Soon, mom would walk through that door reeking of sweat and exhaustion. Her face would be ridden with a strain that marks any mother of five. And when night falls, Chike would scuffle in too, more beat than mom would be. This has become our life since January.
Life, as I’ve learned in the most depressing of ways, is hard. I thought it was just for the poor like us until Mr Benjamin’s family returned to the village but without both Mr Benjamin and his wife. Having being diagnosed positive to the virus and placed in an isolation center for treatment, he had died months later, apparently having diabetes and asthma as underlying health conditions. Now, his children roam about with long sad faces full of gloom and hurt, much like everyone else here.
Life is hard. For me, for us, it has gotten harder since papa died, now worse since the pandemic and its resultant lockdown hit Nigeria. The aids and palliatives are but useless if you have to battle for something so small with hundreds of other broken, hungry and miserable people suffering like you are.
Every day, I sit back with the younger ones, and we pray and hope that when mom and Chike returns, food follows just behind them. Every day I wish I can help, but my bones are weak and I do my best to help when I sit down at a spot doing nothing. It’s getting harder to get blood transfusions, and each month, my fears hang on my lungs.
“Ifechi, stop making noise!” I turn to my little sister, pretending it is my first time hearing her hours’ long cry. Her face is soaked wet and she’s been sitting at that spot for hours, wailing from hunger. I pretend I want her to shut up because she’s making the hot weather worse for me, but I know it’s because her cries are justified and thus makes me want to cry too.
The door squeaks open shortly and mom walks through. She reeks of sweat and exhaustion; her face sculptured by strain and frustration. Everyone runs to her, happy. I am glad to see her but I show it only in my smile.
At least we have a little sugar. Soaked garri is served, and though a daily meal now, everyone feeds with a sense of relief, which I find almost heartbreaking. And when I’m asked why I have no spoon in my hand, same as yesterday evening, I give the same response, “I’m not hungry.” I am, but just pained.
Chike comes home, exactly as I expect, only though covered with dust and cement, nothing returned with him. As usual, when embittered by the miserable look on us these past few months, he gives his share to Ifechi, then sits at the backyard right next to dad’s grave. And I know he’ll not return till ten, because then, we’re all asleep and no one would see his reddened eyes or hear his grumbling belly.
© DEXTER FAVOUR JOSEPH, June 2020.