’s seeking my forgiveness; like I’m some kind of plague. I lie in my basket arms wrapped together, doing what must be thinking. Two weeks ago I was loved pampered and dotted on with my eyes barely opened. My mother would say I was the centre of her world; that she’d love me till death. Hers or mine? I believed her. She’d check my diapers every minute and if I hadn’t cried a lot, I’d have her breasts perpetually in my mouth. She wasn’t married. I knew this because we slept together. Alone. I couldn’t ask who my father was and she never offered. The big broad-chest brute who beats her and screams obscenities at her comes sometimes but she never allows him near me. I love her for that. My mother was a student at the University; I guess she was in for Economics. The word is written on almost every book in our room. She had to drop-out to be delivered of me. I’m so sorry about that. I know have grand parents but I have never met them. I may never get the chance too, if she goes through with her plan.
Its Wednesday night, the sky is clear though I can’t see it; baby’s intuition. The candlelight flickers with the gentle breeze through the louvers and casts golem shadows on the walls. I try to cast my hand’s shadows in their midst. She’s crying again. She just breastfed me and she did it crying. I’ve been thinking a lot. Too much for my age! 6 months and 2 and I can already say the proverbial ‘I have seen a lot’; Love, pain, regret, rejection, disgust: all on a single face; my mother’s. She is Yemisi Adewuyi-Dasilva. Most people simply call her Yemisi and nobody calls her ‘mama-lagbaja’ like the other mothers. I don’t mind, nobody calls me anything too, not even my mother. They only need to look me in the eyes and I know it all; ‘Little Bastard’! They think I don’t know. Some of them are even so condescending that they discuss me right by my cradle! I pity them.
Love is not a word I understand so well right now but I know nobody loves my mother and nobody loves me. We have only each other. I want her, does she want me? It’s the comments that are tearing us apart or perhaps the big brute? With a big head, big eyes, big hands, big mouth, foul breath and terrible words, everything about him is out of proportion. He can’t be my father! I shiver at the thought of his blood in my veins. At 20, my mother is fair, slim and pretty, quite tall for a girl and well mannered. She doesn’t curse or fight as most women do. She’s resentful and regrets the greater part of her life. She was adopted, she told me, and she swore that none of her children would see the same fate. But here I am in this uncomfortable basket right next to the door of our room. She has drawn the blinds and put the lights out. She’s crying still, asking me to forgive her. Yesterday, the brute had come and after she ‘promised to do it’, he had called her a “darling”. The cheek of him! Why was my mother so gullible? Can love really be so blind? It must be though because I think she’s going to do it.
She picks me up and hugs me tightly like it’s our last. I don’t even make a sound, I’m too scared. She checks herself in the mirror; passable. We go out together; she on her feet and me in a jitterbugging basket ride. Down the stony path of Oyewole Street, we burst onto the Agbowo-Express Road, past Amure Shopping Complex. She steps through the small gathering of chattering Igbo salesmen by their shops, thinks for a moment and then hails an ‘okada’. Obviously, she wants me as far away as possible. I see the words ‘University Of Ibadan’ and I begin to think she’s not going to do it. We stop in front of the gate and after settling the fare, we walk in. I haven’t been out much and only fat, tired and boring housewives, not reckoning with the brute, ever come to see my mother and they always drive me mad with their chatter. But in the midst of these young males and females, my mother was at home. She walked straight, shoulders and head held high, with assured strides and a sad dignity. She was part of this community. She called ‘Abadina’ to a cab driver and he pointed further down the line of cabs. We were the last to board the bus. I was wedged between her legs and those of the conductor; he stared at me; young, tired and ignorant of my plight. I tried to tell him to beg my mother but he only put his head through the window to get away from my piercing scream. I Guess I was confusing him with someone who cared. My mother just kept looking ahead.
Chapel of the Resurrection. We alighted and walked towards two white buildings. The one to our right had been built on some sides with stones and was surrounded with flowers. The other building made cold sweat break on my forehead. It looked like it would swallow me, calling to me… I prayed silently that she’d do it someplace else. First, she walked into the building on the right. It was a church. It was open but empty. A few people were singing in the gallery. She knelt in front of the altar, under a massive wooden cross handing by chains and said a prayer, her tears staining the red carpet. Then she put a piece of paper in my basket. I feigned sleep. I couldn’t look her in the eye. She quickly went to the next building where two men in blue and black uniforms guarded the entrance. She didn’t reach them but went down a flight of steps by the right side of the building. I heard another sound of singing coming from an open window, this time a little more aggressive than the previous. There she stopped beside the gate to the building’s basement. Benches were stacked on one side and I could see the source of the singing through the bars. She cocked her head to a corner and released a hard breath as though willing herself to go on. She put me down, stood for what seemed a decade like she would change her mind. Then with nothing more, she turned and I knew I would never see her again. I thought of crying perhaps she’d return but I love her and I couldn’t bear to see her lose the smile the stole on her face when the brute called her ‘darling’. She’s never smiled at me like that before. I love her.
I had been watching the moon and listening to the slow but steady rush of the drainage nearby, trying to be strong and wishing I knew who controlled the earth, when they came out in trickles; adults, males and females. The singing had stopped. The woman in glasses noticed me first although she didn’t come close. She only pointed “is that a baby”? Soon they are all over me peering, curious, astonished and sad. But I’m not so sad. For the first time in my life, I know my name… Moses!