The next day, Anike was arranging some cartons of biscuits in front of the store when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged off the hand and turn to see who had the nerves to do that. It was him, the fellow from yesterday night incidents, with reddened eyes and a cigar in his left hand, standing there and looking at her as if he would drag her out and dealt her slaps.
If he dare raise his hand, she wasn’t sure she won’t do the same. If he had come to make her afraid, he has failed woefully because she feared no one as long as she didn’t do anything wrong.
‘Wetin you wan buy?’
“I look like person wey wan buy something?”
“Okay.” She puffed her mouth and slowly let out the flame of the cigar that she’d suck in while asking him questions. He was too uncomfortably close. That asides, from the smell of the cigar, he also smelt of marijuana . So she stepped back a bit, and deciding to not further ask him further question, she went back to arranging the wares.
If he won’t mind standing there all day long, it’s none of my business, she thought.
“Why did you hit my wrist yesternight?” He put the cigar which was about to burn out in his mouth and sucked the cigar in turn shone brighter than when it was less active.
“Because you were stupid” she answered, making sure to look at where she had hit him the previous night.
The place was swollen.
“No, I was only greeting you. You should say you were scared”
His answer hit her. She’d thought he would answer her the way she’d answered his question.
“But I am not your mother and we never said anything to each other before except….”
“That’s just a sign of respect.” he shifted his weight to the left leg.
“No, it was rather a sign of stupidity.” She said as she put the last carton of biscuit on the chef.
“It seems you are trying to get me angry.”
“Perhaps. But I sure know you are already a child of anger.”
He threw the cigar into the gutter, smiled and raised his hands.
“Twale! We can’t fight o. You are still our mother.”
Anike’s face softened as she smiled before asserting that she still didn’t like being called our mother. She offered him a chair afterwards. It won’t be bad to ask him some questions.
The art of asking questions is the beginning of knowing.
“Why do you like fighting as if it’s food you are eating?
“Because that’s how I survived the plot of death.” He began before shifting uneasily in the chair. “It’s a long story.”
Anike could guess what he was about telling her wasn’t something often told. It would be things that hurt, those things that tugs at one’s strongholds to bring out tears.
Looking around the shop, he asked, “Hope you won’t be disturbed?”
“No, this is the hour customers are less frequent.”
“Only three people had known about the things I’m about to tell you, and those three people were told out of necessity. My journey in life is not something you tell with laughter or pride.”
He looked at her.
that point, Anike looked back into his eye and saw him blinking rapidly to hold
back the sheen of tears ther, and he did. Because within minute all the sheen
was gone, and he was back to his normal Mr. Bottle Thug.
‘My mother was beautiful, like you. If not that her only picture was torn to pieces by a rogue, you’ll see that you look alike.”
mind reeled towards rejecting looking a lot like her mother. But
another thought countered it. An innocent child yesterday could become a
damaged adult whether it’s well trained or not well trained by the parent.
Anike listened as he narrated how he used to skip classes as a child to travel with his mother. His mother was an entrepreneur who travels from Akure to cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, and even to Cotonou in Benin Republic to buy clothes and shoes to fill her shop with.
“As at….” He squeezed his face and sneezed, interrupting himself.
“Give me one more!” Anike replied.
They both laughed.
“As at 1992 when I was 5 years old, she had 3 big shops. One was always closed, serving as the general store where they would go to pick wares to fill the two always opened shops. Once the store is getting empty, then it’s time to travel. I always looked forward to travelling with her, especially to Lagos.”
“Are you an only child?”
“No, I had a brother.” He closed his eyes and kept quiet for some minutes.
Anike on the other hand allowed him to think. If that was what he was doing, she wasn’t about to force him to say what he didn’t want to say about his life yet.
“My brother complained each time he was forced to go with my mother.”
“Why do they have to force him to travel?”
mother thought it would give him an edge in his academics in the future and
help to shape the way he sees people and events. If anyone spends the first
twenty years of his or her life in a single city, he or she may find it hard to
relate with other places.” He paused for a moment, before continuing. “I also used to tell her whatever I see in my dreams
and few times she postponed her travelling. I woke up one day from a bad dream. In the dream, she was alone beside a
busy road and when I tried touching her body, she fell like a sandcastle, her
body scattering on the road. I tried to put the pieces of her body together but
she kept falling apart. I raised up my head to call for help, but everywhere
had become dark. I stood up to look for someone to put the pieces together, and
just made my way into the dark not knowing which direction I was heading. And I
never found the way back.
“I woke up with the bed-sheet wet against from the sweat on my body. My legs were numb and electric shock seemed to be shooting through my hands. Looking across the room and not finding her, I narrated the dream to my father. He said, ‘Let us pray’, but immediately, the telephone began to ring. On picking the call, my father bursts to tears after a minute. My mother had travelled without letting me know, and she was later brought back in a coffin with parts of her body mangled, especially the entire left side of her body. Even her left hand had been crushed and missing. I remember passing out after looking at her body, waking up to a quiet room with my father was standing over and looking at me with swollen eyes.” He concluded briefly.
Anike was transfixed by the story! This was so pathetic! She thought. A customer entered the shop and Anike stood up to attend to her. However, Jego, the thug that had been narrating his story, quietly sneaked out of the shop, more to avoid undue attention to his long stay with Anike than to continue his opening up to her.