When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot on it and hang on– Thomas Jefferson.
Few minutes after my birth, right before I could get used to the warmth in her embrace, right before I could see the love in her eyes, death played a fast one on me. Luckily for me, I still had someone who loved me just like her. My father was the best mother I ever had. Ten years later, he hadn’t moved on but when he did, I gave him all the support a ten- year could give. My father met Cynthia at a restaurant. She was a beautiful woman and my father really loved her. Little did he know that, she would be the death of him. A year into their marriage, Aunty Cynthia got pregnant and became insecure. She snapped at everything and misread many situations. As she ran her mouth like a typewriter that Sunday afternoon, while making lunch, I became wary of the poor food having to digest all the saliva . As we ate lunch, we didn’t know Aunty Cynthia would take the word ‘pepper dem’ to heart. Then my father started to cough. I gave him some water, then he stopped. Suddenly he started again, this time he didn’t stop. He coughed his way to the hospital, and the next time I saw him was in a box.
Now I was an orphan, at the mercy of relatives. I was all alone in this cruel world. After my father’s death, I began to get tossed around like a ragdoll. I could eat breakfast at uncle Jacob’s house and ate dinner at Aunt Gertrude’s. Finally Aunty Goodness took me in. In Igbo language there was a proverb that says “Nwa nwanne gi bu nwa gi” which means the child of your sibling is also you child. But with the way Aunty Goodness treated me, I doubted if she was related to my mother at all. Now I think of it, I feel like my grandparents gave her the name ‘Goodness’ because they knew how wicked she could be ,they decided to warn people of her but in an ironic way.
You know the drill for the child who is the help; torn uniforms, goes to school late, sleeps late, eats the left over and the list is endless. All these and more happened to me . I knew I had to leave when I turned 17. So one night after her incessant condescending words of how I would have been on the streets if not for her, I knew it was time to hit the road. The next day by 4am, I packed the little decent belongings I owned and left the house in the guise of doing one or two chores.
For the first month I slept at bus stations and did odd jobs. I was able to save some money and registered to a government school to finish up my secondary school education.
Student by morning, bus conductor by afternoon. It was everything but nice and easy. My classmates taunted me for that but my heart was now a rock. I knew what I wanted in life, my aunt Indirectly made me grow a tough skin. I wasn’t the brightest person in class but I was happy because, I kept making an effort to be better than I was yesterday. After all the hard work, it finally paid off. I got my waec and I passed but not in flying colors but enough colors to help me move to the next stage. I knew that if I was going to go a university, I had to up my game in making money. So I became a marketer for a multinational health company. The money trickled in, sometimes it took weeks, but as Mary Anne Radmacher would say “ Courage does not always roar, sometimes it’s that quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’”. So I kept pushing. Finally I saved up enough and got into school to study computer science. I loved computers. We all know , Tertiary institution is a vampire for money. No money is never enough, but I wasn’t deterred . I struggled and got to year 3. I woke up one morning to hear that my course was not accredited, so we had to start afresh. As I stood in the midst of my course mates, I couldn’t utter a word . I became numb and dumb. Long story short, I had to drop out of school. I decided that a certificate will not determine my future. With the help of a Friend I got in contact with an army man who sold his car to me on hire purchase. I was to pay 800,000 naira. Every week I had to remit a certain amount to pay for the car. So I started afresh. Five months in, as I rode on it, getting passengers…I felt like my life was starting to go in the right direction. I moved to a better house; a one room apartment. A month later, I got robbed at my house and my car was towed. When I got it back, it had developed issues. That alone weighed me down. I was running short on money. I had dipped my hands into my little savings. I couldn’t pay my house rent, my landlord wasn’t the most empathetic person on Earth. A week later I came home at night to find my belongings outside. Some of neighbors offered to help keep my belongings at their balcony. My car became my new home. By that time I was already running late to pay the army man. The next day I went to him and paid with my remaining savings remaining 5000 naira. In hope to pay up soon and take full ownership of the car. As I went about my taxi business, It felt like the universe was against me. I was a Wilson Tagbo . From one week to another I got into one problem or the other. Yesterday my car was seized by FRSC because I had a faulty seat belt. As I was leaving the station, with an empty pocket, I saw the army man standing near the car. I smiled and was about explaining then I felt a big hand hit me hard across my face.
“You riffraff where is the keys, you are late “
I went on my knees begging him that wasn’t it remaining 5000 naira out of 800,000. He hit me again. I feared for my life so I gave him the keys and was still begging but he punched me and threw me aside like a piece of trash. He started the car and drove off. Now if I was a woman I would have taken off my slippers and my wrapper and rolled on the floor but I wasn’t a woman. I was a man and that entailed stomaching pain, even if it would kill you. Now I was homeless, hopeless, and helpless.
My eyes stung cause I didn’t want to cry . I stood for a minute plus under the sun until a car honked and startled me. That instant I knew what I would do.
I walked slowly like a snail. Then I went on top the building I loved to reflect on. The building I so much admired. I stood close to the ledge. At that moment I couldn’t hold it in again, I wept like the orphan I was. I didn’t understand why a supreme being will send me down on earth to suffer. The more I thought of it, the more the tears kept coming. When I turned it felt like I could see my mother at a distance on that building. I looked further and saw her crying. I felt sad. So I decided to end it all. As I set one foot out from the ledge and wanted to take the second step, I was engulfed in a hug from behind from somebody. He dragged me back. As I struggled to let myself free, I saw him. He was a uniform man . He hugged me and I started crying.
“Please sir let me do this, it’s long over due” I screamed and cried.
He said nothing . I broke down telling him about my life. He was moved. He didn’t say another word, later I noticed 2 other people joined us. It was other uniform men. They were FRSC men. One held me.. the other hand cuffed me to himself . They kept telling me everything will be alright.
One said “ Just when the caterpillar thought it was over it became a butterfly. The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before a miracle happens. Don’t give up.” They told me they saw what their senior colleagues had done to me. And watched the scenario with the army man. So they followed me. They calmed me, one offered to let me stay in his house while the other gave me 5000 naira After an hour or so, of us sitting there, no one said anything. We finally got up and left.
Surprisingly none of them said anything like “be a man” or “men don’t cry” because in as much as we are men, we also need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a heart to understand, because men also have feelings.
Arueze Chisom Precious, a passionate writer can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org