By Marymartin Okoabu:
The bike man dropped him in front of his compound and he brought out crisped #200 note and paid him. The man zoomed off making a loud noise that added to the trepidation that was gradually building up within. God! He just hoped the man had not announced his coming home to their nosy neighbors. But what was he thinking? Has he forgotten so soon that the bike did not go through air, nor had he been invisible when they passed through the village? That means he has to go in quickly before they come and inspect and infect him in the guise of welcoming him. But as he stared at the dilapidated building before him, he felt sadness overwhelm him. This was the same house he had inherited from his father and yet nothing has been changed. He had promised his mother renovation would start this year, and yet he had hardly made it down to the village. He was shaken out of his melancholy by the loud greetings of his mother.
“Eh! Nwa mo!” His mother did not hug him yet, but stood staring questionably at him. “O bu Anene di iha?”
“Mama it’s me,” his voice choked with unshed tears.
“Eh! Ani…mo..” his mother jumped at him then, surprising him with the strength she possessed. He had spent a good part of the year worrying about her, ashamed he had not been able to come see her. But whenever they spoke, she kept reassuring him that she was strong and healthy. Anene felt the tears pour as he held on tightly to his mother.
“Mama,” he moaned amidst sobs
“My son,” his mother had tears in her eyes too. “I had given up on seeing my son this year, Ah! Chukwu mounso dalu,” she breathed into his neck, “dalu ma ki mere ozo.”
Anene held on more tightly to his mother, but the fingers that clutched the nylon bag that contained only a loaf of bread were weak and it fell of his grasp.
“Mama I have failed you,”
“Uh uh Nna,” his mother shook her head, “let’s go inside.” She turned and stepped directly on the nylon bag and Anene felt like he had wasted the best worst part of his life. The bread he had managed to buy…
“Mama, the bread…”
“Apu that thing, let’s go inside.” His mother led the way and he followed slowly. His heart longed to look back, his neck strained to turn, but he kept putting one feet after the other. He could not save the bread and his mother was not even concerned.
He finally got inside and his mother brought him a cup of water.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming, I would have prepared a fresh soup for you. But our people say; ‘that it is the soup at the bottom of the pot that is the sweetest’, so let me heat my onugbu soup for you.”
“Mama biko, I don’t think I can eat now, afom ejuna, I am filled with…” Anene felt the threat of another tears, but he bottled it in.
“Uh uh my son, I feed visitors, is it now my son that will reject my food?”
“Mama I didn’t say…”
“Let me warm the soup, you can talk while eating.”
His mother left and Anene rested his head on the only good looking armchair, the feeling of disappoint and defeat making him so weak to keep his eyes opened. How can a man at this time return to the village with a loaf of bread? Even last year was better, he had added a wrapper, he…
He looked up to find his mother looking down at him with worried eyes.
“What is it my son?” She dropped the plate of food on the table before him. The food would be good, he was sure, he still trusted his mother’s cooking abilities, but the sight in front of him made him want to gag.
He lowered his eyes and said with a weak voice, “mama I have failed you.”
“No my son, you haven’t”
“Mama no, just look at me, it took me all my money to come down here, what…what did I achieve?”
“You are alive, that is enough for me.”
“No mama,” Anene shook his head, “is it not my mates that are alive building houses, buying cars and many more.”
“My son do you know how many died this year? That Oyibo sickness, what do you call it, colona, do you know how many it killed? What about the many road accidents? Hunger? But you survived it all, your mother survived it. So we should be grateful.”
Anene looked up at his mother. What had he been thinking? Oh God forgive me, he said inwardly. A smile slowly began to invade his face. She was right, always right.
“Now eat this food, nothing must remain.”