Excerpts from my forthcoming novel "Shame and Forlorn Gaze"
It was nearly four years since he left; Imo’s uncle [John] who woke up one morning and decided he was Lagos-bound. And throughout those years, he failed to keep in touch with his wife and children as he promised he would. Ahudiya had to forget all about him; he was of no use to her anyway. But Imo thought of him all the time. The boy wished above of things that his uncle could come and take him away to Lagos. Several nights as he lay in his mat and listened to the rain beat the thatch roof, he imagined what life would be like in the streets of Lagos. But his wishes were dashed every passing day. This made him sad and contributed immensely to his teenage angst. He wondered if his uncle was okay. Perhaps the most horrible thing had happened to him.
“Do you think my uncle is fine?” Imo asked Ahudiya one Saturday morning as they walked along a tiny path that led to their cassava farm. “Maybe he got hit by a bus and died” he continued. But Ahudiya ignored him as she kept walking briskly in front of him. Meanwhile, Imo watched her, wondering why she had to be so detached from her husband and forgetting for a moment that Ahudiya lost four of her children all while her husband did virtually nothing to help the situation.
“Your uncle is not coming back to us” Ahudiya told the boy.
“But he promised—”
“He is not coming!” she interrupted. “Can’t you see that he has nothing here to come back to? I am sure he is somewhere nice living the kind of life he had always wanted…without me!”
There was so much pain in Ahudiya’s voice as she said those words. Imo could hear it just as he could imagine it on her face. And truly speaking, Ahudiya was in pain even though she was such a tough skin at trying not to show it. She knew that her estranged husband was alive and well in the place he had always wanted to be. He was with the woman he always thought was best for him. The story of him and the woman was one that tormented Ahudiya for a while in her relationship with John…
Ahudiya knew right away when her husband began fooling around with the woman in question. At the time, she was only a girl who was young enough to be his daughter. He always had a thing for young, insecure and hopeless girls. He liked to offer them hope, pretending to care while taking advantage of their innocence. And the girls worshipped him like a demigod and willingly satiated his animalistic desire whenever and however he wanted it. This was before the civil war, and the infidelity (the utter disrespect for their matrimonial bedroom with little girls) was one of the major causes of dispute in their marriage. But John always won. He blamed Ahudiya for not knowing how to satisfy his desires, and then he blamed her even more for trying to emasculate him with her independence and her opinions. So she let him fool around. And then the matter became worse when he met Gloria.
Gloria was a very insecure teenager. The daughter of a housemaid who never knew who her father was, she grew up watching her mother constantly abused by her wealthy employers. Before long, said abuse was extended to her as well, a situation that ultimately worsened her self esteem. And then she suddenly lost her mother to the cold grips of death just as her life took a drastic turn for the worse. She had to live with several of her relatives most of whom didn’t want her with them. One of the relatives was her uncle who lived in a low rent Ikeja neighbourhood right next to where John and Ahudiya lived with their children. This was when paedophilic John took notice of her and then took aim as well.
Gloria instantly fell for him. Young, naïve and helpless as she was, she was blown by the fact that a mature man like John could find her attractive enough to want to have sex with her. She was even more delighted by the fact that John promised and actually made effort to provide her with some of the necessities she needed. So she loved him and loved the idea of him. She began to spend a lot of time in his furniture store, and before long they were sneaking into John’s house to have sex in the afternoon when Ahudiya was at the market. The girl felt happy and cared less about the fact that John was a married man. All she cared about was her happiness. She clung desperately to him and wouldn’t let go even as she looked forward to the day he would make her his wife just as he had promised.
But then the war broke out and all the expectations came shattering. As the Igbos scrambled to cross the Niger Bridge to eastern heartland, Gloria watched with tears in her eyes as John gathered his family and left as well. She feared she would lose him and then she wished she could go with him to the east. But she couldn’t because she was Tiv. She was from the same place where the Head of State was; so going to the east at that time was tantamount to suicide. But his departure devastated her and made her feel miserable once again. She wondered what life would be without him. Her uncle had no plans for her. Her only plan been to strive and marry John. What could she do as war had separated them; she wondered. And then she wondered what would happen to her if John never returned to Lagos. What he died in the war, she thought; who would marry her?! What could her life possibly be without the man of her dreams to take care of her?!
Gloria’s misery persisted until the day she encountered a miracle. On that fateful day, she was walking home from the market, her face downcast and tears in her eyes as she thought about the punishment his uncle’s wife had recently subjected her to. It was then, as she walked along the streets with her face down in an attempt to hide her tears from passersby that she saw it. It was a brown leathery wallet, and it seemed to contain a lot of money and other valuables. Without thinking twice about it, Gloria bent down and picked the wallet off the ground and then walked on by as though nothing had happened. And upon getting home, she quickly emptied the water and checked through its contents. She found some l identity cards, a few dollar bills and some Pound Sterling as well as an International Passport belonging to an Indian woman called Aaradhya Khan. Gloria would then spend the rest of the day contemplating whether or not to return the items to the woman. She could see the woman’s address on her documents; it was located in the fancy part of Ikeja known as Government Reserved Area. So she concluded that perhaps it would be nice to return the items and use the opportunity to visit the GRA...
[CULLED FROM MY SOON TO BE PUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT TITLED "Shame and Forlorn Gaze"]