I was young when it all happened; the incidents that changed my life. It was a chilly harmattan night in mid-December 1995 at a place called Igbere, and my mother was in our smoky kitchen cooking dinner with my sister Rose. My twin brother and I were lying side by side on the cold sandy ground beside my father’s old rocking chair, our gazes up in the starry night sky. We tried to count the glittering stars, in a curious bid to know just exactly how many of them were up there. This made for a fun moment, even though the excitement was occasionally interrupted by the intense hunger pangs that disturbed my stomach. I could not complain, lest my mother scold me for being a foodie. So I tried hard to have a good time by counting the stars and the moon, even as I thought about my family’s recent relocation to my village.
The hunger persisted, no thanks to the delicious aroma of my mother’s cooking. Consequently, I began to quietly complain to my brother who simply ignored me at first. He remained quiet as I murmured my complaints into his ear until he couldn’t take it anymore. He then spoke up quietly, reminding me that I wouldn’t still eat the meal even if it was ready the next minute because our father was yet home. That reminder made my heart sink; for my brother was right. We had this tradition of eating dinner together as a family. It was a way of keeping the family together. And that we did intently, despite the fact that much drama typically characterised every mealtime. In the meantime, I bemoaned the fact that I would have to endure the hunger until my father was home much later in the night as he always did. But just as I was there thinking about it, he returned earlier than expected.
But trouble started the moment my father walked in. I could tell from his staggered movement and slurred speech that he was dead drunk as usual. Moreover, the strong smell of alcohol that reeked from his body as I embraced him made it all the more obvious. He was a drunk, and this was his major flaw in life. Perhaps he could have been the ideal father had he not been a drunk. And with his well-built, tall and handsome self, he could have been the best husband too. He already was an incredibly talented furniture maker. But his alcoholism and laziness did not allow him be great. And so he drank whenever he got the chance, be it at his friends’ place or at one of the many parties he attended uninvited. And even when it so happened that there were no opportunities for getting free drinks, he would be seen at one of those dirty roadside liquor stores where he always managed to buy drinks on credit from the storekeepers even though he already owed them. He would then drink himself to stupor until he could barely speak and walk before returning home. I was ashamed to see him walk him reeking of alcohol and staggering like an idiot. But more worrisome than shame was the tension his heavy drinking caused at home. I remember those many nights of endless fighting, with some concerned neighbours pounding on our door while my siblings and I huddled at a corner of our one room apartment and cried our eyes out. It was a very challenging childhood. But little did I know that that was only but the beginning.
*This is a work of fiction, culled from my manuscript which is under development.*