And definitely not after what I had done last night.
My whole life -the most important parts of it that has any kind of relevance to me, have flitted before my eyes in the past five or six hours. It was like having a reel of film played back in HD.
I have not had a happy life. My childhood was tainted. But, was it enough reason for what I had done?
Life hasn’t been fair to me….
Well, it wasn’t like it was all bad. At least not until recently when things took a spiral nose dive, culminating in the events that I am about to tell you about. The act in itself begs for understanding.
You see, I have led a mostly loveless life. It is not like I do not have loving people around me.I have just found it easier not to love. I’ll take all the love I can get, but I always tell the girls who traipsed into my life not to expect too much from me.
Growing up was not fun. Not when you were raised by a single parent, your father nowhere to be found for large parts of your formative years. Not that my mom didn’t try her best. She did; as a matter of fact I and my sister would have totally lost our way in life, if not for her strict and loving guidance. She did her best to ensure we had a good education, as good as we can get within her means.
It was a tough time though for everyone. Those early years were really rough days. My mom almost lost her mind. As young as I was I understood what was going on – the arguments my dad and mom had; the many days they would hardly speak to each other; the charms and other strange objects I found in my dad’s pockets while scrounging for small change for toffees. All that fighting and posturing, silent as they were, caused so much gloom around the house.
From listening to their hushed talk in the dead of night, I was able to gather the cause of the gloom hanging over our household. He hadn’t wanted any more children. But my mom was pregnant. Their arguments were centered around the fact that he wanted an abortion, which my mom didn’t want to have.
It went on like that for weeks, until one day I and my sister arrived at our house in downtown Surulere to find it in a state of utter disarray. Most of the furniture had been removed, leaving only the barest of items- kitchen utensils, a mattress, the carpet and two arm chairs. It was a strange sight to see, and we stood there transfixed for several minutes.
“Armed robbers,” my four year old sister quipped. I felt her grip tighten as she held my hand.
“No Peju. This is not the handwork of robbers.”
“Then where is our chair? The TV? The fridge? The….”
“Dad has left us. He took them. Everything” I declared. I was not sure she understood what I had said because she just kept roaming through the now almost empty sitting room, her bag still on her back.
Even back then as a nine year old, I understood what had happened. What was strange however was the fact that my dad had taken almost everything that ever made life what it was for us, even his very nice and cheerful self.
That was what hurt most. Him leaving us. Like we didn’t mean anything to him. His chairs, TV, writing bureau and so on meant much more to him. It was the picture I carried around in my head for a long time. It was painful to realize that there would be no more time spent with my dad in the kitchen, plate in hand while he scooped hot dodo from the frying into the plate. Memories of saturday visits to the Onikan Stadium to watch Stationary Stores F.C play against Shooting Stars or Rangers FC or Iwuanyanwu International FC.
I was only going to have memories now. Memories tainted with soured bitterness.
Mom was a strong woman though. She did her best to conceal her pain from everyone; telling neighbours who pried that daddy had been transferred and that we would be moving to the new house in a couple of months. I am not sure if that story convinced anyone, but it was the official position we all maintained for months.
Six months of hell. My mom had the abortion, this I found out years later – when I was able to link her severe sickness to consequences of the act of an abortion that nearly became fatal. She had almost died then too (She however did confirm the deed to me many years after). But, for the care and love of relatives -her own relatives, as my dad’s never showed up, she sure would have died. As it happened, she survived and went about reclaiming her life again. She did a fine job of it though giving the circumstances.
But, it was tough. Very tough. After six months of struggling, we moved out of the detached bungalow in the estate because she couldn’t afford the rent. We moved into the family house, my grandparent’s place and it was then that all the trouble started. And it was how my future became to be shaped. My life mapped bent out of recognition.
I and my sister were nothing short of being slaves to my uncles. We lived downstairs, but we were made to also clean the rooms and toilets upstairs before going to school. We were also sent on errands, as far away from home as it could get, without hope for a transport fare. We walked to and from such places. We were beaten at every possible opportunity, always been told to get the hell out and go look for our father. Many times I have heard abuses flung at my sister and myself for simple mistakes any child would make. Mistakes I am sure they also made growing up.
Usually, the maltreatment was reserved for when my grandparents and mom were not around. It is when they are away or out that the belts, cane and whatnots came out to play on our backsides. It was in that house that I knew what was to stood down and ride okada meant. I did a lot of that, along with many other barbaric torture postures. And we dared not tell on them. We were going to die if we ever did.
What doesn’t kill you makes you strong, right?
I lived with it and through all the abuse. My mind crystallized into a simple solution – hatred towards my dad for putting us through this pain and hurt.
It was during this spell in my life that my personality was defined. It was also the time I made a very big decision. One that I have held on tightly…until a few months ago. I swore never to be vulnerable to the emotion called love. I didn’t want to get hurt like my mom was; or worse, be the source of so much ache and pain in another person. So, I built a big wall around myself and my emotions. You could never know what was going on in my head. It scared my mates and as I grew up, it began to scare my uncles too.
For all my mom’s show of strength it was obvious she still ached inside. She never re-married; not that she lacked suitors, but I guess she only ever gave her heart to one man – my dad. That and the fact that she tried to protect us from the uncertainties that may lie in wait in another man’s house. Maybe, that was for the best. She probably saved herself and us from latter years of struggles with strangers.
Well, we never heard from my dad. Not for many years. Growing up through school was frustrating, embarrassing and totally uninteresting. It was not fun having to keep up the charade that my dad was out of town in a far place doing an important job every time there was an occasion in school. While all my other friends had their dads available sometimes, I never did. It was always my mom.
I did well in school alright. Almost always topping my class. But my school mates were brutal. They made painful jokes behind my back. Most times, I’ll would pretend I didn’t hear since none of them were bold enough to say them to my face. I don’t talk much but I guessed they all sensed I couldn’t be messed with. Those foolish enough to pick fights with me in my early days in the school had tales to tell.
However, there were some boys who just will find fight with anybody for the fun of it. Boys like the twins Abbey and Odun.
We had been in summer class, preparing for a new session, I was going into my last year of primary education. I had been picked by my class teacher as the class captain. It was a job I’d rather not have; but she had called me in confidence and explained the reasons why she wanted me to. She had said it wasn’t only because of my academic achievements, but also because I exhibited other strong qualities. She had said I was very calm, also very innovative in my thinking; that I was also neat and could express myself well. Above all, she said she wanted me to be her class captain because she liked me.
Somehow, the last part had been overheard by someone in my class and that evening one of the twin boys had remarked that I had gotten the class captain-ship, because I did favors.
“Hey, teacher’s boy,” he had called out as I made my way out of the summer school premises.
“What is it Abbey? And don’t call me that. I don’t like it.”
“Ehn?! ‘I don’t like it’. What don’t you like? That you are teacher’s boy or that you were made class captain because she liked you? So, all those errands you ran for her and the weekend visits to miss house was not for nothing, eh?”
I could feel the anger boiling up inside. Biodun is one of those boys who delighted in bullying smaller kids. Him along with his twin brother Odun always made trouble, and because they were bigger than most of the other kids they were avoided as much as possible.
I was the only one bold enough to call them Abbey and Odun, rather than Taiwo and Kenny. You do so at the risk of a bloody mouth, full of sand. But, that is what I called them – from the first day I transferred to Thomas Aquinas Primary School, Atunrase in Surulere from Itire Primary School, Itire.
“Abbey, stop it!” I repeated. My voice now obviously betraying the hint of my suppressed anger.
The vehemence with which I had delivered my objection took him by surprise. For a few seconds, Abbey just stood and stared at me. He could not figure out what next to do in the face of my very public challenge to his authority to bully me.
“If we do not stop, what will you do?” Odun jumped in, ready to defend his brother’s bruised ego, ” what will you do then? Beat us up?”
I knew they would both gang up against me then. The other boys, too scared to get involved had moved away from me. They were on one side looking on, unable to defend me for fear of reprisals.
I looked at both of them with no fear. I always knew I could stand up to anybody, but it was the first time I ever felt this kind of intense anger. I could feel the adrenaline surge pumping up in my bloodstream already. Not the kind that made you jittery. Just pumped up. Ready for action.
I also had self-control. A lot of it. It was something which my childhood background had taught me.
I turned away and picked up my bag, my natural instinct urging me not to get into a fight.
As I made to walk past, I felt a heavy tug on my bag strap. I was forcefully dragged back, almost losing my balance.
“Where do yo think you are going?” It was Odun who had dragged me. His fingers were still curled around my bag strap. He was smaller in size to Abbey, but was known to be more devious.
I calmly uncurled his fingers, made to walk past them again when I felt the heavy blow at the base of my skull. I lurched forward and fell in the sand.
It was momentary though, because I knew I can’t stay down for too long or else I would be served with the ignominious meal of sand, as was customary in fights between children of my age in those days.
I quickly got up and faced them. I dug my hands into my bag, feeling the slimness of the BIC biro casing inside. I pulled it out and removed the cover.
“Odun, I swear after today you will never touch me again!” The words felt strange even to myself. It was like someone else had spat them out through my lips. I was vaguely aware of the hushed silence that had fallen over the small group.
Somehow, maybe Odun also saw the difference that had occurred in me. His eyes started shifting around in his socket, looking for an escape route. As I walked towards him, my left hand balled in a fist and my right clutching the biro, he continued to back away from me. After a few hurried steps backwards, he suddenly turned and ran. I chased after him, the other boys shouting and running after us.
I closed on him quickly, lunged at him aiming the point of my biro at his neck. I aimed for maximum damage, but at the last minute before connection he swerved to the left and the point of the pen only connected with his back. I was maniacal and murderous. On feeling the impact, I made a downward slashing movement tearing his shirt in half at the back.
It satisfied me seeing that I had drawn blood. I stopped chasing, but Odun didn’t stop. He ran on, not looking back. His brother Abbey also ran past me, not stopping or looking back.
They were not seen in summer school for two weeks. When they did, they avoided me like a plague.
The feeling of satisfaction was very strange. I had never felt that murderous urge before. And not ever since….at least not that overwhelming rush of anger.
Until last night.
You can read some of my other stuffs here Shaifamily on NS