In my life and in that of my brother’s, today will be one of those days that will stand out. As tears well up in my eyes, I look at him. He has his beards neatly carved. As he smiles, his cute little dimples is out in display. Right now, I don’t care about Forbes list of the most handsome man alive, because all I know is that I am looking right at him.
As I stared on, my mind wandered back into a place I thought I had forgotten. Vividly, in my memory, I remember the day our parents were snatched away from us by the cruel hands of death. I was 5 years then.
That day, I and my brother and our parents were joking around in the house when suddenly it felt like the ground was shaking.
“What’s that noise honey?” my mother asked my father as she came into the sitting room.
“I don’t know, maybe it is the landlord. He has called an oil company to dredge deep for oil.” Then we all began laughing.
The landlord to the house we were living in was nothing but an opportunist. He would do anything and everything to make money off the land. Right in front of our house was a vulcanizing shop, a bet shop, and a CD selling shop. The land in which housed our flat, wasn’t a spacious one but the way he managed to get all these business on his land, amazed many. All these shops did nothing, but generate noise. The noise was both deafening and annoying.
My father tried to complain but the landlord told him, if he wasn’t comfortable, he could do him the honors of leaving the house, because his rent was relatively cheap. In truth my father had made plans to leave but when I was rushed to the hospital for an emergency due to an accident on my way from school, he had to spend the money. Until I got better, my father was bleeding money. So we couldn’t move but my father put it off till the next year.
The noise got louder and this time, we all became uncomfortable. They ran to the balcony only to find a house in our compound collapsing. My mother clasped her mouth and gathered my brother and I to leave the house. Just then, we began hearing the noise so loud.. like it came from below us.
My mum screamed and held unto us and my father didn’t know where to run to. And then there was nothing.
The moment I opened my eyes, I didn’t know where I was but I could perceive the strong smell of antiseptic. I knew that I was in the general hospital. Afterwards I asked the doctors the whereabouts of my parents but they didn’t give me a tangible answer.
Long story short, my brother survived but my parents didn’t. I didn’t quite understand what death was at that age. In fact at my parents burial, I played like never before. It was after their burial that I really understood that I would never get to see them again.
After their burial, as usual we were passed around like an offering plate to our relatives. Of course they didn’t treat us well. I cried often because it was hard to live happy while being treated poorly.
Now this is where my brother comes in. When my brother was 16, he picked me up from our aunt’s place and we began living together. Life was hard. Very hard. Half of the time we went to bed at war with our intestinal worms. They would grumble so hard, that it could be heard as ranting, but we still had nothing to give them. My brother did odd jobs to find food. He fought with cheating drivers to be paid his cut as a conductor, he fought construction workers to get his pay. He literally had to fight for everything he got. I cried whenever he came home with cuts and bruises but there was something uncanny about his attitude towards all that hardship. My Brother always smiled. It baffled me in how he did it but he was the most cheerful person I know. He would tell me “Hapu Ogadimma” meaning I should let go, because it shall be better. There were times that I would feel down but his words, always kept me afloat. He was my motivational speaker, always lifting my spirit. We pushed through life and now we are here. Aside that, my brother had a big heart. He did good and was loved by many.
“Anthony, are you crying?” He asked.
“Me? No why will I, something just got into my eyes.” I said as I hurriedly wiped the liquid that escaped my eyes. My brother stared at me for a while. I smiled broadly as I tried to hide my true feelings but the look on my brother’s face said otherwise.
“Alright bro, now is not the time to cry. The future is bright. I know that good things are coming, I can feel it.” He said smiling broadly.
“Come let’s take a photograph, to remember this day. It’s not been easy but God proves to be so faithful.” He said giving me a huge pat on the back.
As if on a cue of our conversation, a photographer comes towards us as we stand. Just before the picture is taken, my brother whispers into my ear.
“Guy smile before I commot your teeth” I break out into a laughter and the picture is taken. Due to the fact that it is a wait and take picture, minutes later, I am staring at our picture. It did come out well. We looked like two Happy guys. One is matriculating into the university and the other is the supportive brother.
“Anthony it’s such a good work, you have done. A masterpiece”
“Thank you sir. I really appreciate. He goes back to admiring my work. I stand there for a while before he waves and I take that as my cue to leave. Stepping out of my boss’s office, I see my colleagues on the outside waiting to congratulate me. As soon as I am in their sight, they jump on me. Some hugging, some high fiving. I am still turned off to celebrate yet but a victory is still a victory. After a while in the office, I pack up my bags and leave for home. The HR allows me because in her words I have done tremendous work for the firm. The ride home was not always a long one but today I am making a detour to the park. I can feel the weather calling out to me. It’s not really a sunny day neither is it cloudy, that the next thing that comes to your mind is an umbrella. It’s just slightly chilly but not cloudy. As I stepped out of my car, a book in hand. I head to my favorite spot under a mango tree at the middle of the park.
A little time alone will go a long way. It won’t cure me of my problems but at least it would give me a clear head. Suddenly my phone rings. It’s my wife.
“Hi Nessa” I speak into the phone.
“Hi Baby, are you at the park?” she knows me far too well.
“Yes I am” I say as I spot a man who has been smiling at me for a while.
“Don’t be there for too long okay?” She’s waiting on the phone to know if I am actually there.
“Okay honey. I won’t”
I put my phone down and stare at this man. He smiles more and I feel too weird to return the smile. He goes on to smile and greet, every other person. I stare at him more and he waves. Then I gave him a tight lipped smile. Is something wrong with him or is it just me and my paranoia. I see that his hair is neatly combed. As he gives me that all teeth smile, I find out that he has the whitest set of dentitions, I have seen in a long time. Even my teeth is not that white. My eyes is a laser as I scrutinize every single thing about this weird man seated not quite far away from me. I think I see a line on his trousers. Of course he irons his clothes I thought. He looked pretty normal to me, I said to myself.
Then suddenly someone came right in front of him and gave him some food. It thanked the person profusely and began eating.
I watched as he ate hungrily.
“Hi please may I join you there?”
“Yes of course” I replied to the lady.
“Wait…. are you not the one who gave that gentle man, some food?” I asked
“Yes” she chuckled. Festus is a kind man.
“I can see. He has been smiling to everyone” and she starts laughing. We stay in silence for a while and she says.
“You know he’s mentally ill.” She said which has me gaping at her.
“What?” I ask.
“Yes. He’s been coming to this park for a year now”
“I can’t believe this…but he doesn’t look the part”
“Exactly. That’s the point. I found it hard to believe until later on, I saw him talking to himself aloud. Though, half of the time, he’s always nice. Always smiling” she said smiling too.
“The thing I like about him is his attitude towards life. He’s so hopeful and cheerful. He hasn’t eaten since morning though but he is so cheerful. He’s so positive about life.” she said as she brimmed with smiles.
I got to the venue like an early bird. It was a hotel at the center of the city. It had this lush surrounding that made you feel at home. I had to appreciate the organizers for choosing this place. Little by little, the attendees for the seminar trickled in. They would come in twos and threes. Gradually the hall started to fill up. I was very glad. Then I noticed as the speakers began setting up and all that.
Everywhere was just too rowdy. People has one or two things to discuss as I sat alone, with my thoughts. I wondered what I would get out if this seminar which had been organized by Vanessa’s friends.
After a while, they organizers managed to bring the hall to tranquility and the seminar began. The first speaker was a woman. She talked about being business minded and all, it was the second speaker that caught my attention.
“Life is a give and take situation” she said. “What you sow will definitely be what you reap. You can’t get something you didn’t work for. Now if you want to make money or live a comfortable life, you have to work for it.”
“And also in life, if you give up, you are failure. Life is about striving. It’s about not giving up, no matter what. No matter what happens, you should never give up”
By this time, I couldn’t hold it in any longer so I spoke up.
“You lie” I said loudly. People were now murmuring. I didn’t care. Stopped Caring about what people said, a long time ago.
“What?” Do you have something to say Mr. Tony…you can come up here” the speaker said.
I stood. Walked out of my chair quietly to the podium. Then I took the Mic from him.
I stood for a little over a second but not more than a minute.
“I meant it when I said, it’s a lie. Life…doesn’t always give you the thing you deserve. At times, it’s okay to give up on life. Here is my story. I was born but orphaned from age 5. Ever since then, till I grew up, I was under the care of my then 16 year old brother. Some years back, I had seen a mad man, all happy and smiling. He reminded me of my brother. My brother, taught me all I know about life; how to be upright and optimistic and cheerful. Every good you see of me, was imbibed in me by my brother. I adored him.
We went through hell to be alive, or rather he went through hell. He did odd jobs, to feed us. He smiled through the pain while at it. He was good, had a conscience. He always encouraged me to do good but where is he now. He is in jail for a crime, he did not commit” my voice begin to break at this moment, before I completely go quiet. A tear slips from my eyes as I remember his sentencing. My brother, was crying and begging. He kept saying that he didn’t do it. He didn’t murder anyone. It felt like everyone was under a spell in that court room.
After his sentencing, I rushed to see him in jail. The moment I set my eyes on him, I knew all was lost. As my brother was speaking, he broke down in tears. My brother. Crying. The most positive person I knew…crying. A lot changes in you, when you see certain people cry. When you see the people you term as ‘the strong’ break down.
I went ahead and told them everything about my brother and I could hear a few sobs and sniffing.
“You know, it’s easy to tell someone who is down, to endure or be strong….but what if you draw your strength from that someone. And yet again, in a bid to console the person we throw in a few words like I understand but half of the time we don’t. At times life can give you a hard smack on the face or a kick in the balls, that even a common ‘ all is well’ seems like a bitter medicine down your throat.
“You have to understand that life will never be fair to some people. I mean life’s not fair, that’s why we are black. Some people gave life, their all but life took everything from them. Some people you term failures, actually gave life their best. It’s not like they did nothing, they did everything. Last week my brother committed suicide and I ask again…..”
“With all he had gone through… isn’t life worth giving up, at some point ?”
About the Writer
Chisom Arezue is a passionate writer.