Family Ties

Saturdays at the Ajanaku`s

“Ahn, ahn, ahn, aaaaaahn! Yes, ahn.” He pecks her on the forehead, as if to thank her for the good feeling all over him.

“Just get away, shameless pretender!”

“Make sure no one knows about this, or else…,” he made a stern face, but she didn`t look at him.

“Uncle Maxwell, your phone is ringing,” they both heard Adedoyin scream from the living room, then Maxwell quickly wears his trousers properly, and ensures Busola is well dressed too, straightening her gown, even though he had helped her with it already.

Adedoyin is the type that when in a bright mood, would rather scream to announce to the owner that their phone rang, and when in a not-so-bright mood, would remain quiet. But he isn`t one to take a phone to the owner. And no one tries to make him do otherwise, because of how futile such an effort can be.

Maxwell hurries to answer his call, while Adedoyin goes into the children`s bedroom.

“Busola, are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes I…I am, yes,” Busola answered, as she gently swipes her right hand through her dress, from her waist down to her lap, to make sure she was properly covered.

Adedoyin walked closer to his sister Busola, and gave his usual investigative look, and said,

“Busola, you don`t look okay, what`s the…?”

“I`m fine, Doyin,” she snapped “It`s probably because I`m in my period.” She lied.
Looking convinced and more relaxed, Adedoyin responded, “Oh, I`m sorry. Don`t you use the pain…”

“Mummy asked me to stop using it,” she interrupted.

“Alright, just try to be…,”

Adedoyin`s phone rang, and he answered his call, leaving Busola in her melancholic state, which she preferred.

It was a Saturday, and as customary of the Ajanaku family, like some other homes in Nigeria, they had had pap and akara for breakfast. Adedoyin and Busola`s​ father, Biola Ajanaku, had gone to teach at a Saturday Math Club, while his wife and mother of Adedoyin and Busola, Ngozi Ajanaku, was cleaning the bedroom she shared with her husband, an activity she did only on Saturdays; Maxwell Okorocha, Ngozi`s​ younger brother who has lived with them for five years just left to play football after the phone call. Adedoyin and Busola haven`t had any fixed activities they do on Saturdays, since they both completed their secondary school education and waited for an admission opening in any of the universities of their choice.

Busola was in and out of her melancholic state, while Adedoyin did his laundry.

She felt she had slept for about an hour, only for her to open her eyes to see that she had spent two and a half hours sleeping that morning. It was 12:30 p.m. and Maxwell was back from his football game; he must have returned about 30 minutes earlier, as usual. Her dad just returned too, probably. She heard their voices, unnecessarily loud as usual. It was as if it was planned to do this every Saturday afternoon.

“Manabi, you don`t understand this rape issue; it is never the victim`s fault, how can you tell me…”

“Max, look, let me tell you something, the things these girls wear these days, even I, a married man, I can`t stand it; how much worse these young unmarried fellows.”

“But people can wear what they want, it is…”

Interrupting Maxwell again, “Max, look, leave all these your Western ideologies, they don`t apply here, we are…”

Maxwell, already infuriated, interrupted Biola “There is nothing Western about this, Manabi; it is just common sense, how can you…”

Now clearly angry, Biola got up and pointed his index finger at Maxwell,

“Young man, I won`t have you insult me in my own house; are you saying I don`t have common sense? Enough of this conversation! Bull shit! Rape can be anybody`s fault! Even the Bible says ‘Lead us not into temptation’.”

He left the living room angrily as he completed his last statement, leaving Maxwell, who was already texting while Biola spoke, restraining himself from responding.

As she usually does during such unnecessarily loud and heated arguments that always irritate her, Busola went to the backyard to play her guitar. She sang and played to a song, Fire on the Mountain, by one of her favourite artistes, Asa. Meanwhile, in her parent`s bedroom, Biola, her father, had transferred the aggression from his argument with Maxwell to his wife, Ngozi. This is something he does often. Everyone avoids him when he gets angry.

“I have told you to stop changing the arrangement of this room all the time! Now I can`t find my Further Maths textbooks.”

“But they`re right there by your feet,” Ngozi said.

“No!” he shouted at her, “Not any of these, the green one is what I am looking for.”

“But I saw you put it in your bag this morning; didn`t you take it to the Math Club?”

He grimaced, checked his bag, saw it, and remained quiet.

“Have you found it?” Ngozi asked.

“I think so,” he replied reluctantly.

She is used to it. Biola never apologises. He wants to be right at all times. She has learnt to tolerate him for two and a half decades. Adedoyin, who was in their bedroom to return the pack of detergent his mother gave him, heard how the textbook conversation went and was irritated at such treatment. He didn`t understand why his father chose to violate the same things he taught them when they were much younger. He remembered how his father was particular about manners. Was he merely playing the father role?

As usual, Adedoyin decided to speak.

“But Daddy, I thought you would apologise to Mummy.”

Biola, who was already on the bed, quickly pretended to be asleep. He couldn`t stand the young man`s guts. At twenty-five, he never interfered in his parents` conversations. He wondered how Adedoyin grew to become so confident. He couldn`t remember training any of his children to be so outspoken. While he had these thoughts, Adedoyin, who was sure his father wasn`t sleeping asked,

“Daddy, are you sleeping?” There was no response.

“Okay, since you`re asleep, I will drink the Coke in the fridge and buy it when you eventually give me my pocket money.”

Biola couldn`t keep up with the pretence any longer. He never likes to share his drinks, not even with his wife, Ngozi.

“Young man, don`t touch that Coke, or else…!”

Adedoyin and Ngozi looked at each other and laughed mockingly at Biola. Maxwell, who had been eavesdropping from the bedroom entrance, couldn`t stop himself from chuckling either. At this time, Biola repositioned himself on the bed, with the intention to actually sleep, his way of avoiding the embarrassment that made him so uncomfortable at such a time as this.

All this while, Busola had ended her me time and was in the kitchen making lunch. It is an unspoken fact in their home that Busola`s meals taste better than her mother`s, but everyone except Adedoyin gives Ngozi more credit for cooking. Adedoyin has never understood why he should pretend to think his mother cooks better when she obviously doesn`t. Busola watches YouTube videos to learn how to cook better, and also surfs the internet for recipes. Ngozi never does such. The best she knows about cooking is what her mother taught her over three decades ago. She is never open to new lessons. Maxwell, on the other hand, feels the need to support his sister, pretending their mother`s style is the best. Ngozi cooks in their mother`s style, and that`s okay.

Busola cooked some beans, as customary of the family every Saturday afternoon. She`s yet to see the sense in eating akara in the morning and eating beans in the afternoon, as both are beans in different forms. But she obeys anyway. Maxwell loves to eat his beans with soaked garri; Ngozi does too, and the rest of the family eat their beans with bread.

Unusual of them, they ate lunch quietly this Saturday afternoon. The reason was quite obvious. Biola and Maxwell argued; then it was Biola and Ngozi afterwards, and Adedoyin tried to correct Biola, which was also a problem. Busola and Maxwell had ongoing strife known to them alone. So lunch was eaten quietly, until Biola, toward the end of his meal, got his Coke from the fridge, and felt the need to ask Adedoyin if he still wanted some. He did, and Adedoyin declined with a wave of the hand.

“Why aren`t you asking me?” Busola asked.

“Shouldn`t you avoid sugary drinks this time?” Adedoyin asked.

“What time?” Biola asked as he poured some into a glass for Busola.

“Nothing serious Dad, I`m only in my period, I`ll be fine.”

Maxwell immediately began to cough like he choked. Everyone except Busola cared for him by either pouring some water into his glass or patting his back. Busola left the dining table and went to the kitchen to finish up her meal. Maxwell stopped coughing shortly after Busola left, and each person got up after their meal.

Chapter 2 — The Sunday Drama

It happens every Sunday. Their neighbours are used to it. In their part of town, people never approach neighbours to complain that activities they do within their homes disturbed them. You are expected to pretend not to know, or more precisely as in this case, you pretend not to hear. No one wants to be labelled intolerant. Such is the case in the part of Surulere, Lagos, where the Ajanaku`s home is situated.

At 4 a.m., Biola is up praying, more like screaming. It happens only on Sundays.

“Raba raba bo, resherere, sika sika leketanda, labibi li mo, sekerepete!” He says he prays in other tongues, whenever asked. He further explains that he prays in the Holy Ghost. He does this for 45 minutes to an hour every Sunday morning. What everyone knows is the noise, only Ngozi knows of the stench that fills the room while Biola does this. It has become a norm for Biola to attend a gathering of “community elders,” as they call themselves, every Saturday evening. He stays there till midnight drinking lots of alcohol and talking about every car and female that passe. These men — some like Biola in their fifties, some others in their sixties, and a few others in their seventies, about twelve of them altogether. They pretend to discuss the progress of the community and spend the money donated by fellow residents for security,  road repairs, and every other role that government at different levels has abandoned.

Biola gets home drunk on Saturday nights and wakes up on Sunday mornings, remembering he`s a member of the prayer department at Fire and Thunder Revival Church. It is as if it only dawns on him on Sundays. During his prayers, that Sunday, Ngozi left for the children`s room and saw Maxwell…

Check this space next Sunday, July 14th, 2019, for the rest of chapter two.

The writer is Akinsiwaju Sanya.

Twitter: @AkinsiwajuSanya

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