THIS TOO SHALL PASS (4)

BlueRise

(Read the third part here)

Tamuno made her way through the gate of her school, her movement fluid, her demeanour pleasant, her eighteen-inch weave flowing graciously behind her.

She met Kachi leaning by the door of the green cab, his legs crossed, his sleeves rolled up his arms. She found him attractive, except for his slight pot-belly. She hadn’t noticed it up until now. She liked several other things about him, especially how he spoke- so gentle, so fluent, so polished- like a true gentleman, and that easily made up for his pot-belly.

“Hi,” she said, extending her arm.

“You look… beautiful,” Kachi said with an exaggerated seriousness, taking her hand in his, and drawing her closer for a quick hug.

“Oh, thanks.”

“So where are we hanging out?” he asked.

“I thought you already had that figured out,” Tamuno replied incredulously.

“I don’t live in Abuja. I wouldn’t know the happening spots. So could you get off your high horse and help a brother?”

Tamuno sighed and flipped out her blackberry. She scrolled through her phone, down and up, up and down.

“Ok, errr… How about dinner at the hotel where I stay? Rumour has it that tonight’s special and promises to be sumptuous. Should we?”

**********

Tamuno sat across from Kachi in a reserved corner of the restaurant, their knees touching.

She sipped on her drink, “So, I’m wondering why you are not married.”

Kachi took a sip too from his drink, not once taking his gaze away from Tamuno, “Did I say I was not?”

“Oh, you’re married?” Tamuno asked not hiding her disappointment. “I didn’t know that was a wedding band,” she said looking at his ring finger. “I mean, it’s too huge. Never seen a wedding band that huge, especially for a man.”

Kachi laughed, saying nothing.

“So what am I doing here with you?” she asked.

“I didn’t know that I couldn’t be friends with you if I was married.”

“I didn’t say that,” Tamuno responded pouting. “So tell me about your wife.”

Kachi raised his arm, “I don’t talk about my wife or my children. I could tell you any other thing.”

After dinner, they walked to the poolside arm-in-arm, talking in low tones. As they sat on the wooden seat, Tamuno shuddered.

“Are you cold?” Kachi asked pulling her close to him.

“Mmnh,” she cuddled comfortably into his arms. She liked his smell. She stroked the back of his neck, and Kachi remembered that Chikanyimma used to do that a lot. Now, Chikanyimma couldn’t even relax in his arms. She spent most nights going between their’s and Ahamefuna’s rooms to check if he had again awakened from his sleep, and to rock him back to bed. He closed his eyes and rubbed Tamuno’s arm tenderly.

**********

“Mummy,” Nwakego called out closing the door gently after her, “it’s eight-thirty. Are we not going to church today?”

Chikanyimma still sat by the window from where she had watched Iya Ibukun and her son. “No dear,” she answered, “I’m tired today. You and Akunna should pray together in your room, and make sure you read your bible too. There’s hot water in the flask and bread in the fridge. Help yourselves. Is that okay?”

“Yes mummy,” Nwakego said and left the room.

Chikanyimma walked to the bedside fridge and brought out a glass, half-filling it with water. She searched her brown bag for the sachet of bromazepam the pharmacist had given her.

Two days ago, she had complained to the doctor, “I’m not sleeping well. I lie awake on the bed until well into midnight. I awake with headache, tired and heavy in the mornings. This has been going on and off for years, but in the last two months, I’ve not had any respite.”

As the doctor wrote into her file, he asked, “Do you sleep with the lights on? Or in a noisy neighbourhood?”

“No.”

“Your blood pressure is rocket-high. It could turn out disastrous if you don’t religiously take your medication. I’ll place you on antihypertensives and prescribe a sedative. Also, take warm milk at night, and try to stop worrying about things you have no control over. Worry never solved anything, okay?” Chikanyimma nodded.

“Get these drugs at the pharmacy, and come back to see me in a week’s time,” he said tearing off a stamped sheet. “You’ll be fine, okay?” Chikanyimma nodded again.

“One tablet only at night,” the pharmacist said as she handed her the sachet of bromazepam. “Your doctor says for just three nights.”

“Thank you,” Chikanyimma said and walked out of the pharmacy.

Now, she brought out the sachet from her bag and popped open five tablets, dropping them into the glass of water. She stirred with a spoon and started to walk, glass-in-hand, to Ahamefuna’s room.

Ahamefuna lay clutching his pillow, several clothes strewn all over his bed. He didn’t stir when Chikanyimma tapped him on the leg.

Distraught by her actions, she went on her knees, and in a voice she had never heard herself speak with cried, her palms fitted in between her thighs, her head bowed, “God, if you are there, hear me out now. I can’t… I can’t continue this journey. You won’t heal him, then take him. Take him away from me. Let him be with you. I want my husband back. I want my family back. I want my career back. I want my life back. Take him and restore my life to me,” she groaned, sucking in the phlegm in her throat.

The door that was slightly ajar widened and cool breeze waded in. At the door, Akunna and Nwakego peeked, tears in their eyes.

Nwakego spoke first, “mummy, you are asking God to take away my only brother?”

Chikanyimma rested her back against the bed and her head on her palms, silent.

Akunna spoke hurriedly, as though to counter the words before God answered them, “God, please don’t. Mummy, please don’t ask God to do that. We love Aham, mummy. He’s only a special child, remember?” She went forward to sit by Chikanyimma, and took her hand in both of hers.

When Akunna spoke, she reminded Chikanyimma of her own mother, the surety in her voice, the unwavering of her belief, the wisdom in her words, “Mummy, you usually say no condition is permanent. This too shall pass.”

Chikanyimma looked at the glass of water by her side, a wry smile lurking at the corners of her lips. “This too shall pass,” she repeated after her daughter. She believed it. She would make it happen.

THE END

Chinazar Okoro©2013

THIS TOO SHALL PASS (3)

(Read the second part here)

Kachi’s mother named the child Ahamefuna, the one who would preserve the family’s name. His hair was full and his eyes had a downward slope. Every one who peeked into his cot remarked, “this one, na im papa born am.”

Chikanyimma called Ahamefuna ‘my little prince charming’. He was quick to smile just like her and did not make a lot of fuss when strangers carried him.

Chikanyimma and Kachi started to worry when Ahamefuna had not begun to crawl by the time he turned one. His transformation was sudden. He began to cry and struggle when other people carried him. Many times, he refused even Kachi, and only Chikanyimma could carry him.

“See, nna m, it’s daddy,” she would say pointing to Kachi, but Ahamefuna only fixed his eyes on her pointed finger. He let Akunna and Nwakego pull his cheeks, but he did not always smile back at them as he used to.

Chikanyimma and Kachi worried even more. Ahamefuna was oblivious to sounds. He didn’t respond to his name. He didn’t look people in the eyes. He was two years already and the only words he uttered were “mama, mama, mama” repeatedly. A doctor-friend referred them to a specialist hospital on the Island.

After examining Ahamefuna, the paediatrician sat behind a desk decked with files. He was elderly and spoke slowly, as though picking his words, “His case is not extremely peculiar. I mean, I have seen much worse cases.”

He peeked out of his glasses as he spoke, “People who have been diagnosed with autism usually have deficits in what we call cognitive function. Simply put, they may be a little challenged in intellectual processes like how they think, how they reason and understand ideas and even how they remember. You know, it’s a good thing you have detected this challenge quite early. This disorder can’t be cured, but with proper interventive measures, you can teach him to develop self-care and social…”

The paediatrician spoke on, but Chikanyimma was no longer hearing. Her child was abnormal. Would be abnormal forever. Ahamefuna, the one preserving the family’s name. She felt Kachi’s arm on her shoulder, and darkness clouding her world.

On weekends succeeding their first visit to the paediatrician, they attended classes with him where he taught them ways to adequately care for Aham.

Chikanyimma was diligent with the classes, determined to give Aham all the support he needed. Many times, Kachi was by her side, both taking notes, both watching videos, but sometimes he went away to Port-Harcourt or Abuja for work seminars and conference meetings.

Chikanyimma kept a sleep diary for Aham. By 8.50pm every night, she would lie with him on his bed, singing in a soft voice and patting his back until he fell asleep. She checked on him frequently during the night and usually found him awake sitting upright, his knees to his chest. Each time, she would again lie with him and hum a soft tune until he fell asleep. She got very little sleep herself, and soon dark lines circled her eyes.

She adhered to strict schedules for him, sticking to routines that tired her out. Sometimes, Aham would not budge when it was time to sleep. He would struggle with her for an hour or more until either of their strength gave in. During prayer time at night, he would wander around looking for another meal.

“Aham, but you can’t eat anything again. You have just brushed. C’mon, let’s pray, then we’ll sleep,” Chikanyimma would say, hoping he would reason with her. But Aham would run round the house, tossing things about until he got his request.

The paediatrician told them frequently, “The key factor in this journey is to never give up, no matter the temptation. A good number of autistic children turn out quite fine as adults.”

“Baby,” Kachi said to her many times when she flopped down wearily on the bed, “you are the best mother Aham could ever have. I’m proud of your strength, proud you are my wife. For every thing you have given up for our family, I’m grateful. I know someday we’ll look back at this time, and smile triumphantly.”

“Yeah,” Chikanyimma always managed to say before drifting into sleep, snoring loudly.

**********

Olodo rabata,” aunt Bisi began swinging her cane to and fro as she hit Ahamefuna a few times on the head.

Oju eja lo mo je,” the nursery two class carried on, their voices rising and falling in an excited chant.

O ni lo paper
Sileti lo ma lo
Ore mi kilo gba?
Odo oju eja
Shuku shuku shuku shior

They beat their desks with their pencils and clapped their hands as they sang the new song aunt Bisi taught them.

Whenever anyone failed a question aunt Bisi asked in class, she would begin the song swinging her cane, hitting the victim. The class would take up the song, happy for another chance to make a round of noise, happy that they were not at the receiving end of the cane. It made them pay the more attention to what aunt Bisi said. Ahamefuna was frequently a victim.

“You are the oldest in this class, yet you know nothing. Stupid child,” aunt Bisi wagged her cane at Ahamefuna. He stood at the corner of the class crying, one hand over his face, the other rubbing his head where the strokes had landed.

It was break time and the twins had gone as usual to spend their break with Ahamefuna. They stood by the window peeping into his class, watching aunt Bisi hit him. They cringed as each stroke landed on his head.

Aunt Bisi let the class out for break and the twins rushed to Ahamefuna, patting him on the head, “Sorry, Aham,” Nwakego said, “I’ll let you have all my ribena if you want.”

Ahamefuna shook his head and went to sit on the pavement.

As soon as Chikanyimma drove in to pick them up from school, the twins filled her in. “Mummy, Aham’s teacher hit him many times on his head.”

“Yes, and the class sang olodo rabata for him too. And he was crying.”

The next day, Chikanyimma sat in the headmistress’ office, trying to contain her anger, “I do not pay a lot of money to have my son hit on the head, and stupid songs sung at him. What the hell is olodo rabata? And I’m sure yesterday was not the first time this happened.”

“Madam, please calm down. There must have been some sort of misunderstanding. I am so sorry. Miss Bisi is new here. I had no idea she was hitting the kids and calling them awful names. I will address the issue immediately,” the headmistress pleaded.

“You had better,” Chikanyimma said standing up and dragging Ahamefuna after her.

**********

The next term, Chikanyimma and Kachi enrolled Ahamefuna in a new school.

“They pay close attention to special kids,” her colleague at work told her when suggesting the new school. Special was how they described people like her son. Special was what she told the twins their brother was. Special was what she truly wanted to believe.

After orientation with the staff of the new school, Chikanyimma wanted to walk to each of her neighbours and tell them that her son was only special, they could quit calling him an imbecile. She wanted to phone Funmi and tell her that she and her white-robed Jah-Jehovah-shouting prophets were all wrong. Her son, Aham, was not possessed by a legion of demons. He was only special. She wanted to tell everyone of her colleagues at work that Aham was not a skeleton in her cupboard; he was her son and she wasn’t ashamed of him.

Chikanyimma resigned from her job at the Nigerian Ports Authority, devoting more time to Ahamefuna. She drove him to school everyday and brought him back home. She spent hours with him, following through their daily routine, reading to him even when he wasn’t listening and watching him colour his books when she was tired.

Sometimes, she was grateful at his progress, and at other times she asked God why he made her son that kind of special. Sometimes, she felt her faith could move mountains, and at other times she felt like a failure. She was happy with Aham sometimes; and angry at other times…

… such was the night she smashed her favourite dining set against the kitchen wall.

Chinazar Okoro©2013

P.S: I can’t wait for the 4th and final installment. Can you?

THIS TOO SHALL PASS (2)

(Read the first part here).

The next morning, Chikanyimma sat by her dressing table, bible in hand, looking through the window. Down the street, Iya Ibukun settled on the floor by the gate of the uncompleted building, with Ibukun tottering by her side, both shivering. Her usually unkempt hair was newly done. Several tattered pieces of wrapper hung on her waist. She unwrapped an oily parcel, and she and her son were soon licking the oil off their hands from the hot akara laced with stew.

Iya Ibukun wandered the streets of Oluti. No one knew exactly where she came from or who she had been. She overnight became part of that community. Iyaletiko usually explained, “Bi otie je were, ko le se nkankan.” She may be mad, but she is harmless.

It was about four years since Iya Ibukun took delivery of her child. Very early in the morning that day, she trudged down the street swaying heavily from side to side, her wrapper tied loosely around her waist when she stopped and leaned against a wall, her face contorting in pain. Iyaletiko recounts that before she could reach across to her from her stall, the baby had slipped out. At first, Iya Ibukun refused to allow any one take the child from her. She crouched and picked up the baby, wrapping him in her torn wrapper. She sat nude on the floor save for the slack tank-top that limply covered her full firm breasts, and cradling the newborn, she cried. The crowd that had gathered stood back watching her like a movie flick. They could not tell whether the tears were of joy or of pain. After she had stayed put that way for a long time, Iyaletiko firmly took the child from her. “I will bath him now and bring him back to you immediately. I promise, I won’t be long.” Iyaletiko did not tire of recounting this tale to her customers whenever Iya Ibukun wandered past. She painted her role as very heroic.

No one knew who the father of the child was, but severally Iya Ibukun pointed to various cars as they passed and exclaimed, “Na him be that.”

Chikanyimma only realized she was crying again when she felt her shirt damp against her body. She did not deserve an abnormal child. Down the street, Iya Ibukun walked away with her normal son, both barefeet. Chikanyimma’s tears were not of rage, only sorrow and regret.

She remembered the evening after dinner when Kachi told her he had a surprise for her.

“What is it?” she asked brimming.

“Close your eyes,” Kachi said, leading her to the full-length mirror in their bedroom. From a fragile box, he took a piece of jewelry and humming gently, hooked it around her neck.

“Ta-da,” he said, and she flipped open her eyes. They widened in glee and she turned to face him. Holding his face tenderly, she kissed him deeply.

Admiring the stone, she turned to the mirror again. “It’s so beautiful. Thank you so much, but this must have cost a fortune.”

“It did, but baby, I’d spend my last kobo on you. You are worth it.”

Chikanyimma blushed, “This is sapphire, I guess. I’m not sure.”

“Yeah, it is. Would you have preferred ruby?”

“No, darl. This is perfect. Just perfect.”

Kachi turned her to face him, and she rested her head on his chest. He kissed her forehead before speaking, “I wanted to ask…” He paused.

“Yeah?” she urged him on, lifting her head.

“Can we… errr… please try for another child? I mean, can we have another baby?”

Chikanyimma was first silent. “Are you kidding me?” she asked sotto voce. She searched his eyes for traces of humour, and when Kachi looked away she asked in a loud angry voice, “Is that what this gift is about? You think you can just buy me out? And my opinion is a piece of trash?”

“No, baby, I swear. I saved a whole year to get you that. And I’m not trying…”

“We agreed, Kachi,” she interrupted him. “We agreed two children and no more. You do not just wake up one morning and make decisions that suit you only.”

“I did not just make this decision alone. Mummy says it won’t be a bad idea if we try again…”

“Try again for what? A son? So it’s my fault now that we don’t have a son, okwa ya? Since when did I get married to your mother? Listen Onyekachi, I am not responsible for your family problems. I will not have another baby. Be a man!” Chikanyimma stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

For two days, neither of them spoke to each other. On the third day, they both sat heads bowed on their corners of the bed. Kachi moved over to where Chikanyimma sat, and went on his knees, his hands clasped on her laps, “I’ve been foolish, I know. Stupid even. But I need you to help me through my weaknesses. Please forgive me. I’m sorry for upsetting you. So sorry for spoiling our plans. But please, just this once, indulge me. Please. The twins are three already. I know they’d love a younger sibling. I promise nothing of this sort will ever happen again.”

“I’ll think about it,” Chikanyimma said. “By the way, the last time you knelt was when you proposed.”

Kachi let out a laugh of relief. He sat beside her and leaned close to kiss her on the lips.

“What if it’s not a boy?” Chikanyimma asked.

“Then I’d never disturb you again. Never ever.”

Three months later, Chikanyimma sat on the bath tub holding a pregnancy strip. Two red lines. She sighed.

Chinazar Okoro©2013

P.S: C’mon, don’t be in a hurry to get to the end. We shall find out the crux of all this matter in Part 3. Relax and let’s enjoy this journey together.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS (1)

It was the dining set Chikanyimma loved the most, the one whose plates were embroidered on its four edges with violet and red flowers, the one her favourite aunt, Nnenna, had presented to her and Kachi as their wedding gift. They had received several dining sets on their wedding day, but this one from aunt Nnenna, Chikanyimma held with high regard.

“See, it’s a set of four,” she announced to Kachi as they unwrapped their gifts in their modest apartment weeks after the wedding, “Just perfect for us and the two cuties we would have. I will keep this set until our family is complete.”

“Very well then,” Kachi said smiling at her excitement. Chikanyimma had not ceased to amuse him. He could not get enough of her innocent looks and sincere laughter, the way her eyes twinkled and her lips tilted upwards ready for a smile. He mostly laid back and watched her enthusiastically open the gift items, shrieking as she revealed who had given what.

**********

One rainy Saturday evening when lightning struck and thunder bolted repeatedly, that was the set Chikanyimma lifted high into the air and smashed against the wall, sending the splinters flying dangerously across the kitchen. Hot angry tears streamed down her face and watery mucus raced from her nose, settling around her lips. She screamed and her voice was drowned in another bolt of thunder. Kachi was away at Abuja, undergoing an intensive seven-day training by his company, and it was only the second day since he left.

Chikanyimma didn’t know for how long the twins had stood by the entrance watching her, but as she crumbled helplessly to the floor by the kitchen cabinet, she saw them, their eyes wide with fear holding their breath, their feet bare, clutching each other in their matching night gowns. She bowed her head in defeat for what seemed like a fraction of a second, and when she raised it, she spoke in a tone unflinching, void of expression, “Go to your room… now.” The twins walked away without a word, but as soon as they shut the door to their room, Akunna said in a whisper, “I think mummy has run mad,” and Nwakego began to cry. Akunna held her twin’s hands tightly, and together they sobbed silently, not uttering any word further until they fell asleep curled up on the bed.

Chikanyimma locked the kitchen door and took the key to her room. Her six-year-old son, Ahamefuna, walked the posterior length of the room in tandem gait, counting, “three, four, five, six…” with every step he took. When he reached the end of the room, he made a turn and walked back with new counts. Chikanyimma slammed the door shut, and hovering close to him, she screamed, “STOP IT! JUST STOP THIS!” But Ahamefuna only made another turn, oblivious to her presence.

Dragging him by the arm, she led him to his room where all his colouring books lay horizontally arranged on the floor. All the while, Ahamefuna struggled, yelping, trying to free himself from her firm grip. She sat him on his bed, but he slipped to the rugged floor.

“Aham, you know it’s past your bedtime,” she spoke in a quivering voice.

“One, two, three, four…” he was counting again, this time his fingers and toes.

“Ahamefuna,” she shook him hard, looking him squarely in the face. Stunned, he looked into her eyes. Trying to hold his gaze, she clenched her teeth and said in a low voice, “it’s past bedtime.”

He looked away immediately, “four, five, six, seven…”

Chikanyimma stretched out on the floor, some distance away from Aham. She was silent, only the tears flowed.

**********

After Saturday’s lecture, Kachi sat in his hotel room sipping a cold beer and going through facebook when he saw Tamuno’s update.

He had met Tamuno only once during his last trip to Abuja, the night before he was bound for Lagos. She had accompanied her friend to visit Babatunde, his colleague, and they all hung out at the hotel’s bar. He remembered her as the shy undergraduate who was not as flirtatious as her friend. She mostly fiddled with her blackberry and laughed good-naturedly at the lamest jokes. She had never taken alcohol, so Babatunde had ordered five-alive for her instead. She frequently put her hand through her hair and avoided Kachi’s eyes. A week later, he received a facebook friend request from her which he accepted. Twice, she called him. First, to know if he had had a safe flight to Lagos, and later to know how he was faring. Kachi remembered she was beautiful.

Now that he saw her update, he clicked on her name, and scanned through her pictures. She smiled sweetly in most of them. He hadn’t noticed her dimples and firmly-set jaw the night they met. She was more beautiful than he realized, and he had a crushing urge to see her again.

He reached for his phone to dial her number. She answered at the fourth ring.

“Hello.”

She didn’t sound as upbeat as Kachi expected. “Hi Tamuno. This is Kachi. Do you remember me? We met some…”

“Sure, Kachi. I know. Did you think I was gonna delete your number?”

“Ohhh,” Kachi laughed awkwardly. Tamuno sounded brazen now, making him feel a little stupid. “Of course not, you would not delete me. You may have errr… lost your phone or flashed it and lost all your contacts.” Tamuno laughed and Kachi relaxed.

“Been a while… A long long while really,” Kachi said.

“Yeah, since you fashied my side nao

“Haba! I didn’t. It’s work, you know…”

“Oh, please. Tell me another lie.”

Kachi laughed again, more heartily. He sensed Tamuno smiling at the other end. “Okay, how about if I told you I wanted to see you again. Would you think I was lying?”

“Most definitely.”

Kachi laughed exaggeratedly. “Am I permitted to prove you wrong?”

“Good luck then.”

“Give me an address.”

“I’m in school, University of Abuja. It’s at Gwagwalada. And if you get lost, mine is not the number to call.” She hung up.

By this time, Kachi knew she was excited.

Chinazar Okoro©2013

P.S: I hate to sound typical, but… to be continued 😀