As you stand by his grave and read his spooky epitaph, with tears in your eyes, you will remember those days. You will remember many things. Things that you want to remember. Things that you never want to remember. Things that you never even knew happened. You will remember and spill tears; tears of joy, and tears of pain, of sorrow and regret.
First, you will remember how you lived with Uncle B for more than ten years. You were sent to live with him in 2005, the year your father travelled out of Nigeria and never returned. You will remember with hot tears how you and your mother searched in vain. How you went to all the police stations you knew, dropping that beautiful photo of Father in suit. Black suit and red tie. He took the picture the day you graduated from Nursery school. That is the only photo you have of him. Father wasn’t a fan of the camera. Perhaps that was the reason. Perhaps it was because he had been planning to run away for years.
You still don’t know why Father will run away. He had a good job at the federal polytechnic and he was earning a beautiful salary. You are the only child so there was nothing like a pocket drainer. There was no large extended family. Money was enough. But still, Father ran away.
Months after the disappearance, you were curious. You wanted to know why. You wanted to know how. You wanted to know where. So you searched all the few documents he left behind for any hint of where he might have run to. You checked through Mother’s diary for any record of any awkward discussion or argument that might have given away why. You searched for official documents, for passports, for visas, for tickets. But you found nothing. Now you no longer search for anything. You are not even sure you want to know anything again.
After Father’s disappearance, Mother went wild. She took to drugs and became a lover of the bottle. You would watch day by day, for a month, how she would get herself drunk and invite different types of men to pass the night atop her. You will remember how some of the men even tried to involve you. You loved the idea. The love the jumping up and down game. It looked like one of those games you played in school. You wanted to play it with these men. But Mother didn’t approve. So you buried your hunger…for a while.
A month later, news had spread about your mother’s escapades. The whole family was talking. Something about shame. Something about reputation. About disrepute. And about ‘the girl with her’. Then, Uncle Bolade was sent to restore things back to normal. But Uncle B was a coward. His small eyes in his big sockets looked as though they would fall off if he looked anyone in the eyes. His hands were never apart. They were always together, running over each other like that of a school boy who was about to be disciplined. And again, he was a stammerer. Uncle Bolade was a coward. And it only took one night for Mother to buy him over to her side.
For more than ten years, Mother lived like this. Uncle B became your mother and father. You were close, so close. You were the only one Uncle B. ever trusted. Everyday, he would divulge his aged secrets with his stammering lips to you – his walking diary. He would tell of his childhood days. How he was a gentle soul. How he was good with his hands but bad with his brains. How he wanted to become a painter. How he loved music more than maths. How he wanted to become an artist, a singer, a storyteller. How his teachers dismissed these and called him a lazy snail who did not want to learn how to run. How his parents (your own grandparents) preferred his brother (your father) to him. And how they also called him good-for-nothing. How they maltreated him and turned him into a slave in his own father’s house. How his brother got all the good things. How these made him feel scared that he would never be anything good. How he dreaded the future. And how he always wanted to please people.
For more than ten years, he told you his story. And you listened. You gathered enough information on how to attack him. And the day came…slowly like a a drizzle in the Sahara.
As usual, Mother was gone for the weekend. It was a Saturday night. It was only you and Uncle B in the house. You were both playing Ludo. Ludo.
You will remember how you suddenly stood up and stripped yourself naked before him. How you told Uncle B to look up. He looked up and began to shed tears. You will remember how he begged you to please. How he stood up and lay you on the settee. How he kept begging you while he was doing it. How you kept enjoying yourself doing what you had wanted for more than ten years. How you both were naked in the sitting room when Mother entered. Mother entered. And Uncle B ran out, naked.
Lastly, you will remember how you and Mother fabricated a rape story and how, even before you could report to the family, the deed had been done.
As you stand before his grave, you will remember how you found Uncle B hanging from the ceiling at the backyard, naked. You will remember all these things and you will shed tears; tears of pain, of sorrow, of guilt and of regret.
As you read his epitaph, you will remember things. Things you want to remember. Things you don’t want to remember. Things you never even knew happened.
His epitaph reads:
“I saw two doors opened before me
One of life and pain
Another of death and peace.
So I chose death.
I refuse to live a life of sorrow.”