Here are the times stars stopped by, on those nights when mum told you stories of how beautiful they are, to bare the lid of your anxiety passing quickly in the skies. Visible to you as the curtain flailed, revealing outside from inside. These were the times when comfort, peace and joy came in flesh, in the wide smiles of mum and the patting of your back from dad, followed by a full cup of ice cream, a waterproof case that held the savour of barbeque — dolled up in a few steams, escaping from it.
These were happy times.
Something else you were usually happy about was dad’s car picking you up from school, then to mum’s; biscuits and books. Then ice cream. Then football. Then playing with the girls in the compound. Then playing computer game with your cousins—same ages, in your living room.
The truth behind all the merry and love and satisfaction was unnecessary to you.
You were usually caught up in the drama: Beauty and splendour made life heaven—that is if you knew what life was then. You just knew it as something they’d ask you to try spell in class. And it tickled you and your mates the way ‘Aunty’ in class would open her mouth and make funny faces when teaching the class how to identify the vowels in that word. Outside that, nothing was important to you, it all seemed like a game; a life that gave you fairness in mummy’s delicious food and dad’s extreme care. You were five years old. A girl; You were ten years then. A boy; giving school your all and basking in the euphoric feeling of a continual better tomorrow. You were thirteen then. A girl; lover of dresses and an artist. Mum’s support was tremendous. She had you enrolled in an arts class as an extracurricular activity. You were eighteen then. A boy; you loved beats and sounds. Dad hired a personal high profiled keyboardist and had him tutor you for six months.
You were all this, everyday and more: Beautiful. Handsome. Playful. Filled with glee. Joy. You had all your snacks. You had those loving friends and amazing family. It was like there was no need to feel stifled.
Really? Why, when all was a blast of coloured affection.
Bravery is one thing your parents taught you never to apologize for. For it was needful in life. They didn’t say deeply about it but they taught you bravery is wisdom in several things you could solve and stand up for at your age. They taught you to cross your legs; keeping one on another in a way that your pants wouldn’t show, and that no one must ask you not to sit that way. It is ladylike. Mum taught you how to face her mood swings as manly as possible and calm her down. It’s a man’s business to care for women. She didn’t say she was suffering from it. Just that it comes. That it’s uncontrollable. That she prays it stops. And it could get her all nasty. Nevertheless, she loves you. And that those days when she’d not be around, promise her to always be brave to step into the kitchen and prepare daddy his meal.
Your parents taught you bravery in expression, because they allow you express yourself. Your parents respects your decisions from ice cream to sandals, to colour of school bags, to pencils to pens, to area of study and subjects you loved most.
They taught you bravery is making some decisions early enough, with a tad bit of guidance; your future from now; your lifestyle, can be built on good soil. They taught you bravery is being sensitive: “when mummy seems to start talking to herself, call daddy, and I’ll come around,” daddy usually says this.
All of that rings a bell when mum runs into the house one Saturday, sweating profusely. You were supposed to phone dad but mum said your dad had called to tell her that one of her staffs left the gas refilling machine uncovered. According to reports, he excused himself to answer a call that came from his uncle. Now the station’s blown. That her boss called her from work asking that she immediately resumes from her leave, as there is an emergency shortening of staffs at the company, so everyone’s to be at their best for now. She still got fired. That her shop was robbed and the salesperson was shot. Her money gone. That her investment in one scheme that pays digitally without you withdrawing earnings until a specific time, has crashed.
It was all so confusing.
It was months later when you didn’t get ice cream regularly from mum that you noticed her mood deteriorated and she was always sober. You noticed that you weren’t able to pay for your arts class. And for you, you couldn’t concentrate on your keyboard lessons because mum looked sick and dad suggested that you all help her through that phase. You withdraw interest in keyboard and focused on her while she slowly recovered.
You find hope, dreams, difficulty, despair, in father’s eyes as he returns from work each day passing looking at mum whiling at home, sick, from the thinking he advised her not to do. He’d hiss to the dinning table to have his dinner with no wife at his right side, just you on his left, as you both say grace and eat up together.
Mum developed this new attitude. You are snowed in her disgusts for little things. She reams at everything done and barks at you often. And fights. And cries. And screams on top of her voice, that it made the ceiling shake and the walls seem like it would crack.
Dad called in a pastor to check up on the unusual behaviour. You remember there had been times when mum were not around for days and dad would tell you she went to a far distant relative to stay a day or the weekend. But here you’re, getting first hand information from the discussion between this pastor and dad how she has to come back to the church for cleansing. Because she had been attacked again. “I can see that spirit hovering around her head. Hoooooly Ghost Fire!” the pastor croaked, and dad gave a vibrant, “Amen. Amen. Fire!”
You stood there watching.
Was this not just mummy being angry for loosing so much. Was this not just mummy hungry because she hasn’t eaten for two days now. Was this not just mummy being frustrated because she had lost everything; an older you spoke, asking questions.
Prayer got intense and dad forced you to pray before mum is taken to the church, proper. You grudgingly join them, but with eyes open, and surprisingly caught this pastor moving his hands from mum’s head down to the things you stopped sucking as babies. You saw how he moved his hands down to her chest level. You frowned. Poked dad several times but he didn’t notice. You then removed your hand from dad’s and threw the pastor your barbie toy; you kicked him; you punched him. That was when you caught dad’s attention. But he didn’t believe you when you told him the truth. The Pastor tainted you; saying you were evil. The pastor said it wasn’t your fault, only that your mum needs to leave immediately before that spirit also affects you.
A MEANS TO AN END
Mum returned after five days from the prayer house—worse, bitter, raggedy, dirty. You were surprised how dad still counted money and gave to that man—that pastor. He still had the mind to say a short prayer for the family and assured that, “God has answered and worked miracles, mightily.”
It wasn’t five days before you found mum slitting her wrist in the kitchen, when you returned from school.
“Mummy! Mummy! why are you doing that? Aunty Nkiru! Aunty Nkiru!” you called underneath your breath the one hired to look over mum because you had to resume school; lessons; arts class, and all that kept you busy. Aunty was nowhere to be found. Blood all over the veggies and the kitchen smelt of burned meat. You phoned dad and explained what was happening. Dad got home as soon as he could and mum was taken to the hospital. The doctor examined her and medically advised that she be taken to rehab. But you watched dad sprang up and dropped the claim. “Those are things that happens to the whites. I know my wife has several depressing moments but that doesn’t mean she’s bipolar. What does that even mean?!” he paused, then continued, “My wife’s not a manic. She’s stressed and don’t need a drug or something… God heals and is above all of that. Please, Doc, I’m taking my wife home.”
“I believe in God, Mr. Charles, but that doesn’t leave us to fighting our predicaments on just a ground,” Doctor Matthew forced this out, like it was hidden in his bowels.
“What do you mean, Doc?” looking confused.
“Our lives matter and its very brave to believing in dealing with Bipo—sorry, this ‘demonic possession’ as you say, the spiritual way. But it is unhealthy to use it solely. Look at your wife, look how retrieved she’s become from her kid. Look how deprived your kid has become from motherly love. From motherly affection. From motherly advice. From being happy. Do you want your child, Mr. Matthew, to grow up watching his mum live with this—”
“I’ll have to cut you there. I’m around remember—”
“I understand you. I understand that we all might be accustomed to some belief that must’ve worked for ages. So, this triggers us subconsciously to be hardened to newer and brighter ideas of solving problems differently by diversifying the process. I understand. But your wife’s case of Bipolar, sorry, being moody, angry, and other abnormal things, are not necessarily solved in a convent or by praying and hoping. Society has evolved. Rehab is a means idealized by God, given to man to actualize.” Doc removes his glasses and cleans them, then continues, “Mr. Matthew if that’s what you want to hear, that’s it. That’s the truth. It is not disbelieve to find multiple ways to help the sick. And as a medical practitioner I can categorically tell you that ideas are Godly, and actuality is human. We can help your wife and family recover from this mess, please, give this a chance.”
“Hmm. So, there are many means to an end, is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m sorry Doc we’ll have to go now. I’ll get back to you.”
“It’s alright. I’ll wait to hear from you.”
Dad opens the doc’s office door and bares you to the hospital’s unpleasing smell of syrups and something so foul you had to cover your nostrils while walking to the car.
Your dad is a Christian. He tells you this in the car, saying he’s tired of all these prophets tricky nature and that Doctor’s disbelieve in God. You try to tell him that you were hearing all the doctor said but he shuns you. Says what do you know. Is it because you’re Eight, Thirteen, Eighteen years and sitting comfortably in his car developing these feelings, rather than having faith. That faith isn’t a feeling. That faith is like… an intuition. You cut him, “But dad, intuition is a feeling na?” He spites at you and warns you never to think that the Doc was right in saying mum needs some drugs. That you see this bipolar disorder; it’s not a thing. In fact, drugs can’t cure devilish manipulations. He said what’s best to do now is to believe that mum will surely be well, but she stays at home until he finds a pastor to cure her.
You stare out the vehicle, while dad drives. You look at the skies and people. You watch their steps and how fast they walked and wished your mum could just get better speedily by any means. You see a mother crossing the road with her kids: you see how careful she is with them, with one tied on her back. You think, if only you could advise dad, but he’s too adamant and dogged about his belief. Now mum must leave to live until she’s endorsed by the almighty to be healed.
How hope sometimes could be whims in our faithfulness if the right things aren’t done. How faith is based on intuition rather than reality. How we never agree to reality sometimes, rather, we frame it worldly and unwise, leaving us frail and brokenhearted afterwards. Later to blame one person or a deity for our silliness, ignorance and pettiness. We need to be wise, humans.