He closed his eyes as tears streamed down his cheeks. It seemed like it had happened just a day ago as the memories came flooding back.
The face he saw yesterday had been so familiar. He had juggled his memory since he met him. As he stood inside the ruins of the old house, it all came back to him. He recognized the face that had haunted him the past twenty-one years. It wasn’t a dream. It was the face that had been etched in his memory. A face he wished he had forgotten. A face he wished he never met again.
He had brought his car to his workshop for repairs. The man had mentioned that he had been referred by other people who had been impressed with his job.
He was unable to sleep last night. He tossed and turned as he kept thinking about the face that had come to his workshop in the morning. He eventually dozed off in the early hours of the morning and had a fitful sleep. He woke up at 5a.m and said his prayers. He had a quick bath and instead of setting out to work, he took a trip to father’s house. His mind raced back to the last time he was there.
After the men left, he burst into fresh tears as he banged on the door of the toilet. There was eerie silence. He continued to bang on the door until he heard mother’s whisper. She was calling him. He put his ears close to the door to listen. She called him again and he said a silent thank you to God. She was alive.
Mother dragged herself on the floor to the toilet door.
“Màámi.” (My mother). He called when he noticed movements outside the toilet door.
“Ökö mi.” (My husband). She cried.
“Màámi, open the door.”
“The key is not on the door.” She replied.
“Check daddy’s pocket.”
He heard mother grunting as she dragged herself to where her husband lay still. He heard her burst into fresh tears and his heart broke. He wanted to know what was happening outside the darkened toilet.
Mother opened the door of the toilet and he took a while for his eyes to adjust to the bright light. He had no idea how long he had been locked in. When his eyes became accustomed to the environment, he saw mother on the floor. She was bleeding from her leg. He immediately removed his tee-shirt and tied it around her leg. He had seen it done so many times in movies when people were shot.
He got a pillow from the couch and placed it under mother’s head. He then walked over to grandma. There was a bullet hole in her head. He shivered as his lips trembled. He walked over to father. He was bleeding from the neck.
He ran outside the house and went to the neighbour’s house. He banged on the gate continuously until someone came out shouting. “Who is banging my gate like that at this time of the night?”
“It is me, sir.” He said crying. “Please help me sir.”
The man had been their neighbour in the last two years but kept to himself most of the time. He worked in the bank; leaving home very early and arriving very late at night. He lived alone.
“What is wrong? Why are you crying?” The man asked as he got to the gate.
“Please help my mother. Please help me.”
“Your mother?” The man asked.
He dragged the man by the hand towards his house.
Mother was rushed to the hospital. The doctors battled to save her life. Father’s brothers came to the hospital and accused mother of killing their brother and their mother. They asked why she wasn’t also killed. According to them, it meant she planned the attack. Mother became miserable as she cried every day and hoped for death. He became a wretched child as none of father’s family was ready to have anything to do with him. He was labelled the son of a witch and a murderer.
Three weeks later, mother died. She told him she had no reason to live any more. He begged her to stay with him but she said her spirit had left her. She felt betrayed that father’s brothers could think the worst of her. She said life had lost meaning to her. He sat by her side all through the night pleading with her but she died in her sleep.
Mother’s younger sister decided to take him in but she had four kids of her own and was just a petty trader. Her husband was a mechanic and he told him that he could not afford to send him to school. He asked him to join him in his workshop and start learning the trade so that he could make money on time to fend for himself.
“You need to grow up.” His uncle had told him. “There is no time for spoon feeding.”
He took his uncle’s advice and became diligent in his work.
He walked out of father’s house and drove back to his workshop. He wanted to know this man. He arrived at his workshop at 10:30am. The man was already waiting for him. Even though, he had aged, the features he saw that night were too evident for him to ignore. The man chatted with him as he got to work.
“Sir, did you ever live around Festac?” He asked him as he got his scanner to diagnose the car.
“Yes, I did but that was in the 90s. My son even attended a primary school there before we moved out of the area.”
“Oh right. What is your son’s name?”
That was all he heard as his hand stopped moving. He kept looking at the screen of the scanner but he no longer saw the prints on the screen. He saw his best friend’s face smiling at him as they sat down together.
“My daddy is coming tomorrow.”
Will you bring something for me?”
“Of course. You are my best friend. My daddy will bring goodies from abroad.”
The old man kept talking…. “He is in the states now. He is doing very well with a wife and two kids”….. but he no longer heard him. His mind was faraway locked up in the darkened toilet in father’s house.
He got his slide and rolled under the car. He opened the brake valves and began to flush it.
He rolled out. “Your car is okay now, sir.” He said.
“Thank you, my son.” The man said as he paid for his services and entered into his vehicle.
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