Enobong: God’s gift
Certain things give me life. ‘ENO’ is one of them.There is something about that name that awakens the fighter in me.
I envied the kids in my secondary school whose family members turned up en-masse on visiting days. They either came to deliver a half cooler of rice or just snacks. Other times, they made it such a big deal as they would come with picnic baskets and blankets and ‘everything’ just to ‘catch up’ or see how they were doing. Whatever excuse they had for coming in battalions, they came anyways and I fancied it basically because my ‘people’ would never be able to afford that time.
Visiting days were not so exciting for me because it was always Mfon. She would come when she could and other times, she would get impatient and leave before I got to the gate.
That was fine; or I said it was.
She would come with Tins of Milo and Milk, a plate of cooked Noodles, cash and lots of messages from my ‘people’ and gist that consisted of mostly ‘bad news’
It wasn’t a ‘battalion visit’ but it was fine.
You see, I knew my people would never come en-masse to visit me.
I discovered at a pretty early age that I wasn’t born into a ‘regular‘ family in the sense that my family consists of a father who till his death never wanted to deal with me, Mfon, who was never around, cousins who spent their days lashing me with belts and slippers and ‘snitching on my a** like crazy’, aunties who thought I was their mother reincarnated, Mfon’s friends turn my ‘2nd and 3rd mummies’ who sent money to me on a regular, uncles, who made it a point of duty to remind me that they would have been my father if they did not miss marrying Mfon, House helps turn mothers, house helps’ friends turn aunties because they were always in the house, house helps’ friends’ boyfriends turn uncles because they were always coming to visit house helps’ friends’ when Mfon was not around, Pastors turn extended family members who prophesied that they were ordained to be my ‘spiritual fathers’ (#sigh) I could go on and on but I bet you get the picture already.
The thing about having a family like this is that dramas would be unavoidable. There would always a ‘somebody did this story’ or ‘a break up story’ or a ‘a guy got a girl pregnant story’ or interestingly, ‘a somebody fought somebody’s wife story’; there was always a drama and no matter how much you try to exclude yourself from it, your exclusion will in no time be a strong opening act for an epic drama. But, the most amazing thing I saw in the midst of these chaos and absolute madness was the love and loyalty. It was raw.
Oreme was Mfon’s colleague’s son. He had a crush on me but Aunty Kate told me he was too local for me and I shouldn’t take him seriously. So, every time he tried to play with me, I would snob him and call him a name or two and then run home.
It was a known fact in my neighborhood that my dad wasn’t around. They knew he wasn’t dead and because he was quite popular among them, they knew too much and I hated it.
Oreme’s father was one of the few people who had worked with my dad. He was quite a gossip; that man. So he was privileged to get first hand details from another person who had first hand gist from the ‘first hand man’ (if that even makes any sense). I imagine he got home and downloaded everything to his wife who was his
gossip partner in every way; he must have told her while eating dinner and she told her sons during breakfast and they told the kids in their age group during football time or some gossip hour of some sort. Soon enough, they found the word to describe my ‘situation’- Bastard.
It was a rainy day. I had eaten to my fill. Mfon had gone to work. Aunty Kate was writing a love letter to her boyfriend; who was a pastor. I was bored so I stepped out to play. I found myself in front of Oreme’s house; he had been sitting in front of his house for hours waiting for me to step out. If I had known what he had in store for me, I would have respected my already sorry self and stuck to staying indoors. But, no! This little ‘ninja’ stepped out. I somehow ‘played’ till I got to Oreme’s front porch. I didn’t say hi, I just sat there. He tried to touch my shoulder. I moved. He tried again so I shouted “Are you mad?” (Hullorp! Hullorp!! Hullorp!!! I know. That was a really wrong move but still..) Next thing that came out of the abundance of his heart was “it is you that is mad. You bastard!” what he said didn’t make sense to me until these followed “go and call your daddy na”. I assumed he had only just discovered the meaning of the word but still…
Oh well! I did leave to get my ‘dad’.
He came in the form of violence; in form of Aunty Kate who I cried to. First, she asked me to wipe my tears and answer her questions.
She said ” Eno! Are you a bastard?”
I mumbled “No”
She said “I said stop crying and answer me. Oya, look at me” I opened my left eye, then the right one. “Are you a bastard?”
I mumbled “No”
“Who is your father?” She asked
“Jesus” I said. This time the tears wouldn’t stop.
One time, I asked her where my father was and she told me Jesus was my father and He was in heaven but He visited me every night while I was asleep. The next day after she told me, I saw Jesus at the back of Mfon’s door when she asked me to get an umbrella for her. He was squeezing himself behind the door. Maybe he didn’t want me to see him while I was awake. So, I whispered “Don’t worry Jesus, I will not tell them I saw you.”
“Hey! Clean your face and answer me. Who is your father?” She yelled
“Jesus” I managed to say. My hands were soaked. I couldn’t breathe.
“Are you a bastard?” She asked
“No” I said.
“Oya come and hug me” She said with a shaky voice.
I never knew why she cried. All I know is I heard Oreme cry after Aunty Kate left the house. I heard she gave him the beating of his life.
My dad came in the form of Mfon. As soon as she got back from work I heard Aunty Kate retelling the story. She stormed out of the house alongside Uncle John, Uncle Edet and Uncle Johnson.
My dad came in form of Aunty Nse and Aunty Arit who rained insults on Oreme’s skinny legs and his father’s loose tongue. Aunty Arit said “… see the way he walks; like a woman. He is the wife. The woman is the husband”
My dad came in form of family. Never again did I feel like a bastard…never.
Aunty Arit was the tallest woman I knew as a child. She was so beautiful and has a smile that could make any heart melt. Her laughter was rich and powerful; it was absolutely infectious.
She called me “Baby”-they all did. They said I would never understand why but I was a gift to them and it didn’t matter how God chose to deliver the gift. Her ‘talking’ skills blended with Mfon’s. Whenever they were around each other, they abandoned English for Oron language; it was such a perfect harmony.
She made Mfon happy; she made us happy.
One morning, her visits stopped.
Mfon cried everyday for weeks; she said her sister was gone.
My house was quiet for months. We all missed Aunty Arit’s rich laughter but that was all for me.
Some months ago, I finally met Aunty Nse.
God! She was the life of the party.
The first time we met, she touched my head; then, my shoulders then my butts. She laughed and said “Our baby is now a woman”.
That was in November 2014.
Aunty Nse was the only reason I cooked Atama and Editan and our favorite Ekpang. Everyone abandoned the kitchen when we fantasized about the food. She told me a lot about Mfon and how far they had come.
Occasionally, she would lament about Aunty Arit’s passing; she missed her friend.
Gradually, I began to see things from their perspective. Mfon, Nse and Arit had come a really long way and I would probably never understand it. They called me their gift because “you came when we never thought we would have any source of joy. I had my daughter but she was becoming too old to carry” Aunty Nse once said.
Nse was always Mfon’s next stop after my house whenever she visited Lagos. They would sit and continue the harmony her voice made with Aunty Arit. They laughed alot; mostly at themselves. They laughed at their grey hairs and how they’ve failed several times to conceal them. They laughed at their jobs and how many years they had left to retire. They laughed at how things had turned out and then they would be quiet and say “it is well”. They laughed alot.
On the 24th of December 2015, Aunty Nse stopped laughing.
My heart stopped when Mfon called me to tell me. I could hear the fear in her voice. She started saying she needed to take it easy with herself and I should pray for her.
My heart stopped.
Who will tease me about being shamelessly single? Who will force me to eat? Who will I cook native soups with? It was hard to believe… it still is.
Just like that she died; without even saying a word to the only thing that was left of the friendship she had.
It made me wonder if anyone ever thought they would bade farewell to their only child, four grandchildren, one adopted child, one gift, one friend and an entire clan of loved ones a night before Christmas.
You know it hurts to loose something especially when you don’t have a lot of it?
I am arguably a loner with few friends and a mad family.
I am not much of a caller or a ‘texter’ nor an ‘instant chatter’. I have my madness and somehow, the people in my life have gotten pretty used to it.
I never get to tell them I love them or I miss them when they’re away but there is not a day that passes by that I don’t count my gifts and thank God for each one of them.
It hurts to see the little I have slowly becoming less. It kills me everytime. It feels like an extinction of the ones I deeply care about.
This has been the most difficult year of my life; never in time have I been hurt as much as I was this year. But, in all I have learnt that:
When a loved one passes away, a child is born.
When a friend walks away, clarity steps in.
When there are unanswered prayers, evaluation takes place.
When there is pain, pleasure, somehow, will come.
When there is chaos, there will be peace afterwards.
Nothing bad comes for free.
Today, I am here to laugh at these odds.
Will you laugh with me?