Editor's ChoiceLife and General FictionNaija Stories

Like Flowers

Growing up, you thought your whole life was like a beautiful painting on the wall: simply flawless. A year old baby, you lived in a perfect world, where you had the smile of both parents, and they had you. Never had to worry the heck about anything: about breakfast, lunch or dinner, about paying your school fees, having to work your legs out, trekking long distances to arrive the office or being held up by a crazy traffic. You didn’t have to get up before the rooster crowed to make breakfast; everything was provided for you.

You just laugh, while mummy holds her chin and wears a fallen face. The landlord just doles her a seven day ultimatum; it’s eviction time and the clock is ticking—tick-tock. The rent is full like a trash can, some of it is about to spill off. She’s all morose. But she responds with a faint smile and slaps your face gently with a kiss. Then she says ‘we would be fine.’ Yet, she isn’t sure if she is actually telling you the truth. You just continue to chuckle; what can you possibly offer? You are lost in your own little world.

Dad’s home, exhausted and wears that forlorn face, disgusting like a disease. He hasn’t got any good news either. He’s been awarded with a sack letter; those letters that are perfectly embellished in a brown envelope. How is she going to swallow all of these? But she will, like she always does. She’s a strong woman. Fifteen years of service washed in the rain. Fifteen horrible years of worshipping and bootlicking the government. And he’s gratuity, like some emaciated little child.

Yeah, she begins to yell and curse; how she had naively fallen for him, that her father had threatened to disown her if she went ahead with the madness called love. And she did, for the sake of love, she agreed to marry him, relinquishing everything, including her father’s vast assets. You sit there, staring innocently as they rant like two demented people. Oblivious of what they’re quibbling about. Then, you start to cry your lungs out, but they are so busy, busy tearing each other’s skin. As he’s about to leave her to her madness, she swings a glass cup at him, it kisses the brick wall, then splatters in multiple pieces against the floor. It’s a miss to her. He’s in dead shock. Now, she’s succeeded in playing with a sleeping lion’s tail. His punches, grabs her smooth face, then her restless hands, but her mouth seems to be gushing like a fountain, nonstop. But he is just getting started. He beats her into coma. But her coma lasts only a month and she’s as healthy as a horse.
She decides to leave him while you are just three years old. Crying, running and dragging her by her skirt.

But she looks at you, tears well up in her eyes, and she can’t bear to see you. She pushes softly, until your buttocks slaps the floor, but you wouldn’t stop crying. She hauls a luggage and wears a handbag like a cloth, her life’s possession; and off she goes, your paths would possibly never cross again.

Years later, you are all grown, smashing beauty, pink lips, ravishing eyes, nicely cut afro. You are now an adult capable of looking after yourself. No father to look out for you. In fact, he’s dead. Died a year after you finished medical school. You learn to survive the vicissitudes of daily life.

You are young and reckless, not bothered about anything and anyone.
Suddenly, your mother comes out from the blues; like a ghost she keeps appearing and disappearing. She’s bathed in tears and begging for mercy. Old age has latched on her hair and she looks like a complete wretch. But you are not moved. It’s all crocodile tears, you say. You accuse her vehemently and you wear a livid smile. Where was she when you learnt to walk with great difficulty and fell helplessly? Where was she, when you were greeted by your first menstrual cycle and those cramps devoured your intestines; your classmates jested because of the blood stained uniform and you cried because you didn’t know what to do.

And where was she when father would sneak up on you at night to unburden his sexual urge. Not once, not twice, every night you would groan painfully but silently, as those fingers gnawed at your nipples and he assaulted you sexually. Who would believe your story if you told it? So, you chose to die in abject silence than report to the authorities. After all, the Bible says honour your father and mother and your days would be long; God couldn’t be lying. Yet, it has sparked an unimaginable abhorrence towards men.

Now, she begs your forgiveness. Adamantly, you walk out on her, refusing to forgive. And your mind is made up.

Later, you hear she’s dead. And you can’t seem to let go, all swallowed up in hate; but something within, like a spark of light in that whole world of darkness says: ‘Just let go already.’ You struggle and struggle, till it made no sense—finally, you concede defeat.
It’s your turn; old age grabs you by the throat and you are about to choke in frailty. Everything seems to fade away like shriveled flowers. You were once beautiful. Now, you would have to wear this rumpled cloth for time unending. Then, you realize that nothing is permanent; we are just like flowers whose freshness is but a while, before they shrivel into dust. You lay in bed; in a state of inanition and stupor.

Each earthly smile fades with time, as your teeth take to their heels; beckoning hunger to grin at you. You, who would go anywhere without the aid of anything or anyone; now needed to be carried about like some baby. Dismal moments will come, with dark and Dares and you would be as fragile as the egg. Your thoughts flutter like the wind, making your words incoherent to learn. No husband, no child. No one to come to your assistance. It’s just you and death, beckoning with a kiss.

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