Monthly Archives: January 2011

sunflowers and daisies

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“Daddy come and see butterflies!come!” I hear Onyinye and Otito shout.

With a smile on my face,I jog over to where they are staring in fascination at the butterflies flapping their wings softly and sucking up nectar as they perch on the sunflowers and the daisies.

“Daddy they are so beautiful!” Otito says.
“Indeed they are sweetie” I say and watch the beautiful patterned wings and the tiny legs covered in pollen as the butterflies carry on their task.Nneoma,my beautiful wife,walks over and gives each of us a soft hug.

I am content.

The sky is wide,unending and vividly blue and the sun is shining bright and fair,the meadow all around us is full of green grass and a wide variety of different brightly coloured flowers.it feels like we are engulfed in a rainbow.

It all looks like a picture,a perfect picture.

There is no house or person except us in sight,the only sounds to be heard are the soft flapping of the butterflies wings and our laughter.This is pure bliss,this is heaven.We are happy,I am happy.

All of a sudden a strong force like a wind is dragging me backward.I’m being pulled away from Nneoma,Onyinye and Otito.I’m trying to reach out to them but I can’t.I can see them smiling and waving as the distance between us grows.Just before they disappear,I hear Nneoma’s voice as clear as crystal “be happy”…

And then I’m falling from a mountain top;my eyes are shut and I’m screaming but my voice can’t get past my throat..

I hit the ground and open my eyes slowly.Everything is a blur but I can see the image of someone sitting next to me.

“Chima!Chima!thank God you are awake!Doctor!Doctor!”…It’s Nneoma’s mother…

I look around but I can’t recognise anything.

“Where am I?” I croak

“You are in the hospital Chima” the doctor and mama Nneoma say in unison

Then the pain hits me like a hundred elephants stampeding on top of me.I try to get up but I can’t move any part of my body.

“Don’t move.You have 3 broken ribs and a broken leg.You also had a minor concussion for the accident” says the doctor

“What accident?And where is Nneoma and my kids?” I think loudly

Mama Nneoma is now crying too much to even reply

I’m so confused.One minute ago I was in paradise and now I’m in the hospital.

“You were in an accident last week with your wife and kids…”

My head is hurting.I can remember..It was raining and I was driving them to the movies when I suddenly saw the bright lights of a trailer approaching and I lost control of the car.That’s all I can remember

“You’ve been in a coma since last week sir”

“I would like to see my wife and kids.Are they okay?Can I be wheeled over to their wards?”

Mama Nneoma is wailing louder and the doctor has a strange look on his face and pity in his eyes.

“I’m sorry sir but…I’m sorry sir but the kids died before they were brought to the hospital.We did our possible best to save your wife but she didn’t make it..I’m so sorry sir”

“What?!” I stammer.I must be in a dream,a terrible nightmare.

Everything becomes dark and I lose conciousness.
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‘Nneoma Jay-Chikezie.1979-2008’ the first reads
‘Onyinyechi Jay-Chikezie.2001-2008’ the second reads
‘Otitodilichukwu Jay-Chikezie.2003-2008’ the third reads

I stare at the tombstones in confusion.I thought I had cried all the water in my body but I was wrong.The more I stare,the more tears roll down my cheeks.

The pain is still fresh..today is the 1st of January 2009;exactly three months since my world shattered.I haven’t gone anywhere except the cemetary since I left the hospital.I haven’t been to work for the past three months but I don’t care.I have no reason to care or to live.

I’m kneeling before the graves of the people I loved the most in the world.How could life be so cruel?How?

“I can’t move on.Nneoma,Otito,Onyinye you were my life” I cry

I get up and wipe the tears from my face.
I place a bunch on sunflowers and daisies on each grave as I have done each day since I left the hospital.

As I turn to walk away to return again tomorrow I hear Nneoma’s voice

“Chima”

I turn around in astonishment and there she is,there they are smiling and waving.

“Daddy I love you” says Otito

“Daddy I love you” says Onyinye

“Chima I love you” says Nneoma

“I love you!please stay with me” I say in tears

“No Chima.Our time is over but yours isn’t.Stay and be happy” says Nneoma

“Please don’t go”

“We have to Chima.We are in a better place but we are always in your heart.Don’t be sad,we will meet again”

They are disappearing now but I have a new found joy.As they smile and wave,I smile and wave back through my tears.
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It’s been two years now since the day I saw my wife and kids at the cemetary.I still take flowers there once a week.My wife and kids may be dead but they live on in my heart.

Anytime I feel sad I hear Nneoma’s voice as clear as crystal telling me “be happy”

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Eko Ile

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I run hurriedly towards the bustop.I can see the conductors pointing towards their yellow and black painted buses.As I approach the bustop I can hear their croaky voices shouting
“CMS,CMS,CMS!”
“Ketu,Ojota!”
“Yaba,Onipan,Palmgroove!”
“Maryland”
When I first came to Lagos everything the conductors said sounded like Greek to my untrained and Lagos inappropriate ears but now I can make out the places they mention like a pro.I struggle through the tens of people all rushing into the bus heading for Maryland.Successfully seated,I wipe the sweat off my brow with the back of my palm as I listen to the conductor’s familiar call
“make una hold your thirty thirty naira oh,me no get change!”.Inspite of the stink of fish and sweat filling the bus and the loud groaning sound of the engine,my mind drifts back to a day just like this;the day I came to Lagos.

I had just gotten my admission letter to the University of Lagos which was no surprise since my JAMB and WASSCE results were the best in the whole of Orumba South local government.Eventhough it was obvious that it was the end of my educational journey since my parents,a poor farmer and a petty trader were too poor to pay for even the cheapest tertiary institution in Anambra state,I was hopeful.I had written severally to my mother’s brother,uncle Chima in Lagos concerning the possibility of me coming to stay with him and of him sponsoring my university education and he finally replied with a letter saying that he would be coming to the village that weekend.After waiting all week with baited breath,I watched his car pull up in front of our practically destroyed house and my heart leaped for joy when he told me I would be leaving for Lagos with him the very next day.The next day bright and early,after my parents hugged me and prayed for me for what seemed to be like eternity,we were off.Uncle Chima was a quick driver and we arrived in Lagos just before the sun went down.I remember staring out of the window in awe as I watched a seemingly impossible amount of people and cars breeze by.As the hawkers shouted ‘gala’,’pure water’,’la casera’,I shook my head and smiled at each one in amazement and they all peered at me suspiciously and said things to me in Yoruba which sounded so foreign,so magical to my ears.The bright lights,the voices,the people,the buildings;Lagos seemed like heaven to me that day,the place where dreams came true!If only it had turned out to be so…
I am brought back to reality as I see with my peripheral vision that the bus is about to pass my bustop.
‘Mr Biggs bustop o wa oh!’ I scream.
‘You dey sleep before?’ the conductor hisses at me as the bus slows but does not come to a stop.I jump out of the moving vehicle,this is a skill I have perfected in my 6 month stay in Lagos.I begin to walk briskly down the street to the house fully aware of the area boys lurking in the corners.

As I get to uncle Chima’s house,I open the gate and run quickly to our generator with the keg of fuel I’ve just bought.I pour in the fuel and pull the rope on the generator and after 3 or so energy draining tries,it jerks to life and I switch over from NEPA to generator and go in as I see signs of electricity.It used to take me longer to carry out this routine but NEPA’s consistency in depriving us of power has made me perfect in yet another ‘Lagosian’ skill.I run upstairs to our appartment of the 6th floor and as I step through the door,a heavy hand lands sharply on my face and I stagger a bit before I regain balance.my hand is now on my burning cheek as I look up and see that it is aunty Ify,uncle Chima’s wife who hit me accross the face.
“Where were you,ehn?!my friend where are you coming from?!” she screams.
“Aunty you know there is fuel scarcity so I had to go to 5 different filling stations before I got the little fuel I put in the gen” I say.
“Mcheeew!my friend get into the kitchen and start pounding the yam for dinner,take Nonso with you”..I take the screaming baby and as I start to walk to the kitchen,she shouts
“hey Ngozi where is my change”.I hand her the 200 naira.
“What is this?!why is it 200 naira?!” She inquires loudly like a cobra ready to attack.
“Aunty I took a bus because the place where I bought the fuel was very far” I say in mouse-like whispers.
“Idiot!Anu!onye ara!you could not walk gbo?!is it your foolish father that worked for the money?!go and pound that yam before I descend on you!mbeke!”.I sprint to the kitchen,strap Nonso on my back and pound as quickly and as perfectly as I can;I serve the food and take it to aunty Ify in her room.she takes one look at the food and says
“give it to the dog”.
I blink severally
“ehn?!” I manage to say.
“Idiot are you deaf,give it to Lucky.I am not hungry!better don’t eat it because if you do,I will kill you this night.go and pour it in Lucky’s bowl.I’ll be watching u from the window”.I give Lucky the food that took all my remaining energy to prepare and he turns his nose up at it and runs away.

All the lights in the house are turned off now and everyone is asleep even Nonso eventhough it took me 2 hours to get him to sleep but I know that my duties for the day are not over.There’s a brief,soft rap on my door;it’s my last duty for the day.uncle Chima comes in,takes off his wrapper and mounts me.I don’t make any sound or movement,I just lie there and let him have his way.when he is done he says his usual ending note
“don’t worry oh nne,you will go to school very soon’ and he leaves to return again tomorrow night.

I’m fully convinced that I will never go to school.I cannot go back to the village because my parents will never believe that their only child’s only uncle and his wife turned her into a sex slave and a domestic servant.I cannot run away because I cannot survive out there on the cold streets of Lagos without shelter or food.Yet,I know I cannot stay here.
I get out of bed,walk to the balcony of the appartment and look down.I used to cry but the well from which my tears were drawn has long dried,I no longer feel the hurt or the pain.my body is an emotionless,soul-less empty shell.

Lagos was my future,the place that seemed so distant and so magical to me back in the village.The successful people say “Eko ile!Lagos my home.Eko o ni baje oh” but those at the bottom know that Lagos is a jungle,a dog-eat-dog world,a place of survival only for the fittest.The beggers on the streets,the hawkers,the area boys,the pick pockets,the burglers,the house helps,the yahoo yahoo boys know that Lagos is no fantasy land,Lagos is a battle field.I am sure that every mad person on the street,contrary to the belief that black magic is the cause of their madness,has run mad because of the soul draining,heart wrenching horror of surviving in Lagos.Lagos is the most populated state because people in the villages,people in other states,like me,keep running to Lagos to fulfill their goals,to live their dreams of being rich,of going to school,of starting businesses,of getting jobs;If only they knew.Lagos is not heaven,Lagos is not shangrila.I now know that though life is hard,the universe has made it harder in Lagos.
My life flashes before my eyes,the times when I was happy in the village.My parents will forgive me eventually I think as I jump.My soul-less body hits the ground.

Goodbye cruel world,goodbye Lagos