Sunday, 2 April 2017

At the end of the Tunnel #4

Continued from #3

Aunty Kubura and her family lived in a two-bedroom flat in the Surulere area part of Lagos. I was given a hearty welcome when we finally arrived at her residence. Her husband and kids all welcomed me in a manner that suggested that I was been expected by them. I almost had a second thought about how terrible my staying at theirs was going to be because of the fracas that happened between me and the madam of the house. Amidst all of that, I could still feel her blood boiling underneath her skin. I guessed the whole family must have discussed my coming to live with them before she came home to pick me. 

Maybe I was just being paranoid for no reason. She seemed a nice woman who could have treated me the way she did at the motor garage because I wasn’t smart enough. It could even be as a result of the stress of travelling such a long distance in such a terrible manner. Those were the thoughts on my mind as I struggle to feel at home as her husband had urged me to.

I was later ushered into a room where I put my things. The room obviously was for the children judging from the way it was arranged. There were two beds placed side by side and another one standing alone. There was also a wardrobe, a standing mirror,reading table and a book shelf.

She had three kids,a boy as the first and the other two were girls. The boy whose name I was later told was Dele was a year older than me while the girls were ten and eight respectively.

After dinner that night,I was handed a newly bought mat and a covering cloth. She told me I was to sleep in the sitting room at nights while my things remained in the children’s room. She shared the other room with her husband. I was stunned when the instruction was given.

“ But mummy,I called her the same way I have heard her children called her. Can’t I share the bed with one of the girls or be allowed to lay my mat in the room?”

“Share what? Share the room with my children? You really seemed to be oblivious of where you are. What were you sleeping on in Ayetoro?”She asked.

“Mat ma,but this is Lagos and I also want to enjoy been here.” I replied.

She burst into an uncontrollable laugh that nearly made me think she was becoming mad.
“But this is Lagos.” She repeated my statement with a twisted mouth that made her look like an imbecile.
“You want to contaminate my children with your bush skin?” She asked rhetorically.

“The mat is what you’ll be sleeping on,and the sitting room is where you will lay  it. If you are not satisfied with that,you can go lay it at the balcony or can as well go back to Oshodi to bring your people that you had beat me up in the afternoon.”

 She said with a tone of finality and left before I could utter any word.

I sank into the sofa close to where I stood and contemplated sleeping on it but decided against it on a second thought. What if she comes to check on me in the middle of the night? I asked no one in particular. And sleep was fast beckoning on me. I was very tired and had no choice than to spread the mat in the available space. I think I dozed off immediately.

I was woken up at exactly four o’clock the following morning.

Wake up, we have a lot of work to do said a voice that I couldn’t figure out who the owner was as I was still enjoying my sleep. All I knew was that I heard a voice from afar. I was brought back to life with a kick that made me jumped up as if I have just been stung by an ant. I was greeted with a cold stare from my aunty. Her gaze on me was scary and threatened to burn me if I should spend another second on the mat.

“Good morning ma.” I said kneeling when I finally regained consciousness. My greeting was left hanging in the air for lack of a response. Follow me, was the reply I got instead. And I quickly sprang up and followed her into the kitchen.

We had barely got in when she started talking.

“Listen,this is the first and the only time I would come and wake you up. You have to learn to wake up early everyday to begin the day’s work because I wouldn’t want daddy and the children to be late for work and school. The first thing you will do once you are up is to heat water for their bath after which you cook breakfast. No laziness would be tolerated. Is that understood?”
 Yes ma,I answered.
It was the third month of my stay in Lagos and I was yet to be enrolled in any school to continue my studies as she promised my parents back at home. I have waited all the while thinking she was yet to find a good school for me.

Why would it even be difficult to find me one? Can’t I go to the same school with her children? I asked myself on a particular evening and thereafter decided to take the bull by horn while we were preparing dinner for the day.

Have I told you? I think I should. The whole kitchen affairs have been handed over to me like a mantle since my third day of arrival in the house. She came into the kitchen only to confirm what stage I was in cooking at every point in time,make comments and dish out the food. Sometimes, her visit dashed me a good knock on the head or one of my ears drawn whenever she felt I wasn’t fast enough with the cooking.

“What are you still doing? Aren’t you supposed to be done? Abi you want all of us to die of hunger before you finally complete the cooking? Let me even see the yeye food she’s cooking. Is this soup not too thick? Ehen,why would it not be too thick when you don’t know that money is hard to come by?”

 She would rant endlessly.

I was left to wonder what could be the reason for such ill treatments. Pounding yam that was no task to me back at home was soon to become a repulsive activity because it was never appreciated anytime I prepared it. It was either too hard,too soft or lumpy as she would always say including her children. They were that spoil.

Once I woke up at four in the morning, there was no absolute rest till late in the night. I would start by heating water for bath and tea after which I make breakfast, dish and pack everyone’s portion into their food baskets. I would later bring out the clothes for washing,re-arrange the rooms,sweep the whole house,prepare lunch,run errands,make dinner and wash the used dishes before calling it a day. I dared not sleep before anyone in the house.

My meals were eaten in the kitchen because doing so with them in the sitting room always left me heartbroken. It was either I was eating too fast,too slow,making mouths or just didn’t know the right portion to scoop into my mouth at once. She always complained. So, I resorted to eating in the kitchen where I was quite sure of not being judged. Thank God,kitchen utensils do not have eyes or mouths.

As you may probably be thinking about what her husband’s disposition to the whole drama was. Hmm! That’s a juicy story on its own. Her husband was nothing compared to the men I knew back home who were regarded as God by their wives. When they talked,the women dared not respond without being told to do so. Their wives served their meals on their knees.

He is best described as a ‘dundee united’. He didn’t have a strong authority on the happenings in the house. The madam was practically responsible for the decisions made in the house. The last time he interfered while she was having one of her sessions with me,he was told the history of his great grandfathers. 

Aunty Kubura was good at using her tongue. So, you can see that I was solely on my own whenever she came down on me.

Surprisingly, her children were not punished when they committed the same ‘crimes’ I got punished for. They were too perfect that I was convicted for some of their atrocities while they jeered at me.

So, I decided to talk to her about my schooling that fateful day. I had prayed all day for courage to be able to speak and get a good response from her.

“Mummy,I started. There’s something I had wanted to talk to you about.”

 At this juncture,she gave me her attention and had her eyes fixed on me. I suddenly became jittery and sweaty. She was still looking at me waiting to listen to what I wanted to tell her.Oh no! My tongue just refused to lift itself and my lips seemed to be glued to each other. All the courage suddenly disappeared into the air and I was completely lost.

“Have you suddenly become dump? I thought you have something to say or you just want to waste my precious time?”

I was brought back to the present by her voice. “Yes ma.” I answered.

“I just want to remind you about going back to school because this is my third month in Lagos and I am already tired of staying at home all day doing nothing.” I said.

“Really! You are idle.” That means the house chores are not enough to keep you busy. I think I will have to find something to do about that.”

 She said and left the kitchen.

It then dawned on me that my hope of getting a formal education has been dashed. And right there and then,I decided not to talk to her about my studies again. I would rather leave my fate in God’s hand to determine.

I quickly finished cooking so as not to incur her wrath once again. I have had enough to last me till the following day.
 To be continued.

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