THEIR TROUBLED LIVES

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  After we returned from the forest where we hid away from the Nigerian soldiers and their ammunition, I became tormented by the emotional scars of the conflict I had experienced. All around me I saw people slowly and [painfully] rebuild their ...

TEARS
 

After we returned from the forest where we hid away from the Nigerian soldiers and their ammunition, I became tormented by the emotional scars of the conflict I had experienced. All around me I saw people slowly and [painfully] rebuild their lives just like my mother did. The place our home once stood was rubble, blown to the ground by the shelling; we had no choice but to live in the open for weeks before my mother was able to erect a structure over our heads. But as bad as life was, it felt good not having to hide under the canopy of the forests. I no longer had to run for cover [as I did] each time the shelling began. This new found freedom felt so good, and as such I dedicated my days to feeling good. I played the entire time with the other children in the community. We played football with the human skulls that littered everywhere. Those were the skulls of the unfortunate ones who were not fast enough to escape the village as the Nigerian soldiers advanced upon us, as well as those stubborn enough to stay. There was a story of Eze, a brilliant Science teacher who ran mad because of too many books in his brain. He had just been brought back to the village when the war broke out. And every day he sat in his late father’s easychair, telling everyone who cared to listen that the Biafran warlord [Ojukwu] would crush the Nigerian military. The day the Nigerian soldiers advanced deep into Biafra even down to small town Igbere, Eze remained seated in that chair and refused to run with the othersin to the forest; he believed Ojukwu would save Biafra. Nearly a year later as we returned from the forest, we met his skeleton on the chair in front of his father’s house, but his skull was missing. There was no doubt  that his was one of the skulls my friends and I kicked around in the form of football. Meanwhile, there were those who were courageous enough to return home [in search of food/valuables] before the war ended. Perhaps my father’s skull was among those. My young mind could never know the truth to that. So I kicked those bones while having my fun, disregarding the elders’ warnings that we could get seriously injured. We were young and free, never caring about the risks of life. After all, what more violence could befall a tween who already nearly escaped bomb shrapnel cutting him to shreds! We saw enough violence to last forever, and the risks posed by playing with those skulls (with their jagged and sharp edges) meant nothing. Unfortunately, in the end the elder’s warnings came to pass when serious injuries resulted in infections that led to deaths. And it wasn’t until then that the bones were finally gathered and incinerated…  

 

Just like my late mother, Ahudiya lost nearly everything to the war. Her four sons died, and all she had left was her estranged husband and a mentally-retarded daughter.  I never got around understanding the true rason for her complicated relationship with Uncle John; the accounts differed. On the one hand, legend had it that Ahudiya was quite influential in the forest and had been bad to her husband. She was a beautiful woman, and as such had found favour in the Biafran soldiers with whom she exchanged sexual gratifications to get vital supplies such as salt and dried stork fish. With that she [initially] took care of her husband and five children until her allegedly   became jealous and warned her to stop. She refused, and this ultimately strained their relationship even as she resorted to serving the man soup without salt as a way of punishing him. Meanwhile, on the flip side the story had it that Uncle John was a lazy man and failed to take care of his family in the forest. It was his wife who made every effort to put food on the table with little assistance from her four sons. The boys would go scavenging for food while their father slept under the shades of the Eke Forest. Unfortunately, during one of their scavenging trips, the boys never returned and nobody could tell what had happened to them. Some said they were killed by the enemies and others were of the opinion that they were captured by the Biafran soldiers and forcibly conscripted into the army. In all these my uncle cared less. He slept all day and all night while others busied themselves searching for the boys. Eventually, people lost interest in the search since the boys' father wasn’t showing any interest. Ahudiya agonized over her missing children until my father decided to go after the boys. But he too never came back.     

Consequently, Ahudiya became very mad at her husband, and throughout the remaining months in the forest she refused to care for the man. The few times she served him food she prepared his own soup without salt, and it was during these times that it became obvious to both of them that the marriage was over. However, they continued to live under the same roof as husband and wife even after the war, and even our adoption could not help ease up the tension in their relationship. Indeed, Ahudiya was a bitter woman, yet this did not prevent her from being good to my brother and I. she took on to caring for us, becoming our new mother and making every effort to connect with me despite my stubbornness. I could not just accept the fact that my mother was dead and that she [Ahudiya] was her replacement. But she was persistently caring, and overtime she proved to me that she was the kindest woman I ever knew in my entire life...

This is sampled from Forlorn Gaze, a manuscript in the works by the authour.

 

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