“When the end comes, will you let out the last laugh? Or will your shriek echo through the plains of your generation?”
When it comes, there will be a shriek: a sharp, shrill outcry of pain. But whose cry shall it be? The cry of the one that nestled your infant head and called you ‘Okorobia Agu,’ from whose succulent breasts your infant body was nurtured into an oily sheen of golden caramel? Or the cry of the one that sacrificed a hen, five eggs, five pieces of ọjị aka and some garden pepper on every full moon in a month in the crossroads of ‘Ikenwilo’ street and swore before ‘Anansi’ and the lunar gods that you will not amount to much in your lifetime.
But you didn’t hear this. How could you?
What you heard was that your father was a millionaire by twenty three and he was called ‘Ọmelọra’ because of his benevolence. He had lands and stocked warehouses across the country. You heard he was a victim of Sani Abacha’s tyranny; he spent time in prison and he was duped by countless relations because he was an illiterate. You heard your mom was an embodiment of stunning radiance; it was in this paraplegic beauty that you were molded in and she was called ‘agbala nwaanyi’ because she was fiery and feisty. You heard your living room was once covered by fluffy peach rugs that’d soothe the weary feet. You heard, you were not there before all that could be heard was a shriek, before your parents grew intolerant.
Now, before the end,
You wake up to flames from the kerosene lamp in the passageway flickering in the night wind. Then you hear a loud cry, your parent’s room barely illuminated is dominated by your mother’s muffled crying and the pungent whiffs of vodka that overshadow the green darkness.
You wake up to muffled sobs; your mother’s tears shed in despair. You wake up to the whirring sound of the red ladle against the metal kitchen door; the scorch of your dad’s fury the day his gambling Chi took his 100%. You quaver on these days.
“Guu morning, sir,” you mutter.
He rages up. “Amoosu!”
You can’t seem to evade his blistering radar, all over you; his fury is unleashed until your mom shows up.
You dread it: the slothful infusion of fear and pain. You look for an escape route for the pain in the day and the terror of the night. You are a tender wanderer in search of solace, just like your father until you found one unlike your father; you found music. Music became your muse, it made you tolerant.
The first time you heard it, you were tender; powerful notes that trapped your soul. You were eight, but you could feel the conviction to rise above imprisonment and become free. It wasn’t just music to your ears, it was that balm in Gilead that heals the sin-sick soul, it healed yours. Four women by Nina Simone was the song and that day you didn’t just become a singer, you became a music box. It felt like juju, that your vocal cords couldn’t produce screeching sounds; they released notes that excited the soul, calmed the fiery spirit, and set the slothful soul into frenzy, arousing all the senses of the body while tickling one of them, the skin with a porous sensation, covering it with goose bumps.
Your melody sent quivers, tremulous like a celestial nightingale, harmony of one like a host of hundred angelic choristers.
The kitchen was your rehearsing studio. The bathroom your recording studio, the living room was your backstage hall and the poky neighbours were your undeserving audience who would enjoy a five figure rendition for free. You were God and your mom worshipped you, she carved praises with your name and she sang your praises till her voice screeched. You were her therapist; you sat quietly and listened to her talk about Mama Chima’s okporoko, other mamas and their little mind games. You were her refuge, your melody caressed her to calm and in your tender laps she fell asleep. Inseparable, you and she were, like two siamese twins.
It didn’t sit well with your dad though, your music and your bond with your mom.
But how could you know?
When it comes, you don’t know, you have grown older, you know a lot but not this, not yet, but you felt something was wrong, you felt a jab in your tummy, as you walked home you felt a loose shadow hanging over you, you felt naked.
Your fear is planted when Afia opens the door with teary eyes, mute. You follow him into a living room filled with wails. Your mum is being held by two neighbours as she lets out a loud cry upon seeing you, and your dad’s sister, Aunt Nkemmiri rolls to the floor, two neighbours with movement swift like daft cheetahs rush to her rescue. You stand in shock as the picture seeps into you.
“It is a good thing,” the first thing that comes to your mind, but you can’t help but cry as the pain seeps into your mind. Your mum bends over to you and holds you tightly, her huge breasts hugging tightly to your face, absolving you of all shame and feeding your soul with comfort just like it fed your infant body.
The sun refuses to rear its ugly face on his burial. The wind is cold, harsh on the drops of tears spilling from your eyes; it dries them up leaving your skin scaly, sticky and dust white. You feel uneasy, there is turmoil in ignorance and it drags on when you don’t satisfy it.
You ask how your dad died. There is a tug of silence. Drops of liquid pellets form in your heart waxing away pieces of your warmth. You are losing your tolerance.
Now, you wake up and you can’t recall your dad’s face, you grab an old photograph in order to recap. You hate it, the curse of forgetting just like the cold blanket of ignorance that tucks you in every night. You yearn to know but you don’t until one day.
A local newspaper features your dad’s death as a case study in substance abuse, his name boldly written in print and the details that followed. The assigned inspector had to perform some exorcism because of how sinful he looked in death. His eyes bulged out, cans of painkillers and sex enhancement drugs lying beside him, his semen spilled all over his trousers and faecal excrement seeping through his anus and his mouth. It was that gruesome. You feel a cloud of shame hover over your head and you let out a loud howl like a wounded elephant, jerking to and fro on the floor, you convulse.
Your mother rushes out and grabs you, closer to her chest, to those breasts again that nurtured you all those years, yelling your name in tears, her cry breaks into a loud howl.
It’s been months since you found out the details of your dad’s death. Iniobong and Afia were sent home, your mom could not fend for them, their families called asking for cash settlement for their years of servitude, promising curses and juju death if they were not settled. One day, you wake up to your mother’s touch and in light whispers her voice wash over you: Your father was in massive debt, the duration of payment has elapsed and the debtors have come to collect, they are all laying claim to the apartment and there is the possibility one of them will send thugs to coerce you to sign the house over. You have to pack your belongings and leave with your mother. The lawyer will take care of the rest
It’s been years since you left, the home have been sold but the lawyer is nowhere to be seen. So you and your mom move to the village, to your maternal grandfather’s house, farming and selling crops to survive. Your mother is depressed, a shadow of her former self, gouging in antidepressants in other not to commit suicide.
One day, you know what to do, you know you can’t menially work your way out of this life, you don’t want to grow tolerant of poverty, so you decide to leave the village, to go back to the city, to pursue your passion: music
The day you leave for the city, your mom is off her medication; she cried and threw tantrums. Still, you packed your few belongings into a polythene bag and left.
You are a city boy. You scour the city for menial jobs at day and at night, the cyber café is your second home, you scour the internet for auditions, singing and talent competitions within your vicinity, anything that will require the display of your raw talent. After months of futile search, you find one, you are happy, you sleep soundly irrespective of the mosquitoes that performed for your ears only.
You wake up the next day, ecstatic, ready to display yourself to the world, you wear a peach-colored shirt, the sleeves tailored short, and the shirt tightly hugged to your body and tucked in. You leave early, before the morning accommodates the sun.
The venue is a touch of class, a different world from the wooden kiosks along gutters of decaying shit, the face-me-I-face-yous you wake up to. It has a garden and the trees whistles when the wind blows; a sign of your Chi’s presence, your confidence skyrockets through the roof.
“Six,” a female voice called out.
It was your turn, you walk into the concert hall, you take centre stage, you can’t see behind the stage lights, they are blinding and that was how you came; blinded by hunger.
“Begin,” a voice behind the lights command.
You find it strange you do not introduce yourself but you begin anyway. You start with alto, sail to tenor, uniquely pitch soprano and end with the most sonorous of falsettos, your notes came, till the lights left you.
It’s been weeks since your audition, that turmoil of ignorance tugs at your tummy, encroaching its vacuum spaces, you don’t like the feeling of emptiness so you want to fill that void at all cost, you bury yourself in wine, “a belly of wine is a belly without worries.”
One day your phone beeps, it is a message.
“Hello Mister, I am pleased to inform you have that you have been invited for a special one-on-one interview with our head of recruitment, the address and directions will be forwarded to you, thank you.”
You let out a shout. You can’t contain your excitement; you call your friends for a drink. You jam the night with loud music and have the best of women; you almost exhaust your savings.
The day of the interview comes, a shadow lingers over you but you shrug it off and leave early, before the morning grows intolerant of the night.
You arrive early, it is a tall, lighted building with no verandas; a five star hotel, you have not seen something so splendid; the jacarandas that spread a perky red canopy on the lawn, the fountain that stood at the centre. You want to have this luxury at all cost. You meet the receptionist, she directs you towards the elevator and your heart sinks into your tummy, this will be your first time. You follow a guide towards the elevator, slowly so you don’t miss a step and trip. He pushes a button and the door slides open, you follow behind. You nearly fall as the metallic beast slides upward; you hold the walls in other not to fall.
The elevator comes to a halt, the door slides open, you follow the guide down a carpeted hallway until he arrives at a door, 109 was inscribed on the door, he presses a button, a doorbell rings. A tall, lanky man opens the door.
“He is here,” the guide says.
“Ah, welcome Okorobia Agu, in your short bio, that was your pet name, right?” He waves the guide, signaling you to come in.
“Yes, s-sir,” you stutter as the AC chills your bone. He signals you to a seat beside the bed and you take it as he offers you a drink.
He began by asking questions, personal questions; about your dad, mom, your history and your dreams. You answer in detail but you don’t tell everything, you don’t tell about your dad’s gruesome death, you just say he died in an accident. He clears his throat and begins. You watch him with keen interest as he speaks, his distinguishing feature was his nose, it was fat, bulbous and had an oily sheen, his black lips were pouted, his black pupils squinted when he spoke and his black hair was curled backwards.
His words were faint until you heard 400,000 naira. It jerks you up. Processing fee, he says
You tell him you don’t have that kind of money, your father is deceased and your mom does not work, you are alone in this world, unfazed he tells you of the possibility of earning a signing fee of 10 million naira. You now want it more than ever, he tells you to apply for a loan but you can’t, you are a stranger, on these streets you stand with one leg, you don’t know anyone. You bow in grief.
“Maybe there is something you can do about it,” he draws closer, as you raise your head his hands go for your lips, caressing them, coarse hands against your lips and your eyes is thrown into confusion as he draws his face closer, suddenly his lips rest on yours as he draws you in, fiercely, you jerk up and shove him, escaping his grip.
You dash out of the room, into the streets.
That emptiness returns and tugs you down, the sky, fed up burst open, drenching the littleness that is left of you.
Your spirit shouts in agony. Your bed is soaked in grief and you ponder the fate of a man the world can’t tolerate.
It’s a new day, but you can’t forget about the day before, you wonder about the lifeline you were offered; sex with a man, taking turns to ply each other from the anus. You are disgusted. You scream abomination. You wonder how a man can find satisfaction in another man’s body. You want to exorcise the demons in your mind and thoughts of your mother resurface in your mind, you remember your last dream and the tortured image of your mom in that dream; her hair was on fire and her incisors were gone. You feel a cloud of shame over you, so you agree to have intercourse with the faggot once.
You call to agree to the deal and you can feel the smirk and smugness in his voice. He sets the time and day.
On that day, you feel drowsy and depression rears its ugly head, you reach for your box of pills and take more than two tablets. Your mind is blank.
You arrive at the venue, and the man is seated in his bed, bottle of whisky in hand and dressed in a white robe, lying in wait like a lion ready to devour a prey. After some bottles of whisky, he rushes you, unable to wait; he strips you naked and plies you from behind. You scream in pain, but he enjoys it, he works you steadily, diligently, efficiently.
It’s been months since your manly sex encounter. You signed a record deal, 10 million naira signing fee. The world loves your music, your voice makes people quiver in excitement. You have it all: fame, money, that cloud of shame still hovers over you, but you have something bigger tugging you down, you can’t be with a woman, girls want you, all over your body, they work you but you can’t respond to such passion, you just can’t, your mind is traumatized by your homosexual intercourse.
It didn’t take long.
You made the news, “talented singer can’t please a woman, and is he gay?” The media begin their probe.
At every public outing, you are confronted by rash questions and harsh flickers of light, they traumatize you, the flickers of light, perhaps that is what your mind has become; a flicker.
The headline: “Talented musician overdose on drugs, found in a paste of his own shit.”
Showers of details of your dad’s death fill your head as you wake up in a hospital. The steady beep sound of the EKG machine could be heard at interval. You let your last actions wash over you, absorbing the mortal sin you committed and in that bed, you vow to be strong and committed to life.
It’s been months since your near death experience, you are in rehab, you are bipolar, you suffer from PTSD and childhood trauma, you are the sum total of all your tolerated habits and tragedies. You are not angry, you are happy you were brave enough to seek help, to say it,
“I am mentally sick.”
“I felt depressed; I felt like drowning, I felt the world grew intolerant of me.”
You feel good but you know it won’t always be like that, there are days you will feel like quitting, but you won’t, because you know inevitably discomfort will gravitate towards you in life but through it comes growth, the world will not grow intolerant of you, you will grow tolerant of it; through tolerance and hope, you shall overcome. You shall have the last laugh.