Suffering and Happiness are Twins, Part Three
Suffering & Happiness are Twins
Thirtieth of December, 2011. Eleven twenty-eight
She shouted again. If there was any area that both her boys had shown little improvement, it was responding promptly when she called them, and neither had mastered the concept of waking up before 11 am. She had made akara and akamu for breakfast and had spent the past hour calling for them to wake up to come and eat.
Growing tired of shouting, Hilda climbed the stairs and walked first to Christopher’s room. She was surprised to find his room empty and his bed made. Checking that he wasn’t in the bathroom, she walked over to Christian’s room, expecting to find them both in there, though they hardly spent any time together these days.
Alarm overcame her as she found Christian’s room just as empty as Christopher’s, and her heart began to throb in her throat. Fleeing downstairs to the phone, she frantically dialled Christopher’s and Christian’s numbers alternatively, each time meeting a generic voicemail greeting. Hilda was too anxious to cry. She gave up calling, and slumped on the settee. Lugubriously she cried out to God, knowing that something bad had happened.
The shrill sound of the doorbell woke her up several hours later. Hilda jolted upright and ran to open the door. Even though she knew that something terrible had happened, she hoped that she would find her twins behind the door, apologetic for causing her to worry and for forgetting their keys at home. She would pretend to be angry, and would insult them in Igbo, but inside she would be rejoicing for their safe return.
Her hopes were met with despair as she opened the door to two policemen, one black and the other Asian. They made solemn introductions and invited themselves into her living room.
Sitting on the edge of their seats, they looked up to Hilda who stood tentatively in the doorway and then they explained the reason for their visit.
Hilda’s friend, Nwaka, had sat cradling Hilda’s head in her arms for almost two hours. Apart from Hilda’s quiet whimpers and Nwaka’s occasional, “Ndo, oh. Ndo, nwannem,” the house was silent. Nothing moved except for Nwaka’s free arm when she stroked Hilda’s face and hair. Her other arm locked under Hilda’s head, was soaked with a mixture of mucus and tears.
“Nwannem nwanyi, let me make you something to eat, biko. Please. You haven’t eaten anything for the past three days, biko,” Nwaka pleaded.
Hilda freed herself from Nwaka’s embrace, sat up and shook her head violently. “Mba! No! If it was you, Nwaka, if it was you, tell me, would you be thinking about food? Gbo, tell me!”
Nwaka hung her head in silence. She had tried to be patient, tried to be compassionate, but her beleaguered friend was right.
Hilda stood up and began pacing the room with agitation.
“Nwaka, please, if you want to do something for me, ask God why. Ask God why me. Why Kenneth, my own husband? Why did it have to be my own son that nearly killed a boy? Why must it be my own daughter to have a teenage pregnancy? Hmm. Why not yours? Why?”
Nwaka watched her friend pace up and down, arms flailing hopelessly.
“Nwaka, tell me why? What was in my womb that made every single child to come out of it so evil? Nwaka, biko, I beg of you to ask God. Ask God why a grown man should be the reason why his brother is killed?
“Nwaka!” she screamed. “Please ask your God, why He would allow Christopher to die, and not Christian?” And she collapsed on the floor in a veil of tears and heartbreak.
Chiemelu was excited when he was told he had received a letter. After almost five years in prison, he had received no visitors and no correspondence, and for the most part he had preferred it that way. But when he had finally mustered up the courage to follow Pastor Ian’s advice and write to his mother, he had expected at least an acknowledgement or a visit. When days became weeks and weeks became months of nothing, he gave up any hope of hearing from anyone in his family.
So when he slid his finger through the fold of the envelope to open it, and unfolded the sheets of paper to find his mother’s beautiful cursive packed tightly into every space on the sheets, he was overwhelmed with joy. She had forgiven him after all.
As he read, however, he found his happiness was short-lived.
“Chiemelu m, Thank you for your letter. It was good to hear that you are ok. As far as I am aware, Mary and her baby are fine – I haven’t spoken to her since she moved out of the house five years ago. I have enclosed the last address I had for her. You should try and write to her when you have time.
“Chiemelu. I am sad. I am heartbroken. I am sad that all of my children could despise me so much, that all of my children could hate God so much. I tried. Only God knows that I tried. Was I that bad of a mother? Chiemelu, your brothers are finished. Christopher is dead. Your brother killed him. Chiemelu, Christopher is dead, and Christian is in prison.
“Christopher was always better than all of you. He was just misguided by you all and your bad ways. I threw both him and Christian out of the house, and a year later, Christopher found God and convinced Christian to come home with him. I didn’t even mind that they broke into the house – I was just happy to see my babies home.
“But of course, you and Christian are one and the same. Whilst Christopher was coming to Church, praying, genuinely trying to turn his life around, Christian was falling deeper and deeper into drugs and criminality. He stole £10,000 worth of drugs from a drug dealer in Willesden, and the man was looking for him up and down. And one day, early in the morning, Christopher had gone to Harlesden to buy some bread for the house. I didn’t even know he had gone, he had wanted to surprise me. And the man’s friends (the man that Christian stole from) spotted him at Willesden Junction station on his way home, and thinking it was Christian, they stabbed him more than twenty times. I don’t even know how he managed to have the strength to bring out his phone and call anyone, but he called Christian, but by the time Christian got there, Christopher was already dead.
“Chiemelu, or Paul, whatever you want to call yourself these days, Christopher is dead, and both you and Christian have killed him. So, no, Chiemelu m, my dear Chiemelu, there is no home for you here when you get out. I have no more children left. Take care, Hilda Ukwu.”
Je t’embrasse, x
Happy new year to all my readers!
I hope 2012 is filled with love, and more love for you all.
If you enjoy literature, poetry and excellent song-writing like I do, please do come by to Writers’ Lounge, on the 7th Jan 2012.
( Writers’ Lounge at The Pipeline Bar, 94 Middlesex Street, London, E1 7DA. Doors open 6.30pm.)