Facing the Reality

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The journey back home seemed farther than it was last year.

The brand new shiny silverware and the pale green plantain bunches we had purchased from a rest-stop in Udi responded in the boot of the old van with clanks and incoherent thuds as the vehicle maneuvered each bump on the busy Enugu-Onitsha expressway.
My tired eyes subconsciously followed the depressions on the side of the old road; water was gradually eating deep into our soil creating holes large enough for two elephants to fall into.
I could hear the General's reassuring voice on the radio again, although intermittently in-between the persistent static. It baffled me that my father could even make out the words that he spoke.
It had been an eventful Christmas back in Enugu, where my paternal grandmother, Mama Nsukka comes from. Then again, it was the one place we had spent the holiday every single year since I was a child.
My brother, Nnabueze and I were very fond of Mama Nsukka and over the years I had started growing fond of Nzube too, an older boy who lived on the opposite side of our family farm.
It had started off as a silly crush, peeping through the bamboo fence to spy on him as he broke firewood for the villagers at the central market; and convincing my father's mother to have him "accompany" me and Nnabueze to the colourful Omabe masquerade festival...

I clutched my handbag tighter against my midriff, something I had done whenever I felt sad.
As if I was literally trying to hold myself together for fear of my organs disintegrating.
The usual Igbo Christmas tunes began to play again, my guess was that Mother had grown tired of the noisy static and brought us back to the spirit of the holiday even though it was slowly coming to an end and we were heading East, back home to Aguleri which is where my family and I had lived since my brother was born.
Before then, we had lived further south of my home-state until the air had grown too heavy for my mother.

The heaviness of air began the moment two military men—both dressed in a leaf-green uniform, hat in hand—showed up on our doorstep one morning and notified my wailing mother that my eldest brother was never going to return from the war. I was about six years old and everything after that was a blur.
My mother's cries that day still cut into my thoughts like a sword and keep me up at night.

Christmas in Enugu began to get better as the years went by, the regular December visits and sometimes Easter. I was growing out of puberty and Nzube had began to notice me the way that I wanted him to...

I felt something equivalent to a thump on my right shoulder as the van bounced over another pothole...it was my brother's coconut head. He was the heaviest, most restless sleeper I'd ever known. I nudged his side, and he lazily shifted his weight back to other side of the backseat still keeping his eyes shut.
I turned my attention back to the road outside. It was now bustling with activity. Hawkers showcasing their wares for sale, the pedestrians in entropy and commercial buses in bus parks gathering passengers embarking in different directions. It didn't take me long to realize that we were in the heart of Awka.
The closer we got to our home, the more it became apparent to me that we were not just covering an inch, or a meter or a mile but that we were driving back to reality.

Papa was heading back to his reality of continuing work as a civil servant.
Mother was going back to sewing dresses for the little children and young women of our small village.
Nnabueze to his reality of resuming his second year at the Federal University
and I too must return to my own reality.


It was time to face facts that my best friend, Akunne now had Nzube's seed attached to the inner walls of her uterus,
and that seed will continue to grow and grow,
it will develop arms and legs and a heart and a soul.
Sprouting every heartbreaking second and minute,
even now as I am stuck in the backseat of my father's rickety van covering every inch and every meter and every mile back to our home.
This whole while I had built skyscrapers in my head.
I had now found complete solitude within the fences of my own mind.
The times I had hurt, the times I had healed,

the times I had loved
and the times I had fallen—face flat—out of it.

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