Lately, the Sun had gotten unbearable with its rays so blinding and burning, it was intolerable to be under it. We were walking through the market; Uncle Nedum and I, and despite the fact that he was old and weary, he took me to the market to buy a sketch pad and other drawing materials. I always had a penchant for drawing and although it subsided when my parents died, it was revived by Uncle Nedum’s kind heart and patience. He took me like his own, and considering the fact he had barely known me when my parents were alive made it quite overwhelming for me. The love and care he showered upon me as though I were his.
When Aunty Toni had told me she couldn’t take care of me I didn’t care much. My heart was in too much pain for it to hurt. She told me my father’s long lost brother was to take care of me. Not realising my indifference, she went on to tell me the story of how he was sold in the hospital my grandmother had given birth in and how they lied the baby died when she clearly heard the baby’s cry and had deprived the poor woman of peace of mind which ‘supposedly’ lead to the loss of all the wealth of the abductive parents within years of purchasing him. She went on further explaining how they had left him in the village on the 10th anniversary of his abduction- what they called his birthday -with the husband’s parents who raised him with a harmonising mix of culture, tradition, discipline and love.
He had been walking along the roadside shirtless while Aunty Toni had been driving past when she saw the birth mark at the corner of his back; black and long like a tall lanky man in a black robe, just like grandpapa’s. She had stared at it so hard she ran over a huge stone at the corner of the road.
I blanked out all the other details and let myself hear her tender words in her brittle voice say,”He was our brother. We didn’t need a test to prove it because he had Papa’s flat nose and curved lips, Papa’s strong shoulders and his staggering walk. Papa was reborn before he even died.”
I had packed all the things I wanted to still have and had left all the pictures and memories, because I had to live my life in each passing second and not dwell on my aching past.
As I saw his black rugged Peugeot that had waves of sandy dust right above its tyres, I was terrified by the thought of my mind. The thought of going to live with this man I never knew. This man I don’t know. This man that might steal my innocence and tear away my dignity. This man that might not even like me but desire our union. I WAS TERRIFIED. But once I saw his frail smile aimed towards me, for a second there, I was comforted. I didn’t think about mum’s screams as daddy lost control of the car before sliding under the trailer or her decapitated body in her coffin or dad’s beyond-the-grave guilt of leaving his only child whom he had prayerfully awaited for 20 years, orphaned. I simply thought of this biological stranger and his frail smile.
We had been walking for a long time now, and the sun wasn’t getting any friendlier. I noticed something about Uncle Nedum, his palm started to slip away from mine quite easily due to excessive moisture, and his walk became a little more staggering. I had turned in response to one of the sellers shouting out their market goods when I felt his hand slip from mine completely and a woman’s loud “Yee! ” followed by a gasp from the crowd around me. I turned around just to behold my darling uncle’s frail body splashed on the rocky ground with what looked like thousands of hands stretching over him. My eyes were fixed on him but my mind was in a state of paralysis. I felt a vigorous shake on my hand before I felt the wetness of my cheeks and heaviness of my eyes and right there and then I felt the injection of concentrated pain into my veins, my heart was beating as fast as a dog chasing cars and my mind running through the memories I had of him; the WhatsApp messages we exchanged, the incredible sense of humour we shared that was just as infectious as an epidemic, the late night talks we’d have about everything, the way he smirked when he cracked a joke and the way his eyes lit up when he discussed his interests. His way of life and mine came together to form a wonderful mix of love. Love in its purest state.
The commotion of the confused crowd started to slowly fade from my ears and my mind echoed these questions of How? How would I survive a day without this man I had only known for 3 years of my life? This man that has given me the hope of life, the hope of happiness, the hope of love. How would I live without him? Without him scolding me and tapping the back of my head when i acted mischeviously. Without him calling me up when I go for sleep overs at Aunty Toni’s and asking if her voice in a song had shattered any windows yet or if her snores had resurrected the dead or if my stomach had survived her meal. How would I survive without him?
By the second sprinkle of water on his face he woke, but on getting himself up he was down once more, unconscious. They managed to get him to a nearby clinic where the nurses glanced at him like a futile project, it was then the third and final collapse happened. The collapse of his eye lids which were never to reveal his eyes’ shiny beauty again.