POSTED 06/25/2018 14:27
It was dark but I didn’t mince a step. I could see the hill road with the eyes of my mind. My heart hurled anger and my being cried.
Hate. Knife. Rope. Kill.
My hand was pulling a heavy rope.
Under the moon’s mild light, I saw the giant Udala tree, my destination. Some metres from our family house, my destination.
Danger. Sniper. Bomb. Death!
Just as I approached the tree, a car passing by stopped and a figure came out. I saw her before she saw me. She froze up in her tight white dress. I saw terror in her eyes. Her afro hair stood on ends with fear and her black face grew darker.
She flashed a heavy lighted torch. I covered my eyes with the empty hand but I didn’t stop. I dragged along.
Angry. Sad. Vicious. Devious.
The lady took slow steps forward and then she paused like something in the red earth pinned her down.
I kept pulling, now closer to the Udala tree.
Her fat body shivered like a rat would in a bowl of ice water. Her torch fell, she ran back to the car and zoomed off, driving haphazardly.
It was almost morning. The rain started drizzling. Invisible stings. I did what I had to do and went back.
I woke up with a start. Feeling a little lightheaded and funky. I felt like jumping out of bed and dancing. I didn’t. I did jump out of bed though.
I strained, trying to smell something good coming from the kitchen but nothing came. Mama can’t still be sleeping I thought. Or is she?
I moved into the bathroom for a shower, then I saw the cloth. My white overall gown that fits loosely. I sleep in it most nights. It was stained red with mud. Squeezed on the bathroom floor, just by the door.
The sight brought a faint line of nostalgia in my head. Like a deja vu or something. No, maybe a bad dream. I couldn’t really comprehend. One of those dreams.
As I washed my mouth, I avoided my meds. They were perfectly arranged by the mirror. How I hated them! I am getting better. I feel it. ..Mama says so too.
I cupped a small amount of water in my hands and splashed it on my face. I could feel the cells in my face pull in, running from the cold water. I looked into the mirror. The other man, the one in the mirror, didn’t look like me. Same oval face and stretched nose; same yellow afro hair and full lips; same cute-but-cold eyes and light skin. Same everything. But. Still the other man looked different from me. I felt it deep inside. He wasn’t me!
I freshened up and went downstairs. The silence in the house was ominous. Where’s Mama?
I first went to the kitchen. Empty, no sign of morning-life there. Mama’s room. Empty.
If she isn’t at home, she’s either in the church or the market. No market in the village opens this early. It’s barely morning. I looked around. Her duvet was on the floor and most of her make up kits were scattered. Did Mama wear makeup to morning mass? Mama loved to look good always but I have never seen her wear make-up to morning mass. Sunday mass, yes, but not weekday morning mass. This is ludicrous!
Also, there were two table knives on mama’s disarranged bed. I wondered what the knives were doing in her room and not in the kitchen. Looking around with curiosity, I found the curtain covering the window just by her bed on the floor. The material was made of a blue chiffon with prints of faded red roses. One of the curtain ropes too was gone.
“What’s really going on?” I wondered. “What happened? Let me find out from mama. I must find her first.” I concluded.
To the church.
I arranged mama’s makeup kits before leaving for mass too. As I walked, I tried to prevent the red mud of the hill road but that was almost impossible. I’d walked well pass the gate when I remembered the day was Friday. No morning masses on Friday. But where could Mama be? Maybe she rushed for an early confession.
Everyone knows Mama went for confession once every week. Sometimes, if she quarrelled, say at the market, she went more than once.
A good distance away from the Udala tree, I saw something dangling. Coming close, I shouted, “Maria nne Jesu!” Mary, mother of God.
My eyes filled. My legs shook. My stomach churned. My head almost exploded.
I stood there in agony until a passer-by, who’d also noticed what I saw, ran to the foot of the tree.
He dexterously climbed the tree and cut Mama down. Her body fell to the ground like a big fish sent from heaven. I drew close to Mama’s body. Not too close. Close enough to smell breathlessness, coldness, brittleness. Lifelessness.
Everything was just playing slow in my head. I tried to be more active, to rush and hold Mama, to cry, to do more! But something like a net or a cub web hindered me.
I tried to shout but the web tightened.
I tried and tried.
Then, I could shout.
I shouted and shouted.
I shouted and fainted.
Free, for a moment.
I felt somebody staring down at me. I opened my eyes.
“Adora!” I said unbelieving my eyes.
“Ifanyi.” she smiled pensively. “How are you?” What was my younger sister doing in the village?
“We heard the news around 8 this morning.” She paused, maybe waiting for me to say something. “I didn’t want to disturb your rest. Nne’s death must have hit you hard. You needed the rest.”
She always called Mama in Igbo.
“Mama died,” I said. The pain started again. Then it increased, slowly, with the pace Mama counted the beads of the holy rosary. “Mama is dead!” I cried.
“When last did you take your meds?” she was visibly fighting tears.
Aunty Nkem’s head popped into my room, cutting my reply.
“He is awake. Good. Come down.” Aunty Nkem commanded. She’s our eldest sister. She and brother Afamefuna stayed in Lagos.
When I got down, there was a crowd already. The village elders; nurse Chetachi, the daughter of the parish choirmaster; bro Afamefuna; some family friends and people I’d never seen. Mourners.
“Come here,” Afam spat. What’s wrong? I knew he was mourning, but something wasn’t just right.
I did as he asked. Bewildered.
Eyes stared at me, I wanted to see pity. Pity for Mama’s boy. I have stayed with Mama more than any other child – partly because of my illness though. But still, I was Mama’s favourite and everyone knew that. So my pain is the greatest. But. I didn’t see pity. What I saw? I don’t know. Not pity. That I’m sure of.
“When last did you take your medicine, Ify,” Afam said frowning at me. It was more of an accusation than a question. He called me Ify. It irritated me. I know he knew it did. Ify sounds feminine. Calling me that justify people who say I look and behaved like a woman. “Soft. Fragile. Pretty,” in their own words. If the ambience were calmer and the aura cool, I would have pointed my irritation out to bro Afam. But no. I would’ve looked stupid.
“This morning,” I lied. How come my meds is a topic when we’ve just lost our mother? First it was Adora, now Afam? What’s going on? I am not sliding into one of my many depressions, am I?
I knew he knew I was lying, but he didn’t say. He didn’t say a word afterward.
The dropped faces of the elders, the way they shook their heads at intervals, the way they looked at me and then at the floor, frightened me. Something wasn’t right.
“You know, our fathers will say: a crying eye still sees.” Mazi Onubia swallowed. “Cheta the nurse came to me in the night, you know. She was….terrified. You know. She said she saw you by the hill road, pulling your mother, Adugo, you know… on the floor.”
“Aaaru!” abomination, people shouted.
Some women started crying already but those with dry face had started wetting them by now.
I was still processing what I’d heard when Mazi Ejiofo stood to corroborate the said.
“May our eyes never see our backs. Errhm, my brother Onubia told me the story over the phone. I also thought the young lady was twisting the truth. So I told Mazi Onubia that we’ll get to the truth at the break of dawn. But. Errhm, when I heard the news of Adugo’s death this morning, errhm, it shook me! I couldn’t belief my ears. I…”
Involuntarily, my hands closed my ears. I couldn’t hear more. I couldn’t take more. There was this loud screeching sound in my head. I pressed my head tighter and dropped to the ground.
I didn’t…I didn’t kill her. I didn’t kill Mama!
No I didn’t. Did I?
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