A woman’s journey
5:30 in the morning, she would have to get to the bus park early enough if she wanted to catch the first bus. She waves down a taxi ” Jibowu” , after bargaining on the price the taxi man finally agrees on one thousand naira
” Madam na because you be my first customer make business good today” he told her as she got into the taxi. As he took her through Maryland the road was free, she would get tot the park on time she thought. She took a good look at the driver through the review mirror. Patterned old shirt, faded looking cream coloured cap, tribal marks and with stained teeth due to constant chewing of kola nuts… yes he looked like a talker. And she was right
” Madam shey na village you dey go?” ” Igbo people una too dey go village”. He laughed showing his stained teeth to the whole world. ” Last year wey pass, my opposite neighbour Bonnyface pack him family dem go him village” . She looked at him through the mirror again, just ignore him and he’ll stop talking.. which he did after getting no response. Pressing the play button on his radio an Ebenezer Obey song starts to play ” Ebenezer Obey do your best and leave the rest” he sings along while tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. She leaned back against the seat and her mind starts to wander. She thought about what she would do when she got to the village. What would she say to a father she hadn’t seen to in five years? And the mother she hardly spoke to? Her elder sister and young brother were the only family members she spoke to only because they won’t stop calling to check up on her. The other family members… she really didn’t care. As she was drifting off, the taxi man broke into her thoughts.. ” Madam we don reach o. Na which motor you go enter?”
“Stop at Chisco” .She paid him his money and got down while he helped her with her bag. She packed light.. wasn’t like she was going to live there forever. Getting to the counter, she turned to the attendant at the window that said ” Awka, Onitsha”
” One ticket to Awka please. Has the first bus left” she asked
” No. Your name?”
“Dindu. Dindu Dike”. She said as she gave her details to the attendant.. a light skinned lady with dark knuckles and drawn-on red eyebrows that more like straight lines than eyebrows. She better go easy on the bleaching cream
“Here.. First bus seat 17”
“Thank you”. She took her ticket and went to board the bus. One of the porters approached her and asked if she would go with the small bus or the big bus. ” Mba, nke nnuku” she told him. She wasn’t about to cramp herself up in a small bus just to get there one hour early. After making sure her bag had been kept in the trunk .. she boarded the bus.17.. seat 17.. she found it, thankfully that it was near the window. By the time had settled down.. other passengers were already boarding the bus. ” Ngwa banye ka anyi ga” the driver urged them. A woman approached her seat with a baby and a baby bag.
“Sorry this is seat 18 abi?
“Please help me hold him while I keep this bag” Before she could reply, a baby was in her arms and memories rushed back. His eyes were dark brown, bright.. hers was dull. His skin was smooth.. hers was wrinkled. He was kicking his legs.. hers was stiff. His mother sat down, turned to her ” Thank you”. As she handed her back her baby she couldn’t help but ask
” How old is he?”
” Oh he’s four months”. Hers would have been the same.
” By the way I’m Nkiru” ” Dindu”
By the time the bus had started moving the baby had fallen asleep in his mother’s arms.. he looked so comfortable.. so at peace. She had to force herself to look away. A man had stood up and was preaching while holding the seats beside him for support. ” Because the bible says if you believe in him he will make a way for you in your wilderness. Can I hear an amen?!” “Amen!”.
She turned her head and rested it against the window.. she wasn’t in the mood for this. She was going to a home she hadn’t been to in five years. What had changed? She wondered if the gate still creaked when you opened it? Had the door to the barn been fixed or was it still lying against the wall? Did Papa still tie the same red wrapper with white patterns on it? Her father.. the thought of him made her smile. They were so much alike.. the height, face.. everything. He called her “Nne m” meaning my mother because according to him she was the reincarnation of his mother who had died shortly before she was born. Would he be happy to see her? Would he still be mad at her? The last time she saw him they had an argument .. a heated argument. She could still remember every word they said. She had called him a heartless man who never cared about his children nor loved his wife.
He struck her.. she took her bags and left. She could still hear her mother crying as he left.. that was five years ago.
If there was one thing she inherited from her father it was pride. Pride.. pride that made her apology five years late
Probably God was punishing her for not honouring her parents or something. In five years she had lost three children.. 2 miscarriages.. 1 still born. She quit her job, stopped attending social functions.. church services and even cut off all her friends. Her marriage was crashing ..Toby was tired and she knew it. Every time she thought he had had enough and won’t come back to her, he would walk through that door. Her heart would leap at the sight of him but her attitude treated him differently. She could remember their last fight.. ..
” I can’t keep on making excuses for you.. why you have refused see anyone, talk to someone about it, see anybody..even your family. Dindu move on! I lost three children too but you don’t see me avoiding everybody and everything. Let me help you. This is a marriage.. a union between two people not one!”
“I should move on? Two died inside me another in my arms and I should move on!? You can’t help me nobody can. I carried those children, not you not anybody else. I felt it when they kicked, not you not anybody else. And don’t tell me you understand because you don’t! And you never will!” The words flew out of her mouth before she could stop herself. She could see it in his eyes.. she had gone too far this time. He turned around and left without a word.
As the bus kept on moving all she was seeing were forests.. thick forests. She would have to get her life together but first peace.. she had to find peace within herself. While thinking she drifted off into sleep. She found herself in hospital, in hospital cloths, on a hospital bed.. there was blood on the sheets. She sat up and looked around. It was dark, nobody was there but she could hear voices.. at the same time
“Its a boy” “Push.. I can see the head.. push” “Madam I’m sorry your baby is dead” ” Dindu.. hold my hand” “Doctor the baby isn’t crying” ” Breathe”
She turned and saw a crib. As she approached it she saw a baby in it. Her baby.. her dead baby. She lifted him up and thought.. if only he had lived. ” Wake up” ” wake up because you have to live” . She shook the baby hard ” You won’t die on me!” ” Cry!” ” Cry!!” As she shook the baby violently , he started to cry. She stared at the dead baby.. his eyes were dull, his face had turned an ashen colour, he wasn’t moving but he was crying. She opened her mouth to scream but could not. Horrified she dropped the baby and turned to run. She woke up with a jump. Nkiru’s baby was crying and she was trying her best to calm him down
“Did he wake you up? I’m so sorry”
” Its okay”
“Sorry” still petting her baby ” we have gotten to Anambra State sha. Oh I’m getting down here”
The bus stopped foe few passengers to get down.. Nkiru was one of them.” Bye, take care of yourself” ” Yeah you too”. Dindu looked outside the window.. she saw a man kiss Nkiru on the cheek before helping her with her luggage. That must be her husband she thought. As the bus started to move.. Nkiru turned and waved. She waved back.
15mins later she was in a taxi heading for Nise. She still knew every turning by heart. In a few minutes she would see the family she had walked out on. ” Here..in front of that gate”.. she got down and gave the taxi man his money. With her bag in her hand..silently she opened the gate and walked in. It still creaked. Nobody was at the front so she found her way to the back were she knew her mother would be and yes her mother was there. Was it just her or had her mother aged in five years?
“Dindu..” “Mama” Her mother rushed to her and hugged her fiercely as tears rolled their cheeks. It had been so long.. too long. They found their way to the bench and sat down still holding each other tightly. Words were not spoken, they were not needed.. their silence said a lot. They stayed in that position for a while, neither of them wanting to let go until she heard a voice.
“Chimdindu”.. she froze. She knew that voice.. she missed that voice. As she turned to face her father.. he had aged a bit, still tied at red wrapper with white patterns
“Nne m” she sighed a sigh of relief when she heard that “Nne m” ” Papa”. They embraced each other and all she kept on saying was ” I’m sorry”. Her father pulled away from he and said ” I forgive you. I had forgiven you a long time ago” and with that he hugged her again. After supper, she decided to retire to her room. Mama had their houseboy make the bed for her, Everything was still the same .. nothing had been removed or changed. It was as if they always waited for her to come back. The next day, her father sat her down in the balcony, she knew what he was going to talk about.
“Nne m I heard all that happened from your siblings and your husband . Its hard I know but life must continue. You can’t give up everything you have achieved like that .. no. Chimdindu you are stronger than this I know my daughter. Your husband is a good man. Don’t give up easily o Nne m?” ” Yes Papa”. Later than evening, her mother came into her room, sat on her bed and held her. Now she could act tough with everybody but not with her mother.
” Mama I have failed. As a daughter, as a wife. I failed”
” Mba.. no. You haven’t failed at all. You lost three others will come and they will stay. Ha ga nnochi. God does not sleep .. o na fu ihe nile..he sees it all. Be strong. Tobechukwu is a good man, he has stood by you don’t give him a reason to leave. When you return let your marriage be a happy one. Try and forget what has happened. You haven’t failed anybody..ngwa try and sleep o”.
One evening while sitting outside , Dindu realized she had been running away from nothing for five years, only fighting the ones who loved her. Her family accepted her back without questions, her husband still wanted to be with her after all that had happened. Nothing had changed.. she was the only one who did
After a week, she returned back to Lagos. She decided to prepare dinner for Toby..it had been a while since she did that. 6’oclock she sat down and waited patiently. What if he didn’t come home? What if he walked in and said he was leaving for good? As many thoughts went through her mind the door opened. Her heart leaped.. and her attitude didn’t treat him differently this time.
“Toby.. I’m sorry”. He reached for her and hugged her. He held her for a long time ” We’ll be fine” he said
And they were.