My new home was a world apart from anything you can imagine. At home, emotions like love and care were alien to us. We did virtually everything together but we didn’t love each other. It was that phenomenon I call surrounded but still alone. Though in this family we were always in uniforms, and we ate so as to not pass out the next day. We were familiar with words like, cellmate, warden, hard labor, torture, intimidation, wickedness, and swear words like ‘ your papa’, the list is endless. And I was worthy to be in this family. During the day we had people who called the shots in there beat men till they almost bleed from their eyes and spat their teeth out like it were stones. At night the night singers not only feasted but held a concert but to our detriment. A can of sardine was more spacious for the fishes than it were for us in this room
Thomas Ige!?” the warden shouted.
“Yes!” I responded with the last good breath I could inhale.
“Someone wants to see you, come here fast before I change my mind you idiot!” he spat.
With the speed of a lightening I got there ready to leave. I didn’t care if it was Chioma ‘s mother who had come to assualt and cuss at me for what I did to her daughter, all I wanted was to be out of there. Turns out the room directly below us was the toilet of the chief warden. He had just emptied the contents of his pot Bellied stomach and it’s stench had risen up to our cell like it was burnt offerings offered to us. The word unbearable doesn’t come close to how our cell smelled, more reason I was grateful I was called out.
It was my mother. She had come to see me as it was few days after my sentence. The shape of her eyes had grown some inches bigger. Her nose was also quite bigger. What gave her away was the map of dried liquid on her face. When she spoke it felt like she was the least perturbed that her son will spend a better part of his life with a new family that doesn’t include her.
Gradually days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and months to years. For 29 bad years I had lived here. On my 30th I was released. As I stepped my feet outside the walls of the prison, in my now less fitting trousers and shirts I had it at the back of my mind I was all alone. My mother was hit by a car in my 10th year of my sentence while I never knew my father. I had relatives who were more of strangers less of family before I went behind bars, so they never mattered.
Believe me starting afresh takes courage and the beginnings are always the hardest. For the first few years, I was a Barrow Pusher, brick layer, bus conductor and sorts, slept in odd places while on those jobs. Let me not bore you with the details. On the 5th year I got a house. It was small but it was everything to me. A one room apartment in a face me I slap you house. When I moved, my neighbors were acting strange. Treating me with cool indifference. They wouldn’t answer me if I greeted them, so I got no chance to ask them anything further. One day as I got home I overheard them talking, I greeted them but they not only ignored me but stared at me in scorn. It was when I was unlocking my door that I heard it.
“ see him” one said
“ mtcheww see my brother leave o, if I was the devil there are some souls I’ll follow God to drag even if they repent tomorrow and become a pastor” the other one said. Then everything made perfect sense.
6 months later I got a job as a driver for Mr. Wellington. I know deep down that it was a miracle. Mr. Wellington was a man who worked with a radio station. He was not only rolling in dough but he was also an 800 pound gorilla in the state. Mr. Wellington had a pretty wife and the most witty, 2 and a half year old I have ever laid my eyes on. She was as cute as a button.
My boss always treated me like a brother. He cared about me in ways bosses never did. His wife respected my opinion just like her husband while his cute daughter April always had a big grin on her face anytime she saw me. She would say “uncle tom I hope you are having a good day” in that little cute voice of hers. As time went on I and the Wellingtons became closer. My salary had been increased and I had moved to a better house. They were a miracle from heaven.
On a fateful Saturday we were at the mall, I held unto April, while her mother was shopping . As we stood at an ice cream stand waiting, April tapped me and said.
“Uncle tom there’s a woman that keeps staring at us.” she said as her eyes kept moving in a direction,
“Who is that?” I asked anxiously.
Then she shrugged. I got worried and keeping looking but I saw nothing weird. Just then a woman with a gun emerged. Everyone screamed and ran. I carried April to run to safety then I heard her voice.
Stopping in my tracks, to make sure .Lo and behold it was Chioma’s mother with a gun.” Why are you not yet dead”? She inquired. She was pointing the gun at me.
Before I could utter a word, she had fired a bullet. Then I ran carrying April to the car. Just as I was looking for the keys, I felt something wet on my chest. I shifted April to my other arm, only to see blood stains on my clothes and on April’s. April’s eyes were closed.
I prayed, cried,and fasted. Long story short, April died a week later. As far as I was concerned I was dead too, you do not have to be six feet under to do that. I knew I was not deserving of the air passing through my lungs. So as I wait for the time I would be laid to mother Earth officially, I know I am like a camera that is being switched on, passive and quiet, not recording or thinking.
Arueze Chisom Precious, a passionate writer can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org