In the rainy season of 2005, I started to lose things. First it was my mobile phone that was picked from my back pocket somewhere in my area while I was heading to the Cyber café. The rain had reduced to a drizzle and people were leaving the shelter they had run to for cover when I noticed that my phone was gone. I stood in the middle of the street turning around, seeking a suspect to blame it on but just as suddenly as it had happened; there was no one else around me. Needless to say, I got to the Cyber café soaked to my skin and disoriented as if I had freshly lost a limb. I could not remember what I had intended to surf the web for so I sat shivering as I stared at my inbox that was displayed on the screen in front of me.
Next it was my weave. I was lazy with my hair and it just seemed easier to cut it. But I had recently moved a new apartment and I decided I would change my look, be lady-like and grow my hair. So I bought myself some new weaves that were trending at the time- some Brazilian and Peruvian weaves. That afternoon I returned from school drained from my Masters’ class and decided to call my stylist to make my hair at home, she was ill. Just at the corner before I turned into my street I had noticed the signpost for a salon and today I decided to try them out. Their signpost was colourful and inviting so I entered with a smile for everyone. First I had to wash my hair but the washing bowl was busy so I occupied myself with some of their magazines which were dog-eared from thumbing. Shortly after, it was my turn to wash so I picked my handbag and dropped it at my feet. I closed my eyes as the water ran onto my skull and groaned in delight which was soon replaced by shock when I dipped my hand into my bag to find that my weave had disappeared but the plastic bag was left for me to find.
I went on and reverted back to my low cut hair style. Life goes on. Every December, I apply for my annual leave so that I can spend time with family and friends and last year was no exception. I had increased the frequency of my calls back home since I had not seen my mother in a while and learnt she was falling ill too often. This sickness of hers was scaring me since it brought to mind how we had lost my father years ago:
Father had been very agile all his life especially being an engineer. Although he was retired, he went to his former office at least twice every week, doing only God what. That evening when he returned, he checked his rabbits as usual. They were now pets and we were all attached to them, we sold only their children. He fed them some leaves and stomped his feet at the door before he entered the house to wash his hands at the wash basin in the dining room. He took his usual glass of water and went to his room and then I went to check on him.
“Daddy welcome, how was your day?” I asked.
“Same old, same old,” he replied with a smile. His smile was tired which reminded me that he was old even though he refused to retire at home.
“Are you okay? You look beat,” I stated. He was lying down on his bed in his clothes and he had not even pulled off his shoes. That was what worried me.
“The traffic was hectic as usual. I have a slight headache.”
“Let me bring Paracetamol and some water.”
“I’d be fine, just let me rest. Okay?”
“O-kay,” I replied hesitantly. Father liked his routine and everyone was familiar with his habits, so naturally this change of routine bothered me. I had just defended my final year project some weeks earlier and had pent-up energy I needed to release. I promptly went to mother to tell her and she assured me she would check on him. After about ten minutes she went to check on him while I crocheted and the next thing I heard was a scream. To cut the story short, we buried Father just before my NYSC call-up letter arrived.
As soon as my leave was approved, I packed my bag (heavy from excessive shopping) and made my way to the park. I sent my bags by road and boarded the Lagos bound flight, noon the same day. That cut expenses and greatly reduced my stress. Anyway, I made it to Lagos in little over an hour and I could feel the tension in the air. Little had changed in the months I had been away but I was not willing to take chances by boarding a commercial vehicle, so I hailed a taxi to my family house. The area was replete with all the potholes I had grown up with and just as dirty except for early Christmas decorations which looked gaudy in the dry heat of the afternoon harmattan.
The house looked the same except that we had a gates man (or rather Mother had a gatesman). I could not tell whether he was being obnoxious when he insisted on calling the intercom to announce my arrival although everyone had told me how much I resembled Mother. I had even filled out in all the right places.
“Madam, one aunty dey here (pause) Fum-bee (pause) yes ma, sorry madam,” he said and quickly dropped the phone.
“Aunty welcome, no vex,” he said to me. I smiled since I knew he was only doing his job. He reached for my bags but I declined and to show that I was not upset, I asked him his name.
“Sunday, aunty,” he smiled showing stained teeth. I could already tell that he chewed kolanuts as a habit.
“And my name is not Fum-bee,” I mimicked. “It is Fumbi,” I corrected pronouncing it carefully so that he could pick it. I rolled my bag in and found the living room dark and switched on the light. Everything was just as I remembered, although slightly dusty. Mother was in one of the armchairs and not only was I surprised to see that she filled the chair, but she was sitting in the darkness.
“Mama,” I rushed to her.
“Oh my darling. How was your trip?” she asked inspecting me from head to toe.
We exchanged greetings and that was when I realised that I had forgotten my wrap in the taxi. I chatted with Mother for a while and learned that all my older siblings that were married were arriving between that evening and the next day. By evening the next day when the house was filled with three generations, we had a large dinner after thanking God for the many blessings he had given us. I slept in Mother’s room the night I arrived and when she slept through the night, I cast my fears aside and returned to my room the next day. By the third morning I woke up to find Mother cold and stiff.
Yet again, I had lost someone so dear. That was the last leave I applied for in December, I was an orphan now. I ordered a jewelled wrap, crystal white even more beautiful than the one I had lost in the taxi and tied Mother’s hair in it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Damilola Olaniyi lives in Lagos, Nigeria where she works as a freelance writer and organises a children’s contest/workshop called Onkowe. Some of her works have appeared in Daily Sun, National Mirror, The Writing Disorder magazine and Kalahari review. You can find more of her on inkyrepertoire.com