YOUR FRIEND; VERONICA (Prose)

Posted: October 12, 2014 in PROSE
Tags: , ,

by Tonye Willie-Pepple

The drive to No 2 Walter Carrington Street on Victoria Island is not too cumbersome, the appointment letter from the US Consulate General’s office reads 20th March 2006, 11am, since you left early enough from the hotel on Lekki Phase 1, it won’t be long before you arrived their gate.
In the time you spend on traffic, you notice, movements of passersby heading for the day’s work, some standing on bus stops, waiting for the Obalende route, others stationed there, selling either bean cake or unripe plantain chips.

Faintly, you over-hear bus conductors screaming, beckoning on passengers to board,
“Balende, Balende” one echoes in a very discordant tone and another continues with,
“Semes, Balende, Balende Semes”
You chuckle because he calls it “Semes” instead of “CMS” you remember the last time you were in Lagos from school on an adventure trip.

The driver then, a scruffy looking elderly man with gray hairs on the sides of his ears,swore to you and Elohor, that his bus was heading your way from Oshodi, only to realize a bit later from the sign posts around the approaching neighbourhood that you had been re-routed to Yaba as against FESTAC, venue of Tunde Ade’s party, which was what you went to Lagos for.
“Oga, No be Yaba we say we dey go now” Elohor protested loudly.
She was not one to be toyed around with, that girl, she spoke her mind anytime, anywhere and anyhow, sometimes it irritated you but other times it came out necessary, like then.
“Ahhhh, wis kind nonsense you de talk?” the old driver yelled trying to intimidate,
“Nor be Osodi to Akoka you hear me de shout when we dey for Osodi?” He continued.
“You de craze well, well, liar like you” Elohor exploded.
You had to try and calm her down because you knew she could cause a serious scene right there, not like you really cared if she lost her mind for you had witnessed that part of her several time, but your concern was more about an uncle or aunt not spotting you in Lagos, all the way from school in Owerri.
“Come down abegi, Ashewo, na so una dey waka without control” The old man had added, spitting his irritation in the air as he pulled over, and came down to open the bus for you, because he alone had the technical know how to open it.

For a moment you prayed he wouldn’t spit again, especially since he was close to you, such saliva could infect one with ringworm, you thought, with a smirk on your face, and you may well have just lost some decorum and shown him how much of Elohor’s character you had imbibed if it did touch you.

* * *
That was in 1998 when you were still young undergraduates at the Imo State University, Owerri, when all you could think about was Tunde Ade and his gangster ways. You wonder why you ever liked the boy that much to even think of going to Lagos where he eventually became the first man to feel the moistness between your thighs.
Maybe it was the voyeuristic tendencies that lurked beneath his playfulness, his rakish behaviours, you wanted to save him from being a bad boy, and you ended up being the bad girl. Or maybe it was you trying to make Elohor feel you were a big girl like her and enjoying the camaraderie that came with dating the roughest and the toughest on campus.
Whatever it was, maturity had made it disappear like ‘the puff of summer wind’.

* * *
Now in 2005 you were with Kamsi, you had known the dignity of being a woman because he treated you like his queen.
You turn your gaze away from the window towards Kamsi, you can’t believe you are finally married to him.
After four years of waiting for him to propose, to be a man, not that he was a woman, but from the south where you both came from, you Ijaw, he Igbo, a man was considered a man when if he could fend for his household from the strength of his arms.

You remember how Elohor had pointed her middle finger to her head and asked
“Are you mad?”
Her eyeballs shinning and rolling at the same time.
“A guy who cannot even afford to send you money to join your friends for shopping in Dubai, shopping that will help him in the end when you make profit from your sales” She had said.
When she yelled, trying hard to sink a point into your head even if it meant surgically putting them in there, she resembled Nneka the pretty serpent, a spiritually possessed but beautiful character in one of the early Nollywood movies.
“Elohor I am not mad but madly in love with Kamsi, he may not have enough to give me now, but he’s got prospects and last time I checked my family still cared” You replied her then, unconsciously admiring her make-up and how well it fitted her fair oval face. “I hear you, soon you will tell me about his plans to own a shipping line and bring goods from Spain, dem nor dey use vex buy ship ooo, na money.” She mocked.

* * *
“Honey we are almost at the consulate”Kamsi says turning to see you lost in him.
He smiles shyly and asks “Why are you staring at me?”
“Nobody said it was a crime to stare at my own husband” You reply and he says
“I’ll stare back my turn when we’re in a room in Hawaii” biting his lower lip mischievously.
You laugh at the naughtiness of his words, and you look forward to being in his arms,leaning your bosoms on his hairy chest.

This was the Kamsi you believed in. The Kamsi you finally married against all odds, and yes, you looked forward to announcing to the world that your Kamsi was taking you to America for honeymoon from his shipping profits.
You can’t wait to see Elohor’s face when you mention it to her, you imagine her rejoicing with same energy she had used to advice you against him. You imagine her say “Ahh, baby girl it was good you didn’t take my advice oo.” Yes, she could say it. She was good like that, which was why you called her Angel, sometimes.

* * *
“Mr. and Mrs. Ugonna?”
The voice from the low tuned public address system calls out, you walk down to the office which has a tag on the door written “VISAS”.
You remember all the stories you’ve heard of people who were refused visas. From their narratives, it was never a pleasant experience, but somehow you knew you’d get the visa, were you not the wife of Kamsi Ugonna again? The shipping magnate who travelled abroad like it was the next bus stop.
A few questions and a ticking on a paper after each, the stern African American lady gives you a smile of “You may now leave”.
“Please pick up your visas tomorrow” she says as if it was never a big deal after all.
You smile,at the same time feeling the sweat of joyful anxiety from your pores, you are finally going to America for your honeymoon, you had wish-fully talked about it with friends in school but now it was going to be a reality.
Kamsi squeezes your hands softly and leads you towards the lobby.

The next day you pick up your visas from another office where a rather cheerful lady wishes you a pleasant stay on the Islands of Aloha.
“What is that?” you ask Kamsi and he explains that it’s a slogan for Hawaii.
On your way out of the premises driven by the hotel cab guy who brought you, he busy bodily reverses without watching and hits a little boy down.

“Heeeyyyyy, e don die oooo, e don die ooo, hold am, hold am, ole, (Thief) e wan run” The voices shouting echoes and reverberates in your head, like a hypnotic feeling.

* * *
“Aunty, Aunty, wake up aunty” Chidiadi screams waking you up from a nightmare, you jump up, turning your head left and right to understand where it is that you are.
“Take him to the hospital, lets take him to the hospital”
You scream and Chidiadi replies
“Aunty we de for house”
“Blood dey your bed aunty” She adds looking sadly at your sheets, night dress and wrapper, all soaked.
Then, you realize it has happened again, another miscarriage;

“Where is Kamsi?” You ask.
“Uncle just comot wit dog now, go jog” She replies, “Na en say make I come help you clean the bed”
She adds walking into the bathroom, probably to get you a change of clothes and towel.
You look at the time, it’s past 6am,
“So he knew, the son of a bitch.”
You scream and burst into tears
“Sorry aunty, no cry, e go better.”
Chidiadi says coming in to see you in tears,
“Get out of here.” You order.
“Yes Ma.” she replied.

You know she didn’t deserve it but being considerate is the least thing on your mind and to think that she is one of the people Mama Kamsi brought from their God forsaken village to keep an eye on you, adds salt to injury.
You think of this because you remember the series of misfortunes you have had with pregnancies and Mama Kamsi’s response to each episode.

First it was the twin you lost three months after your return from Honeymoon, you didn’t know what to make of it, your doctor’s report proved you were very okay during the series of private tests you underwent after you said “Yes“ to Kamsi, because you were afraid the abortion you had many years back in school to remove Tunde’s baby had damaged you somehow, but Dr. Edozien certified you okay and only recommended an injection against development of antibodies in the event of a Rhesus factor incompatibility when you got married.
But your family’s Presbyterian Church had requested a full blown test on you and Kamsi, being a requirement of their Marriage Counselling for couples and the results showed you and your husband as Rhesus compatible.
So you were shocked when you aborted the twin you and Kamsi had so much started preparing for after the scan.

Mama Kamsi and a host of other family members came by to sympathize with you, some saying “Ndo” Sorry, others praying or singing from a hymn of comfort in trying times, while Mama Kamsi sat down legs crossed and arms folded, making a face like she was the worst hit by the misfortune.
Later she had called you to say “My daughter, Ndo ooo, Sorry, they will return, they only came to survey how and what the world looks like, they will return and others will follow whom they have gone now to call”
“Chim-ama-nda! My God cannot fail, he knows what is best.” She had said.
And as she walked away towards her bedroom, she waved her left hand thrice over her head in a fetish rejection of the evil she felt lurked around.

You had smiled at the contradiction of the Wrist Rosary on her right hand and her fetish gestures. And then sighing and murmuring a little prayer of thanks, you retired to your bedroom.
But what you did not know was that, that was the behaviour for first time miscarriages, everyone was so nice to you, expecting that a second would not occur.

* * *
The second time, it was not a miscarriage,; you were happy finally for the appearance of a light after the tunnel, Mama Kamsi reminded you she once said they would come back even when she was aware of the scan that said you were expecting just a boy.
Eventually he came out, still, after an excruciating labour pain which nearly saw you give up.
Then, something told you Kamsi was struggling between making you happy and being pissed off that you had not borne him a child, that was when you realised that sometimes education and exposure did not matter, when it came to an African man and his family in dire need for children.
You didn’t blame him instead you had wondered if he were your brother whose wife spontaneously aborted, you would not stop to think if she was spiritually okay.

* * *
Within months, you realized bitterly that intimacy with your husband was fast declining, most times he came back feigning tiredness and other times when perhaps he was tipsy from alcohol he freed himself inside of you as if you were a mere trash bin, going in and out of your gate without the least concern about how you felt.

“Kamsiyochukwu, our sex life is dwindling.” you had said, summoning all courage to tell him your mounting frustrations.
You were careful to call him by his full name mimicking his mother whenever she needed a favour or wanted to have a heart to heart talk with him, perhaps he would listen to you and try to improve if you called him that as well.

That marked the beginning of your series of endless talks on your dwindling intimacy which worsened by each passing day, until you realised, the reason for that was simply because he had been told by people like Mama Kamsi that you were a man like him and for that reason he left your right to emotional satisfaction, beneath the sheets of his mistresses’ bed.

* * *
So on this third episode, you decide not to take any chances, it is a spiritual matter and you must handle it as such.
You don’t want to hear Mama Kamsi call you “Amusu mbamiri” Riverine Witch behind your back when either speaking on the phone with Kamsi or talking to Veronica, the neighbour, who comes occasionally to greet Mama, though she wants all opportunities to be friends with you but you always refuse to oblige her.
To you she is another neighbour looking for the next gossip and hadn’t Mama Kamsi given her enough already?

“My Angel.” You say as Elohor picks up your call.
“Heyy, Kalanne baby.” she replies in her ever happy tone.
“You just forget me abi?” You attack jokingly.
“So you have also joined all the people who call me witch?” You accuse her playfully.
“Shoo, my baby girl, don’t talk so now, it is work that has tied me down, else I would have come to see you now.” She replies in her Warri accent.
You smile at this for a moment thankful for her friendship.
“E don happen again ooo.” you mutter in pidgin English after a deep sigh.
“The witch don eat anoda of my pikin oooo.” you continue, the tears pouring freely now.
“Ohh, God! My God why now? I’m so sorry baby girl, I nor even know wetin to use console you again. Ehn, I nor fit say make you nor cry sef, because I know as you go dey feel, but abeg no cry yourself to sickness now ehn, abeg.” Elohor replies slowly.
“I want to go with you to that ministry you told me about.” You say, tightening your face and wiping your tears with the other hand to affirm your new resolve.
“My sister, na now you come, ehen.” Elohor answers, ecstatic that you are close to your final solution.
“Dr. Christ go just touch all these katakata comot for your life, trust me.” She adds.
“If you can come over by the weekend, I’ll be grateful.” You reply and end with goodbye pleasantries.

* * *
It is a month since Elohor took you to Foundation of Miracle Ministry, Aka Solution Ground to meet with anointed Overseer, Dr. Christ, a stout looking middle aged man, whose white three piece suite seemed to be specially over-sized on request and whose pictorial cross dangled like a Tower clock’s minute hand.

He had prayed for you for three nights, anointing your insides with oil after pouring holy water on them chanting incantations which he and his believers, Elohor inclusive, called prayers.
You knew they were not prayers, you knew solution ground was a glorified black magic shrine but you didn’t care because while he performed his rituals; you imagined carrying your own child and Mama Kamsi’s Christian Women Organisation’s wrapper stained by his faeces for being upset that Kamsi had refused to take another wife in your place.

So on the night you manage to lure Kamsi, first to eating your cooked meal, because he rarely ate at home, and secondly to bed with you, wondering what the hell had attracted him since he was not high, his mobile phone rings while you are in heated passion and trying to turn it off it falls on the floor under the bed,where it remains till you are both done and panting.

“What the hell is this?”
he yells holding the egg tied with a white cloth and placed on top a bible, after bending down to pick his phone from under the bed.
“I can explain” You start, wanting to tell him that the egg was only a symbol of the expected child tied by God’s white cloth of protection and standing on the word of God.
You want to tell him, you believe your children will live from then onward, but your mouth is shut with a thunderous slap and blows you have never imagined on your worst enemy.

You know from his reaction that you cannot sleep there that night, without waiting to think, you run out of the compound.

* * *
You had thought she would say: “Get out you fool,” when you rung her bell and waited for her to open, but she didn’t, instead Veronica looks at you, first with surprise and then with pity on seeing your bruised face.
She hugs you and brings you in as though she had long expected to be your Good Samaritan at that hour.
“I can imagine what you have been through, I do not blame you for seeking spiritual help, perhaps if I had been in your shoes, I would have done worse” She says after hearing you narrate your ordeal to her.
This elevates you, these kind words from a stranger you thought was an accomplice of Mama Kamsi, the devil.
“Kamsi should never have hit you, look how wounded you are now.”

She continues gently pressing hot towel on your face and for some moment you forget your pain and imagine living in her world of serenity, beauty, forgiveness and abundance until your eyes meets a photograph of her late husband who you know was buried in November of the previous year.
You feel sorry for her and tell yourself “everyone has their pains”.

You are surprised she never asks of your family in an inquisitive manner, instead says
“I’ll take you back to your husband tomorrow and talk to him.”
This is after you have spoken non stop for thirty minutes on how tired you are with the marriage and how you are going to file for a divorce.
At first you feel bad for over sharing with someone who didn’t care to listen, but then you berate yourself, remembering that if she didn’t care, she wouldn’t have let you in to stay over the night in the first place.

“How is your dog?” She asks setting a tray of tea, coffee and biscuits on the side stool which she draws forward in between your chair and hers.
“Coffee or tea?” She adds, not waiting to hear your reply about the dog.
“Coffee will be fine” You answer and she gestures to you to feel free and pour yourself a cup.

Her daughter Ngowari comes and leans on her legs, dressed in a pink Barbie night gown, the talcum on her body mixes with the coffee smell to give the air, a scent of innocence,of tranquillity.

“I see Kamsi jogging with the dog every morning on my way to work, he must be fond of it?” She says ignoring her daughter’s craving for biscuits.
“He loves dogs, if not for my headstrong rejection, Stacia would have had loads of company, the way he dotes on her, I’ve never seen.” you reply.
“He even made me so used to Stacia, she climbs the bed often, what I hate is the tongue licking part which seems to be her joy.” You add.
“Can I ask Kamsi tomorrow if he can allow Bruce mate with her? The dog is dying for a girlfriend.” She says to your amusement.
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll jump at the idea” You reply.

* * *
True to Veronica’s words, she talks to Kamsi about you the next day, he forgives you and also apologises for his outrage, but then he carries on like of old, ignoring you every now and then.
You resign your fate to that of a perpetual childless mother, shut out of social circles, even from Veronica, whom you all of a sudden resent again for bringing a truce between your husband and you till one morning, you get an SMS from Dr. Abba, your family physician asking you to see him as soon as possible for some news.

Wondering what news it could be, you meet with him at St. Catherine’s Clinic where he tells you that a certain Veterinary Doctor friend of his by the name, Veronica, who happens to be your neighbour, learnt he was your doctor and approached him after trying several times to meet with you to no avail.

“After conducting some tests on your dog, which she says she wanted to mate with hers, she got concerned about your miscarriages.” he says to your confusion.
“Your dog, she said was diagnosed of canine brucellosis, a certain disease in dogs which we refer to as zoonotic because its transmittable to humans from animals.” He explains sensing your confusion.
“Sooooo?”You inquire further.
“There are certain people referred to in medical practice as immuno-compromised, among these group are pregnant women.” he lands and your jaws drop in utmost surprise which turns into disgust.
“To ascertain if this has been your case, given the spontaneity of your abortions, we may have to run some tests.” he concludes reclining back on his chair.

* * *
Its two years since Dr. Abba’s shocking revelation, you are gathered with family and friends on your daughter’s first birthday, Kamsi’s friends and their families are around, drinking, eating, playing, Mama Kamsi with her wrist rosary dishes steaming hot goat meat pepper soup into bowls and orders Chidiadi to hurriedly bring plates for the rice.

You smile and look through the window at the backyard where Stacia’s cage used to be, it is no longer there, you were treated with antibiotics, and she was euthanized on Veronica’s professional advice, saying even if she were treated, there was a likelihood of a relapse.
Just then you wonder about Veronica, That, woman, the devil who saved your life, you hear Ngowari’s innocent voice
“Good evening aunty, Good evening Mama.” she says to you and Mama Kamsi.
“Good evening dear, how are you? Where is your Mummy?” You bend towards her asking, and then the voice whispers warmly into your ear
“Your mummy is here.” You scream joyfully, like a kin returning home.

You embrace her, and in that moment both your eyes meet the children playing with icing sugar, your baby is there as well, Then the tears begin to roll down, tears of Joy and of friendship.
At this moment, all, Your friend, Veronica can hear you say is

“Thank you.”

Tonye Willie Pepple, Photo courtesy of Facebook, Tonye Willie Pepple's image

Tonye Willie Pepple, Photo courtesy of Facebook, Tonye Willie Pepple’s image

Tonye Willie-Pepple; an Ijaw from Bonny Island in Rivers State, studied Computer Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. His works have appeared in Sentinel, Kalahari Review and the Poetry Foundation Ghana, in 2013 he won the PEN Nigeria/Saraba Prize for poetry, he lives in Port-Harcourt with his family. You may reach him on twitter: @tonwep.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

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Comments
  1. Adaka Timothy says:

    Nice one @ pepple. That’s the irony of life, some times, we are wrong from our perception. We have 2 be careful.

  2. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    A story of one woman’s journey through time, through life. A young lady graduates from a wild life of freedom, sex and party, to a bride new wed, on her trip to America for her honeymoon. Few years met her as a barren woman with few miscarrages on her belt. A story of adventure, romance, tradegy, faith and the establishment of the fact that a saviour can be a neighbour’s door away.

    This is really a very good write up. . .interesting as well. I must say.

    Keep it up Mr Tonye.

  3. Anene Francis says:

    Beautiful story. I love the way the parts connect. Well done mr Tonye.
    *We may never realize who our true friends are. It’s not marked on the forehead after all… So in all dealings we must be cautious and prudent.

    (that, fetish gestures? The way we say ‘tufia kwa’. lol… I don’t see it that way o.)

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