This was supposed to be a sad story but I refuse to tell it that way.
* * *
Gratefulness, a self-affection; that was what Oluwabunmike felt each time she was home. Home to her was where her grandmother, Nana, was. Nana, that woman who would go to school to give a talking down to any teacher who dared harass her – like when she a teacher had flogged her till big red welts had appeared all over her body because she could not spell O-N-O-M-A-T-O-P-O-E-I-A.
The previous week, they had learnt figures of speech and her teacher had made them memorize it all. Oluwabunmike had found it all overwhelming, having to memorize what simile, metaphor, personification meant with examples. She understood it enough to formulate her own examples but her teacher had insisted they give the examples she had taught them and when Oluwabunmike wrote down her own examples her teacher had taken it as a personal affront and marked all of her examples wrong. The next day, Nana came to school – book in hand, attitude in tow.
Nana dropped the notebook before Mrs. Adams and waited till she marked everything correctly and scored her 10/10. So the following week, when they had done figures of speech and Oluwabunmike could not spell onomatopoeia, Mrs. Adams had her moment. She flogged Oluwabunmike so much that everyone knew it could not possibly be because she could not spell onomatopoeia.
Nana visited again. Angrier and implacable. She made the Head teacher apologize to little Oluwabunmike personally. For the rest of the school year, Oluwabunmike bloomed. She formulated her own examples and always made sure she got them right to avoid running into trouble with Mrs Adams.
Oluwabunmike was in the process of applying to schools when it first happened. She had gone out for a friend’s birthday party and on her way back she met Nana, about three streets away from their house.
“Nana, ẹkuule (Good evening), where are you going?
“Where are you going? What do you want? You should have called me to get it on my way back.”
“I’m looking for Dauda”
“Yes, my husband”
“Let’s go home jor, which husband are you looking for?”
It was at that moment that Oluwabunmike realized she would not be going to university in Kano. The dream had to change. Her Nana was old. She was looking for her dead husband. She’s feeling lonely already. The following week, Oluwabunmike obtained a change of institution form and applied to the University of Ibadan. That way she was closer to home and could take care of Nana. At the time, it was a fairly easy decision to make, after all, the major reason she had wanted to go to Kano was because of the nice things she had heard about the city.
In another incident, Oluwabunmike nearly lost her face to a plate being thrown at her. Nana was having another of her moments. This was her third episode that week. The day before, Nana had overturned the bucket of water she had left for her bath because it was too cold. Two days before that, she had locked the door to her tenant’s outdoor toilet because – according to her – he used it too often. And now this dramatic and unexpected show of violence.
“Get away from me, you bastard. Ọmọ àlè játijàti.” Oluwabunmike couldn’t believe her ears. It couldn’t be possible that these obscenities were coming from her Nana. Her Nana who all through her childhood had never screamed at her, talk less of calling her names. It was shocking. Has Nana always been this evil person lying under a gossamer of goodness and old age had simply stripped of that thin layer of goodness?
Oluwabunmike needed to clear her head, this was too much. Nana had called her a bastard. How could she? Knowing fully well, how badly that word affected her.
Oluwabunmike was on the verge of tears when she arrived at her friend, Tunde’s house. His familiar smiling face immediately made her feel better. She had barely sat down before he asked her what was wrong.
“I just don’t recognize her anymore. It’s like she’s an entirely different person. I hate her now.”
“C’mon, don’t say that. I know you don’t. You worship your Nana.” He said as he pinched her cheeks playfully.
“I worshiped the woman I knew, not this stranger.”
“Babe, you know she’s old now. Old people become babies again. You have to start thinking of her as a baby.”
“But she is not a baby. She knows what she’s doing. Was she not the one reading newspaper and analyzing and telling stories yesterday? She just wants to hurt my feelings. She probably resents me for chopping her pension money all these years.”
“Don’t be like that. Old people’s care is usually difficult. You just need to chill, okay?”
“Thank you, Tunde”
“Listening to me. I feel so much better.”
<To Be Continued >
Written by: Amal