I have been to Jos once. I have many friends who call it home. This one is for Jos, a prayer that someday soon, joy, rather than despair will be etched on the faces of its residents
Happy 4th of July America, Land of the free, Home of the Brave (Tim Howard!!!!)
P.S I haven’t edited so bear with the many mistakes
The first scream pierces through his skin, finds muscle and shreds it, tears into sinew and keeps going until it reaches his soul. He knows that he will never forget the sound for as long as he lives. He knows it will be the sound track to every nightmare he will have from now on.
By the second scream, his soul has recovered but it still manages to find a way to blind his eyes with unbidden tears.
‘What have I done?’ He whispers silently to the empty waiting room.
There are no answers there so he let his mind wander to the beginning, the past, a place safe from the present.
He had been driving home from work the day he met her. He had just moved back to Jos, the city of his childhood. He left in a hurry at seventeen. He had been weary of the pyramid of potatoes that loomed at him at every turn. He had been tired of the cold that found ways to seep into your bones no matter the layers you had on. There had been no adventure left for Bamaiyi in Jos so when the time came to write down university hopes on his Jamb form, he had spelled out University of Lagos and LASU in capital letters. He got into the former and never came home for holidays. His father barely noticed; he had too many children to worry about one sheep, lost to the smog of the city. His mother had died birthing a still born, when he was four. He had photos and when he stared at them, he felt like a doughnut with no filling.
Lagos helped him forget he belonged to no one. It let him belong to Lagos but as time passed, he started to miss the succulent flesh of potatoes that his step mothers included in every meal. The heat of Lagos made him miss the Jos even more. As for adventure, 8 years of smoky molues and agberos were enough adventure to last a lifetime. So when his bank requested willing hands willing to lead its expansions up north and across the Middle Belt, Bamaiyi’s hand was the first to shoot up.
A few weeks after moving back to Jos, he almost killed a human being. It was funny really when he spent time to dwell on it. All those years of driving like a mad man in Lagos and he never harmed another human being. Maybe he dented a few cars and made a few motor cycles worse for the wear but , no human being had ever suffered bodily harm because of his driving skills or lack of it. Then one day in Jos of all places, he almost killed another person.
Later she would tell him not to blame himself so much. She had not been looking where she was going, preferring to concentrate on catching the almajiri that had snatched her purse.
‘I could have killed you.’
‘Well you didn’t. You saved me.’
Her name was Lami and once he was through cursing at her for her inattentiveness, he found himself irretrievably lost in huge brown eyes that were filling up fast with tears.
‘I am sorry.’ She said.
‘Where were you going anyway?’ He demanded!
She turned in the direction the almajiri had run off in and pointed. ‘He was getting away. He took my purse.’
His heart ached for her then. She looked so lost and alone inspite of the crowd of onlookers that were already pooling around them. He offered to drive her home but she declined. He took her hand anyways and led her to the car. The next day after work, he was back at her parents’ house where he had dropped her off the night before. And every day after that. He married her a year later and it was pure bliss.
Then one day, six years later, they both woke up and saw that they were naked. Like Adam and Eve, they had no covering, no future, no one to live on in, no child…
It took them six years of joy to discover sadness was missing but once they discovered the sadness, they embraced it and forgot to hold onto one another.
Fertility doctor after fertility doctor, test after test, church after church, till it had almost consumed their love.
Then on another day, they both woke up, looked at each other and said ‘to hell with it.’ He was almost 43 by this time and she, 41. They could choose to live the rest of their lives embracing sadness or each other. They opted for the latter. They found an adoption agency and Nana came into their lives. They named her Nana for the mother Bamaiyi had lost to the brother that never lived. She came into their lives and with every chuckle, restored their joy, with every step, led them away from the valleys of despair…
She was three now and talking faster than they could listen. It was she who had first noticed there was something different about Lami.
‘Mummy is fat!’ She pointed out to Bamaiyi one afternoon as father and child watched Lami as she waved to them from the Six Flags pool she was swimming in.
At first Bamaiyi laughed and then he handed over a chocolate bar to the child to bribe her from repeating what she had just said in front of her mother. He knew his wife was conscious about her body.
As Nana bit into the gooey mess, Bamaiyi took another look at the woman who was toweling herself dry. She wasn’t fat fat, he thought but her breasts looked so much fuller and the small roll of fat on her belly her had tightened in a bigger bump.
It never occurred to him that she was pregnant. She was at least 4 months gone before the truth fought its way to their consciousness.
Nana was still at daycare. Bamaiyi had called one of his step sisters to pick her up and maybe keep her for the night. He knew he should call to find out how she was but he was too afraid. His brother had stolen his mother from him. Would Nana’s brother steal Lami from her?
Another scream pierces through the sturdy walls of the hospital and finds its resting place in Bamaiyi’s soul. He knows it won’t be long now.
‘Mr Bamaiyi! Mr Bamaiyi!’ A voice calls out to him.
Later, Bamaiyi wuold attempt to describe the owner of the voice to the nurses and doctors that worked in the hospital. They will all deny her existence. He will be met with blank stares and confused glances. He will be informed that she was no one they knew. No, there was no Nurse Alice working there, there had never been. So who was the woman with eyelashes so long that they could sweep despair away? Who was she that had taken his hand and told him everything was going to be okay? That Lami would not die, that Nana would not lose her mother? Who was the angel in white that had led him by the hand to an empty seat and sat with him listening to the silent words his heart spoke? No one had any answers on the strange woman and in the end, all Bamaiyi could conclude was she was someone he had dreamed with eyes open.
Angel Alice turns out to be right anyway. Lami does not die and neither does their son. They name him ‘Yabani’ and Nana takes her role as elder sister as seriously as a school teacher on her first day. Lami loses all the baby weight and Nana never again uses the word ‘fat’ and ‘Mummy’ in the same sentence. Life is better than Bamaiyi could have ever dreamed and even though there are mysteries here and there, he finds that he is content and doesn’t need to figure it all out.
Once in a while though, he brings out old photographs of his mother and smiles back at the woman with eyelashes so long they could sweep despair away.
Song of the day: Michael Buble – Hold On