Did you miss chapter one of this story?
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 asleep with an obviously erect penis. He lay on his back, and had a pair of pyjamas on, so that made it obvious. Ngozi immediately remembered the last time she saw Maxwell erect; it was a decade ago, three days after his 22nd birthday.
She returned from work unusually early that day, as she needed to pick some documents for an ongoing promotion exercise at her workplace. She heard voices in the children`s room. She didn`t expect to. She expected Maxwell who had come visiting to be in his holiday class in preparation for his Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, an exam he needed to pass in order to gain admission into the university of his choice.
“Who could these be?” She thought. Then she became afraid of the thought of voices in her house. She feared that they could be burglars. Her children were at school, Maxwell was in his holiday class, she thought, and her husband was at work. She moved closer and heard,
“Just the tip, just the tip, please. I promise not to enter.”
“No, I don`t trust boys; that`s how you people say.”
“Nneka, I`m different. I won`t…”
It became clear! The voices were Maxwell`s and Nneka`s. Nneka was their neighbour`s daughter. Her mother was Biola`s colleague at work, she taught History, while Biola taught Mathematics and Further Mathematics at a nearby secondary school. Nneka`s father had travelled to Canada since two months after she was born. He never returned home. Nneka and her mother joined him in Canada five months after this incident that first got Ngozi afraid, then angry and disappointed.
Ngozi barged in. Maxwell and Nneka were terrified. But that wasn`t all they felt. Nneka had a questioning look on her face towards Maxwell who had assured her that no one would be in the house at that time. Maxwell had the look of one whose plan had been thwarted. He was more disappointed than terrified. He looked like one who had missed a long-sought opportunity. They both stood there, stark naked. Nneka tried to use her hands to cover her breasts, but her hands weren`t big enough to adequately do such a huge task. She was ashamed, so she looked away. Maxwell, who had an erection when Ngozi got in, had lost it, and was trying to cover his bushy penis. As Ngozi moved closer to them, Nneka managed to run to the other side of the room, picked her clothes, and ran out to the living room where she hurriedly dressed up and left the house. Maxwell was left in the room to shamefully stare at Ngozi who was highly disappointed at a younger brother who she selflessly tried to take care of since the death of their father. She looked at the ignorant 22-year-old who was persuading a 15-year-old for sex without any visible condom around. He probably didn`t even know what a jail term was. He probably didn`t know the struggle involved in raising a child. He didn`t realise that she spent fifteen thousand Naira, of the twenty thousand Naira left in her bank account to pay for the lessons he missed to persuade a girl for sex in her children`s room. She thought of hitting him, all the while they stared at each other, but the thought of the obvious ignorance attached to his youthful exuberance restrained her. She left the room teary, and they never talked about it. Ngozi didn`t mention it to anyone either.
So she saw this same Maxwell with an erect penis this Sunday morning. A decade had passed. Maxwell was a graduate already, job-seeking. Nneka too should be in her mid-twenties. Ngozi frowned at the memory and tried to take it off her mind. She woke her children up to prepare for church. She woke Maxwell up with a different energy — the energy required to fight his resistance, as usual, every Sunday, although he always won. Maxwell, since his final year in the university, stopped going to church, and also stopped engaging in religious activities. He had some philosophical quotes and endless arguments on why he didn`t have to go to church. This was a battle they have fought for six years.
“Maxwell, wake up quickly and prepare for church.”
“Aunty, please I need this sleep, please.”
“What sleep? Today is Sunday, and as long as you remain under my roof, you will worship God.”
Busola and Adedoyin, already awake, didn`t act like anything was happening; they saw it every Sunday. It wasn`t new.
Maxwell remained quiet, unperturbed. Ngozi got some water in a cup and poured on Maxwell`s head. He got up, frowning, and attempted to leave the room.
“Come back here, where do you think you`re going? Don`t you pity yourself? You`ve been jobless for five years, at your age. Your mates are married, you can`t even boast of…”
“So I should go to church because I`m jobless?” Maxwell interrupted. “Do you know how many of your church members are jobless? Is going to church an assurance of…”
“Shut your mouth!” Ngozi screamed at him. “You ignorant child! What do you know about…”
“Max, what exactly is this satanic manifestation every Sunday?” Biola was out of his room, and as usual, joined Ngozi in chastising Maxwell. “How can you be in this world and not hold on to God? Don`t you know that the devil…”
“Manabi, Manabi, sorry for cutting you, but please, I believe I`m old enough to…”
“We see you as a child, no matter your age,” Ngozi interrupted. “I bathed you, I washed your…”
“Aunty please!” Maxwell screamed. “If I were in my own house, would you try to force me to go to church? Even if I would go, it wouldn`t be that your Fire and Thun…”
“Keep your mouth shut, before I ask the Holy Spirit to shut it for you!” Biola quickly interrupted. “Don`t blaspheme…,” he tried to continue.
“Mummy, please where`s the iron?” Adedoyin asked. They all looked in his direction, as he stood by the door to the children’s room. He had a pair of pink trousers and a white shirt in his right hand.
“Why can’t Busola do her ironing herself?” Biola asked.
“But what’s wrong with her brother helping her?” Ngozi responded.
“The clothes are even mine,” Adedoyin said.
“Pink trousers? Yours?” Biola asked, surprised.
“Dad, what’s wrong with it?” Adedoyin asked, looking more surprised than his father.
“What’s not wrong with it?” Ngozi snapped.
“You’re not wearing that thing!” Biola said dismissively, walking away.
“But why, Daddy?”
Maxwell, walking closer to Adedoyin, said, “Adedoyin, boys don’t wear pink trousers or pink anything. Pink is a colour for girls.”
Busola, who was in the kitchen, burst out laughing. Amid her laughter, she asked, “Who comes up with these rules? So boys who like pink should pretend not to because some people think it`s for girls?”
“Boys can`t like pink,” Maxwell answered, “That`s not normal,” he continued.
Busola, who was already out of the kitchen, looked at Adedoyin, and they both shrugged, and remained quiet. Everyone except Maxwell continued preparing for church.
As usual, Biola was outside, trying to make his car work. “Maxwell, Adedoyin, come and push this car, please.” Maxwell and Adedoyin approached him, the former walking reluctantly.
“But Manabi, when will the God of Fire and Thunder provide a new car? No one uses this model in 2012,” Maxwell teased as he pushed the car. Biola remained quiet.
After about three minutes of pushing, Biola was able to ignite the engine. All three men could faintly hear Ngozi and Busola arguing in the house, so they moved closer.
“But Mummy, it is almost at knee length.”
“It is not about almost. It should go past your knee.”
“But nothing! As long as you`re in this house, you will obey me.”
At this time, Biola, Maxwell, and Adedoyin were already at the entrance, listening.
“Before I count three, you should have changed that skirt!” Biola shouted.
“What nonsense! We`re almost late, and you`re there negotiating with her; you should have slapped her,” Biola said to Ngozi.
“I know all this is about church promotion and giving an impression of a perfect family; but the truth is what it is,” Busola said as she grumbled. Only Adedoyin knew what she said, but he only chuckled.
Maxwell, smiling sheepishly, said, “Aunty, but young girls of these days can be funny; in our time, who dared wear such…”
Busola, who was already going in to change her skirt turned back and screamed angrily, interrupting Maxwell, “Max…Uncle Maxwell, don`t you ever interfere in matters that concern me. Don`t!”
“I think you`re playing with these children too much. You should let them know you`re not mates,” Ngozi said to Maxwell.
“I…I…I think you`re right, Aunty. This pl…play must reduce.” Maxwell said, embarrassed, and secretly glad that Biola and Adedoyin had left for the car.
Busola, already having a longer skirt on, together with Ngozi, joined both men in the car, and they left for church.
Maxwell had a usual practice whenever he was alone in the house. He would open Busola`s laundry basket and passionately sniff some of her underwears until he got aroused. He sometimes masturbated with them. He did these, got on his bed, then picked one of the books he had been reading, god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens.
Chapter 3 — Unspoken Truths
Check this space next Sunday, July 21st, 2019, for chapter three.
The writer is Akinsiwaju Sanya.