MAYBE I AM FATHER
November 26, 2008 was the day I realized, even the dead lives. I also realized, I am half human, half dead. It is true. I felt like I could go on my own, live in the other side and return. The revelation, in a way, recreated me.
Until the early days of August, 2008, mother was unintendedly a secularist. Life was like dark houses with no fences. Such freedom. Life was also like how honey tarries on tongues. Such moribund sweetness. Because, at 15, I had sniffed the dampness buried within Timzy. I had also popped Dunhill switch like a pro. All these were because two things had happened to mother; being over-educated and a rare kind of needless liberty. It made her became less of a mother. Meanwhile, father lived like a total stranger. His blushers were the only things I recognized about him. Because each night, when he returns, he pulls them off in the middle of the sitting room, so that I always see them, and inhale that disrupting smell from the shoes, when he has gone out the following morning. This, the pastor would say, is significant to something, something mother needed to pray about.
6th of August, 2008, was the first day mother went to church and made herself a born-again. I was playing my GTA when I heard mother knock on my door.
‘Go and bathe, we are going to church today.’ She said sedately when I opened the door, then left immediately. It was both shocking and confusing, so much, that I felt the distasteful blend running my mind blank. I stood there for a while then returned to pick up my pad. Not long after, she returned, wearing a long bluish satin skirt and an ankara shirt, padded so lavishly around the shoulders.
‘I hope you heard what I said, Andy?’
I looked at her face well-groomed with tiny dark spots in a strangely fashion. Mother had never left her room with an undyed face. It disgusted me and I felt like I was standing before a stranger. I nodded and shut the door.
That day in church, mother confided in the pastor, patently too much. It startled me how things could change so fast, like there were some super enzymes at work, like the natural order has been breached by some unseen forces. Nothing looked more like a joke than this. I sat beside mother, facing the pastor─ a handsome man with a blue tie running over a stripped white shirt. The pastor had a nose a little too large carved into a smoothly shaved face. Mother’s voice rise and fell in that little office with disturbing and seemingly cockeyed stories. I got a clearer conviction that mother had not changed. Because changed people are met to say the truth.
I barely spoke with her in the days that followed. I got attached more to my GTA. Few times I would tip-toe and bury my ear behind her door. When I hear her speak those larval tongues and sometimes cry, I had this beating in my chest, like the church drums. I didn’t like what was happening. I knew things were changing─ I didn’t want it.
That same week, on a Wednesday evening, Timzy came to visit. I opened the door and led her straight to my room, hurrying past mother’s heated tongues. I spoke with a raised voice to distract her from hearing mother’s voice. But she heard her, still.
‘Do your parents fight?’ she asked me. ‘That’s just my mother praying.’ I said. ‘Praying?’ she asked, drawing her lips out and rolling her eyes. It was strange for her to hear that someone prays in my house. I moved ahead, saying nothing.
When we got to my room, I bolted the door and lifted her up. She intrigued me like feathers; her weightless body and the colourful smile that was always there on that round juvenile face. I laid her on the bed and drew towards her lips. There was the look of distrust on her eyes, how she followed my little thick lips closely, like I was going to bite. I felt the warm breath running from her nostrils and the little lump-like breasts pressing my chest. Then, there was the knock on my door. She smiled and pushed me away.
In front of the door was mother, wearing a long gown that covered her feet and a chiffon scarf over her head, with a worn-out look, drawing wrinkles out of her skin.
‘Dress up, let’s go for the rain of fire service.’ She said in an ordering tone. ‘Which one is that again nah?’ I said and pouted. ‘Please hurry up.’ She said and walked away. I had this nauseating feeling, angered that mother was dragging me into something I never want to be part of. ‘Mum, I’m not going!’ I dissented, speaking with that husky tone of defiance and banged the door.
She came back, opening and coming through the door. Timzy was standing just behind the door. She froze with bulged eye balls and squeezed lips. ‘Good evening m-ma.’ She stammered. ‘Timzy!’ mother called her calmly, showing no sign of surprise, then turned at me. ‘The pastor want to see.’ She said, her voice drifting between beseech and command. I looked at her. ‘But you lied to him the other day.’ I said. She looked startled, raising her brows. I threw my face away, like it was going to lurch into a noose. ‘You are too young to understand.’ She said and walked out of the room. ‘Timzy, I’m waiting for the both of you in the car.’ Mother’s voice echoed through the passage way.
In church, it was prayers all through─ boisterous and animated. You lose things to gain things. Here, your energy, all of it, gets sapped, so that your problems get solved. There was too much heat and vigour to think otherwise. I watched mother’s head travel like a pendulum. ‘She is now a confirmed born-again.’ I said to myself.
We dropped Timzy off after service. I didn’t see the pastor. It was a gambit. At home. I assisted mother in decanting drops of anointed oil in the whole house. When I recalled how mother’s head was almost pulling out during the prayers, I knew it was no joke. The culprit has to be stopped. Father was the culprit. That night, mother asked me to stay awake in the sitting room till father returns and tell him I wanted to know our village for the first time. I didn’t object. I knew there were a lot of things mother wanted to achieve from this. I was ready to help mother. The way she shook her head looked gruesome and gave me recurring palpitations.
I woke up the following morning on my bed with a thousand naira note pressed into my palm. I rushed out to see father’s blushers lying in the center of the sitting room. I said nothing and I didn’t ask mother questions.
The days passed, the weeks passed and mother’s prayers didn’t wane. Her cries did not either. The smell of olive oil grew in the house. More ants gathered around the driblet of oil at the corners of the house. I did finally see father come in with his briefcase and pull his blushers at the center, looking gauntly, with unshaved beards overtaking his narrow face. I also finally got to tell him I wanted to know the village. All he did was nod and walk away. I expected nothing more though. Fathers are always different from mothers. Their mouths are made with a lesser capacity to talk. And when he had gone into the room, mother’s voice rang like a little school bell, complaining about so many things. I knew father was a wicked man─ for making mother pass through so much and yet, speak nothing.
So, on November 26, 2008, father told us we were going to the village. Mother’s face lighted up like a halogen light. I jumped up in excitement, scampering from one corner to the other like a weaver bird, not because I was so eager to go, but, because mother’s face brightened up for once in a long time. Father only smirked momentarily and wore that look of severe indifference.
Father drove the car with that disturbing silence. He only whistled and sometimes let the upper and lower lips bicker like a swashbuckler. I looked at him through the rear view and I felt I was just knowing him for the first time─ a strange man with a narrow and dark face overtaken by beards, driving us to his village, his own village. Mother’s excitement was full and unfeigned. She sang all through, shaking her body to the rhythm of her songs.
We finally got to a narrow and bare road, full of dusts, guarded by tall grasses by the sides. Father drove through it until we got to a village─ thatched roofs, mud walls, unplastered cement walls, orange trees, and naked children, all around. ‘Is this our village?’ I asked him. He nodded and kept driving, slowly, until we got to another narrow foot path, going away from the main road.
‘That is my father’s house.’ Father pointed to a large brick house, roofed with asbestos and packed the car. ‘You people should be going, let me meet a friend here first.’ He said and walked strangely through the narrow path. The house was bigger and better than any other house since we drove in through that dusty road. We watched father disappear into a bend down the footpath before coming out of the car. I followed mother, hurrying towards the house. There was silence except an intermittent pounding of something inside a mortar by an old woman─ grey haired, fat and a wrapper tied around her bare chest.
When mother greeted the old woman, she looked at me first in shock, looking closer into my face, before replying mother.
‘Who are you?’ the old woman asked mother. An old man was walking out of the door at that moment, supported by a wooden stick, eyes set towards our car packed away from the house.
When mother replied, ‘I am Tuamini’s wife and this is his son’, the old man rebuked mother forthwith. ‘Shut up! You don’t lie against the dead!’ He said. Mother’s look changed, her smile turning shapeless and dishonest. She turned to the old woman who also looked angered.
‘Who is dead? That is his car. Tuamini just drove us down here. He said he wants to see a friend first, down that road.’ Mother said, pointing towards the footpath, speaking still with a bit of calmness. Then the old woman started screaming.
‘People come and see oo!’ a dead man has given birth to a child oo. Come and see Tuamini’s wife and son!’
Mother suddenly looked confused, hitting her thigh and dashing around like a laying hen. Her eyes shoved like the socket was now too small. I couldn’t put them together─ the pieces of the growing chaos.
The crowd gathered and father was yet to come. He will never return. This was the revelation. Father died 26th November, 1991, two years before I was born. I was born that same day in 1993. He disappeared from mother that same day, today, 26th November. So when they say people reincarnate, maybe it is true. Maybe I am Tuamini. Maybe I am father.