Patron of matrimony
The incessant fights between father and mother had aggravated. Sometimes over food; other times, bed. And most times, accusing mother and her children of insulting his wife. It was one of those fights in the dead of the night, that Jolomi heard the blows and the shouts emanating from father, the rotten words hurled at mother. Jolomi looked at her brother who was wide awake, perhaps they should go and plead with father. Mother screamed and at first they thought breath had been punched out of her. Father kicked her in the g—n and she fell writhingly to the floor in agony. She couldn’t defend herself as she coiled on the ground. Jolomi threw herself over mother while her brother’s feeble hands restrained father, trying to subdue him. They couldn’t stop the raging bull. Father flung Jolomi’s brother away and he hit his head against the wall. He went over to Jolomi to kick her out of the house with her mother. Grandma and her maid stood, feigning to impede the unleashed violence, until the door was locked. Jolomi’s abandoned brother had collapsed inside. Jolomi dragged her mother out into the street. That night, totally unclad, Jolomi’s mother launched into a tirade of curses against father’s destiny. The curse of a woman is greater than a weapon, any weapon capable of destroying lives; and such a curse is eternal, leaping from one generation to next. A prejudice to posterity!
Jolomi’s mother no longer stayed at home. She had become a recluse. She woke up with the dews and went to market very early and came back home in the late hours. She had lost her role as a wife at home and nobody cared, unless they wanted to accuse her of infidelity. Mother became the husband of herself and a father to her children, providing materials needs only. Parental cares had become forbidden water not meant for drinking to Jolomi, neither her brother. The pregnant wife gloated at mother’s misfortune. Grandma lived with them for four years before she was struck seriously ill and went back to hometown. Father had renovated the house. They now lived in different rooms.
Jolomi’s accvmulated myriad of resentment and anger for the male folks gained skepticism for a minute. Jolomi had seen all men as birds of similar plumage, but one flower bloomed amidst the thousand thorns. It was baba John. The day she saw him, after a tough quarrel with his wife, wearing a shirt of pride.
He confidently said to his son, “See, your mother locked up my cloth and almost tore it to pieces. I knew it was anger and I did not raise my hand to beat her, so that I can be proud to tell you that I never for once beat your mother and I will also be proud to bequeath this to you.” Those words clanged inside Jolomi’s head and she wondered, perhaps her father didn’t have such dignity. A dignity to respect the female folks.
Jolomi rested against mother. She smelled different. Jolomi could perceive aloofness, like a marooned sheep abandoned by a shepherd. Mother noticed Jolomi had changed a lot. She had grown maturely. Jolomi was now sixteen, beautiful like her mother with dazzling white eye balls, an hourglass shape, attractive, and vivacious, but bitterness resided in the depth of her heart.
By the time the yellow taxi with two black stripes arrived at the edifice of grandma’s storey building in the hometown, every head available in the family had been present at the burial. Baba John had gone to pick Jolomi and her brother from school down to Abeokuta. Baba John and Jolomi’s brother had surged forward after paying the taxi man. Jolomi stood, watching the smoke emanating from the silencer pipe float up, and the dissipating humming sound of the engine as the taxi receded away. The building was now different, faded and drab, unlike when Jolomi and her brother used to come for a visit. The green paint had begun to peel away and the iron was rusty. Every beautiful thing will become less beautiful either by experience or by the passage of time.
Jolomi walked in. She saw everyone moved steps to steps like wall clock. Her vision blurred as she searched the crowd streaming about a single spot. Mother separated herself from the group, and came out to welcome her. She hugged her tightly.
“You can see the crowd hovering over there?” Mother turned to the direction she was referring to. Jolomi turned after her. “The earth refuses to accept mama’s corpse.”
Jolomi could not decipher this, “I don’t get it.” She strained her neck, as if that could increase her comprehension. They gaited forward.
“That is the fourth ground they will dig, but water keeps welling up.” Mother concluded.
Water was gushing out of the ground as if there was a reservoir beneath. In a perfectly dry season like this, it was bizarre. Only once had Jolomi heard something similar. It was when a corpse of a famous priest was exhumed many years after his death. His body was as fresh as it was when he was buried. Some people had said the ground rejected him, but Jolomi was bewildered. Who truly knew if it was good or bad? or If it was heavenly or hell? Whether rejected or accepted, grandma was dead. She was dead! The progressive hand of wall clock that seemed to be very sluggish as Jolomi wished to escape the fury of grandma had gradually arrived at the future and Jolomi had seen what the future held now. But if Jolomi was to judge by grandma’s attitude while she was alive; how she had put asunder in the peaceful home, how she had tainted the clean linens of matrimony, and how she authorised confusion, she would trust her judgment well enough to choose right. When she heard that grandma was dead, she thought it was over, but as long as there was flame in the seams of the garment, there must be bloodstains on the fingernails.