My father is a veteran from the war. In the middle of the night his PTSD crawls up on him and leaves him drenched in sweat, his breathing heavy and his chest heaving up and down, one would think his heart would burst out and splatter blood all over the walls of the bedroom he shared with my mother. I imagine the blood spilling over the white walls, my mother’s dressing mirror filled with perfumes, pomades, and a special red lipstick that sparkled under the Sunday afternoon sun.
From time to time he tells us tales about the war. Tales about the cruelties that man can do to man. Many times he would go into a trance in the middle of the day and continue to chant “The Aburi Accord has ended in discord, The Aburi Accord has ended in discord, The Aburi Accord has ended in discord” then when his senses return, he would sleep soundly like a baby over fed with breast milk.
One of his most repeated stories was how the Hausa guard his father employed snuck into the house in the middle of the night and raped his sister. When they found her, her face; deformed from beatings, her body; lifeless and bloody. He says he sees her in his dreams, he hears her screams when he closes his eyes and he can smell the blood. The warm blood dropping off the bed in which she laid. Dead!
Our family house was an archive of Igbo highlife music and a museum of artifacts from the war. The sounds jamming against the walls from room to room, my mother’s beaded waist moving to the rhythm and the continuous chants of “Igbo Amaka”. The aroma of nkwobi, uha and abacha was ever present. Clinging onto the air and finding permanent residence in our household.
I met Musa at the University of Edinburgh, he was studying advanced chemical engineering and I was studying advanced power engineering. We took a few classes together and although there were other black students in class, we were the only Nigerians; hence the friendship that ensued. He was 6ft tall, muscular and had curly dark hair that made him look older than he really was. He had an aura of gentility and when he spoke, his accent was an endearing combination of Hausa and British.
As our friendship progressed and we got to the end of our degree program, reality slapped me in the face. Of course I knew there was no way my father would accept an Hausa man as a son-in-law. But you know what they say about about love. It intoxicates you and leaves you senseless like a drunk, reveling in its mystery and damning consequences.
And so it happened that six months after I returned from Scotland, Musa and I went to visit my parents, it was an eventful day but the only thing I remember was papa cursing at the top of his lungs. The machete glistening from years of continuous polishing and in less than two seconds it had landed on Musa’s head. Creating a pool of blood that the maid had to scrub off for hours and hours and hours. Funny how you can literally feel your heart breaking, in the silence of the night you hear it shatter onto the ground like a crashing plane. Sometimes it breaks and lands onto your palms, bloody and cold, sending shockwaves down your spine like an electrocution.
Twenty five years have passed and I do not regret the day I walked out of my father’s compound.
Musa’s breath warm against my face, his heavy Hausa accent as the words I love you roll out of his mouth. His scar; an ever present reminder of my father’s anger. He says it often these days, perhaps he knows that I need to be reminded often because for some reason my heart longs for home. For the pungent smell of my mother’s dressing mirror and the thick aroma of her soups.
There are days when i daydream about an omugwo, I envision my mother throwing the twins into the air and screaming ejima. Boiling hot water and massaging my belly while also dishing out advise on how to be be the dutiful wife, how to loose the baby fat, how to serve your husband better. Then I am jolted awake from my fantasy and I realise that this will never happen.
My mornings are spent sipping tea and watering my plants, at night my husband and I stare at the stars and erupt memories from our very first encounter. There are no regrets, only wishes. But matters of the heart are like that.
My twins are an endless source of joy and Musa brings me flowers everyday. He attaches cute little handwritten love notes. And he always signs off with “omalicha, nke’m you are the moon among the stars”.
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