When my mum announced to us a week ago that we were going to the village for our Christmas holiday, I felt like slapping the excitement off her face because I didn’t understand it. In plain terms, I hated my village. There was no network to chat, no electricity during the day, and I had no friends to talk to there. My dad is the eldest in the family and so he has the oldest kids, all we had was ourselves and smaller cousins who couldn’t understand or speak English. It was terrifying.
For the past one week, we had been having the same daily routine. We would wake up at six to pray with the other families in the compound. I never understood the songs they sang or the prayers they said because it was all in my native dialect. My mum usually gave me the stare during these prayers because I simply kept mute and looked around like I was in a museum. After prayers, breakfast would be served from the communal local kitchen that always made my eyes water with all the smoke from burning firewood. It was either fried plantain with pap or tea and bread. No indomie, no eggs, nothing!
The last time I complained to my mother about the food and my father overheard it, I got the shouting of my life.
“You are still 16 and under my roof! What I have, you eat! If you do not like the food, go hungry or get a job. Nonsense!”
Oh lord, when was it going to end?!
The worst part of my day was taking my bath. The bathroom was about six meters away from the main house and not only was it untiled and slippery, you had to walk all the way back to the house with the harmattan breeze drying you up, making you cold and cracking your already cracked lips. This happened to me on the first four days of our stay until I devised a means to manage it: early baths.
I woke up as early as 5 o’clock and took my bath behind our house before it was time for prayers and that solved it all for me. Or did it?
Two days ago while I was hurriedly taking one of my early baths at the back of the house, I noticed a dim light coming from a house about two meters away from the back of our house. I had assumed that nobody lived there because I never saw anyone come out or go into the house and there were never any washed clothes outside the house. There was never any sign of life at all in that house. The dim light seemed like it was coming from a candle in one of the rooms of the house. Maybe they were early risers that had to go to the farm or something; you can never know with these village people. I rinsed the soap off my body, wrapped my towel around my body and was about to leave when I saw it. The shadow of what looked like an old man by the window of the house. It creeped me out instantly and I ran back into the house.
The day was moving very slowly. We prayed, had breakfast and just sat around either staring at each other or at the trees in the compound. My little sis and I were outside walking around the compound when I saw an old man in front of the same creepy house I had seen in the morning.
“Ehen Muna, see the man I was talking about that time. How come he stays in this compound and he doesn’t come for prayers?” I said pointing at the house.
“Which man?” my sister asked, staring at the house.
“That man…” I trailed off when I didn’t see the old man again. “Maybe he has entered inside. Let’s go and greet him” I said.
We were walking towards the house when my mum called my little sister back into the house. Probably to send her on an errand or something. She asked me to wait for her and I did. After a short while, I decided to go alone.
I checked my watch and it was around 10:30, the sun was already out and the weather was dry and windy. This building looked like it was built during the time when we had white people in Nigeria because the wood looked exquisite though old. There was an old well by the side of the house, chickens were everywhere around and there was a clothing line on the other side. There also was a small farm behind with an old metal tank sitting on the ground before it.
Something in my head told me to go back and wait for Muna but I somehow ignored the voice and went ahead to knock on the wooden door. I knocked once and there was no answer. So, I knocked again and again and again. Still no answer. Maybe he was sleeping because old people are usually so tired. I was about to turn away to leave when I heard footsteps on the wooden floor coming slowly towards the door and then the door opened.
I turned around and got the shock of my life.
It was a young fair guy that answered the door, probably in his early twenties. He wore a white singlet and faded brown khaki shorts and was on bare feet. His haircut looked like the ones I used to see in my dad’s old album back in Lagos and he looked very familiar.
“Good morning. I’m sorry to bother you o. I am Leo’s first daughter and we live in that building over there” she said, pointing towards her father’s building. “I never see you at the family prayers, do you people go out early?”
“Oh, the family prayers? haha, I usually leave for the market at Onitsha very early so I usually don’t make it. Please come inside, I am cooking in the kitchen” he said, stepping aside for me to enter.
The interior mimicked the appearance of the exterior. The drapes were old and looked expensive, the furniture looked heavy and sophisticated. There was an old gramophone playing King Sunny Ade’s Mo ti Mo in low tunes. I recognized this because my dad played it every Sunday afternoon on the speakers. He said his dad loved it so much before he died.
“You say you’re Leo’s daughter? Ekene? Chai, you have grown o. I remember when you were born, I was there” he said, motioning for me to sit. “Let me check on the food, I am coming.” he said as he walked through a small wooden door to the back yard. I looked around the living room and soon got uncomfortable. I went through the same small door he went through and came out at the backyard. He was in a small open hut behind where he was bent over adjusting the fire wood under the pot.
“You say you were there when I was born? and you know my name? how’s that possible?” I asked.
“Oh I came to visit and stayed for a while but I had to leave later” he replied.
“Oh okay. What your name sef? And what side of the family are you from anyway?” I asked again out of curiosity because I had never seen him before but he looked a little familiar.
“Hmm, my name is Peter, I am the last child of our grandfather’s second wife” he replied as he walked past me into the house.
“Ahn ahn, grandpa had a second wife? My father never told me that” I replied in confusion. He stopped in his tracks briefly after hearing this and then continued walking without replying me.
We returned to the sitting room and oddly we had a very long conversation about a lot of things. He had so much knowledge about everything, I even forgot he lived in the village. I told him about the city, social media and how the country had changed. I surprisingly had a lot to say about politics. I was shocked. He later served me food and a drink and then a short while later I told him, I had to go because my mum was probably looking for me. It had been hours. I said good bye to him and left the house. I checked my watch and it was 10:31. I was pissed because, my mum got this watch for me not too long ago. It was too early for it to have battery issues. The guy at the store probably ripped us off.
Later that night while we were having dinner, I decided to share my new discovery with everyone.
“Daddy, why didn’t you tell us that papa had a second wife?” I asked
To be continued.