POSTED 10/05/2018 13:49
He looked around the room. It was exactly the same as always. There was this new odour of rotting furniture, musty books and damp clothing hanging in the air. To him, it was a palatable aroma because this was and would always be home.
Hanging on the wall was a gaint sized crucifix coated and graced with layers of dust. The plasma television had been replaced with a miniature box set. The slightly stale combination of cooking spices, camphor and sickly sweet cheap perfume wafted through the air as his lovely wife stepped out.
She paced the living room in blue overalls and scrubs. He sank into the couch and watched her intently. Her face was bereft of any makeup but even a blind man could see that she had had her days and had been a stunning, neck turning youth. He laughed bitterly. This was what she had been reduced to because he was a sloppy father and an unworthy husband who had thrown away all his opportunities at parenting.
He knew he had ruined her life and that she would have been way better off without him but he still loved her ever so dearly, no doubt. He looked up at the expensively framed wedding picture hanging in the wall as she beamed immaculate teeth in youthly exuberance. Now as she searched her bag, she looked years over fifty, though she was in her late forties. Fore head furrowed in stress and worry lines, face wrinkled and nails bitten almost to the flesh.
She used to have beautiful long nails. Her full Halo of natural hair that he dug his face into at night had been cut short. She looked worn out. Then he remembered how and when they first met. It was at the canteen back then during their University days. He had come into the canteen with his guys.
His father was one of the top three richest men in the state. This made him one of the richest students on campus and one of the few that drove cars. Girls swarmed around him like bees to honey. He was the typical “Anything under Skirts”guy, excessively proud, boastful, egomaniac and extremely obnoxious.
He barged into the canteen and refused to join the queue but went straight to the front expecting to be served at once by the broadly smiling woman who he slipped medium sized wads during the end of the semester. Brushing past the girl whose turn it was aside and smiling back at the woman. He made to talk and normally, people would give him way because he was rich. He was “ATM”.
The girl snatched him by the collar and flung him aside. He turned to fire her with the surge of rage that had enveloped his being but before he could say a word, the pretty girl caught him off guard with an outburst.
“Are you mad! If you are so blind that you cannot see the queue, you can get out! I don’t take that rubbish, if you do it to others, don’t try it with me, you obnoxious little fool!” she turned to continue her order with the equally bewildered woman.
He eyed her head to toe and remained utterly speechless. Not that he couldn’t talk but at that moment he’d forgotten how to because no girl or even a boy had ever dared speak to him so condescendingly. Instant anger seethed through his pores.
She was thick and moderately busty, dark skinned and wore a plain Tee and Jeans – nothing exciting. He thought. But still not like all the cheap girls that flocked around him. Those flashy girls he picked randomly with their bleached skin and too tight clothing. With jewelry that looked like it weighed a ton. He sized her once more and walked away in rage and a long hiss as he gummed away a gospel song which infuriated him the more!
“This girl don humble ATM o”! “ATM you go leave am?” his guys chanted in the background but his mind was on the staring surprised faces and utmost silence that had been caused in the canteen by that silly girl who had the audacity to undermine his authority.
He was so enraged. So pissed. He finally got her name from one of his guys. Njideka. He was so angry but there was one thing she knew and that only she had succeeded. Njideka had subdued him.
From anger it turned to awe, then fadded into interest. He followed her around but she brushed him off and one day she screamed in his face.
“Don’t you understand! I don’t want your money!!!” and he was glad.
No girl had ever “not wanted” his money but she had a boyfriend already. And sooner or later they became friends till they were the tightest and she put him in check. People said she’d charmed him. He sold his car because she said it wasn’t necessary at the time and read his books.
Her boyfriend broke up with her on grounds that she wasn’t ready to break her virginity and he used his suspect of something fishy between the both of them as a cover up. She had cried her eyes out that night in his flat and he comforted her.
The love soon blosomed and he promised that he would wait till she was ready all though he swore it wasn’t going to be easy but he’d repect her sexual decisions. He soon graduated from the University and got a job with a multi- million Naira company. She was done two years later and they got married weeks after her graduation.
“Mom!!!! I’m going out!” was the next ringing voice he heard, totally severing his train of thought.
Then he saw a smaller version of Njideka saunter in, face full of makeup you wouldn’teven recognize her. Amarachi. His daughter and their second bundle of joy. Eighteen years and fully mature, finally leaving the four walls of puberty.
“In that”? Njideka asked.
This was the first she had spoken. He wanted to support her but he decided against it. He had been the worst father ever, never scolding or spanking his children but letting them act as they pleased and painting Njideka as the bad parent who gave out the beatings and the punishments.
His ego had caused it. He always wanted to be loved by everyone and sadly and childishly took marriage, family and Parenthood as a competition not a partnership.
“Ya,” Amarachi replied looking down at her tight, cleavage revealing crop top and extra short skirt.
“Not in this house! You buy street rags at my back? Change that nonsense and hand it over or I’ll give you a dirty slap!” Njideka screamed at her.
He wished he could give the squealing little adult a well deserved resounding slap but he felt he needed that slap more because it was his fault that she was this way. And if he did, how would that help? He’d done the damage already. Amarachi's birth was very complicated and Njideka almost died in the process but ended up loosing her womb and so much blood at childbirth.
“Mummy, Nooo!” Amarachi screamed as she sauntered off.
Njideka as a typical Nigerian mother, still having that spark he’d met in her, dragged her back by the arm and gave her that resounding slap that he had been thinking about and sadly, he knew his daughter was hyperly sexually active.
“Who do you think you’re talking to like that? Am I your mate. Oya, get upstairs! You are going nowhere!”
“Mummy, you slapped me? We will see!” Amarachi pointed and rushed off upstairs almost in tears obviously to avoid another slap. Njideka sunk into the nearest couch exaspirated and truely exhausted. She had just returned from her day’s job about to go for a night shift at the local hospital.
He wished he could hold her, to cuddle her in his embrace and be there for her and apologize for wronging her, for not being her pillar and strong hold. He wished he could hold her but in that shape, that was a really bad idea. He knew she secretly cried every night for his uselessness and gave countless excuses for his misdeeds. But he felt helpless. He caused this and had absolutely no idea how to fix things.
“Mummy, let me come” A booming voice said.
He looked up to behold his first son. Nkemakolam. She had insisted on the name because she believed that they would equally be happy and that no one would loose their share in that happiness but he knew that deep down she didn’t believe anymore. She didn’t believe that happiness existed anywhere especially her home.
His son looked awful. His hair was spiked in blonde locks. He looked skinny thin obviously from drug addictions and awfully scarred from injections and wounds sustained from “runs”. Tattoos filled his open chest and ridiculously expensive gold chains filled his wrists. He knew all the money he realized went back into drugs and unnecessary things.
He wiped a pair of big black sneakers with a fadded , damp rag which he wasn’t really sure what the original colour had been.
“Where are you going to?” Njideka asked her twenty one year old son, obviously not interested in the discussion or the reply.
“Mummy, No come preach give me. I dey go see guys. No wait me, I fit no come back this night,” he said and Njideka jerked up from where she sat.
“Me!”sShe slapped her chest. “Me! Njideka Clara Okwuchukwu preach to you again? Impossible!”He felt a tad glad that she has called their last name instead of her maiden name because he felt that he wasn’t even worthy anymore.
“You see you, Nkemakolam. Live your life! Look at your sister. You should lead by example. She has been failing JAMB yet she can run around naked! You that managed to get Economics Education. You are playing about and you want me to come and preach to you. Tufia! Chukwujukwa. Over my dead body. I wash my hands off you. Do as you please. Efulefu!” She screamed.
He just nodded at her mockingly, laughed maniacally and left the house. Njideka was alone in tears. He wished he could tell her to hold on because he had known her as a strong willed tenacious person who never quit. He wished he could tell her not to give up on their children but even he would give himself a heavy slap if he uttered such blasphemy at a time like this.
He had done the damage and was expecting her to clean it up. He knew he was useless to his children more like their accomplice, so he said nothing. Tears caked up in his eyes and instantly flowed down his cheeks. He couldn’t speak, his voice was chocked with tears as he watched his belle sob and reminince with bitterness and hate in her eyes.
He reached out for the glass of orange juice on the side stool to clear his chocked throat but then , his hand went straight through it. Then he laughed bitterly. He’d been dead for five years now and couldn’t offer any comfort to his family. He whirred around the room for some seconds, totally forgetting the odour around his sobing half. Then he vanished. Igwedimma Charles Okwuchukwu was gone for good.
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