Don’t Forget Me by Dika Ofoma

 

Don’t Forget Me

 

Elozanam held his chest, taking in long breaths to calm his heart beats. He brought his clammy hands to his face letting the blood tickling off his thumb stream down his face. He’d expected that the bleeding would’ve stopped by now. However, It didn’t bother him and he still didn’t care that the blood was now dripping on his white singlet. His head was in a fuzz and he could barely see. Then it started to rain. He got up to shut the windows stopping the spatter of rain breezing in. He lit a cigarette but did not smoke. He simply left it in the ash tray. Its scent filled the room and he inhaled deeply. His heart beats calmed. He adjusted himself to his bed and listened to the rain. The rain was singing. He knew the song from childhood. It was a song that begged God for rain so that mangoes could blossom. He hummed the song. Tears flowed from his eyes and he dozed off humming the same song in his dreams.

 

He was home and six, sitting on his mother’s laps and eating a piece of fish from her hand. Then he was nine, running to his mother and hiding at her back to escape beating from his older sister for drawing in her mathematics exercise book. He became twelve and was sick. Vomiting. Convulsing. His mother by his bed side, praying and crying. And he became sixteen. He was at the market with his mother searching for a good bidder for her wrappers so his school fees can be paid.

 

He awoke to the sound of thunder that shook the three-storeyed hostel. He looked at his thumbs, the blood had clotted. He twinged them hoping they’d bleed again. They did not. His chest began to pang and tears were forming in his eyes. He took a blade from his reading table and with it started to cut the tip of his index fingers. He stopped when blood began to ooze out. He winced. The pain was more gratifying than soothing this time around and it made him feel guilty.

 

He opened his window a little and lightening struck immediately. It was a bad sign. He closed back the window. He thought of childhood; of bathing in the rain with his younger sisters; of picking up hailstones and chewing the ice cubes; of posing when lightening flashed so God could have their pictures up in heaven; of his mother chasing them back into the house shouting at the top of her voice that they were calling cold and fever for themselves. He got angry. His anger so furious that he threw punches at the wall. He boxed the wall till it felt like his bones had broken, till his knuckles began to bleed. Then he wailed. A sad throaty scream that sounded like plea.

 

He felt shame, guilt, anger and sadness. He hated that he felt sadness. He hated that he was sad because he had no right to be sad. It felt pretentious. It made him feel like a hypocrite and this tears, this tears that had started to rain, and continued to pour no matter how hard and the number of times he wiped his face felt like crocodile tears to him. He begged them to stop.

 

He lost his right to tears, to sadness, to sorrow and grief when he decided to neglect his mother. She had been sick. A sickness so strange and unfamiliar as its name. Leukemia. It started with nose bleeds and the unending fever. It was just stubborn malaria and bleeding disorder until the rashes began to surface and she had difficulties walking; until the doctor held her hands as though about to utter a prayer said the word, leukemia. The word sounded posh. The sickness didn’t suit her, it didn’t suit her faded wrappers, it didn’t suit her untidy hair nor her dishevelled one bedroom apartment she shared with all her four children. It sounded like a sickness for the rich like diabetes. The doctor tried to explain. She heard nothing but cancer. She saw her life that day drowning and she drowning with it. In between sobs, his mother narrated to him when he last visited.

 

Elozanam knew that his last visit to his mum would be the last and the last time he would see her. He wanted it to be the last. He wanted to remember his mother as his mum not the sick weak bedridden woman he’d seen when he visited and the one his sisters have been describing to him each time he called and asked, “how is she?” So he ignored her pleas to see her again, causing a face-off with his older sister, Uju. You ingrate were the words her calls to him began with. Followed by a reminder of all the things their mother, his mother had been through for him and a conclusion that placed on him responsibility of their mother’s death. Her words were when mama dies, you’d have her blood on your head. When not if. Uju knew just like Elozonam that her death was inevitable and, that it was only a matter of time and that Elozanam could do nothing to stop it.

 

What Uju did not understand and what Elozanam could not get himself to say was that seeing his mother in that state, so emaciated and so miserable would be the death of him. He would be crushed so tender not to pieces but to powder. He would never be done again. His very life extinguished right before him.

 

He was already dying like a fire in need of more fuel. He lived for his mother. The only parent he ever had. As a child he was taught in school that a father provides for the family and pays school fees while a mother cooks and takes care of the home, and he thought that it was just amazing that his mum was both father and mother. He didn’t know he had a father or rather didn’t know that he should have a father till his classmates laughed at him when he answered my mum, when his teacher asked, Who provides for the family and pays the school fees?

 

Father was a man who had run off to god knows where when his mum was pregnant with him because a fourth girl was too much liability. And so mum became both father and mother frying akara in the morning and running a provision shop during the day to pay school fees and to put food on the table.

 

He loved his mother the way boys loved their mother and had caused her much distress the way boys caused their mother distress. He was a stubborn child. Where there was a fight in school, Elozanam was there maintaining his position as the unbeatable champion and almost always leaving his opponent with a black eye, bleeding lip and a broken tooth.

His mother would be in his school every other week tendering an apology to a livid mother who couldn’t wait to yank off Elozanam’s ears in the headmaster’s office.

 

At home, Elozanam made sure to give his mother’s soup a sour taste by the morning. Dipping his hands into the pot in search of chunks of fish and meat until his mother learnt to make soups bereft of them. This was Elozanam’s light bulb moment, he arvanced to stealing naira notes from his mother’s purse.

 

But he loved his mother and brought more smiles to her face than tears. Finishing top of his class all the time, helping out with chores in the house and most of all being affectionate in the way boys are forbidden to be.

 

Elozanam soon became man; grew beards; was admitted into the university and stopped causing his mother distress. He was going to become a doctor and his mother would become mama doctor, a title she had taken already feigning annoyance when she was called otherwise. He became a boy again when he told his mum he hated the sight of blood and a look at a cadaver sent chills down his spine dashing her hopes and her new title, mama doctor, to the floor.He deferred medicine for fine arts and for weeks his mother would ignore his calls but a visit home and her image on a canvas as a birthday gift would be all it would take for her to come around but definitely not Uju who would rather have her dreams of becoming a lawyer sacrificed for a real profession and not some out of the blue hobby guised as passion. She would never forgive him. Mama you’re spoiling this boy and wasting time and money on him would dominate conversations in the house up until their mother’s illness.

 

He’d been up early, a cigarette of marijuana in between his thumb and his index finger, his other hand working on yet another painting of his mother while listening to Burna Boy when his sister’s call came through. Are you happy now? Are you fulfilled? were the questions. Elozanam kept his mouth open and waited for her to speak up. You’ve killed my mother. Just like your father, you abandoned her, you forgot her when she needed you most. Uju sobbed.

 

And for close to an hour, Elozanam would do nothing but stare at the white wall of his room as though a mannequin, stiff and unmoving. He had forgotten her. He’d failed his name and its giver. Elozanam. Don’t forgot me. His heart was burning and no matter how hard he swallowed saliva in a bid to quench the burn, they stuck to his throat refusing to go down. His very life flashed before him but he did not die as they say, he remained dying. And for the very first time in his life, he felt alone, forgotten and abandoned too.

 

The rain stopped. Elozanam opened the windows. He breathed the clean air that smelt of the rain and watched water droplets fall from the roof to the ground. The trash can at the end of the compound had been swamped with water and was now overflowing with debris of rubbish littering the compound. He left the window and pulled a chair close to his reading table. He tore out a paper, uncapped a pen; he was going to write a tribute to his mum.

 

Dear mum, I really loved you and I know that I may not have shown enough of it but I deeply did. You gave me all that you had and all that you didn’t have. A love like yours unconditional and undying not just to me and my sisters but also to the man who broke you and left you cold and lonely is a wonder not to me but to the world because I know that you cannot be compared with any human. You’re the greatest human I know. I love you but you loved me more, and I’m sorry I never got to show it to you, I’m sorry I didn’t get to say thank you, I’m sorry I never got to buy you wrappers or buy you a car or build you a house as sons do their mothers. I’m unworthy of you. I’m unworthy of your forgiveness. I failed you. I forgot you and I do not even have a defense for my actions. If I did it would be the lamest words ever uttered. Goodbye my love, mother and friend.

 

By the time he was done penning these words, he found that they were soaked in tears, he squeezed them into a mold and tossed it out window. He tore out a paper and began to write again but found out he had lost the words, he scribbled words he could think of. He looked at them, they were ingenuine and too poetic and it dawned on him for the first time that his mother was really gone; he had been writing to her in the past tense. And he thought how ridiculous it was writing the dead. The dead are nothing but dead. He felt stupid that he was writing words meant for her that she would never get to read and worse, would find itself in an obituary to be read by people who would never truly understand the words or him and the anger he burned for himself returned, fresh and fury. He squoosh the paper and tore it to shreds; attacked his framed paintings and even the unfinished painting of his mother; hitting them on the wall again and again and by the time he was done his room was covered with colours, shreds of paper and pieces of glass, and he was hyperventilating.

 

He gathered himself up and proceeded to the bathroom ignoring the pieces of glass that pricked him. He looked at himself in a mirror; his eyes were swollen and bloodshot, streaks of tears aligned his face. His dada was unkempt. He held an end of a dreadlock and with a scissors on the other hand he cut it off. He did so with the others working delicately and patiently. His mother had hated the dreadlocks. When he started locking his hair using too much shea butter and a piece of cigarette drilled foam; he was intentional. He wanted that stereotyped look of an artist. You look like a mad man, his mother had said. It helps with creativity, he’d replied.

 

But he wasn’t cutting this two years labour of care and nurturing because he wanted to appease his mum or please her now. He was cutting his hair because there was something like shaving your hair as a last respect to the dead. When he had cut off all the locks and his hair now looked like a tangled mini afro. He combed and smoothed the ends. His hair was uneven, tufts of hair sat higher than the rest and with the scissors he chopped them off intermitting then and now for drags of weed. His Hair became too low for the scissors and so he continued working on his hair with a shaving stick; lathering his hair first with a soap before working with the shaving stick. He shaved his hair until the light bulb in the toilet reflected on them. It was a smooth clean malu. His scalp soft and cold. He was bleeding where the shaving stick had cut. He cleaned his hair with some spirit and bathed.

 

Now, lying in bed, he cried some more. He reigned on this luxury to cry. Today he would just cry, he decided. Tomorrow he’d clean his room, cook and eat, and would be a man as was expected of him and would do what boys his age were yet to do because they were too young to; bury his mother

Dika Ofoma is a student of International Studies and History, a lover of literature but a TV addict and would rather flip aimlessly through channels than pick up a book. He’s been published on did one entertainment.. 

         

4 Comments

  • Precious Ositadinma July 3, 2018 at 8:13 am

    U r getting there brother…. I wish all the best.. I am very proud of you

    Reply
    • Dika Ofoma July 3, 2018 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you so much. This means a lot to me

      Reply
  • Unam nora July 3, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Epitome of absent Epicureanism . So touching at how sadness can emancipate the mourning

    Reply
  • Adetokunbo Michael August 15, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    I cherish your passion and I must confess am proud of you… Crush ..
    Nice Work

    Reply

Leave a Comment