Daddy didn’t talk much at home. He is always reading the Statesman Newspaper and the Daily Times, which he brought back from his office every day except on weekends when he bought Weekend Concord and Lagos Weekend. On Sundays he read ‘The Leader’ which featured articles written by Rev. Fathers and seminarians. He would recline on his easy chair just the way big men lounged on their bogus chairs. The type that carpenters padded with foam as soft as Dunlop pillows. He also listened to BBC and VOA on his JVC short wave transistor radio, and talked about England like one who had received award from the queen.
We only watched our black and white TV at night during the boring 9’oclock network news that NTA Channel 10 Aba showed every night. Daddy always got angry when NEPA took the light during the news. He said that watching the news would help me in current affairs. He also liked ‘Ukonus Club’ and the only time he laughed with us was when ‘Chief Zebburudaya Okoroigwe Nwobodo alias 430 and his ‘Masquerade’ team regaled us with jokes in their comic drama. I didn’t like the ugly and angry looking ‘Nathy’, but liked ‘Clarius Omengeoji’ and ‘Giringori Akabuogu’ who made me, mama and the house girls giggle like laughing jackass, throwing their legs up. Mummy will always tell them to keep their legs together like women.
Daddy allowed the boys in my street to join us to watch ‘On the Mat’ wrestling matches on Saturday afternoons. I liked ‘Mill Mascaras’ the masked one, who used to fly in the air like a monkey but was not as powerful and big like ‘Mighty Igor’ the world heavy weight champion then. We would try to punch and kick each other afterwards like the wrestlers until dad warned us. I longed to grow up and become a man so I can grow big muscles like the wrestlers and boxers that danced around the ring to throw punches at each other.
After my 8th birthday, I became a man overnight. I wish that day had passed like those buried in the womb of yesterday. That day I became a man. I was that 8 year old lad that was loved by everyone especially women. Maybe it was my amiable smiles that opened this unknown world and I have repeatedly lost the ever raging battle with the entwining grips of memory’s arms. I had bid farewell to childhood but have had a stunted growth into adulthood a dozen years later.
We had closed for Easter holidays and daddy and mummy had travelled to Elele to celebrate the Holyb Week at Father Ede’s. I remember clearly what I wore that Friday morning. After I had my bathe my bathe, our oldest housemaid, auntie Uju gave me my favourite red short ‘knicker’ which mom had bought at Ariaria market. After I licked dry my small bowl of ‘akamu’ and three balls of ‘akara’, I heard her familiar voice all me. She sounded so nice that morning unlike before. Maybe it was the excitement of the holiday that worked on her voice. She used to shout and coerce me to eat before then.
But this morning she gave me two extra cubes of St. Louis sugar to sweeten my akamu.
‘Ndum oo” she called out like an angel and the name sounded sweeter than Eusebius. I listened well to be certain it was her. Like mum, she now doted and fondly called me in a most loving tone.
‘Ndu boy, have you finished your food?’
‘Yes auntie Uju’, I answered.
‘Have your dropped your plate in the kitchen?’ she asked with so much care.
‘No daa’ I answered. ‘I will do it now now’
‘When you finish eh, come and play in my room you hear?’
‘Yes auntie, I will come now now now’ I said eagerly.
I dashed off to the kitchen to drop my plates and hurriedly dumped them in the clogged sink. Come and play in her room? That offer stirred my heart. With no junior brother or senior brother to play with, the prospect of playing in the house girls’ room was to me an honor. We could now play hide and seek and other plays that I liked so much but had no one to play with.
The cocoa butter pomade she was rubbing on her body filled the air with its sweet and redolent aroma. She did not tie the wrapper up to her chest like mummy did at night before she and daddy retired into their bed room to sleep. She was naked and I tried to cover my eyes, but she kept on smiling. I thought she would beat me when my eyes roved from her head to her legs. It was her body. Everything that I saw was bare and open. I thought it was only daddy’s chest and round tummy that should not be covered, except with his Hings’ singlet that had openings for breeze to enter.
She giggled like someone whose armpits were tickled mischievously. She then sat on her creaking 6- springed bed overlaid with a sunken mattress.
‘Nna come and sit with me, I will tell you the story of ‘Nnabe’, the tortoise and his wife, ‘Alia’. And how I liked the stories of the wise tortoise and his intrigues! I didn’t hesitate and hurriedly hopped in with her on the bed. The glint in my eyes made the room look brighter even though she had drawn the window blinds to shield us from any peering eyes.
She carried me on her lap and rocked me like mommy did whenever malaria made my body quiver. She allowed my head to rest on her undulating chest that was as soft as the pillows on my bed. The tortoise story she told sounded sweeter this time than when mummy told them. She said the second story was about Mazi Omenuko, the merchant. That the story was sweetest when one is lying down. She then lay supine with her legs wide apart. She then pulled off my red short “knicker” and made me lie prone over her. I twitched when my ‘wee wee’ touched her body. She kept tickling my body, giggling and laughing. She even sobbed even though I didn’t pinch her. Yet she kept on brushing my body over hers. She closed her eyes but I didn’t see any tears, and told me to touch her chest like those women who breast fed their babies when mummy took me to the dispensary for measles immunization. I don’t know why she asked me to do that since I’m not a baby, maybe she knew why.
Then a knock came, it was more than a tap on the door and I heard it first. Maybe her ears closed with her eyes too. ‘Auntie Uju’ I nudged, ‘somebody is knocking on the door’.
‘Is there nobody in this house?’ the male voice bellowed.
Auntie Uju lifted me up, and quickly jumped out of the bed. She grabbed her wrapper and tied it across her shoulders faster than when she removed them earlier.
‘ Oya wear your short knicker now’, she said as she slipped my legs back into the red shorts.
The knocks grew louder with the intensity of the quizzing voice.
‘I’m coming oh,’ auntie Uju responded as she rushed out of the room to the sitting room.
It was papa Ebuka’s voice; our next door neighbor and Papa’s friend who came around to see daddy.
‘Good afternoon sir’, Uju greeted with a smile.
‘Thank you my daughter’, he answered. ‘Is your daddy not around this one his car is not around?’
‘Yes sir. They went to Elele for Father Ede’s Easter mass.’
‘I see’ he said nodding his head. Tell them I came to greet when they come back. Don’t forget inugo!’
‘I won’t forget sir’ she responded.
Soon after he left, auntie Uju locked the door and we continued the play. She asked me to tickle and cuddle her until we both slept that afternoon. She also tickled my body and I liked it too and I felt so honored that auntie Uju had allowed me to snuggle under the boughs of her arms like babies and toddlers.
When we woke up later in the evening, she asked if I liked the play or the folktales. I wasn’t sure what the difference was between being tickled and a likeable story. I think I liked the story and the special play. I nodded as I said ‘auntie the play is very sweet’.
‘If you tell anybody eh, I won’t play with you again’, she had warned.
It sounded like an irrevocable and enforceable sanction. This threat of withdrawal of a rare privilege confused the unqualified like me. So I nodded to her welcomed threat. I had felt what I had never experienced before and though it confused me, I did
n’t want it to end too soon.
(Like they’d say in Nollywood, “To God be the Glory”. So watch out for part 2…!)