January 8th, 2010
How did we get here? How on earth did we get here? How did things come to this?
Those were the thoughts running through my mind, as we sat in the modest living room of Uzoamaka’s eldest sister, Oby. I remembered having given her a ride here, the year I opened my shop. She had had an emergency and had needed to get to her sister’s house as a matter of urgency, and as I had wanted to please my new neighbor, I had done the drive all the way to Ogba, without even complaining. I remember how we had gotten here at about 4pm, and despite my insistence on immediately getting back on the road, so I could get back to the island before dark, Oby had insisted I stay for lunch. The smell of ofe nsala coming from the kitchen had made the decision for me, so I had stayed there till well past 6pm.
And now, I was here again, but where was Uzoamaka?
Looking around at the pockets of people scattered around the room, and even outside, it still felt surreal to me. This couldn’t be happening!
Wasn’t it just yesterday that Uzo and and I had been constantly bickering? Wasn’t it just yesterday she was lamenting about stocking her shop? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she had such wonderful plans for Christmas in Oguta?
Unfortunately, she never even made it to Oguta.
As Oby recounted the story, for what I assumed to be the umpteenth time, I noticed how much she had aged in the few years since I’d seen her. She wasn’t a day older than 47, 49 at the very oldest, but she looked almost 60, no thanks to her grief.
On December 23rd, the day before Uzo was to have travelled to Oguta, her flat had been stormed my Policemen. Her son, Okwuchi, had been involved in a robbery in the nearby Victoria Garden City Estate, and he and his gang had carted away with goods worth millions of naira. Alas, the Policemen had refused to believe that even Uzo, his mother, had not seen him in over a week. And so, she had been taken away to the station, where she had spent 2 nights, until her sister, Oby, who hadn’t been able to travel for the holidays, had bailed her on Christmas morning.
She described how subdued and defeated Uzo had been, when she picked her up from the station. It was like the light had been extinguished from inside her. She had declined Oby’s offer to come with her to Ogba, and had asked to be taken home instead. But all the way home, she had lamented about her curse, called Okwuchi, and had wondered what she had done to deserve such an evil child.
Not liking her disposition, Oby had opted to spend a few days with Uzo. She had tried to cheer her up with hearty meals, and anecdotes of their past Christmases in Oguta, but something in Uzo seemed to have shut down.
That fateful day, December 29th, the man Okwuchi had robbed had brought thugs to their house, demanding they produce him from wherever he was being hidden. The sisters pleaded, to no avail, as the house was searched from top to bottom. When the search yielded no results, they had beaten them both up, before leaving with the promise to return.
According to Oby, even though they were emotionally traumatized from the beating, neither of them had received any serious injuries. But their neighbours had insisted on taking them to the hospital anyway, where they had been given a clean bill of health.
Getting back home, Oby said Uzo had sat on a stool, on her veranda, muttering to herself. Even when Oby had tried to engage her in conversation, she had continued the self mumbling, head shaking, and finger biting. Eventually, she had agreed to go to bed. Oby said, that night, she made up her mind to remove Uzo from that hostile environment the very next day.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. As when she hadn’t emerged from her bedroom by noon, Oby had been shocked to find her sister lying lifeless on her bed.
There had been no foul play, and the absence of drugs and other paraphernalia ruled out suicide. Uzoamaka had simply given up.
At this point, I sobbed uncontrollably.
I blamed myself for not having been a better friend to her…for not being someone she could have called in her time of need. I blamed myself for all those times I kept her at arm’s length, instead of drawing her close. Now, she is gone…and we are left with nothing but regrets.
Okwuchi is still on the run. Even the news of his mother’s death hasn’t made him resurface. Sitting there in that living room, I felt such hatred for the young man, and going by the looks on the other faces in the room, I wasn’t the only one.
Uzo had had him as a teenager…17 to be exact. She had just completed her GCSE, and had gone to spend the holiday with her Uncle in Onitsha, where she had been seduced by the good looking apprentice in his spare parts shop. Her very astute Aunt had realized she was pregnant even before she had, so an abortion had been out of the question. And so, she had been sent back to her parents, toting a huge belly.
Unfortunately, that had put paid to any form of further education for her, as her parents had blatantly refused to adjust their lives to care for an infant. So, she had dedicated her own life to caring for her son.
But from an early age, the boy seemed destined for delinquency. From telling outrageous lives, to petty thievery, by the time he and his Mother moved to Lagos when he was in his early teens, he had become a confirmed problem child.
Because of him, their brief attempt to relocate to America was terminated, as Uzo’s sister had sent them packing, after one-too-many incidents of theft and suspected drug abuse. They were back in Nigeria after only 4 months. Because of him, Uzo couldn’t do anything worthwhile. If she raised capital, he would steal it. His reputation always found a way to precede them both, making it impossible for his mother to grow beyond small scale retail.
And, of course, he was the main reason she had never married, as all the men who had been interested in her, had been scared off by her delinquent son.
And now, his actions had cost her her life.
As I drove back home, I wept. I wept uncontrollably, and pleaded with God not to allow my boys be a source of shame and heartbreak for me.
Uzomaka! My dear friend. Please, rest in peace!
Catch up on Ihunna’s story here:
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 1: Grubbido
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 2: Fragile
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 3: Defiant
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 4: Progress
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 5: The Gym
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 6: Killjoy
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 7: Pain
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 8: Frenemies
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 9: Exhilarated
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 10: Popcorn
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 11: Free-fall
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 12: Sunday Morning
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 13: Mission Reactivated
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 14: New Things
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 15: Bad Business
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 16: Luxury Items
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 17: The Solution
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 18: Magic Formula
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 19: Date Night
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 20: Quinoa
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 21: Perfect Fit
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 22: Keeping In Touch
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 23: Delete
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 24: Philosophical
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 25: Keep it Moving
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 26: My Co-Wife
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 27: Old Jeans & Old Friends
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 28: Prawn Stir Fry
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 29: Facebook Tagging
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 30: Detox Part 2
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 31: Abs & Crunches
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 32: Making Notes
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 33: Christmas Party
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 34: Ashiedu
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 35: Willpower
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 36: Packing…and TV
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 37: Last Minute
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 38: Body Image
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 39: Christmas Trip
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 40: Christmas in the Village
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 41: Daddy’s Girl
- Confessions of a Fat Girl 42: 2010