Uchechukwu has always loved the buzz, hip-hop and parties. His life has always revolved around them – the girls, the parties, the brews and the expensive liquor. The time that father’s one hundred and fifty-thousand Naira was missing, I and father knew it was Uchechukwu but mother will not side with us. He disappeared and resurfaced after one month with a story of a kidnapping that had his hands and legs tied, his face masked. I wondered why the kidnappers didn’t call for a ransom. I could see it on father’s face, the disbelief and lack of trust in his words. But mother would belief every word he said, standing close to him peering closely, feeling his face, raising his hand and opening his back to see if the supposed kidnappers harmed her son. Father wanted to hand him over to the police but, mother wouldn’t let him.
That was not the first time Uche would disappear from home and come back with stories of fairy tales. The other time mother’s prideful jewelries and hollandis wrappers went missing, the ones she probably would have sold at her shop in Ariaria Main Market, Uche went missing too for a week. If it was coincidence that Uche disappeared by chance or on purpose anytime a thing of value went missing mother should have solved the puzzle as I and father had in a long time. But for some unknown reason this puzzle seemed to elude mother.
While we were growing up, Uche would come home with some kind of friends, the ones that lurked at me lustfully. I never really liked them because I felt unsafe around them. They would come to the house lurking not just at me but at everything else that seemed valuable. That was how the wall clock Aunt Ijeoma - mother’s sister brought from Paris that had different time zones went missing. That was how the sculpture by father’s bed disappeared, the sculpture of the Great Pyramid. That was how father’s grey metallic wrist watch also went missing. Each of the times, father would inquire from him in his thunderous angered voice, “Uche, where is that wall clock?” “Uche where is my watch?” “Uche where is that sculpture by my bed?” I believed they sold it for some money worth less than the market value to appease their immediate yearnings for cannabis, indian hemp and the other things that hallucinated their thinking and caused them to momentarily lose their grip on reality. The only valuable thing that they lustfully lurked at and couldn’t take was me.
Uche knew that if any harm ever came on me that father would not only call the police on him but will ensure he was imprisoned with his mates. The first time I ever complained to father was when Obinna, one of Uche’s friends that most disgusted me for his toady eyes, his slouch stature and broad nose that was always too wide, tucked at my skirt when I passed in between them while they were seated at the sitting room. Father and mother had gone for evening prayers at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Obinna did not only tuck at my skirt but slammed his palm on my buttocks. It so much annoyed me that I took a snobbish look at him and back to Uche who was supposed to be defending me but busy laughing with other friends in the sitting room at having slammed at my buttocks. When father came back with mother, I narrated everything to him leaving no stone unturned. I even spiced it up. I was surprised at the outrage that came upon father, at the anger that consumed him, one that I had never seen before. He called Uche, told me to make my complaint again and asked Uche if it was true in a tempered voice. Before Uche’s stammering would end, he slapped him on the cheek, held him by the throat against the wall, kicked him to the ground and was pouncing on him as a lion would on its prey when mother intervened. Mother would always intervene. Father was still too furious that he left him with mother on the marbled floor of the sitting room and walked out to the corridor of balusters.
I had never felt such pity for Uche before in my entire existence. He was pleading, his red eyes had assumed guilt, pity, and confession before father slammed him on the marbled floor and mother rushed in to his rescue. At that moment I felt remorse for having reported him. For having spiced up my complaint. I never knew father would grow that angry. I never knew that a mere tucking of my skirts and a slam of a teenage palm on my buttocks would arouse father’s unprecedented anger. The last words father said before he left the sitting room was, “if you ever let those your stupid, undisciplined, ungodly friends into this house again, I will kill you.” “if they ever lay their hands on Nma’s fifteen year old body again, I will cut it off myself.” That was the moment Uche knew that under any circumstance I was forbidden for his friends. That was also the moment he stopped bringing Obinna with the others into the house. He started staying away from home more than he slept at home. Father didn’t inquire more, maybe because he perceived that he was already a lost course. Even when he started bringing in expensive phones, longer and bigger chains that slung from his neck and bigger boots like the ones won by American Wrap artists, father didn’t say a word anymore to him. That was five years ago.
The night before he was reprimanded at the police station, he came home late. He had been away from home for a week. On National Television we watched the news of a robbery at Osisioma in Aba. The reporter reported that the robbers had packed an SUV directly opposite the bank for more than four days. What the bankers did not know was that the robbers had their ammunitions parked in that SUV for the operation. In the midmorning of the robbery day they had gone straight to the SUV, opened it and swerved their arms out and started to shoot into the air. They killed two, injured five and carted away with more than twenty million naira.
That night Uche came home. He was hesitant, not at peace and spoke in a camouflaged calming manner. I knew something was up. But I couldn’t have likened it to the robbery we were all watching on the news. The next morning, we were surrounded; our apartment was pestered by police men, armed and unarmed, guarding the gates and knocking at our door. When mother opened the door they swam past her in agitation asking for Uchechukwu.
As if they knew where his room was, they caught him, cuffed him and walked him out. Mother was busy ranting, asking the calm unarmed police man who was the last to leave the house why they were arresting Uche, he told her that he was a suspect in a bank robbery at Osiosioma. She had denied it, she had pleaded with the unarmed police to let her son go that he was no thief. She had defended him saying that his son had never stolen his entire life, that he was one that never looked for trouble. The disbelief that graced my eyes, the disappointment that slammed my ears at mother’s words made me uncomfortable. Maybe Uche had come to belief these same words mother has defended his actions with over the years. Maybe he had come to view his own actions from the lens with which mother had come to see him - a good son who would never stir up trouble to guise and do whatever he wanted. Father wasn’t home. He had travelled to Lagos two days before the incident. If father was home, he would have been indifferent and let them take him away. It would not have disappointed him as mother had done.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week Thursday. Please like, share and comment what you have learnt from this story. Many thanks.
We are elated to present our newest contributor, Hope Ekeh Jr @hopeekehjr Hope is an Entreprenuer, Speaker, Writer, Blogger, Author and Lecturer. The author behind “When the Obvious Truth is Ignored” and other topics that are a combination of short stories that explores Nigeria and Africa as a whole. It also centres on connectedness of men to women, parents to children and the larger society.