Your mother was having an affair with a man in his late sixties who had just returned from Equatorial Guinea and never stopped talking endlessly about life over there. He would arrive at your father’s house in the evening, just before dinner was ready. He would remove his shoes inside the house and place them by the door; never outside the house, for fear of street folks noticing that a man was visiting a woman whose husband was a volunteer doctor in Tanzania.
Each time he arrived, your mother would hurriedly serve dinner. She would eat from the same plate with the man while you took yours to your room and locked your door. You would remain indoors till the next morning. The man, your mother’s friend, always left the house around 11pm or thereabout. He had this new Mercedes E-class that he drove and was very proud of.
He would say to your mother, “Agnes, there is a lot of money in Nigeria. Do you know how much I bought this car? Oh, you can’t begin to imagine how much. And come to think of it, I bought this car just barely eight months after I got back to the country. People in Equatorial Guinea don’t know anything about good, fast cars….”
He would talk endlessly. “Let me tell you, the only thing they do over there is drink and party. Nothing more… and they don’t care if their government is accountable or not. They live bakwomi life. That is all.”
You would hear the pop of a bottle of wine. He loved to drink Andre. He always came with a bottle. Your mother would clap each time the wine popped. “I wonder if your husband is even feeding well in Tanzania. Over there, I heard they don’t even have food. That the only thing they eat is maize. Maize this, maize that. They use corn to prepare soup, eba, fufu, porridge, name them. I pity your husband. Chai!”
Then your mother would say, “Abeg, stop talking about my husband like that,” and quickly manoeuvre the discussion to something else, something that would elicit a lot of laughter from him, like, “You eh, you drink too much.” To which he would reply, “I don’t drink beer. It gives potbelly. That is why I am able to give it to you hot….” She would laugh along with him.
When he began to visit newly, you used to stay awake and fume, especially when it got to the point when your mother would begin to say, “We should get into the room so that you will leave on time. I don’t want anything to happen to you. This is not Equatorial Guinea, eh.”
When your father was in Nigeria, you’d never heard your mother talk to him with so much love the way she did her man-friend. She never bothered if your father returned from work early or not, if he was on call or had just been called in for emergency. You used to think it was normal, but having witnessed the way she was treating this man, you wondered if she loved your father at all, or if she had been pretending all along.
Your father had just been away for four months when suddenly, one day, the man appeared. He came in the evening, with your mother. They had just shopped, and he helped her bring the bags inside. You were outside playing Ludo with your friends when they came and you had to hurry inside, thinking he was a relative you hadn’t met before.
When you greeted him, your mother had said, “Meet Dr. Adams. He has just returned from Equatorial Guinea.”
She didn’t mention that Dr. Adams was her lover, and she didn’t mention that he had been in the country for months.
The way she’d said, “he has just returned….” made it seem as if he’d returned just the day before.
Then Dr. Adams had said to you, “You look sharp.” Then he gave you a high five, and you remembered thinking how inappropriate, and wondered why he would be giving you a high five when you were not a child.
Three days later, he had come before dinner and after eating the special ewedu soup your mother prepared, had retired to her room with her, and your head couldn’t stop aching. You had wondered what would make your mother do that. You had thought about a lot of things— was he a medical doctor? And if so, was he examining your mother? But what sort of examination lasted that long, and in the night and in your mother’s room? You’d also wondered if he was her pastor and was praying for her. You had thought about a lot of things, you knew none of them were true but you were looking for any reason tangible and realistic enough to rationalize what was happening.
When you couldn’t fathom why your mother was bringing a man inside the house and why she was bringing a man that old, you were puzzled with why she would pretend nothing was wrong each time your father called—she would speak with him endlessly on the phone and coo and aaahh and mmehw mmehw for your father, then hand the phone to you and stare while you talked with him, wanting, perhaps to know if you would reveal anything. You also had to deal with the dilemma of confronting her and that of telling your father about what was happening. Then you’d decided that every person alive had freewill and were ruled by their personal gods. And was it not said that if the gods wanted to kill someone they would heap mud in their minds, forcing them to behave like your mother? So you kept mute and left them to their affair.
After a while, the other women in the building began to gossip and whisper each time you passed, then the street women too. Each time you washed your car in the morning, the men who washed theirs or who hurried to drive their kids to school would look at you and look away.
Suddenly your mother started vomiting in the mornings and having helped your girlfriend, Miriam abort her baby once, after she complained of vomiting in the mornings, you knew that your mother was pregnant. Then you’d asked her, in front of her man-friend, “Are you pregnant, mama?” You were carrying your plate of beans and yam porridge to your room, and Dr. Adams had almost choked. He was sipping from a glass of wine. He eyed you; then smiled. You stared him down, and the smile on his face vanished. You went to your room and locked the door and wondered if you were a coward. Then you threw the food into the bin and got mad with yourself, and had to sleep on the floor till three AM. That day Dr. Adams slept in the house and in the morning, you saw empty bottles of beer he had consumed with your mother—you’d wondered if he no longer cared about potbellies.
The pregnancy began to show. Your father’s sister came to the house and cried so much, after calling your mother a prostitute and all sort of names. Then your father came back two days after that. He was slim and taller, and looked strong. He was carrying his bags in two hands and when he entered the apartment you were watching Aljazeera reports on the earthquake in Nepal. You stood and both of you shook hands.
He laughed and said, “You are looking old, my friend. What has your mother been feeding you?”
“Of course I am an old man,” you joked. You took the bags to his room and got him water to drink.
Then he stretched out on the sofa and said, “It is good to be home.”
He laughed awkwardly, and you were startled. “It was hectic out there,” he said, “I missed Nigeria. I missed the food. If I had a wife I would have asked her to prepare ewedu soup or egusi with pounded yam.”
You stammered, “Do you need anything else, Sir?” He shook his head. “Should I refrigerate some beer?”
“Oh yes. Please do.” Some minutes later, he had removed only his shoes. Both of you drank bottles and bottles of Hero beer and when it was exhausted you told him that there was a new beer called Life.
“Of course I know Life. It was out before I left. I’ve just been away for a year and one month… thirteen months and things are already scattered in my home. It goes a long way to show that I have no family. No wife. No son. Now I know what would have become of my name if I were dead.”
You said nothing. The beer in your mouth tasted bitter. You swallowed quickly and sat up.
Your father sat up too. “I hear that your mother is pregnant for one miscreant.” It wasn’t a question. You nodded. He smiled. “Where is she now?”
“She left the house this morning. With her bags.”
“Oh. Good riddance,” he said. “And, please tell me, what are you doing here?”
“What are you doing in my house?”
You kept silent and moped.
He stood. “You are a man now. I don’t want to see you in my house anymore, until the day I cease to breath. If I see you in my house I will kill you. Get out.”
You said nothing. You entered your room and packed your things hurriedly. When you were about to get done, he stood by the door. “If in the next five minutes you are still here I will kill you, here, in this house.’” You saw a shiny dark pistol in his left hand. You hurried.
You heard that your mother was living with Dr. Adams in his three bedroom apartment, with his wife and five children. You decided to check up on her. You did not know why you decided to, if it was to confirm your greatest wishes for her to be afflicted with one form of illness or the other. She was dressed in a gown, seated in the sitting room and sieving beans, when you walked in. She stared at you for a while, and then she smiled.
“How are you?” she asked.
“I am doing well, thank you.”
“Where do you stay now?”
“I stay with Miriam.”
“Ah. Miriam. Miriam. The same Miriam you treated so badly.” She smiled again.
“What are you doing here?” you asked her. She looked down and said nothing. Then Dr. Adams walked in, carrying a briefcase. Three of his teenage daughters came out and hugged him. He kissed the three of them on their cheeks and sat beside your mother, his hand on her shoulder after he had greeted you.
“How are you doing, Agii?” he asked. He called your mother Agii. It was what your father used to call her. You wondered if she was the one who advised he called her that. You looked at both of them, and they looked like cartoons from Disney World. The man had wrinkles on his neck, and your mother looked pinkish. You took in the room, the wall television, the leather cushions and the blue rug on the floor and the two fake paintings on the wall.
“I should be going now.”
Your mother stood and walked you to the door. At the door you opened your mouth to inform her that you were ashamed of her and of what she’d turned herself into, but you said nothing. A week later, she called you on the phone and informed you that she had rented an apartment in the centre of town, and was wondering if you could come and stay with her. You aborted the call.
Post image by ▲ r n o via flickr
About the Author:
Obinna Udenwe is a prize winning Nigerian writer. He debut novel, a conspiracy thriller titled Satans and Shaitans, was published by Jacaranda last year. His works have appeared in the Kalahari Review, Tribe-write, Flair Magazine, Kadunaboy and in Literary & Travel Magazine. Satans and Shaitans, was published in October 2014. His short story was featured in the African Roar 2014
collection. When he is not traveling all over the world, he shares his time between Abakaliki and Enugu.