Each time you go to visit your brother in the asylum, you want to tell him the truth. Or rather, the truth wants to get out of you. You try to remain strong and conceal the truth under blankets of sympathy. Sometimes you succeed. Most times you know you are about to fuck up so you pick your shit up and walk out in tears. The herbalist outside thinks it’s the doleful condition that your brother is in that makes you shed tears uncontrollably and he tries to give you comfort by telling you he will be fine.
‘He is better than he was,’ he will say in his thick Yoruba. ‘Last night, he didn’t pee on his body. He asked for the toilet. But there is no toilet here so he had to pee on himself in the end. But his condition is improving. And his stump is no more smelling,’he would add, as though the half leg was smelling when he was brought here.
You will nod and walk away. You wonder why this man will think you are bothered about whether your brother peed on his body or not. Sometimes you will want to tell him it is not the peeing or not peeing that is bothering. It is the reason why he has to be here, to ask for a toilet that doesn’t exist, why his asking for a toilet before being told to pee on himself has to give you pleasure and hope. It is the truth that you know that is troubling you.
After every visit, you will return to your BMW outside, one out of the five in the whole city. You will sit down and think. It is always the same thing you are thinking about. Always the same thought process. You will start from the time both of you were fine together; fine and poor. How you always dreamed big dreams. Both you always saw yourself as brothers who would be successful even though success and wealth were as rare as water in the Sahara. You always thought the world was meant for you and that the world would not deny its own. Until 2008. 2008 changed it all.
You were in Abia for your NYSC while your brother was in Kano.
You received the call on Sunday. You were on your way to church when your phone beeped. You took out the phone from your pocket and received the call from the strange number. It was a lady. She was speaking as though she was under pressure. You told her to calm down and speak clearly. But she burst into tears instead.
After two minutes on the phone, you get the message. Your brother was a victim of a terrorist attack. He was injured badly. They were to amputate his leg.
You turned back. That was the last time you would make an attempt to go to church. Nothing mattered to you anymore. Everything looked strange. As you walked home, life looked deathly. Dark clouds covered the sun and all you could see was nothing. Shapeless shadows tormented you and broke you down. You wanted to die. You wanted to disbelieve it. You wanted to receive another call telling you it was a prank, like one of those things you watched on TV. But that didn’t happen. 2008 was the year the enemy came down.
It took you three days to gather money and travel to Kano. On getting there, you were told your brother’s leg had been amputated. You swallowed. But that wasn’t all. The nurse looked at you shamefully and said it had been done so dirtily and hastily that the stump refused to stop bleeding. And now your brother had been transported to LUTH.
Lagos was a far away place for you. And poverty was your second name. It took you one week to get to Lagos. There you saw your brother.
He was one leg short. It was a bad thing. You wished it was not the leg. You wished it was the hand or the fingers or something else. The legs of a man are important to him. They are what makes him mobile. Your brother needed two legs to be a human, a man.
This was what you were thinking when the doctor came in and announced that he had to be taken out of the country. He said something about the stump refusing to heal as though the stump had a will of its own. He also mentioned something about his flesh rotting.
“He won’t last long here,” the doctor said and disappeared.
As you look back now, the rest of the story looks blurry to you. The only thing you can remember is that you met one of your NYSC friends while you were hustling to get the millions needed for the treatment abroad. You can also remember how he told you he would give half a million and then added that he could show you where to get the other amount needed. In your desperation, you told him you were ready. That was how you hit jackpot.
When the fetish man was telling you that the charm would require the mind of someone close to you. You told him to go ahead knowing fully well that all those close to you were dead. Your mother and father were dead. The only people close to you were the girlfriends that left you the instant you needed their help. You had forgotten that you still had a brother with a rotten leg in LUTH. You told the man to go ahead.
You returned to Lagos in your own ride. Then you hear that your brother’s leg was now responding to treatment. You pretended to be happy and two weeks after, you took your brother to your new house in the outskirts of Ogun state.
You had completely forgotten about the source of your wealth until the day you slept and dreamt. You saw your brother with two legs walking the dry streets of Kano. You called out to him and when he turned, you saw a mad man. He had all a mad man needed to have to be mad; an overgrown and dirty beard, dirty hair on his head, rags on his body and an ugly face. Your brother had run mad.
You woke up to the reality.
The fetish man told you there was no remedy and advised you to give your brother to the herbalist to take care of. You were about thanking when he told you it was all a facade.
‘The day your brother learns the truth is the day you return to the slums…a mad man.’
You jerked and opened the door to answer the herbalist. He must have been calling your name for a long time.
‘You forgot your suitcase,’ he said and handed it over. You wanted to tell him that you didn’t forget it, that you dropped it. You wanted to ask him why he decided to return this one after keeping the previous ones. Was he tired of seeing dollars? You wanted to tell him you were leaving it for your brother, as a way of saying Thank You. Instead, you collected the suitcase, entered the car, and drove away; your truth safe within you.