Sunday, 11 November 2018

Angel Lost (part 1)

Look at you, my little angel; beautiful, yet imperfect. Like a still lake, you mask with layers of seeming perfection, what lies beneath. Who can imagine what the folds of my old Ankara wrapper hide as you snooze soundlessly, lying there on your side in the same foetal position you must have assumed when growing within me. You would be the most perfect baby in the world—with those big brown eyes cradled in pools that glisten like sun-kissed dew, little pink lips, curly black hair and chocolate-brown skin so smooth people always want to know what special baby lotion I use on you—but for this… this sick joke from nature. 

But why you? Why had it chosen you to happen to?

Here I go, crying again. What use is that? Tears can’t change anything. What I need is to be strong and believe everything will be okay… soon.

It’s getting dark already. How quickly the sun sets these days. Or is it I who lost track of time as I sat here looking at you? I need to light some candles and get down to making supper. Uche and the others will be back soon with stomachs needing to be filled, and you too will need something more solid than breast milk. Don’t cry while am out in the kitchen, dear Chisom. I wish I can just swing you across my back and take you out there with me like I used to do, but we both know that isn’t possible for now.

Now, where’s that kettle?

I’m back, princess. The water is on the fire and soon your food will be ready. Come, let me check your cloth diapers…

Oh, your siblings are back. Do you hear them setting their head-pans down so noisily in the passage? Something tells me they made good sales today. Poor kids, having to sell plantains after school every day to boost the family income. It breaks my heart to see them go every afternoon; to have them living their lives like this. But what choice do I have? What your father brings home at the end of each month is far from sufficient to cater for a large family like ours, and ever since I gave birth to you, I have been unable to do the plantain selling myself.

“Mummy, good evening.”

“Mummy, good evening.”

“Mummy, guduv…”

“Good evening, ma.”

How lovable your siblings are, my army of four; always smiling, never complaining. “Welcome, my dears. How was today’s sale?”

“It was not too good o, Mummy. It was as if people didn’t want to buy plantain today. Luckily sha when we all got back together at Akara Junction, Mama Rose bought all our plantains and gave us half the money. She said we should come for the rest tomorrow morning. If not for her, we would have hardly sold anything.”

“That’s good, but make sure you go and collect the money from her before going to school tomorrow morning, so we can have enough to buy new wares.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Go and check the water I put on the fire.”

I don’t know what I will do without your sister, Uche; my very first seed. See how grown-up she looks, one wouldn’t believe she’s not even sixteen years old yet. I guess she takes after me, though – I was a fast developer too and had a figure as full as hers at the same age, though I wasn’t as tall.

“Mummy, can I carry Chisom?”

“No, Muna, you know you can’t do that. She's asleep. And even if she weren’t, you can’t.”

Eight years old Muna, your immediate sibling, adorable even in her frayed shorts and worn out top. She had been a cute baby too, Chisom, almost as cute as you. I think she sees you as a little doll. No one can blame her, you do look like a little doll. Months back, she used to carry you a lot and even strapped you to her back sometimes. What an adorable picture she created then, looking like a tiny woman with a baby on her back. Too bad she can’t carry you anymore.

“Tochukwu, Ikenna, where do you two think you are going?”

“We want to go outside and play.”

Those two, thirteen and nine years old, are as restless as boys come. “It’s dark o. Stay inside.”

“But it’s very hot inside now. Let’s just stay in the passage.”

“Okay, but don’t go near the stove. You hear?”

At times like this, I cannot help being grateful despite everything. It doesn’t matter we are poor, doesn’t matter we all have to sleep in a room, with barely having enough air to respire. As long as I have you kids, it’s worth it. I can’t imagine life without even one of you. How depressing it would be! Those four make me forget my sorrow with their non-stop chatter, energetic nature and petty naughty acts. There’s only one thing I badly want changed. And that’s that ugliness leeched unto your body – sa… sacro… whatever that disgusting long name is. I always find it hard to remember. All I know is that it ends with ‘teratoma’, as is befitting for such an ugly thing.

You were a perfect baby when you came into the world, Chisom. Yes, you were. And you were healthy too. There was not a thing wrong with you. People used to envy us having such a gorgeous baby. You could just see it in their eyes, you could even hear the thoughts rolling out of their minds as they wondered how a wretched couple that could hardly pay their hospital bills gave birth to such a lovely thing. You see, you looked like a princess, and more suited to royalty than your father and I.

Then when you were three months old, I noticed it for the first time. On your back, just above the cheeks of your buttocks, a little lump the size of a kolanut. I did not think much of it though, just rubbed some shea butter on it as advised by some neighbours who were certain it was a boil. But it did not get soft like they had said it would, no, it kept getting bigger and remained hard. When it got to the size of a tennis ball, I could take it no more. I took you to the health centre, the one where they don’t even have a doctor. They had administered antibiotics, which had done nothing to help the situation. It kept getting bigger and more misshapen, and to my horror, was swelling out to cover more areas of your waist region. 

The Story Continues>>> Pt. 2 up soon.

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