by - June 05, 2017

Chronicles of Paulinus

I drag my bleeding head to a Chemist store opposite the road; my hand is firmly cupping my head that is pounding heavily. The spurting blood from my head sucks the memories of my father’s fair-tales. I want to go home now; I so much desire to find a place to lay my head that is smashing into debris. My head is giving way for the pain to sink into my heart.

‘Hello, Good Afternoon sir,’ I stutter, holding the doorjamb to support my wilting strength. The shop is scantily equipped with drugs. I’m not really sure if this is really for drugs or beverages. Empty crates of Fanta and Coca-Cola drinks hang atop the counter with flecks of ruddy dust from the untarred road daub on them. 

‘Yes, what do you want?’ he says, ignoring my bleeding head. His foul demeanour makes my head pound faster. He has a mark on the side of his face, very close to his temple. My father calls things like this, superstitious. I suppose it to be mark of identity or tribal mark. The ancients had many wives and numerous children, and they used specific signs to know their children. He doesn’t look skilled or specialised but my choice of choosing was trimmed only to him. "I’m bleeding, for Christ sake and he is asking me what I want, isn’t this silly?"

‘Oga abeg, I wan make you treat my head’
‘Ah, you go faind troubul for Kodo hand? coz na only him fit do this to you for here’ his face swells stupidly into a smile. I hate this buffoon; not even a sorry. Rubbish!
‘Abeg I no get strength, Oga you fit do am?’
‘Sit here make I bring my things.’ He stoops and brings out a dirty container that once held a custard powder. Inside it are plasters, gauze dressings, triangular bandages, safety pins gloves and other things I can’t make out their names. Their haphazard arrangement amplifies their unsterilized state. “God help me today”. “Remove your hand make I see am.” I remove my hand and blood spurts; some dried blood is caked on my face. He scraps some strands of hairs around the cracked surface before starting treatment. It pains, it really pains. I struggle to choke back sobs. It is painful, oh not this methylated spirit again, sobs are shaking me and I cannot fight them. I remember Kodo and a thread of fresh fear coarse through my heart.

‘You never do finish oga,’ I hold his hand to allow myself some relief from the asphyxiating pain.
‘Allow me joor, unless you wan do am yourself. Na me be Kodo wey beat you?’
My hatred for this pot-bellied goof is ballooning to spiteful rage. He doesn’t seem to know.
‘Okay, it don do’ – pam, pam, pam, he pats my head.
‘How much?’
‘na three hundred naira my brother.’ His face cocks like a baby waiting for her mother’s breast to slurp. I dip my unstained left hand into the pocket of my hooded shirt and gave him the three hundred naira I had abandoned there for a bottle of Lacasera and Gala. ‘Daalu – thank you,’ His chin dances along with his receiving nods.

I want to come out immediately, but I remember Kodo. He may be around, somewhere. I peer outside, study the junction, nothing. I can’t risk it, I have to obey him and take the Okada from where he ordered. I tread towards the Okadmen.
‘Ewoo, nna sorry o shebi you treat am well?’ An Okadaman says pityingly. He is the only one around.
‘Abeg take me to Nkwo Umualaoma, no worry for the price -’
‘Shebi you don learn your lesson now. Next time wen you come for place respect yaaself.’ Kodo is saying. He looks legless, heavily tipsy. My mouth refuse to spill a word. He passes rather giddily. I thank God for alcohol.
This Okadaman smells somewhat neat, only that the heat from his body defiles it a bit.
The bike halts, the engine dies along in a receding reverberation. ‘This is Nkwo Umualaoma.’
‘Oh, yeah I know.’ I am still sitting, confusion draws wrinkles on my face. ‘But this market … looks smaller now.’ I’m handing him a two hundred naira note.
Laughs, ‘Yes o na so we see am my brother. Since last three months, Rochas and im people carry bulldozer come clear the market, im never come again come to come build the utara modem market wey im promise.’
‘You mean ultra-modern market?’
‘ I no go school nna.’ The Okadaman in his mid-sixty smiles and drives off for another business.

I have to recall memories of the last time we came to the village. Was it last … I think … when my younger sister was born. Yes, it was also for a burial of my Grandma, twenty years ago. It seems death is the only thing that calls us home. Well not ‘us’, my brother has never listened to our father’s scare-packed fairy-tales. “Nobody will hurt me Grandpa said we have a strong blood. We can’t die of poisoning no matter what.” My brother spoke firmly when I tried to dissuade him from going home for the Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu. It seems I’m the only skittish one in my family, even my kid sister, though she doesn’t go so often, always jumps in excitement whenever our mother asked her to join her for the annual August meeting. “I need a company, or do you want me to die of loneliness in that hermitage of a house.” My mother was wont to always give this reply to my father whenever he tries to stop Akunne, my sister, from going with her. Sometimes when he argued on telling her that his parents in the village can keep her company, she would insist telling him how they used to pry into everything she did. We knew that wasn’t her full reason, she wanted to introduce my sister to the life in the village: the ever chilling fresh streams from Ngelogu river, the massive village farm we called Ikpa, the culture of waking in the virginity of the day to look for fallen Udara, the village moonlight stories directly from Grandpa.

I remember all these and they tingle a warm nostalgia of something I only heard from my brother. I didn’t experience those; I am in no place to – a middle man between the Onochiriobi – first male child and the Ada – first and only girl. I need not guess my father’s compound, not with these racketing familiar voices I hear. The location of my father’s compound opposite the Nkwo market has always prompted gossips from people. It is only the Osu that have their houses close to the market. But we are not Osu, an Osu can’t be a prime minister or an Ichie but my Grandfather was all these. That saved us the shame and ridicule.

As I go further I notice that our compound is densely crowded with visitors, some are leaving with smile-padded faces, and others are going around greeting the grandchildren of the deceased. Fortunately, my cousins are all around, distracted in the midst of the festivity. I crouch stealthily to the kitchen area. There are pots sweating atop burning firewood, the lids dancing up and down against the bubbles of the boiling foo-foo. My stomach growls like the rumbling of a thunder. My mouth is suddenly watery. I never imagine village can be this scintillating – Ulo amaka.       

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