The holiday came. It was every one’s joy – everyone but me. I soon realised that the classroom was where I had more people around me. Even with a brother I still felt lonely.
Back in Ib, brother Duro and I were very close but everything changed in Lagos. He became detached and hostile. I always wondered why. Had he seen something I hadn’t? Or were we just processing the pain in different ways?
“Brother Duro,” I remember how meek my voice was as I walked up to my brother.
“Olu, I am reading now. Don’t disturb me.”
“I know. I… I just want to ask you a question.”
“Oya. Go straight to the point because I’m busy.” GOSH! He didn’t even care to look at me. Had I become so insignificant to him?
“Uhm… Bro… Uhm… Before, every day we come back from school, we used to play and talk and you used to teach me my assignment. But now…But now…” my eyes began to water. The words struggled to come out.
But just then, he put his hand on my shoulder. “Bro,” he said to me, “I understand. I am sorry I haven’t been having time for you. It’s because primary 6 is a very busy class. But don’t worry as soon as am through with my work, we’ll go out and play and I’ll teach you your holiday assignment.”
“Do you promise?”
“Yes. I promise. Do you trust me?”
I just stared at the ground and nodded innocently. I trusted that he would keep his promise. So I left him to do his work. For a moment, I felt happy again and I was reminded of how it felt to have somebody.
But his reading took hours and hours. And when I went back to see him, he was far gone, sleeping like a coiled up snake. I felt so betrayed.
That night, I was asleep on one of our disfigured couches. I had dosed off as usual – during my sulking. I was awoken by a sound. I opened my eyes to see only darkness. But that sound… It was like a wheezing and then a strong cough. I got up and walked towards the sound.
I couldn’t see anything. I stumbled into things so many times as I approached the sound. But to my relief, I saw something. A beam of light from the distance, like a beacon calling me. I approached the light and the sound got stronger. It was coming from the bathroom. I peeked through the door and I could make out a human figure. It was just then I realised that I was afraid. What if it was a ghost? But to my relief, I heard a voice – my mother’s.
She was the one wheezing and coughing. I knew she usually coughed, but that night it was worse than ever before. I was afraid. She was on the phone with someone – the source of the light.
“Yes… It has gotten serious my sister… I didn’t want to go to a hospital before because I didn’t want to get my boys worried… Ugh… I know… I know. I’m planning to see a doctor tomorrow… Okay. Good night my sister. Ugh… Greet the family for me. ”
Oh no! Something was horribly wrong. Mommy was sick. I became badly worried. I started to invoke dark thoughts. “What is wrong with mommy? What if she…” A small boy of my age then would definitely be afraid of one thing when a parent is sick. What if she dies?
The following day, mommy told us she was going out. She concealed her destination but I knew. She left the two of us alone at home. I wondered in anxiety what the outcome would be. Hopefully, she just had a cold.
Hmm… Not long was it before it all came down crashing. Every day since the night of the wheezing, mommy was always out doing something unknown to us. The silence grew greater. Every day, I would pray that night would come quick for mommy and daddy would follow.
There were only few days I was awake to welcome at least one of them back home. On their arrival, they were always so moody. It had become so bad. Mommy had become even more secretive than her husband though she came back a lot earlier than he did. Hmm… Mommy… I can remember that things got so strange with her. She became different. I never stopped noticing the wheezing in her breath. Her diet changed. I can only remember her eating fruits during that period. No… Drinking. She would blend the fruit and drink. But in spite of everything, she made every short moment she spent with us count. During the short time she would be at home, she would try her best to be happy and to make us smile. I didn’t know what had happened but it had made the three of us a little closer.