Sometimes you try to laugh in an effort to push the despair eating at you a long way from you. My mother used to say what can’t talk should not be able to defeat you. I sit for hours staring at the blank screen. Not because I don’t have anything to say but simply swamped by what I need to say and ask myself why bother saying it? It is just another twenty four hours anyway. Another day to live through . The vendor calls and you shrug, not because the news is nothing but because you are scared to learn you have ceased to exist as Nigerian, never mind the fact that you are not even sure of your chances to live as a human being. I am like every person I know, we want an identity, a country, a home and a love.
It is not too much to ask you ask yourself angrily and then sigh as depression like some stone settles at the pit of your stomach. You are reviled from without from countries that wonder what you think you are being who you are and from that place of the earth that has been damned and condemned. Anger slowly boils like a cauldron and you feebly attempt to pour ice into it. You count ten before you speak so that the pain should not spill out from your guts. You are done being angry. It has fed you for so long only you find you are still very hungry so you reluctantly accept that the anger has not done much and then you listen… the painful thud of your heart as it hides itself away from you.
Three hundred and sixty five days of watching for an opportunity to make good. You are desperate as first anger from the children and then you shrivel as you see the anger slowly turn to contempt. It is the worst indictment you could possibly endure. Love like some measly cancer has settled on your soul and wouldn’t let go even as you feel the rejection from hungry puzzled faces and their question.
“You lost as a parent’ the voice cackles at you and you feel the lash as you grit your teeth and plod the streets looking for that opportunity to earn bread for another wasted twenty four hours. The door opens and the children look up , your wife turns over and faces the door. The expectant faces drop to boredom and your heart sinks. “Oh it’s you” they say with the least interest in what you have to offer.
The other day you had stared for long hours at the ocean wondering if the fishes in it might find your body acceptable as meal.” It will be too bony and not rich enough” the infernal taunting voice says close to your ears and you feel your heart crying. A sob escapes you and you are alarmed, checking if anyone heard the miserly sob. Someone is playing ‘I am black and proud” and you snort.
It is the first hint of healthy anger you have heard or felt in a long while. The landlord has a letter for you.. “Sir, my nephew will be returning from his studies abroad and we would need your room for him to stay while he starts on his job with the Apex bank” hmmm, the shark is even willing to forgo his eighteen months rent arrears…hmmmm.. but where are you going? No place, not even hell since the voice said you do not even have a vacant room there. Not even standing space. “You see we have so many applicants , those egg heads who have stolen the country blind, oil subsidy thieves, the one who collected thousands of dollars to catch another thief and said he only collected money and not bribes. Honestly the Devil holds you guys in deep admiration. There are some escapades he never could have dreamed of . We are planning a royal reception for them”.
“ Then there is the new fashion of religion by death , you know a few bombs here and there and our colleague is laughing. He has so much frightened you all into a stupor. When I told the Boss about your request about jumping into the ocean he snorted and said you ought to have your head examined. I did that and found nothing there”.
He sighed and collapsed on the torn mattress. A rat scurried away from his feet and he made an attempt to kill it as a fierce meat hunger grabbed him. He was so weak from all the walking and hunger that he fell and the rat escaped snorting. A man should not be this hopeless and helpless. Even he was beginning to hold himself in contempt. The door opened and his wife came in and stood arms akimbo watching him. He stared back helpless and suddenly he broke down and wept. Helplessly and hopelessly asking her to please take the children and leave. She said nothing and left.
He closed his eyes, and he dreamt of food. He even smelt the aroma. Someone was shaking him trying to make him open his eyes and he struggled to open them. She looked at him and smiled. He blinked. Okay he must have died, he thought to himself. Devil changed his mind and gave him a room. Then the children came in and lined themselves against the wall.
“What?” You died too he asked pointing his fingers at them and he started trembling.
“Oh Lord, not them too. I am sorry”
“Yes please, just me should be enough”
“They are coming along with us and stop sniveling” a sharp voice retorted
He became conscious of his real state and the packed bags.
“We are leaving for the village, I got you a job as the headmaster of your old school. You will resume next week. You can still teach can’t you?. Remember all those fiery speeches, the applause as the students came back to thank you for showing them how to be a man. Well one of your students met me in the street and we talked about you. He did not think it was right for you to stop teaching. He said it was destiny, that is what Paul said. Remember him, the skinny one who always never had enough to eat and he would come to our living room and you will sneak him money, paid his final exam fees? Well he is a minister now , his convoy almost knocked me down . He recognized me and asked after you. You are going back to teaching and giving back dreams to young minds like him. You are not going to say no are you?”
As he packed the papers on his table, the memories came and he slowly sat back. The cackling voice had stopped and he still had hunger in his soul. The door opened and his driver asked him if it was time to go home.