The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
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… because you easily forget others. Afterall, I worked hard for my money, and I can decide whom and what to spend it on. No? I don’t want to be famous. The world doesn’t understand fame. It confuses it with infallibility. Yet, I don’t want to be poor. It makes you forget that you actually have choices. Note the plural form. I don’t want to be powerful. Then, it becomes easy to let people know what you can do. You won’t ever look the other way. You forget that the same way you have been provoked you provoke others. I could go on and on and on. I really just want to be happy. Laughter, laughter and more laughter. How did I even launch into this tirade again?
‘Yeh! Yeh! Mo ti ku o! ‘ (Ouch! Ouch! I am dead ooo)
I awaken abruptly from sleep. This is not a dream. I suspect that one of my co-tenants is beating her son again. I pull on my joggers and make my way out of my apartment. If she is anything like me or my mother, my interference will worsen her son’s case. I have to try. The beatings have been occurring too frequently. I pick up my pace as my feet land on the corridor. I see that her son is putting up a display – dodging the cane, getting himself tangled with her feet and screaming at the top of his voice. I can see some welts across his cheeks. I know the trick. You display half of the time, you miss 50 percent of the strokes. The downside, the two or three strokes that hit the mark ensure you never forget. I maintain a safe distance as I plead with her to forgive him. I actually apologise on his behalf. She pays no attention to me. I move closer while I keep begging. Once she pauses to tie her wrapper, I step between her and her son. She anticipates my move so I am unable to steal the cane from her grasp. She struggles with me. I refuse to let go.
‘Ma ko egba yii bo yin o’ (I will use this cane on you o.)
‘Ah. Mummy James. E jo ma. Ko ni se iru e mo. E fi eleyi fan i eti. ‘(Ah. James’ Mother. Please ma. He won’t do it again. Let this serve as a warning to him)
She begins to call him all sort of names, without losing her grip.
‘O da bi pe won ti se epe fun omo yii. Ki o to jade, mo pe, mo kilo fun pe ko gbodo ya ibo mi tabi ki o duro ki o ma woran. Mo ran nise ki o lo fun Iya Risi ni owo ti mo je won. Christopher (the house boy of our landlord) ri ni bi ti on ti wo Jenifa. Mo tun pe Iya Risi wo, won so pe ko yi ti de odo won. O ti to wakati merin. Mo ba lo wa. O joko ni waju odo Iya Risi ti on sunkun. Nibi ti o ti lanu le ti o n woran ni won ti yo owo mo lapo. Se omo odun mejila ti wa kere ju lati jise?’ (It seems like this child is cursed. Before he went out, I warned him to not deviate from the errand I am sent him on. I sent him to Iya Risi to give her the money I owed her. Christopher saw him watching Jenifa. I called Iya Risi to confirm if he had gotten there. It was like four hours later. I then went to look for him. He was in front of Iya Risi’s shop, crying. Where he was carried away watching TV< somebody had picked his pockets. Is a twelve year old too small to run errands?) She begins to cry, lamenting the time and energy she has used to instill discipline in the child who has refused to learn. I grab the cane from her and wipe her tears. I say a few kind words to James. Ordinarily he deserves more strokes of the cane. The road side viewing centres are not really so popular now. Then when football matches are not on, the centres play music videos and movies. So passerby – old and young alike – just stop and stand there in front of the TV by the road side watching TV. It gets on my nerves. I guess we didn’t have to contend with that. My parents loved watching TV, so we always had a TV. I even think my Dad got a flat screen just before he died, and my mom did not even blink. Ordinarily, we weren’t even supposed to be able to afford it.
I take a deep breath after ensuring James apologises to his mother while lying prostrate on the ground. It didn’t work with my mum, but it was usually the first step in getting her forgiveness. When I get back to my apartment, I check my phone. My brother has left me a message that he would video call at a later time in the evening. I like his Canadian wife. She is young. I am tempted to think there is a love story developing somewhere there. They have one really cute baby. My kid brother is really blessed. And I am glad that one of us succeeded where our father couldn’t.
Video call with my kid brother. He is robust and ruddy. His wife looks like quality time is still sacred lol. My brother has always been the romantic. When I saw him, his cute baby and his wife something just broke and I began to weep. I cried so much, tears of joy and happiness. We made it. He survived it in one piece. It must have been James’ beating that undid me. I asked him if he remembered the time they asked him to write an essay in secondary school titled ‘my future ambition’. He said he did. I asked him if he remembered the content. He said of course. I asked him if he remembered the contents. He said vividly. I asked him if he remembered what I said. He asked if I meant what I did. He laughed. I cried even harder. I beat the living daylights out of him. In his essay, he wrote that he wanted to be the NURTW Chairman, where he would have an office at the bus park and have the touts do his biddings. He would actually have so much money and not have to work so hard. I must have beat the ambition out of him and beat a new one into him. I was so mad. I prayed like mummy prayed while beating us and I beat him mercilessly. He still bears some of the scars today.
These days, that’s probably child abuse. Our dad was a danfo driver and sometimes we hung around the park. It is easy, now that I think about it, to see where the ambition came from. I asked him if anything stood out for him. He said yes. He said while beating him, I kept on repeating over and over again, ‘You must be a great man.’I cried some more.