“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”
– Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
My world used to be a lot like yours or nothing like yours. Decent home, good school, exciting friends, a reserved grandmother and awesome parents… at least, they were while alive.
It all happened so fast, my parents had died on a regular Wednesday evening and the next day, I was moved to mama’s house at Eket by Uncle Joe. It was at grand ma’s house I had stayed till my Parent’s burial ceremony was over. I remember being asked to fetch a handful of soil and drop on both coffins. I remember how I had yearned to yank off the dark suit I was made to wear because it itched me. I remember how people trooped into the family house to pray, hug and comfort me with words like kpe and songidem. I didn’t say much but nodded and said “Amen” and “Thank you” when necessary. Mama sat beside me with hands folded holding a soaked hand kerchief. She had been crying during the mass but was quiet now though her eyes were still puffy. She was dressed in black like everyone else and her lace smelled like it had in been beneath a box for a very long time.
Several days after the burial, I started to get bored. However, the loss of my parents didn’t hit me until after the Lawyer’s visit. He had read out series of mumbo jumbo that were so hard to make sense of in the presence of my extended family and I could see mama raise her hands from time to time and repeat “hmm, abasi sosongo”. He had later called me aside to ask how I was faring and if I had understood what he had read. When I replied no, he explained that I had nothing to worry about, that my life would go on normally as my parent’s had made adequate provisions for my future. After he left, I thought back to what normal meant. Normal involved me following my dad to the tennis court and having my mum hug me after forcing me to eat boiled eggs which I hate. At that moment, I experienced what pain was. I can’t explain how it felt but it can be synonymous to having your chest drilled. For days, I cried and wished my parents didn’t have to die.
I had asked mama when I would go home again and she had replied simply that Uncle Joe would make everything better so I looked forward to Uncle Joe’s saving hour.
Uncle Joe finally arrived a week later. He sat alone in the sitting room with grand ma and they spoke in hushed tones. I tried to eaves drop from the balcony but nothing made sense. After hours of discussion, I was finally invited in.
“Jay my boy” Uncle Joe said in his usual hippy tone and a smile “sit”, he instructed and tapped his thigh. I sat down and looked from grand ma to him a bit confused.
“How will you like staying with me?” He asked still smiling. I smiled back though I wasn’t intrigued. I was disappointed. I knew I wasn’t going home anytime soon and Uncle Joe’s question wasn’t really a question but a statement.
“Will mama come?” I asked staring at mama with pleading eyes. She met my gaze with a faint smile but immediately looked back at Uncle Joe.
“Yes. She can come, if she wants to.” Uncle Joe replied fixing a stern gaze at mama. I noticed mama let her head drop while she fingered the edge of her wrapper. I could tell she didn’t want to move in with Uncle Joe however, I silently prayed she would agree. She was my closest relative and though she didn’t say much, I was more comfortable around her compared to anyone, not even Uncle Joe.
“Go and pack your things. We will leave first thing tomorrow morning” mama said squeezing my hands.
*** *** ***
Morning wasted no time coming. After breakfast, I helped Uncle Joe and the driver move boxes to the car. I noticed some of my things from my parent’s house were already in the car so I guessed Uncle Joe had stopped there before coming to pick me. I immediately ransacked the bags to see if my play station was somehow remembered and to my surprise it was and I let out a sigh of relief.
Our journey lasted for a few hours and I had managed to sleep in between on mama’s laps. It was her shrug that woke me up on our arrival. I woke to a duplex, beautifully designed like what I used to live in. Uncle ushered me out and said, “This will be your new home Jacob. Let me show you to your room”.
A girl stood at the entrance with a napkin in her hand. I will later come to know her name as Ochanya.
“Welcome sir, welcome ma” She curtsied as she greeted Uncle and mama who was directly behind us.
“Eh hen… Pack those things to the rooms that were prepared” Uncle replied gesturing to the car that was behind us now as we stepped into the house.
“Where’s your madam?” he added,
“She never come back since when she commot” the girl replied. Uncle just nodded and continued leading the way.
The house was indeed beautiful but it was my room that made me smile. It was just as big as the former with a T.V. Maybe the lawyer was right… to an extent.
“You like it?” Uncle asked, I could see he was desperate to hear me say yes and when I replied yes, he was thrilled. Mama smiled and whispered to me “he worked hard on this”.
“I will leave you to settle in while I show mama her room”. Uncle said and left.
I sat on the bed and watched Ochanya and the driver drop my things one after the other. When they were done, I closed the door and laid back on the bed with my eyes close.
I don’t know how long I had laid in this position but I woke up to a female voice
“Do you always sleep like this?”
I sat up immediately to meet a straight faced lady in a yellow kente gown. I recognized the face from the portrait of Uncle Joe and a smiling lady who so happened to be her, that laid at mama’s sitting room beside my parent’s wedding picture.
“Good mor-after..noon ma” I said not sure of the time as I looked at my wrist watch to confirm that it was indeed afternoon.
“Hmmmm… welcome. I am your uncle Joseph’s wife you can call me Nse. Your lunch is ready” She said, still with a straight face. I wanted to say I knew who she was but she added “make sure you add aunty to my name. Aunty Nse.” With that, she left, shutting the door after her.
I let out a sigh and whispered “…so help me God” before following her downstairs.