Afandai sat still for about thirty minutes glaring at her son, Aku, as he struggled to bring the Grain Mill back to life. She thought she enjoyed watching her son put to practice, his four years of apprentiship. I am proud of you Aku. She whispered slowly in her mind. She couldn’t tell if he heard her or not, but of course she is. It didn’t matter if he knew about it. For a moment, her optic nerve couldn’t collect anymore. There were no newer images to fascinate her. Only the broken Grain Mill lingered before her sight. For her son, he is just a drenched blank paper, upon which no story would be written nor read. He will certainly grow to be nobody. She could do her best to teach him the basic ethics of life, but how that would mean a capital for life’s enterprise remained perplexing. Her eyes swelled with tears. She could cry it out loud, if only it would change a thing. They only flowed with no obstacle nor voice to echo the agony from her heart. Will she ever be able to explain the meaning of the statement “I am proud of you?” His father said that once when he was born but never lived to explain it in full. Maybe, he only said it to show the ecstasy of surviving the stigma of childlessness from the society. He was a certified father by the order of Aku’s birth. He never intended to stop there, until he created a significant chain of bastards. Children that would have to start their lives on their own. Fight their way through the harsh realities of life. On Afandai’s part, her husband could do whatever, for all she cared, but she could not vindicate herself from being a cohort in wasting this boy’s life. She was part of the plot. Even though she never knew about the end.
Her pains would have been balmy if Aku’s failure to be useful to his generation remained her only duel in life. But she is also broken afar from her wants. Her first union with Aku’s father faded away like the morning stars. For the second, she can’t really explain why he vanished. It was again on an attempt to see the crest people say is greener on the other side. She wanted it for herself and Aku too. Having failed, she only blames herself to have ever asked from life again. She is obviously part of a generation marooned in a world in which heart desires become the very means of a person’s bondage.
Her second attempt at happiness still lingered in her memory cogently. She still burnt with fury at the deception he wore on the first day they met. She could feel her bare foot being willed into the labyrinths of destitution. If only she knew he was a married man, or perhaps, if she was still married to Aku’s father, the Solomon of their days… She wondered if there was a better wisdom God ever gave to man.
On that day, Afandai had watched the two basins of her cassava flour, sit on the table like pyramids of Egypt all day. No transaction reduced them, except the adventurous eyes of tourist which her customers had imbibed lately. On that day, even Mother Nature swore a siege against Afandai. Day-light bowed in respect as the clouds roared in labour at the final minutes of their ninth month. She packed in her pyramids of “Alebo” quickly and was soon on her way home. She lifted her legs fast. Forcing them to move at an unusual pace. She had not gone far when a black Camry (2008 model) drove slowly beside her, so that, they were parallel to each other. She kept a mindless attention at first and continued home. This time, at a breezy pace. The car was not the type to give up easily. Not when feminine passengers are involved… “Madam, permit me to put an umbrella over your head through the rains,” came a gentle-manly voice out from the car. She knew she needed an umbrella for the rainy weather at hand, but hardly saw the umbrella willing to cover her even through sunny days. Hesitation at that point was not necessary, hence it gave way for urgent familiarity. “But sir, as much as I would appreciate your kind gesture, I refuse as well, any inconvenience I will cause.” She said, with a cheerful smile. Men hardly knew when not to strike, not when you announce your willingness through such a smile as one Afandai showed. “With great pleasure madam, I wouldn’t mind carrying a real umbrella through the rains for you, better still, I think the car makes it much easier.” The man replied. And so it began. A journey that led her to nowhere. He couldn’t just stop visiting, and sometimes, made of flowery gifts his accomplice. Desecrating gifts that could be used to paint lifetime joy in some cases. He held Aku by the hand and talked to him about how special he was; making it clear when necessary that, it is only one who is void of senses that could abandon such a set who needed the best of all attentions. Anytime he did that, he made sure Afandai watched with thoughts through her mind. He could imagine her thinking about how angelic he is, what a benevolent life saver he is. Coincidentally, he was right. All her thoughts, whatever they were, practically culminated into the popular axiom: “you don’t know the value of what you have, until it’s gone.” He confirmed this in her readiness to start a new life for herself and offer to her son what she considered to be the best. True enough, Aku needed a father and a family. On Aku’s part, agreeing with the situation at his disposition became paramount. He couldn’t imagine the ecstasy of having to wake up one morning with a father. He had always envied the children in school, whose fathers made it a duty of making the fatherless, such as him, feel less cared for by coming to pick their children from school every day of the week. Now he has a father, he will not ask a silly question such as “which market was he bought from?” no one in his shoes would.
Looking at Aku now, Afandai couldn’t lie to herself that Aku is a symbol of her error in life. She sobs. He is innocent and deserves more to his life. He is intelligent and hardworking, but it couldn’t do more than give him a very good jamb result. The admissions shut their gates at him. It was the biggest stride she fought, but it only mocked at her from afar. It became apparent that he needed someone to go with him and see a person or two, to identify with him and say his life could also be useful to the development of the nation. This alone can make solid her liquid thoughts.