Once Upon a Life – Part 4thumbsup
Aisha woke up on the hospital bed about an hour later. Titi was beside her crying bitterly. “Aisha, Felicia is gone! She is no more and it is all my fault.” Aisha’s denial stage had been interrupted when she fainted after the doctor spilled news about Felicia’s demise, so she still couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “You mean Felicia is dead? Ina lilahi wa ina ilehi Raj’un.”(Islamic exclamation at the news of demise.) She bursted out crying. The two ladies were inconsolable.
Doctor Nosa, who had barely met the ladies a little over an hour prior, came in to the ward. “I am terribly sorry for your loss, ladies. I’ve been able to contact the family and they will be here this evening, or first thing tomorrow morning. I’ll run a quick check on you, Aisha because you passed out. Titi, could you kindly excuse us?” asked the doctor. Titi slowly got up and left the room sobbing. Aisha couldn’t utter a word because she was completely devastated.
After the routine checks on her, Aisha was certified fit to be discharged.
The chaos back at the campus was epic, as the news about Felicia’s death had spread like wildfire. Aisha was bombarded with so many calls and questions she could not answer; that she switched her phone off.
She ran to her room immediately she returned to the campus, laid down on Felicia’s bed and cried herself to sleep. The following days and weeks were a blur to Aisha. She attended lectures occasionally, because sometimes she would blank out during the class; so she attended only if she could.
Felicia was buried a week later in her native Edo state. Aisha had to attend to pay her final respects to her beloved friend.
It was really hard for Aisha the rest of the semester; so hard, she had to move off campus a few days after returning from Felicia’s burial. She felt lonely, afraid, confused about the meaning of life and wanted so badly to speak to her best friend again, but alas, she couldn’t. That was her only friend; how was she going to forge ahead? How could life treat her so rudely and unfairly? But, she kept living, a day at a time.
Bayo had made it a point of duty to check in on her every other day. But Aisha couldn’t be bothered; he had tried several times to get her phone number, but she wouldn’t budge; her bereavement seemed to have gotten the best of her and made her live a life of a hermit.
When the first semester was over, Aisha travelled back home immediately after her last exam was over. It was the holiday season she was not looking forward to, because, apart from how the homefront was, she had just lost her new best friend and she didn’t know how to deal with it.
The tension at home as a result of her parents’ incessant bickering; was something she didn’t look forward to. Sometimes she wondered if it was because her mother was from a different ethnicity from her father. Her father was from Kano state and her mother from Lagos, though, she had learnt to speak fluent hausa over the course of her marriage, thanks to her flair for languages. During some of their arguments Alhaji Idris, Aisha’s father often remarked that her mother’s problem was that she felt she was too educated and thought she knew more than he did. Despite her mother’s intelligence and resourcefulness, Aisha’s father would not allow her work, he would say he can provide all that she needed and so she didn’t need to work. As a result, Mrs. Idris did a lot of reading and self-development at home, she sometimes would attend life coaching classes.
Her brother, Kabiru (in her opinion) was a total recluse when he was at home; isolating himself in his room except for his friends’ occasional visits to the house. Aisha and Kabiru didn’t have much of a relationship; they knew they were siblings and had very basic conversations. Aisha didn’t understand why her brother was such an oddball; his life revolved around his school, video games, friends and parties.
On the other hand, her brother often told her that she was the odd one, she didn’t have friends nor any boyfriend. She was a bookworm, like her mother and in his opinion she could ‘read for the world’. He would tell her that her life was too boring and that he couldn’t live it.
When they were much younger, the two would get into arguments and end up fighting. However, since a fight they had when she was in Senior secondary 2(SS2); which resulted in Aisha getting a red eye, her brother resolved never to lay his hands on her again. Their parents would wade in every now and again to settle their incessant quarrels, but they were not the role models they should be and Kabiru would lash out at his parents; reminding them that they did the same thing.
“Why can’t life be less complicated?” Aisha thought to herself one day. “At home, no peace, in school no friend, in the country too much chaos. When will all these end up in the ‘happily ever after’ I always dreamed of and so often watch in the movies? Does that kind of life even exist? Or is it all make-belief?” Different questions kept ringing in her head, when she heard a knock on her door “Salam Alaikum” (translated “Peace be unto you”) It was her mother’s voice. “Yes mama, come in” she responded. Aisha’s tall mother walked into the room in one of her usual hijabs; which she wore around the house. It was odd for her to come into her room that early. It was 6.16 am, they had their usual family As’abar morning prayers together, earlier that morning and their mum didn’t mention wanting to see her.
“Aisha, I would like to have a word with you.” Her mother said as she sat down on the carpet beside her daughter’s bed. “You are no longer a child and as you know and can see, things have not been going well between your father and I. I have really been trying to bear with him all these years, and it seems we might never be on the same page.” She heaved a heavy sigh and continued “The life coaching classes I have been attending have kept me going, so it has kind of become my ‘drug of choice’ if you like. I had to find a way of escape, but thankfully I found one that has been very helpful psychologically.” She looked intently at her daughter and said “I am contemplating leaving your father for good.” As if she didn’t hear her mother, Aisha looked back and thought “as if life hasn’t been tough enough.” Her mother wondered at the silence that greeted her very serious discussion and tapped her daughter “Aisha, did you hear what I just said?” She asked. “Yes I did mama.” Aisha stood up from the bed and sat beside her mum.
“Why divorce, mama? You’ve already borne most of the weight of it. Please be patient. I know it’s hard mama, but what about us?” Aisha asked. “I must say that you and your brother are the primary reasons I kept holding on, but now I am just tired and feel like I am a burden to your father and there is no need pretending. I need to do me, for once.” Her mother explained. Aisha hugged her mother.
Aisha suddenly blurted “Life coaching class! Yes! That reminds me; there’s this guy in school who invited me for one sometime ago, coincidentally, I was to attend one the same day my Felicia died.” she remarked with a sad grin as she remembered that fateful day. “When is the next one, mum? I think we should attend together before you make the decision.” Her mother was wondering how Aisha just snapped from the hug and got all hyped about attending her class. “We were having a serious moment Aisha, what’s with this conditional request?” asked her mum. “Well, you said it was a ‘ good drug of choice’ and I thought maybe we could ‘take it together’?” Aisha suggested, in a rather mischievous tone. She was trying to take her mother’s mind off of her decision to leave baba and wanted to create a happy atmosphere; since a sad one wasn’t doing anyone, any good.
“Well, that would be nice and I think you would learn a lot from what will be discussed. It’s always very interesting.” Her mother said. “Deal then” replied Aisha. “But,” interrupted her mother “I have already decided to leave Baba and I do not agree to any ‘deal’.” her mother said matter-of-factly. “Could you at least not take any action, till we attend it together?” Aisha pleaded. “Hmm” her mother sighed. “Alright then, we have a deal” she added. “You’re the best mum in the world” Aisha said as she threw her arms around her mum. “And you the best daughter in the world. I love you” her mama said.
Two weeks later….
“Aisha, hurry up; we’re going to be late!” Called out her mum, as they began to head out for the life coaching event. “Today, we will be having a special guest from Lagos and I do not want to sit behind.” she added. Aisha hurriedly walked to the car park to join her mother and they drove off.
“I hope I enjoy this life coaching thing, I think I am just curious about what happens during the sessions. Also how come it’s always scheduled so early in the morning?” Aisha asked as they headed out. “Well, you’ll find out and I am sure you will learn a thing or two. Being early is just something they prefer. Besides, learning when you’re fresh in the morning helps, I guess” her mother added. “Abuja has changed, mama.” Aisha noted. Her mother smiled and continued driving.
The two-hour session started and ended in record time. “Wow, it’s so rare to have a program in Nigeria, where African-time isn’t observed” Aisha remarked to her mother on their way back home. “Well, let’s just say things are beginning to change around here. Did you have a nice time?” her mother asked. “Yes I did, the session was so practical, even a 5-year old would have understood what was taught. I guess I’ll attend the next one if I am still in town or ….. Yes, I remember, if there are any one that would be holding in school.” Aisha said with a smile. “Is that smile for the guy who invited you, or for the program?” Her mother asked with a mischievous grin. “Guy? Me? Please mama, I do not have time for any guy, especially not Bayo.” Aisha said sternly. “Uh, so that’s his name; Bayo.” Teased her mum. “Mama please that’s not his name; I mean there is no ‘he’ anywhere. Could we just drop the subject?” Aisha requested, irritated at even the thought of what her mother was insinuating. “Not before I know his surname, because I have a friend whose son is in your school and his name coincidentally, is Adebayo Tilorunfe” her mother responded. By this time, Aisha was speechless and looked at her mother as if she didn’t believe her. They both laughed.
“I am serious Ai” emphasised her mum. “And I am serious about ending this conversation mum. I do not know his surname. Besides, why should I? Men do nothing but hurt women; so let’s just change the subject.” Aisha said in a rather upset tone. “I am sorry you feel that strongly about men Ai, is it because of the problems your father and I are having?” Her mother asked. “Well, that and so any other stories I’ve heard over and over again. I remember Felicia’s sad tale about her dad and another man who married her mother afterwards. It just always ‘goes south’ with men, doesn’t it mum? Even the topic today had to do with them again. But lucky for the ‘one’ lady who got ‘a good man’ if that even exists. Talk about one-in-a-million.” Aisha said rolling her eyes as she turned to face the car window.
The trip back home was a quiet one from then on. Aisha’s mother realised how her relationship with her husband had affected their children. Thoughts of Kabiru’s outbursts when addressing his father and now Aisha’s anger and hatred for men was beginning to make Mrs. Idris rethink her decision to leave the marriage. It also made her think about her conduct and her husband’s, at home in the presence of their children. She realised that it had taken a negative toll on them.
“Sannu da zuwa mama” (Translated: “Welcome back, mum”) said Kabiru. He was on his way to see a friend when the duo returned. “And where exactly are you going, young man?” Asked his mum. “To see Zakari next door. I won’t be long.” He responded. “Alright then”, his mother responded in consent. “Sai ka dawo”, (Translated: See you when you get back”), Aisha said. Kabiru went to their neighbour’s and Aisha and her mother went into the house.
“Salamu Alaikum, good morning baba” Aisha greeted her father; who was in the living room when they got back. “How are you and how was the program?” He asked. “It was fine.” Aisha replied as she walked passed him, down the hallway to her room. She wasn’t ready for any arguments that might ensue between her parents so she hurried to her room and locked the door behind her.
An hour later, she came out and started towards the kitchen; beside the living room. She could hear her parents’ distinct voices from afar. She was surprised; first that they were having a conversation and secondly, their tones were very low. Her parents hardly ever conversed except when they had guests and whenever they did in the absence of any visitors, it almost always did not end well.
Aisha was curious so she peered into the keyhole to be sure that it was just the two of them having a conversation. When she confirmed it was so, she thought “Wonders shall never end” as she went into the kitchen to get something to eat.