TOO LATE TO CRY
The older Bob became the more I sank into the shadows, it almost looked as if I never existed in the house. However I noticed Bobola loved me I just couldn’t reciprocate. There were nights I’d wake up and find him cuddled on my bed. Other times when he grew much older, he’d bring his snacks to me to share. He always had this adoring look whenever he was with me. But something inside me had died.
Shortly after my entrance examination, I woke to see Mom seated at the edge of my bed.
I struggled to a sitting position as she smiled at me.
‘Good morning mom.’
‘Good morning sweetheart.’
‘Mom you are all dressed up, what day is today?’ I asked sleepily.
‘It’s a weekend. Sweetheart come here.’
I scooted close and she held me to her chest. I could feel her heart beating steadily under the sweatshirt she had on.
‘Look at me sweetheart. I need to speak with you.’
Something in her tone scared me and my heartbeat increased immediately.
‘I and your father are getting a divorce and I have to leave with Bobola.’
‘What? Why Bobola, what will happen to me?’ I cried, flinging her arms away.
‘Baby, baby please. Listen to me. You must understand that this is a hard decision for me. In fact your father is ready to fight me tooth and nail because of this. It’s going to be messy. I need Bobo as a guarantee for you.’
‘No, no that is not true. You need Bobo because just like every one of them, you have always loved him more because he is a boy.’ I wept. The pain was deep, this news hit me hard.
‘Eyinju no. that is not true. I have always loved you. I love you both.’
‘Then why are you taking him and not me. Don’t lie to me mom.
‘I have to do this. Bobo is still young. If I leave him here, your grandma will ruin his life. I don’t want that to happen.’
‘What about me? What about my life? Mom please,’ I went on my knees. ‘Please take me with you. We will cope. I will eat whatever you can afford.’
She stood up and pulled me up to my feet.
‘You might not understand this now, but when you grow older, you will.’
She left me standing there. I didn’t run after her. I hugged myself and stilled my eyes not to cry.
Their voices wafted up to me from downstairs.
‘You cannot take my son.’ I heard my father fume.
‘The court will decide that Dayo. Please don’t stand in my way, I have a gun. I will not hesitate to shoot you.’
‘Mom I’m not leaving my sister. You either take the both of us, or you leave the both of us.’ I heard Bobo cry, then I walked out.
Another part of me was dead. I felt ice creep into my warm heart and as I walked down the stairs deliberately taking a step at a time, the ice slowly took over my entire body.
‘Go with her Bobo.’ I said to him starring into the distance, ‘If you stay here, I will make you die in your sleep.’
I was cold. The steel in my voice scared me.
‘What?’ they exclaimed. I didn’t wait for them to close their mouths. I walked back to my room with my head held high.
Life after this incident became routine. I mostly stayed in my room when I return from school. There was an air of prevailing darkness">darkness over my home, soon it emptied of all pest. Even grandma left after a while. She couldn’t bear it, there was no one to order around. After the court awarded mom custody of Bobola, I saw even less of my father. I didn’t care.
Dad stayed out late, in fact we rarely saw. My basic needs were met by the maids who peddled rumors that I had an evil spirit. I played and laughed with my dolls a lot. I spent money buying dolls, I had different gothic dolls in my room.
Every single day I received letters from Bobola and a birthday card on my birthdays. The maids were afraid of entering my room so they dumped them at the entrance. I took them in and never opened them. I had a bagful of his letters.
Mom called several times but not once did I pick her calls. She didn’t relent, she called at least twice every week. As far as I was concerned, I was an orphan. My parents died a long time ago.
When it was time for me to write jamb, I picked a university very far from home. I needed the break and the distance. Daddy provided the money. He had learned to respect my decisions or maybe he needed the break too. Bobo must have somehow collected my number from dad, dad told me Bobo said he was coming to visit and I told him no. I told my father to tell him not to come.
He travelled the twelve hours journey to visit me.
I was in my hostel when I heard the announcement someone was looking for me at the porters lodge. I was a loner. I had no friend, in fact a lot of my classmates were afraid of coming close. I heard their whispers and the gossip making its round about me.
Curiosity took me to the porters lodge that afternoon. Who could be looking for me?
I went there and stopped short when I saw him. His baby face was still there. He was tall and lanky, and very handsome too. He looked like me a lot. He wore a sad smile and had tears in his eyes.
I felt the walls around my heart breaking but I had come too far. I was hurting too much. I was strong, I was hardened and I wasn’t about to be vulnerable again. I wasn’t going to allow love hurt me and I couldn’t allow him see me weak- the girl.
‘I told you not to come here.’ I said to him coldly and I saw him wince. A muscle twitched in his cheek. A crowed was gathering around us. I was that girl who nobody ever visits. Who was the tall handsome dude, I could see the questions in their eyes.
‘Won’t you at least welcome me sister? It’s been a long tiring journey. I have always loved you, always. I have longed for your friendship. I have been empty, like a part of me was out. I need you sister mi. I don’t know how I remember some of these things, but you used to whisper to me things and places you wanted us to visit. You told me I will be your best friend.’
I could feel tears in my eyes. How was it possible for a baby inside the womb to remember such things? I blinked back my tears and turned my back on him.
‘I don’t have a brother. I am an orphan. Please leave this place and stop embarrassing yourself.’
‘Mother died sister. She wants you to forgive her. And while you are at it, can you forgive me for being born?’
I swallowed the phlegm which had suddenly clogged my throat. I felt warmth creep into the coldness of my heart and then spread evenly over every crevice in my body. I was suddenly that little girl who desperately needed a brother. I remembered with clarity that contact, that first bond the first time I felt him move.
I wanted to look back and open my arms wide. But I remembered all I had gone through because of him. The loss of my home, my parents and my purpose. I stilled my eyes from shedding more tears and walked away with his pained voice calling to me.
‘Sister mi please don’t shut me out…’ I heard his pained voice whisper as I walked away.
For days I was locked up in my room crying. I realized that the poor boy was never the enemy. He was as innocent as a baby. I allowed people to poison my heart, I permitted peoples opinion to define me. I am a girl yes, so what? Should have been my response to their evil seed but I allowed it grow. Years upon years, I watered it. It bore fruits of envy and hatred, I lived in pain.
After my mother left I never allowed anyone come close enough to love me. I was afraid of my inadequacies as a girl. I had made a mess of my supposed to be, beautiful life. I was bitter and allowed the fangs of hatred dig deep into me.
I tried his number several times but it didn’t go through. My mother was dead and my father was seriously ill. I had remained in school despite the vacation because I didn’t want to see him. It was time to go home.
On the third day, as I was packing my bag, my phone rang.
‘Please come home Eyinju. He pleaded. I could hear anguish in his voice. ‘I cannot bear this alone’
‘Bear what dad?’
‘Bobola was involved in an accident. I know you don’t care. Now that he is gone, I hope you will be able to come home now.’
The phone clattered to the floor. I was shaking terribly. The pain, the pain was consumed me.
Except for the deep sigh that escape from my mouth intermittently, I was very quiet, my arms about myself to keep warm despite the scorching sun. As the priest read out the blessings upon the departed, and spoke lengthily about his person, I heaved another heavy sigh.
The priest spoke nothing but the truth and the longer he spoke, the more naked I felt.
He had friends, lots of them and they no doubt loved him. Unlike me they were faithful to him and were present when they were needed.
My heart was at the point of hemorrhage, I was bleeding on my inside. My inner tears was more powerful than the emotional display of his friends. It took me years to realize how much he meant to me and before I could do anything about it, he was gone.
I couldn’t cry. I had exhausted the tears in my ducts. I could hear wails and shouts as his friends lowered his coffin into the dry earth. They were visibly shaken. There was nothing called being manly here. They cried openly daring anyone to shush them.
‘Bobo…’ I whispered, staggering as the tears started falling. I was hoping that by some miracle he would hear the ache in my voice, see the pain in my heart and just awaken.
I had returned home in a trancelike state. My father was a wreck. I knew he was likely not to last after Bobo’s death. He apologized for all he had done to me. He had made peace with mother before she passed, grandma had returned to Europe, she dies and was buried there. My aunts never returned to Nigeria.
I returned to my room that day with tears in my eyes. My father allowed his family destroy my family. My room was just the way I left it. I opened the bag where I kept his letters and read every single one of them.
Oh such outpouring of love from a baby barely four to an adult. In his letters, Bobo told me everything that was going on with him. Bobo told me how my mother missed me and cried every day. If what he had for me wasn’t love I wonder what it could be called?
In every of his letters, he told me how much he loved and missed me. The letters were in thousands and I read every single one of them. As he grew older, the letters became more detailed. I cried while reading some and laughed while reading some. I could almost see him in the room with me.
‘Sister Eyinju please take the shovel.’ The minister’s voice brought me back. He had cried a river too for he loved Bobo.
I collected it from him. I couldn’t hold it and twice it fell from my hand. My hands seem to have lost control of its functions.
Many times I had wished him dead. Now he was dead, why wasn’t I happy? The more the knife welded by regret twisted in my heart, the more the tears kept pouring down my face. I couldn’t walk the short distance to his grave, my legs felt like lead.
How I wish I could just drop dead and be buried beside him; the one who kept loving me despite all my ill treatment of him.
‘Bobola…’ I called again. .’Please wake up.’ I implored. ‘Please wake up. I am here now. I …I…Please my beloved brother. My defender, my…please just wake up.’
(c) Akinrefon Eno Dorcas 2020.
TOO LATE TO CRY