By: Ikwuagwu Osita Victor
The last fisherman stared at me suspiciously before walking, languidly, away with his fishing paraphernalia. I wondered what was going on in his mind. Perhaps he was thinking another youngster has gone bananas, or that he has just beheld the face of one of the hoodlums that meddles with his fishing boat. But who will tell the trawler that despite my squalid looks, unkempt hair and scruffy shoes my sanity was still intact? Who will tell him that I’m not here to make away with his stuff? Who will tell him that I only came here to recall, recollect and remember that day. Yes, that day he fell.
The exit of the fisherman gave me the quietude I was craving for. I savored the solitude of the Ezu River bank with undiluted joy. It was reinvigorating; more refreshing than food to a starving glutton. It was the best thing that had happened to me since my mother’s colostrum. As I watched the crystal waters of the river, the gigantic trees that adorned the river side and birds of varied sizes, shapes and species assaulting ears with their cacophony of awful sounds, I couldn’t help mighty pellets of tears running through my eyes to my mouth. I was weeping because he was no longer here.
I wasn’t like the biblical Melchizedek with no root. No, I once had a family; one which was a very happy and close-knit one despite not being among the affluent class. Purple my brother was my friend. We always had a jolly time exploring the beauty of the Ezu River. Those days-those days before he crossed to the other side of life-we found succor in the caressing waters of the river when our mates were in school an we were not allowed in because of unpaid fees or unbought books or worn out uniforms. We believed in the words of our mama that all would someday be well. When we viewed the world, it was always with rose tinted glasses. We never saw ourselves as victims. We were in our eyes earthen vessels of immerse potentials. Ezu was our home. It was its air we first took in. It was where our placentas lay. It was where we hoped to be interred. Ezu River was our relief point; this offspring of the marriage between nature and beauty gave us the satisfaction money would never give our nation leaders. We were always happy. We never thought we lacked anything even though it was glaring we had no more than our lives. Mama once told me I had a sister. She was few minutes older than me only that she came out still. As a child I used to brood over the aborted privilege of having not just a sister but a twin. I only had solace in the fact that I have a brother. Yes, I had purple until that day the heavy wind visited and purple died
A heavy wind swept through Ezu but it didn’t take purple to where it came from. It neither hit him with an Oak’s branch nor gave him flu yet it took him away from the world. It did it this way: It took away our roof. Papa and mama were too poor to fix it so we had to improvise with mats. Ezu was the domicile of mosquitoes. They were guests to all homes. When we had corrugated iron roof they were constant visitors. With what ease do you think they would appear now it was just mats over our heads?
Days rolled into weeks and purple’s tender body could take no more of the bites the wicked mosquitoes in our tiny rooms gave each night. We weren’t alien to malaria attacks but little purple who was just three weeks above nine could take it no more this time. He was dying. He looked frail and pathetic; a little more pathetic than a starving HIV patient. His situation defied herbal help. He needed orthodox medicine. We needed money to facilitate that. Papa, a railway corporation staff, was owed a year arrears of salaries. Mama’s business was stagnant. I could do nothing to help. Patient, father, mother and brother were, thus, sent packing from the ill equipped clinic by Dr. Akparaja who had diagnosed an ear blasting disease. Papa felt less a man because he couldn’t afford a thousand naira – half the cost of his boss son’s foot wear-for his son’s medical bills. Midway out of the hospital purple died. Mama wept. Papa sobbed. I was too down to do any of these. A part of me went with him. But for that day when the wind visited our land, but for those heartless creatures called mosquitoes beloved purple wouldn’t have gone.
Life literally halted in my family after purple’s demise. Papa who hitherto was a statement in humility and love became abusive. I and mama suffered it physically. The little girls in Ezu got their share sexually. With too much liquor in his system one sunny afternoon papa walked like a mummy to the Ezu River. Of all parts of the river his near insane mind led him to its sacred mouth. Then it happened! In a flash papa was gone; Gone for eternity! Gone into the belly of the sacred Ezu crocodile! Sure mama would have been devastated if she had heard the sad tale but she never did. Before the news got home she was already cruising to her ‘El dorado’. While Ezu mourned papa mama was sitting with chief. Don at the back of his air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz while his chauffeur maneuvered the pothole ridden road to the city. Mama was now Chief. Don’s lover. Whatever made chief. Don pick mama, who he wasn’t just ten years younger than but whose face had poverty precipitated wrinkles semblant to the map of Africa, of all the things with breast in Ezu? Mama was dying to secure ‘eternal’ protection in the chief’s wealth that she left to join his harem as the fifth woman without as much as a word to his only son. As one of her confidant’s later revealed, she was willing to accept any cross chief. Don hands over to her than remain papa’s punching sack.
Sorrow is now deeply within me. I had thought this will never end. But like everything in life the euphoria of sitting at the Ezu river bank reminiscing the pleasurable moments I shared with purple was ephemeral. I must go back to where I belong. I must go back to my new found life. Yes, I must go back before the sun retires. I must go back to SPH; to smoking, pilfering and hooliganism. Since that day he fell, and every other thing did likewise, this has been my lifestyle. The world I have gotten so accustomed to.