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Yinka and Felix were no longer strangers; we had exchanged meaningful tales in the course of our weekend in jail. We found respite in such tales at the time and they formed our bonding glue.
Yinka’s white shirt was light brown and the police did not find my Rolex. Our trio laughed as we strolled out in the general direction of our homes. We could already see the big joke in our lock up. Though I laughed and retold Big Bros’ tales, I was convinced in my head that the search for me was real and had just begun. Sometimes it takes a weekend spent listening to seasoned criminals proclaim their beliefs to have you question what you believe.
***** * *
Father did not reprimand me.
There was no scolding from him, just curses aimed at the police force and the family members of all police officers. It was my mother who raised the issue of my being out so late at night.
Wisdom was something I considered synonymous with my father. With his husky voice and sagging face, and large frame, he always knew what to say. He always had a relevant experience he could share. He always had this ‘been-there-done-that’ attitude. When he validated me that morning, over steaming coffee, munching sliced bread in his mouth, I felt a rare sort of authenticity.
Mother, ever the voice of caution, insisted that I was wrong. Every time she was thus persistent with her argument, unfeigned agitation on her face, I knew she felt strongly about the matter and truly believed her words. So I was torn between which of my parents to believe. I took refuge in my father, because his words validated me. But my mother’s words and the persistence in her manner hauled sharp stones at what could have been my delicate glasshouse of safety, a final sanctuary for my warring mind.
‘There are places good children are found.’
‘My son is not a bad child for being a young man having a good time.’
‘Is that what you call a good time? Keeping late nights in such an ungodly place?’
‘You make it sound like he does it all the time. He is a young man and must do what young men do. I did worse when I was his age. It is part of life. You want my son to be a sissy?’ Father chuckled at this as if it was a ridiculous conspiracy then dropped the little mug of warm coffee and busiest himself with his cell phone.
Mother was staring at me now. She was not hiding her disappointment. I knew we would have a long conversation immediately father left the house. I avoided her eyes and stuffed slices of bread down my throat.
A door opened and Grandma entered the dining. She had been asleep when I got home from the police station the previous day. After Nonye’s briefing, I decided not to disturb her. I almost killed her. I felt obliged to stand as she came closer. I felt I owed her something, perhaps an apology, perhaps a hug, or a greeting, having not seen her for a few days.
It was a hug. She wrapped her arms around me like one will a son who just arrived from a long journey and had been sorely missed. Tears filled my eyes unbidden and I was reluctant to let her go because mother and father would see my wet eyes. When she began to path my back lightly, singing a victorious song, I actually began to cry. Acceptance in the arms of a woman I had knocked to the ground, caring truth from the lips of my mother and pride from my father, were more than my feeble mind could bear. So I cried in Grandma’s arms.
When we finally disentangled, I did not return to my breakfast. I half hurried out of the room, hoping none of them would call me back.
***** * *
I stayed in my room till afternoon when Aunty Bose’s voice floated in from the living room downstairs. Such was her booming voice. It complemented her sharp, piercing eyes that darted about the place to show that she was in control. It refused to be confined. I had never heard Aunty Bose speak in hush tones. It was just not like her. Even in me and father’s presence she would complain to mother about a painful menstrual period or rashes on her breast. She was the type of person you wanted on your side in an argument because she would not spare words and her voice would not relent. That warm afternoon with the sun bold and bright outside and the clouds picturesque blue and white, I stood a few meters from our living room door which was ajar and overheard Aunty Bose slandering her husband, as usual.
‘You say he reported me to you for burning all his shoes. See; let me tell you what happened. Many newborn babies were being dedicated in church that Sunday. I sat beside that mumu at the back row because he made us go late…’
‘Don’t call him names. He is your husband’ Mother interrupted, ever the cautious senior sister.
‘Will you believe he was searching for his shoe laces that morning and so we got to the service late? What kind of a man searches for his shoe laces? Shouldn’t the lace be attached to the shoe?’ Aunty Bose continued, ignoring mother’s remark.
‘Because of the number of newborn babies, the Pastor announced that all married men whose wives were yet to conceive and who desired miracle babies should go to the altar and hold one of the babies being dedicated while he prayed for them. Will you believe, my sister that my husband began to search for his shoes under the pew? When he finally found them he started struggling with the laces. By the time he was done all the babies had been taken by smarter men and we missed our blessing. My sister, with a man like this, I will remain barren.’
‘Bose stop talking like that. I have warned you severally, don’t make negative confessions.’
‘Like how? Did you not hear my story, I am telling you that my husband could not keep his legs in his shoes long enough to get a blessing and you say I should not talk like how? Well, let me finish. When we got home from the service, I packed all his shoes including the pair he wore to church that day and set them ablaze in the backyard.’
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As told by Yemi
Live by Design.