When Dad brought her home that day, I’d totally had it.
She was old. And whilst I searched for something on her body to describe as flattering, the smell hit me –
Suddenly, our living room was an unkempt rural community.
“What on earth is going on?” I muttered for Toju’s ears only. He didn’t reply. He just stood looking between the unpleasant surprise and our father. I rolled my eyes and frowned, as I looked away from the slightly bowed figure to the person responsible for her presence in our home; “I don’t get why we can’t just be. If it’s not some hot mess, it’s Oliver Twist’s grandmother.”
Well it turned out Toju and I were Oliver Twist.
Dad made the introductions like we were at a pleasant social gathering and when he stiffly instructed me to clear one side of my room moments later and bring in the extra mattress, my mind strayed to Christopher and his previously waved-off elopement offer. I made a mental note to call him before the day was through. There was just no way I was going to willingly go through this.
I grumbled as I passed him. “What do I do when the air is no longer suitable for me to breathe though? What if she has a contagious disease?” My father hissed and ignored me. As it turned out, she actually did.
And in time I’d receive it.
Over dinner I glared at him, furious he was making me share my precious space with this blast from an archaic, musty and unappealing past, but he just busied himself being attentive to the balding stranger who wouldn’t look up from her meal. I was really tired – of all of it. So what if ma was a slut and druggie who had lust issues that outweighed her conscience? So what if there was no constant feminine presence in our lives? Toju and I were just fine. We weren’t babies anymore; we had stuff planned out, great friends, and were already saving in case our father chose to up and leave as well when he got sufficiently fed up with all his failed attempts at making us responsible human beings. Well, actually, failed attempts at making me responsible; Toju was a decent kid. So decent it made folks doubt we were truly twins.
“How long will you be staying, ma’am?”
I grunted. His politeness was only going to encourage this – whatever this annoying predicament even was. This father of ours had to get the message that this development did not please us. At all.
“Why is she even here? Is she another one of your ‘official’ pity projects? Or the village mother of the last broad you brought home who tried to rape Toju?” The sweet smile adorning my lips perfectly contrasted the disdain gushing from my tone.
Toju poked at his food, embarrassed. “Nobody tried to rape me fam.”
“Oh shut up. You were passed out like a drunken toad; I’m the one who caught her and stopped her – with a few slaps. Unless that would have been another tragedy we’d owe indirect gratitude to our parents for.” I stared pointedly at the old woman as I said this, before looking at dad with a scowl.
He ignored me, selected the less outrageous part of my story to harp on and looked at Toju, disappointment and frustration lining his features. “You’re still drinking? Do you want a problem with the authorities?”
I cackled and shook my head. “Trouble? Where? In this country? Something that will be settled if we buy the officers a bottle of their own each and shout ‘Chairman!’ Please.” I leaned back in my chair and picked my nails. Toju drew his face closer to his plate to dodge the gaze that condemned him.
I heard dad sigh heavily but continued scrutinizing my nails. “She is your grandmother. I’ve already told you. For the record, I’d never bring the people I try to assist to live here because forcing them to endure you would be a greater disservice to them than leaving them in their individual struggles and pathetic plights.” I winced internally at that remark – it occurred to me then that I must have hit a raw nerve because there were almost never comebacks with dad.
But I’d be damned before I’d let anyone know so I just chuckled. “You flatter me too much dad. Really.”
That was the last time we conversed for the following two weeks.
From that day, I made a conscious effort to be as inhospitable and ill mannered as I could be to the old lady. We never even really made eye contact – just knowing she was there irked me enough so why rile myself up even more by looking upon her disheveled form? I pretty much acted like she didn’t exist – I didn’t greet, I slammed the door more than necessary every time I moved through it, I left the lights on and ignored my reading lamp when I needed to do some reading or all night coding, blasted music from my laptop on volumes that made even me uncomfortable, slept naked, farted indiscriminately, shouted messages to Toju across the hallway, smoked weed, cursed at my life and the universe upon waking…
The whole works.
All my efforts seemed futile though. After a weeklong trial of being the ‘baddest’ I could be, the only reward I got for all my labor was the news that dad was to travel to some remote village that had ample disease outbreaks and no running hospital. Toju informed me that he was going to first try to contact some of his doctor colleagues in Calabar and Lagos to see if they’d be willing to join him on the trip – since the N.G.O he worked for was currently low on the funds needed to make the kind of impact they desired to make in that region.
I scoffed and let out a derisive laugh as we stood talking just outside my bedroom door. “While his mates are buying land and leaving an inheritance for their children, he’s going around rolling with lowlifes in random places and begging for handouts?” Toju looked at me disapprovingly and I punched him playfully in the arm. “Alright fine. Good for him. I don’t care really but thanks for telling me – that means I can get Christopher to come sleep over.”
Toju raised his eyebrow. “More daring are we?”
“I’m on a mission right now.”
“You want to get rid of her.”
I gave no response because he needed none.
“I won’t let him near my room.”
“I never asked you to.”
Toju adjusted his glasses and looked hard at me for several moments before sighing and turning to go back to his room across from mine. At his door he glanced at me again.
“Just don’t get pregnant. That’ll be such a ‘mom’ thing. I don’t think I can handle two of her in my life.”
He slammed the door shut and I stood still in the echo, suddenly very lonely. Slowly I returned to my room to find the old lady curled up on her side, her back to me, softly snoring.
“It’s either sex crazed like mom or dead like you.” I said to her worn-wrapper-clad unconscious frame. Sighing, I flung myself on the bed and pulled out my phone to text Christopher. Scrolling through my contact list, my finger hovered over my mother’s number for about three seconds. But what was the point? We were total strangers to each other. Plus, I loathed her.
I shook myself and dialed my boyfriend.
“You only live once right?”
To be continued…