True Life Story: They Did This to Me But I Dare Not Tell It to Anyone (Part Two)

Ajoke Alaamu

Continued from here

Let me tell you about my parents.

Mother was from a comfortable background. Her father died while she was little so she had to stop schooling because her mother, though rich, was in her lifetime married to about five different men, at different times. However, mama made her wealth outside the help of any of her husbands; all she ever inherited from every one of them, were children.

Mama did not see the importance of western education since she never went to school and she was wealthier than most that did. She did not think education gave anyone wealth especially the girl-child so my mother was stopped from going to school. Mama worked very hard and fate was kind.

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Father was from a royal lineage. His mother was the first of five wives. Unlike my mother, he was educated. Though not born into affluence, he grew up in it and he was never accountable to anyone until he met and married my mother. I learned that the first two years of their marriage was peaceful.

Immediately mother left the house, my elder brother saw himself out to the football field. I often wonder if he was ever as bothered as I was.

As soon as he was gone, my elder sister took over the bed to read a story book, (she would always read and sleep off) while bored little me thought of what could occupy me. I sneaked out of our sitting-room, and ran into his hands. He grabbed me and roughly led me into his room. First of all, mother must never catch my siblings and me playing outside our room so I was scared that he would tell her he caught me sneaking out. I started to plead with him that he should let me go back into our room but he wouldn’t listen.

Let me tell you about our house.

We lived in what you call ‘Face me I face you’ owned by an Alhaji with several wives and children. I can bet it with you that his wives gave birth every month if you consider how many children he had and their age gaps.

Apart from the many children of Alhaji who lived in the compound, he also had many tenants; most of whom were outstanding in lifestyles, culture, names and even body shapes.

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Let me tell you about the different characters in Alhaji’s compound.

Baba Adija! He was a commercial bus driver… I don’t recollect ever seeing him without smoke coming out from his nostrils while he would separate his lower lip in a funny manner to release ‘white air’. He smoked more than he spoke! Baba Adija had two ‘wives’, if you could refer to his mother as one. He rented two opposite rooms of the same size. His mother stayed in one while his wife stayed in the other. I think he had about four children. Adija, his first child was my age mate and she already had three younger ones while I didn’t have any. I don’t think my parents even had time to hug each other let alone, sleep together. Come to think of it, we had just one bed which they both slept in, but hmm! Anyways, when I was almost 7 years old, she brought a baby boy home as my younger brother. I never even knew she was pregnant; I was that ‘lost’ in my pains.

Let me continue with Baba Adija before I got carried away!

He spent more time on the road than in the house. He was an inter-state commercial bus driver who took his passengers and their goods from one state to another. Whenever he returned home, he would rotate his ‘sleep’ between his mother’s and wife’s. He also had a very loud voice. His voice could shake the foundation of a house and open the door of the most tightly secured prison house. I remember a day that his wife and mother were wailing uncontrollably. I heard mother consoling them and telling them to thank God that he came out unhurt. Unhurt from what? I later found out that his bus got burnt and it was beyond repairs. Some of the other tenants were even claiming that fire from his cigarette burnt down his bus. They said his cigarette fell from his mouth while he was driving and dozing. They said the cigarette collided with the fuel tank instantly and his bus caught fire. Anyways, we were never able to confirm this story from him because neither Baba Adija nor any member of his family was ever present when the story of their misfortune was recounted by those neighbours.

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As he roughly led me into his room, I observed a bowl on his centre table.

I glanced at the bowl which looked inviting and I realized it was a bowl of custard laced with evaporated milk. I think the milk was equivalent to the quantity of the custard. You need not be told that the sugar in it would be just enough.

I remember when Iya Basira- one of our eccentric neighbours accused her husband of eating too much sugar. She said it was the reason he was never up to his duty in bed. I began to wonder what sugar had to do with someone’s bed and the curiosity in me led me to ask mother about it. I am yet to recover from the pain I acquired from her pulling my ears; I am almost certain my ears were pulled out that day, even though they stayed glued to my head.

There was also the neighbour who worked in the North and he would come home once in a while to stay with his family. His room was the ‘silverbird galleria’ of the compound. He had a video cassette player and all the women and children in the compound would always assemble in his room to watch movies. His wife was a light complexioned beautiful woman with cute children.

There was another character that got his name from his style. I do not think anyone in the large compound knew his real name. His room was one of the very narrow ones; its size could barely contain his personal stuffs. Come to think of it, could that be the reason he was not married? Whenever this man needed water from the government tap, he would approach it with a huge sense of ‘worship’. He would sprinkle water on the tap, wipe it with a white handkerchief, pour detergent lavishly on it, then he would wash it thoroughly; not leaving the hole through which water would come out unwashed. He would then proceed to wipe it again before he would fetch water from it.

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I never saw him associate with any neighbour; he was always minding his business and that possibly explains why no one was ever bold enough to ask for his real name, so we called him “Washy-washy.”

To be continued….

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