“THE RIGHT PLUG”
The beautiful sun quietly rose from the east and its ray penetrated the clouds, then through the blue curtains in my room and gently planted kisses on my sleepy face as I lay on the bed.
I had a beautiful dream of a tall man who asked me to ride with him on a beautiful horse and was full of smiles as we galloped along the dusty road of our town. Some people lined up the street clapping and waving at us. Suddenly, someone called my name and as I turned to see the caller, my leg hit the wall.
I could hear my mother calling me from the kitchen and was hesitant at first to answer her because of the rain that fell overnight. It was in the rainy season and the house was a bit cold. The comfort of my bed wouldn’t allow me to get up on time.
My mother called again and the speed with which I jumped out of the bed rang bell in my head. The last time I lingered in bed was the day my mother poured cold water on me. I was drenched inside my room with soul-piercing curses rained on me too.
I sometimes wondered if I was her biological daughter. She would curse me with the names of some gods and goddesses in our town. She often participated in the worship of a particular goddess linked to fertility. I remembered when my maternal grandmother narrated how she suffered before giving birth to my mother and how my mother in turn suffered and was ridiculed my our neighbours and relatives for ten years before I was born.
I have tried in vain to know why she preferred calling me Rebecca instead of my local name.
She called me again. Whenever she switched to my local name, I knew trouble loomed in the air. I was busy looking for the second pair of my slippers when she called again.
“Mummy! I’m looking for my slippers” I said with a disgruntled voice.
“If I come to your room now, I will pour werepe (Lacuna bean) on you.” was my mother’s early morning “beautiful” response.
I abandoned looking for the slippers and ran barefooted to the kitchen.
“Good morning Mummy!”
“What’s good this morning when your good-for-nothing father hasn’t returned from his business trip”
I watched her pouring the rice inside the boiling water on the stove.
“Give me that salt” she said holding the spoon.
I looked around trying to find it when she landed a knock on my head.
“Here’s the salt!” She pointed it at my face.
I was surprised to find out that the salt was just in front of her while I was some meters away. I remembered reading in my room one day when she called me to give her the TV remote control.
To my surprise, it was on a stool beside her. When I tried to question her, she said, “Our culture is the best. Obedience is a must. Is that clear?” I nodded in disagreement.
She gave me the bottle of salt and asked me to add it to the rice on the stove.
“Mum, how many spoons?” I asked politely.
“No need of spoon. Pour the whole bottle of salt into the pot, lazy girl”
The way she stood akimbo waiting for me to commit another mistake worthy of double slaps, I quickly remembered how my grandmother taught me a simple trick of adding salt unlike my mother who would be adding salt as if her ancestors were dictating the amount to be added.
I began to add bit by bit while tasting the water to be sure of the correct amount. One thing I liked about my mother was her willingness to teach me how to cook for she would always say, “Any woman who doesn’t know how to cook is a failure”
That saying has always been kept on my left hand and I took it upon myself to be taught in kind or otherwise. When I perceived the right amount has been added, I looked at her for her commendation. Instead, she took it from my hand and added a bit more without tasting it like I did and covered the pot.
“Rebecca, learn! The way to a man’s heart is through good food and other food” she said as she continued with the blending of the red pepper, tomatoes and onion.
I stood there thinking hard about the meaning of other food when she turned and looked at me surprisingly. I was scared to ask her for the meaning. The last time I asked for the meaning of a statement by one of our favourite actors in a movie landed me a slap.
“What a man can do, a woman can do better” the actress said to a man trying to shut her up.
Out of curiosity, I asked for the meaning but my mother took it other way. While rubbing my cheek, she burst into hot tears. She sometimes expressed her emotion anytime I asked her sensitive questions pertaining to men.
I didn’t bother to ask her but she held my hand looking straight into my eyes. I knew she was about to say something when we heard a loud…
“THE RIGHT PLUG”
I didn’t bother to ask her but she held my hand looking straight into my eyes. I knew she was about to say something when we heard a loud voice at the door.
One of the chiefs in the town barged in demanding to meet my father. However, my mother knew the main reason for visiting that morning. Chief Kolawole threatened to take the plots of land belonging to my paternal grandfather.
“If your husband refuses to refund the loan he collected from the community, we will take his plots of land. Is that clear?”
My mother paused and allowed him to finish his rantings. The chief looked at me and my mother strangely. He was one of the richest chiefs in our town and deliberately built his house near the Palace and the reason was best known to him. He once claimed he could cure HIV/AIDS with certain plants grown on his farm.
“Rebecca, excuse us for some minutes” he commanded me.”
I immediately left the sitting room without asking for the reason. My father once sat in the sitting room discussing with a friend about the local politics. I witnessed their arguments until it degenerated to the point of almost trading banters and my father was humiliated. My presence there infuriated him and he beat me mercilessly that day. That gory memory never left me.
Because of Chief’s suspicious look that morning, I hid behind the door to eavesdrop. What he told my mother shook me to the core. What I heard made me leave for my room with uneasiness in my spirit. I looked at the books on my table for so long imagining them becoming humans and wage war against the chief.
The smell of the burnt rice jolted me back to my senses and I ran to the kitchen like one of the children running to pick a fallen ripe mango in the community.
My mother had already gone outside with one of her friends selling clothes. Mama Bolanle used to visit my mother whenever she passed our street for her morning cry or personal evangelism. My mother disliked her for her constant preaching about Jesus Christ. As for her, she strongly believed in worshipping the goddess and ready to spend her all for the celebration.
I once asked her why she disliked her preaching but liked her lifestyle. She gave an awkward response, “Why hasn’t her Jesus given her a child?”
I reminded her that Bolanle was her daughter. She shook her head in pity and told me plainly the secret I haven’t heard before,
“Bolanle is her adopted child. She is so barren like the Sahara desert that no man wanted to marry her.”
This truth hit me hard and made me sad realising that Bolanle, a close friend was an adopted child. One thing about Bolanle was her honesty and steadfastness in her belief. Unlike me, she was ever contented and satisfied with her level and family. I remembered flaunting a rolex wrist watch my father bought for me from one of his business trips. Bolanle only admired it but I was expecting her to praise me to the high heavens and respect me the more. Her simple lifestyle like her mother usually humbled us.
On getting to the kitchen, in an attempt to bring down the pot from the stove, my left hand got burnt and my loud cry sent my mother running to the kitchen. The way she handled the hot pot made me feel as if she wasn’t a human being. I have noticed her several times carrying hot objects in the kitchen with her bare hands which made me concluded that mothers are wonderful beings.
“Ronke! Ronke!! Where were you? Were you sleeping?” She asked.
I couldn’t answer her because I knew no answer I gave would pacify her.
“Won’t you answer me, useless child? She shouted again.
At least, I was expecting her to comfort me or say some encouraging words but I have been used to hearing such foul words. Her attitude made me yearn for my father’s presence but his frequent trips wouldn’t allow. While still standing there like a jobless lady, her phone rang. As I tried to help her pick it, she warned me not to answer it when she realised it was my father.
“Travelling around the world like a rudderless ship. Who will deliver me from my woes?” She lamented as she prepared the stew.
I watched her talking to herself and murmuring. This was a regular sight whenever my father travelled. I didn’t even know whether I should pity her or not. Their lovely pictures adorned our sitting room and funnily, dad placed a bigger frame of their picture in the bedroom with a bold written words below it, “TILL ETERNITY, I WILL LOVE YOU”
Whether I should believe it or not remained an unsolved riddle for me. The way dad used to praise mum would make a young lady like me to yearn for marriage. However, my mother complained and murmured around the house as if she was forced to marry him. I could clearly say mum adored and respected my father. I knew something was missing in their marital bond.
Suddenly, two women in white attires came in unannounced into our house and my mother and I looked at each other…
Published By: Ifeoluwa ORISAKAHUNSI