All through the flight back to New York, I was numb.
Of all the possible outcomes I had envisioned, meeting a woman in his apartment, and a white girl for that matter, hadn’t been one of them. Tears eluded me. Even the heavy weight that settles on your heart after a breakup wasn’t there. I just felt dizzy…numb. Jimi had clearly moved on.
But I didn’t even have enough time to marinade on this for too long. When I walked into Seyi’s house in New York, where Daddy and Mama Jay were, it was evident that all was not well. Even though I knew the reason behind the trip had been yet another intervention for their drug addicted son, it was clear that this wasn’t a case of a mild sniff here and there. The man who sat on that kitchen chair was a man far, far gone in his addiction.
Looking at the wild haired, wide eyed man, eating a plate of rice as if it was his first meal in years, he was nothing like the teenage boy I had once been introduced to, just before he left for university in America. But worse was yet to come later that evening, when he couldn’t leave the house to buy drugs, as his home stash had apparently been confiscated and destroyed by his parents. He turned into a raging animal…yelling like a wounded beast as he tried to break the locks of the door. When that didn’t work, he proceeded to attack his parents, roughly shaking his mother, and almost coming to blows with his father.
The scene terrified me, and my first inclination was to hide in a room with my son, until it was all over. But watching him manhandle Mama Jay was too much for me to bear, so I found myself joining them to restrain him. Eventually, after almost two hours of struggling, while at the same time taking a few punches here and there, he was finally subdued.
When he was asleep, I took one look at Mama Jay, and my heart broke at the sight of the bruises she carried. This attack had clearly not been the first.
“Mommy, you and daddy can’t handle Seyi on your own?!” I had said, stating the obvious. “Where is Charmaine?” I asked, referring to Seyi’s live-in girlfriend and baby mama.
“She left the day after we got here.” Mama Jay said, with a deep sigh. “It’s like she was just waiting for us! She took off with Erin!” Erin was Seyi’s 8 year old daughter.
“He needs to go to rehab, Mommy.” I said, placing a hand over hers. “If he doesn’t, he’s going to die of an overdose sooner than later!”
I hated being blunt, but this was no time for sugar coating. The Seyi in that house was a few sniffs away from ending his life. This was clearly on a deeper level than any of his previous bouts with drugs, when an intervention would be held, and he would seemingly agree to give up his habit. At least then, he’d still been able to manage to keep his job. But with the way he had declined, it wasn’t surprising to me that he had recently lost his job.
Mama Jay shook her head. “He doesn’t need rehab. I know I’ll get to him pretty soon. He’s my son. I bore him. He doesn’t need anyone else to help him through this…”
She had barely sounded convincing, but I wasn’t even one to push. There was no need to. Daddy and Mama Jay had both chosen what to believe, and all I could do, at that point, was hope they were right. I hadn’t even had the chance to tell Mama Jay about all that happened with Jimi, when I was in LA. In the grand scheme of things, it seemed mundane in comparison.
“Mommy, I’m scared of that man…” Rire said, as I tucked him into bed the following night. “He is always fighting and pushing Grandma and Grandpa. Is he a bad man?”
“No, sweetheart…” I answered my son, “He just made a lot of bad choices…”
As Rire slept, I prayed that God would intervene in the situation, which was obviously beyond my middle aged in-laws.
The next morning, Seyi sat in the living room, feeling and looking confused. He had a vacant look in his eyes, and for the first time, I saw the twitch that came from an unhealthy addiction. I avoided making eye contact with him, and instead busied myself in the kitchen, whipping up breakfast for everyone.
Just when I thought that Mama Jay was right, and that he was not as far gone as we thought he was, he showed us that, yes, he actually truly was.
We’d been having dinner, when we heard an uncharacteristically loud noise coming from the basement. Running in, we saw him pulling frantically at the iron bars in the window, wanting to dislodge them to create a way for him to escape. When that wasn’t happening, he became a hurricane; destroying furniture and breaking glass, and causing carnage in his wake.
After finding a way to subdue him that night, again, I knew it was not in our best interest to continue like that. So, the very next morning, I called Adun and told her everything. By afternoon, Wole, Adun’s husband, had sent two of his friends to the house…with an ambulance.
“Mommy, it’s the best thing to do…” I said, my heart broken by how deflated Mama Jay looked, as it became clear to her that this was a fight she could not win on her own.
“We can’t help him anymore…” Daddy Jay had said, his own voice broken.
Watching Wole’s friends and the medics restrain Seyi was painful and hard to watch. Watching him struggle like a caged animal, brought tears to my eyes, but we all knew this was what was needed. He needed some proper, orthodox treatment, and not just winging it and playing by ear.
Daddy and Mama Jay had accompanied the ambulance to a small rehab centre, on the outskirts of New Jersey, while I stayed home with Rire. Everyone was clearly relieved. Mama Jay sent for more clothes as she planned to stay there with her son for as long as she need to.
For the next week, that became our routine. 6am in the morning, Daddy Jay would be on his way to Grand Central Station to get on a train to New Jersey, mostly armed with food for Seyi and Mama Jay. On a few occasions, when I found a good babysitter, I would accompany them to the centre, during which time Mama Jay and I would pray for Seyi’s complete healing. Through it all, I lived with the fear of when Jimi would show up, as I wasn’t quite prepared to face him yet. Thankfully, but strangely, his parents chose not to let him know what was going on with his brother. But it suited me just fine.
When my leave ended, I took one look around me and I realized there was no way I could leave my former in-laws there alone. Taking a hot meal to Mama Jay, or making Daddy Jay comfortable, despite their troubling time, made me feel like I was at least doing something useful.
It also took my mind of Jimi.
Being able to submerse myself into caring for them, was doing me even more good than it was them.
But by the 7th week of our stay, Daddy and Mama Jay insisted I return to Nigeria, primarily because of Rire, whose school was back in session.. As I prepared to leave, Daddy Jay prayed for me profusely.
“We owe everything to you.” Mama Jay said. “If it wasn’t for you, only God knows what would have become of Seyi now.”
I was sad to leave them, but happy to be returning to a place of comfort.
Four weeks after my return, Daddy and Mummy Jay returned to Nigeria, with Seyi. The younger man looked calm and serene, a far cry from the wild beast he had been over the summer. Within a week of his return home, his dreadlocks had been cut, his scraggly beard shaved off, and there was now a serenity around him. He couldn’t quite look me in the eye, which was an indication that he’d been lucid during those wild times in New York. He was obviously ashamed of the way he had behaved, and who could blame him. But if his parents could forgive him, who was I? However, Rire wasn’t quite as forgiving and avoided his uncle like the plague. Again, who could blame him?
After a month, he was sent to Ibadan to spend some time with his maternal grandparents, Mama Jay’s parents. The rationale behind this was to give him more time to rest and recover, before having to start life all over. A few months shy of his 30th birthday, he had already lost everything; his job, his child, everything he had worked for. Restarting life back home in Nigeria wouldn’t be easy.
Christmas 2006 rolled along, and Seyi finally returned home. By this time, he had gained a few healthy pounds and the glint had returned to his eyes. He was back to being the ebullient and humorous young man I remembered. He livened up what would have been a boring Christmas lunch, and by the end of that day, even Rire was drawn to him. All was finally well with him, and he was ready to begin job hunting in the New Year.
“I’m sure you’re so relieved, Mommy!” I said to Mama Jay, as we cleared the dishes after dinner. “God is so good!”
“Hmmmm! Folabomi! You don’t know how much!” Mama Jay had replied, shaking her head as the memories flooded her head. “The last few months have been the worst of my life!”
We worked in silence for a while, but I just had to ask her the question that was tugging at my heart.
“Mommy, why didn’t you let Jimi know what was happening with Seyi?” I asked.
Mama Jay looked at me, and smiled sadly. “It was because of you, Fola.” she replied. “When you came back so soon after leaving for LA, I knew all wasn’t well. So, I called Jimi that night…and he told me what happened. He told me about that Evelyn or Eve, or whatever he called her name.”
I smiled, in spite of myself. “Ava, Mommy.”
“Whatever!” she said, waving her hand in disdain. “I was so angry with him. The divorce hasn’t yet been finalized, yet…” she sighed deeply. “The next night, when Seyi almost killed all three of us, I was tempted to call him. By that time, I knew that help was needed, where Seyi was concerned. But luckily, you got your brother-in-law involved, and there was no more need. And when we were in rehab, I knew that having Jimi over would not only make you uncomfortable, it would upset you. And I didn’t want to do that…not after all the sacrifice you were making for us there…”
I felt a tear roll down my face, amazed at the sacrifice Mama Jay had made for me. Having Jimi around would have really eased the pain for her, but she had chosen to protect me instead.
“After you left, we did call him. And he came to New York to continue where we left off.” she continued. “I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him about the oyibo girl, and luckily, he didn’t mention her either.”
I felt a surge of hope suddenly. “He didn’t talk about her? Do you think they’ve broken up?”
Mama Jay shook her head. “No, Fola. He spoke with her multiple times a day. They are clearly still very much together. He just didn’t speak about her with me.”
My heart crashed back to the ground, all hope dissipating like a cloud of smoke.
Mama Jay held my hand. “You don’t know how much I wish things had turned out differently with you and Jimi!”
I nodded sadly, the realization hitting me that if Mama Jay, our biggest supporter, had given up hope, then it was well and truly over between Jimi and I.
I made up my mind, there and then, to move on…to put Jimi behind me for good.
You can catch up on Fola’s story here:
- Sister, Sister 1: Calling Me Mrs.
- Sister, Sister 2: The Odd Family
- Sister, Sister 3: Floating On Air
- Sister, Sister 4: The Many Wives of Jimi
- Sister, Sister 5: Russian Roulette
- Sister, Sister 6: So Much In Common
- Sister, Sister 7: An Unlikely Pair
- Sister, Sister 8: Longing For Her
- Sister, Sister 9: The Return
- Sister, Sister 10: The Catastrophe
- Sister, Sister 11: Not Working
- Sister, Sister 12: Sham of a Marriage
- Sister, Sister 13: Invisible Strings