The harmattan breeze bellowed and wafted swiftly from the window. My eyes opened. The thoughts of where I was cascaded my mind wetting it like the rain which soaks the earth. I looked around. I was lying just at the centre of a large bed; that which could welcome with its open arms four more people – my size.
The room was two times bigger than our parlour in Nnewi. It was well furnished- I think extravagantly. Its walls were of cream colour; it reminded me of the milk Mama had bought to make my tea the morning I left. On the windows were luxurious silk curtains with red and white rose flowers. On the behind wall was a large canvas portrait of an ebony princess adorned with red coral beads. The ceiling stood above- very tall with some sort of chandelier and ceiling rose, the types I saw in his parlour. My eyes espied more and more and discovered there was a ward rope located at the meeting point of two walls which I called angle 90. At the adjacent stood a white sofa, a reading table and an arm chair. Still lying on the bed, wrapped with a red blanket, I could see the tiles shining white like the dews of the morning fallen upon the lilies beside a stream. I couldn’t look round again. I checked the time, it was 9:00am, Saturday morning.
Where am I? I muted. There was no one in the room. I was alone like a baby abandoned in a bush. I thought thoughtful thoughts; seeking and seeking for memory. As fast as air, it came and became a powerful weapon to me- I remembered. Yes, I recalled where I was.
I had just arrived last night. The journey from Nnewi to Abuja had been filled with much stress. I had not concentrated on my body bathed with brown and red earthy dust from the harsh harmattan wind. I had called my uncle. He had given me the address of his residence. I located the house after questioning several passers-by. Isn’t it said that a person who asks question never gets lost on the way?
Throughout the journey, I looked forward to seeing uncle Lambert with much agitation. Like the anxiousness of a child awaiting Christmas. Had he not promised to give me the money? Fifty thousand Naira. At least that would go a long way in helping me to pay some of my steep fees. Papa and Mama couldn’t help any longer. Are their bones not crushed by the heavy amount levied on us- new intakes of the university? They have done their best; I thought.
Uncle Lambert had insisted I come to Abuja to have fifty thousand from him. He had also promised to pay the fares. He could send the money through the bank, but he mortified this idea. To him, coming would be an opportunity. An opportunity for us to be together again. We had met last in Nnewi five years ago; Christmas season.
The bell rang. He opened the door made of tinted glass and golden frame. He smiled broadly to me and ushered me into his spacious flat. He didn’t give me the usual brief handshake or side hug. He clasped me in his arms and held me tightly. I felt the softness of his body. His white singlet and pale blue jean trouser smelled strongly of cologne.
‘Nnaa- Obioma’, he called me, smiling and revealing his white gap teeth that flashed like lights from his brownish-red lips. ‘Nno, how was the journey? kedu’, he added.
‘Uncle, I’m fine’, I said, ‘it was not easy at all; such a far distance.’
‘Really, it is indeed a far distance…I’m sure it was so easy for you to locate this place.’
‘Uncle, it was not easy at all. Thank God I found it at last.’
‘You’re now grown up’ he teased. ‘You’re now a big boy. Look at you! It’s really been an age. How’s everyone at home- Papa, Mama, Chidi, everyone?’
‘Uncle, everyone is fine, just hunger. Papa and Mama send their greeting. Chidi said he would be coming to spend the Easter holiday with you.’
‘Really? How’s he now?’ he asked with a chuckle, ‘he must be a big guy now.’
‘Yes, Chidi has really grown big. Do you know? He is even bigger and taller than me.’
‘Oh! You’ve grown so much. Look, you’re now a man.’ He reached out to my head and pulled my beards. ‘Turn around, soon we will get you one ada for marriage’ he added, touching my body with much excitement. I didn’t know how to handle that kind of playfulness.
He led me into a room he called ‘guest room’.
‘This is your room. Arrange your things here and feel at home. This is your house too…’ he said with much kindness in his voice. ‘There is the bathroom. Make sure you take a shower. I’ll be in the kitchen to prepare dinner, will join you soon. Just feel free, it’s just the two of us here. No one else.’
Hearing this, I realized uncle Lambert was not married yet. He was still a bachelor. In fact, I had heard Papa and Mama speaking against his refusal to marry even at the age of thirty eight. ‘What could be keeping him? What is he waiting for, after all he’s rich and handsome?’ Mama had said.
Minutes later, I heard the approaching sounds of foot step in the bathroom. The slippers slapped the floor. I was bathing, the door opened. I was aghast that someone had opened the door of the bathroom. It was uncle Lambert.
‘My boy,’ he mumbled.
I quickly turned my back on him facing the wall in order to hide my front package.
‘Kedu, the food is ready’ he said. ‘Don’t hesitate to call me if you need help. Hope the water is good for you? Is it cold?’
‘It’s okay, uncle’ I added, ‘I’m okay. I don’t need any thing for now.’ He left and jammed the door.
Dinner was jell of rice garnished with chucks of fried beef, green beans and sliced carrots. I must confess, Uncle Lambert cooked well. He had once told me that during the early days of his youthful life, he had worked as a chef a Chinese restaurant. We really relished the food in gusto. He talked of so many things sitting at the glass dining table. We laughed and laughed and our laughter floated above our heads.
‘Big guy! Obiomam- my big guy’ he chuckled. ‘I can still recall those days I use to carry you about. Those days I even bathed you.’
‘Uncle, that was then!’ I sneered.
‘Eh! Negodu– look at this boy, what about now?’ he said caressing my head and my soft thigh.
He quickly dashed off to the kitchen and appeared minutes later with two filled glasses of golden wine. From the glasses, you could see the drink sparkling and the gases jumping up and down and dancing like the whirl wind. The glasses were covered with ice. I have not taken this kind of wine before.
‘Nnaa, have this’ he said and caressed my head again.
‘Thank you uncle,’ I collected the glass from him. I took a sip and it tasted like an apple but mentholated like tom-tom. ‘Hmmm’, I breathed loud, ‘thank you uncle. Thank you’ I stuttered.
‘Do you like it?’ he asked.
I nodded my head with a wry smile. Suddenly, my eyes became heavy. I watched him with my heavy eyes- he stared at me now with much agitation. That was all.
I couldn’t recall what arrangement that had brought me into this large room- the master’s room I think. This had been like the case of a child dozing off in the parlour only to find themselves awake in the bedroom. What could have happened? I questioned myself. I lay on the bed frozen with my mind ruminating the four walls of the earth.
I breathed deeply. Now, with a yawn; indifferent. The way you breathe when you have resolved something.
I needed to get down from the bed. The smell I was perceiving in the room was odious to me. It smelt of accumulated sweat and cum.
I could hear the rustles of the coconut fronds from the room. They were not far outside from the window. The harmattan winds were so swift. The winds pulled and pushed the whistling trees in the compound. I could hear the cracking sounds of their detachment. And the windows? They made this forceful sound pulling as if someone stationed behind to knock incessantly on the tinted glasses.
I lifted the red blanket which covered me beautifully like a gift covered with a wrap. All the while, had my consciousness been snatched from me? Maybe it had…like the way you make a baby cry by taking it off its mother’s sight. I have been under this red blanket; thinking and thinking. I lifted it and I was covered head to toe with intense goose bumps.
I looked down again into it. Again. And again. I was engulfed with fear. I could hear my heart playing hard: gbim! The music it played was uncanny. My head sweated profusely despite the cold weather.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I covered the red blanket again. No! No! I wanted to scream but my voice would not. I willed screaming to come. What’s happening to me? Obioma, what’s wrong? I muttered. In fact, where exactly am I? I felt like my body was crumbling.
Inside the red blanket, my legs lied feeble. I should say like a feather. They were as if tightened with a nut. Both legs. Like the crippled; yes, crippled. What! What! What! I stuttered. The sweat on me became so warm and it wet my body- head to toe.
Suddenly, I was jerked up. It was as if I had prayed for it. For the strength to jump down leaving the red blanket crumpled on the bed.
I was naked! That made me convulsive. I looked at my naked body; it was sore and sticky. My head expanded as if it could burst. I had had a dream. I had in my dream warred with a giant who later bound me hands and feet with a hand cuff. He stripped me and took me from behind with my face downwards. He banged and banged me. I had struggled with him, but he had his way. He later transformed into a cat which I killed immediately not knowing how I did it. The carcass of the cat I killed mysteriously changed into my father lying in a pool of blood- red flowing blood.
I was enveloped with shame. My whole body had been glued. It was as if a cup of akamu had been poured on me- my thighs, my buttocks, my hairs, my mouth, my cheeks…. My front and my back. They were all glued by dried creamy- pappy liquid.
I stared at the bed, at the centre where I was. It was wet and gooey. The dried pappy substance was there too. On the bed it was still very moist. Air hadn’t penetrated to dry it off.
I felt a sharp pain in my anus. It was as if a pipe had been forced to pass through it. I opened my mouth and closing it, it tasted salty. Like the lightening that flashes in a rumbling thunder, thoughts quickly flashed into my mind- uncle Lambert; my uncle.
I plodded round the room apoplectically. He was not there. He had surreptitiously left after a job well job; I mulled. My eyes were roaming about like that of a hungry lion searching for a prey. What I saw on the floor were my red boxers and white singlet. I wore them last night after taking a bath. It then occurred to me that I had been sedated. Uncle Lambert my father’s brother must account for this. I hissed like the hissing of a snake. I took my boxers and singlet and wore them to cover my nudity. Then I stood akimbo by the window. Countless thoughts in multitude competed for my attention. These thoughts drifted to the evening I arrived.
The ceiling fan spun round. I watched it. I left the window side swaying from side to side. I heard the slap of slippers on the tiled floor. The door opened and he crept in wearing red shorts with his trunk bare. He was tall and plumpy. His skin was light and succulent like a fully ripe paw-paw fruit. He had a goatee on his chin. His shoulders were like square and he had an assembly of hairs that from his chest clustered to his flat belly and lower to his legs. His crotch seemed to have a football inside it.
When he entered, I was nauseated. I turned away facing the wall and saying nothing to him. Not even a word of greeting. I was so ashamed of myself. And him too. He had just defiled me. What fruit would this bear for him? I wished the ground opened to swallow him.
‘Nnaa, you’re already awake?’ he asked, ‘good morning.’ I was silent. He had just called me ‘nnaa’– father; an expression of love, acceptance and closeness. What he didn’t show to me, did he display any of these to me? He bit me. He bit me like a snake and now he has hidden- like a green snake in a green grass. If only I had known that he was a monster…. I cogitated.
I turned around to face him; to take a look at his monstrous face. To look at his abominable body and that mouth from which the word ‘nnaa’ spilled out from. I should have known…
‘Obioma, how was your night? Hope you slept well? Hope you enjoyed the night?’ he asked. The expression on his face displayed guilt painted black. His look was like that of one who had just carefully washed hands to dine with the devil. I hadn’t known…was it not said that anyone who eats with the devil must do it with a very long spoon in order to eat from a distance? Why? I looked into his eyes. I waited for him to throw more words before I pounce on him. Isn’t he the dog that has eaten the bone that was carefully hung on its neck?
‘Obioma, what’s wrong?’ he jeered.
‘What did you do to me?’ I replied harshly, ‘what happened to me?’
‘What do you mean?’ he said calmly. He added, ‘did you enjoy the night?’
‘Enjoy? What night? Tell me what you did to me, else the world would assemble here! Tell me…’
‘Nnaa, kedu? What do you mean? Tell me! See, I didn’t ask you to come to Abuja to insult me, gbo.’
‘Neither did I come from the village to be defiled by you! Monster!’
He laughed and laughed so hard that he staggered. The laughter bent his tall body like a tree dancing to the tunes played by the storm. I was filled with fury. My hackles stood like that of a growling dog. It was a state of anger mixed with the quest for vengeance.
He trudged to the reading table in the room. While he moved, his buttocks wriggled this way and that way. I couldn’t help looking at his buttocks; it was disgustful looking at his abominable body. Beneath the reading table was a locker. He flung the locker open and brought out a clean wrap of money- one thousand naira notes. From that distance, he threw the money to my direction.
‘Here is the money! Have it, it’s a hundred thousand naira. Don’t ever insult me!’ he taunted, ‘I see you have some nuts off your head.’
I ignored the money. It fell to my direction and spread itself on the floor like leaves fallen from a tree. I laughed hysterically. Then I walked to him.
‘You’re a disgrace! A disgrace to manhood! A disgrace to the family! A disgrace to our society! A disgrace to the world! Lambert,’ I called, ‘you’re a disgrace! What do you think? That money is everything? The fear of what tomorrow would bring makes the tortoise to move about with its shell.’ I added, ‘is it not said that anyone who urinates in a stream must know that their loved ones may also drink from it? You’re an abomination! Tufiakwa!’ I spat on his face.
‘How dare you?’ he raised his wide hand to slap me. I manoeuvered his hand and the slap landed on my raised palm.
‘You should be grateful that I’m helping you…’
‘No! You’re helping me? I should be grateful you defiled me- homo!’ I shouted, ‘I don’t need your dirty and sacrilegious money! Tufiakwa!’ I snapped my fingers looking at him with disdain.
He slapped again and this time he didn’t miss his target. It landed on my right cheek and sounded hard like a broken pipe. I held my cheek with my left hand looking at him. At a wink I realized I still had my manliness. I had not sold or sacrificed it for anything…
I pounced on him with a slap. Then another slap succeeded it on his left cheek. I saw the effigy of my fingers engraved on his two cheeks. In his eyes, I saw twinkling stars dancing the dance of the spirits.
‘You! You! What an effrontery! This is ridiculous! What an audacity! I’ll teach you what the spirits do with the bones of mortals today!’ he screeched.
He whammed my belly that I fell down backwards. My stomach roared and my temper kindled badly as bad as that of a man with whitlows on his ten fingers. Again, he pulled his head forward and broke my nose with his head.
I stood grasping for breathe. I watched blood rolling down from my nostrils like a flowing fountain. Red! I ran after him in the room. I got him and had my hand into his crotch and put my shoulder into him. I lifted him off the ground and slammed him down with his head hitting the white tiles very hard. He grunted and went limp. Then I stiffened my hand very hard. With force I punched his nostrils. And his mouth too. I needed to see his blood too- red! His nose shattered and the white tiled floor became a pool of blood. It spilled like red paint from his head, nostrils and mouth and circulated on the floor.
I stood still breathing hard. Silence enveloped the room. I turned and watched him lying on the floor. He was there feckless. He neither made a sound nor body movement. I became scared. I went to him, touched him and raised his hands. The hands I raised fell to the ground when I released it; it fell lifeless.
‘Uncle Lambert, uncle! Kunie-get up! Please!’ I wailed. I knew it was all. When he didn’t answer me, my mind calculated a way out. I couldn’t imagine any way out. I wished I was the one on that floor. I wished we hadn’t started it at all. I wished I hadn’t come to Abuja. I had many wishes. What? What would Papa say? Mama would cry her eyes out. Mama was hypertensive, what would her fate be? I could not imagine life any more.
Now each close of my eyes presents me with the sight of blood; just as it happened. The blood keeps flashing in me. Even in his prison walls where my youthful years would be spent completely – this blood scene would not let me enjoy peace in my bound life of suffering. When with my eyes I look at the wardens and fellow inmates in this new world I see red. Red! Red! Inexplicable red in that room. They keep coming, even when they are not wanted- blurs of red; memories of my fate. Its scar would forever remain to cut me off my dreams in this twentieth year of my life. I see them coming…