PS I love you

Life was hard but it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Things were better when mother was still with father. Why did she leave? Why couldn’t she just beg father and go back?

PS I love you

I stared at the space where the VCR was supposed to be; it was gone again. It was usually gone for less than a week and always around the time we had to pay our school fees, just until Mom could pay the man at the pawn shop back his money. For me, it meant no re-watching of my 'Back to the future' videotape for the twentieth time. It sucked.


I heard one of her friends whisper that it was all Mom's fault for trying to send us to a fancy private primary school when there was a public school down the street. I heard a lot from whispers. I realised that as a child, once an adult saw you engrossed in an activity, they automatically assumed you had gone temporarily deaf and felt free to say anything no matter how inappropriate and even when it concerned you.


It was from the whispers I had heard about the 'big fight', the one that led to Father asking us to leave his house. It was those same whispers that informed me that Mom had given up her job in the big oil company and set up her own business so she could spend more time at home with my brother and me. I had to rely on whispers because Mom didn't talk much. She sang a lot; Sade Adu and Ebenezer Obey and her idol, King Sunny Ade, and told us how much she loved us ten times a day but she never told us why she would lock herself in the bathroom and cry every other day or why sometimes we had to hide when the landlord came over to collect his rent.


I wanted to tell her that at school we had learned the definition of the word divorce and that I understood it was the reason for all of it, but I never told her because the truth was, I blamed her for everything. I thought she must have brought this upon us, that she must have started the big fight that had made us leave Father's big house for our tiny flat. Maybe she liked this way of life, the constant hustle, and living on the precipice of social ruin. Why would she rather juggle her small business, teaching on Saturday, catering on Sunday with being our nanny and driver, when she could just spend all that energy to get us back with Father?


Apart from my inner rumblings, I was usually not sad. My brother and I were happy children, reading comics, books and renting films from the nearby VideoMart. That was until I entered Primary 6.


We had to change seating positions because many had gone on to secondary school and skipped the redundant year. I was seated next to Joan Rokosu, the richest girl in school. On her tenth birthday party, we swam in the swimming pool in her house and took home boxes filled with toys and sweets. Joan's mother, the beautiful Mrs Rokosu, didn't work, laughed all the time, and didn't have any stress lines on her youthful face. Everyone wanted to be Joan's best friend, but she chose me. She would bring chocolates to school for me and lend me her Enid Blyton books. Before long, I had abandoned my best friend, Tosin. I would spend all my time with Joan, from the moment I got to school till it was time to go home again. Every other Saturday, I would beg Mom to drop me at Joan's house so I could play with her dollhouse.


One day Joan asked me how it felt to be fatherless. Another time, she told me how bad she felt for me that my mother was being pressured to stop coming to our church because she was a single mother. One day it was Joan's beautiful mother that was saying how dreadful it was that no one in Father's family was reaching out to help us. All the regular commiserating made me realise there was a problem.


I knew we were going through a rough patch, but I never thought of it as a problem. I started getting more and more distant from Mom and angrier at her. One day, she asked me to pass the lantern when the electricity went out and I screamed at her, "Get the bloody lantern yourself. No one uses lanterns anymore! Why can't you buy a rechargeable lamp like everybody else?"


I thought I would get the cane that she kept behind the TV, and I was right. Three strokes helped to reset my emotions. I was sent to bed early, and I missed all the evening shows on the telly, including 'P.S. I LOVE YOU'. In bed, I thought about how I wouldn't have dared to speak to Mom like that a month ago and how my friendship with Joan was only making me angry at Mom. I decided then and there that I would stop being friends with Joan.


In class the next day, I was distant from Joan, ignoring her and answering her with curt yesses and nos. She sensed something was amiss and launched into a loud elegy of how she felt bad that poor me had to get to and from school by bus and how those buses had made my school uniform smelly. I turned to her, "Thank you for your sympathy Joan, but today I would rather do without it." Joan puffed up like a balloon about to burst, "Well, whatever, stupid fatherless child."


Some of our classmates sniggered. My former best friend Tosin blushed on my behalf. I did everything I could to stop the tears from flowing, but they seeped steadily and snaked down my face. Joan looked smug. Before the end of that day, she had a new best friend who worshipped her.


After school, I stood alone at the gate waiting for Mom to come and pick me to go home instead of going by the smelly bus. I had to break the cycle. I would do what Mom hadn't thought of doing; I would ask Father if we could come home.


I snuck out of the school gate and walked to the nearby taxi stand. "My father asked me to take a taxi home," I said to one of the taxi drivers with as much bravado as I could muster. "Do you have money to pay?" he asked.  
"Father said he would pay when we get there." 

The taxi driver obliged, and before long we were at Father's house. I prayed he would be around to pay. 

I got out of the taxi and hurried to the front door of the big house, rehearsing what I would say to him when I saw him. I would apologise for Mom and for the big fight and tell him how much we needed him, how much I needed him.


I knocked on the front door with my heart beating loudly in my chest. Father opened it and looked down at me. "How can I help you?" he asked. He probably didn't recognize me anymore. After all, I had added a whole inch in height over the summer. "It's me, Father."

"I know," he muttered impatiently, "Look, tell your mother sending you here will change nothing. I'll call her later."

He walked back into the house and slammed the door. I wanted to knock again, to tell him about the taxi, but my mouth had dried up and my fist had turned to jelly. 

I walked back to the taxi driver and told him my father wasn't at home and that my mother would pay. I prayed Mom had money in her big purse because the taxi driver looked on the brink of violence. This was an offence worthy of six strokes of the cane, I was sure.


I got home thirty minutes later to meet Mom sitting at the gate, her eyes red and puffy from crying. She interrogated both of us and didn't let the taxi driver leave until she was satisfied. She had to empty three different purses to pay him, but she didn't seem to mind. She took me into the house and held me close, whispering, "I love you!" over and over again.


I wanted to tell her I was sorry for not appreciating her, not trusting her, for making her worry. I wanted to tell her I had learned that love didn't have to live in a big house and it sometimes lived in tiny flats like ours, but I felt my words would be cheap. I would work hard to become a doctor, buy Mom a big house, and she would never have to cry again.


I waited for the cane, but it never came. Mom made me jelly and ice cream and she even let me watch 'P.S. I LOVE YOU'. 


Abidemi Abudu is an avid reader and part-time writer of short stories.

Copyright © Abidemi Abudu, 2022. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form on by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author/Alolitmag.


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