Stepping hard on the pedal, I brought the car to a halt. ‘No, it couldn’t be. I mustn’t have heard right.’ I could feel my heart race, adrenaline coursing through my veins. Unable to get out of the car, I wondered how I managed to get home safe. Safe… Safe?
A flood of sorrow threatened to push down the door of my heart, but no… not until I discovered every single detail. Jolting forward, I realized the engine was still active. I wasn’t ready to die…not yet. Decidedly, I turned off the engine and made my way towards the house. With every step I took, I wished so hard that the discovery I had made earlier that day was false. That all I grew up believing was not a lie. That the woman I called mother, was the one who bore me. That the life I lived was not a lie. Once I got in, I shut the door behind me.
‘Why did she lie to me?’
‘Who the hell was I?’
Series of unanswered questions marauded my head, so much I thought I might lose it.
She was in the kitchen. I could hear the clinging of utensils. My legs moved of their own volition for I knew not when I got to the kitchen. My gaze fell on her. She was singing our favourite song. And like every other Friday, she was preparing dinner. The words that so long melted on my tongue with ecstatic sweetness became so hard to form. ‘How could I call her mother?’
Her gaze fell on me and she immediately sent me a smile. It was so real…so real for a split moment I wanted to erase this nightmare, run up to her and hold her so tight. But reality knocked me to consciousness. I let the tears fall freely. Even harder…I was going crazy, I could feel it. Transfixed to the spot, I watched her every expression. Series of emotions breezed past her face; shock, wonder and finally pain. But one lingered…it was so vivid I wondered how I could have missed it all these years. It was fear..a raw kind of fear that knew no bounds. Slowly, I felt my body sliding to the floor, my head in between my palm. I could feel the floor cold against my feet. When my shoes came off, I had no idea.
“You had a bad day at work?” , I could hear her approach.
How do I begin?
Fear whispered to me, threatening to drive me insane. ‘Just a yes or a no…and everything would change.’
“Are you my mother?”, I couldn’t recognize my voice.
She was silent.
Lifting my gaze to meet hers, I felt the last piece of my heart fall to the floor.
“Do I call you mother?”, I asked, trembling.
“Mother…tell me it’s not true”, I begged, wishing I could cast away whatever spirit that made me go in search of my father earlier that morning.
“Who is my father?”, My voice came again, louder this time, even I had no control over it now.
“I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you…”, she trailed off. “You were only but a year old. Your mother had dumped you by the roadside one evening, just like this one. Troubled by his violence and constant mockery, she killed herself alongside your father. ‘How could she have had a baby for another man?’, he would ask. But how dare he query her when he was hell-bent on following tradition and the custom of his people!”
Few more hours with a pistol over the steering, I rose in search of my uncle; for tradition had lain my mother on a guest’s bed. Coursing through the dark, I realized; ‘ I was my own cousin.’
Okunlola Azeezat Olayinka is a lover of literature, and has authored a book titled ‘Red Fuse Trip’ available on OKADABOOKS. She currently studies for a degree in Classics, at the University of Ibadan.