For boys like me, who sprouted from a broken home, joy is an impossible currency.
The last time I saw my mother was thirteen years ago, in a pool of her blood. Surrounded by “loved ones,” nobody raised a whimper, not even the stool at the edge of her head moved. She had an accident that claimed her legs. Father said it was her punishment for bewitching his younger wife from giving birth, even though that wife would later bear him three children.
Polygamy is a mess. Maybe that was why the Christian God despised it. In my family, everybody is a stranger, and dawn is a means of escaping from the reality of living in hell. I seek solace in the wee hours of the night, as that is the only time I can un-bottle my pain and make my emotions flow, for fear of being called a weakling.
When I was much younger, prior to her accident, mother was an isolated room where father dumped debris of hate. I saw him whipped mama’s back with his long koboko while she screamed and yell in pain. One time, he chose his knuckles, drilling bumps on her face with it. I don’t know how their love turned sour, or perhaps, theirs was lust and not love.
…mother was an isolated room where father dumped debris of hate.
My father is a butcher. Many times, I saw him butcher mom’s feelings with wistful words. After mom’s accident, I had to leave hell — home– in search of paradise. It was never a home in the first place. I ran into the street, and it welcomed me with open arms.
My first night on the street, I learnt how to smoke. The only way to ease my pain is to wrap my fears into rolls of marijuana, smoke them, and watch the flames ascend to the sky like a ram offered up as a burnt sacrifice. I was told that the only way to have zero worries is to find satisfaction in the content of gin bottles, and drink away my sorrows. There was so much joy and peace on the street than I ever found in the place called home.
To survive on the street, you have to be stonehearted. Those whose hearts are soft as thawed ice cream have their lives hanging, literally, on their sleeves. On the street, respect walks the thin line between life and death. You earn it, but not without bloodshed. To survive, you have to learn the art of pocket-picking, that is the only way to guarantee the next meal without much stress. I am a fast learner.
Human wants are insatiable. This has made me killed a lot of innocent souls, some physically, others emotionally, just to have their valuables.
The first time I murdered a lady, I couldn’t sleep. Her spirit haunted me all through the night. My friends mocked me, saying I am no man. To them, the only way to get over it is to kill the second and third as soon as possible. Influential men hired us as assassins; our jobs were to the books and untraceable. I was happy, but deep down, my heart was burning, of rage, hatred and revenge. I decided to pay him back in his own coin, the man who made me into a demon.
I went back to the place that once housed my naked body. Alas! I saw him outside, lying beneath the surface of the earth. They said he committed suicide, after his young wife and her children abandoned him. There is a way karma deals with people, and he was not left out. Right there in my father’s compound, still mourning the death of the man who caused me so much suffering, armed men came in to apprehend me. I was the primary suspect in a murder case.
I was arraigned in court of law, and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. I saw my aged mother on a wheelchair, just as I was bundled out of the courtroom, with tears cascading down her cheeks. She cried. I cried. But tears cannot turn back the hands of the clock.
Regrets, I’ve no regrets, I’m the cause of my own misfortune. But sometimes, parental inputs or lack thereof have a way of defining an individual. Maybe if my parents never divorced, maybe if my father showed me love, maybe if home was actually not a synonym for hell, maybe if there was unity in diversity, just maybe I would be spending the rest of my life putting on a lab coat as a medical doctor and not behind bars.
Here too, friends have come and go. I’m still here, in bounds.
Owolabi Awwal (@ntibzy on Twitter) is a lover of art. A Muslim who cherishes humanity over religion. A student of Literature who pens his anguish into words.