The day you looked into the eyes of your mother, you saw your father in them dressed tattered. He sat on a wooden chair, his hand on his jaw and he looked pale and dejected in her eyes. You saw your picture and that of your brother with him. Then, you asked your mother what killed your father; she dragged you to your father’s room. There you saw an old radio and a cassette on the table. On the cassette is written boldly “Beware of Woman”. On the wall of his room are pictures of Delilah and that of Potiphar’s wife holding the clothes of Joseph. Your mother stood afar off and motioned you to move on to search for your father’s thoughts or maybe his spirit or maybe his last words or maybe what killed him. You paused inside the room, unable to do anything just like her. You saw him again in your mother’s eyes crying. The dark room made the picture in her eyes brighter and clearer. You thought it was an imagination created by your eyes but it wasn’t. You tried to hide your face away from his expressions and the way he blinked his eyes in your mother’s eyes but you could not. After some minutes, you walked out of the room crying. You met your brother curled on the bed weeping also.
The night before, the ghost of your father had visited you. He showed you scars and wounds on his body. Thereafter, you wanted to touch it but he moved backward. You tried again but he moved farther trying to be normal as he was said to be. You thought of your mother calling your father a useless man in your dreams. You thought of her cursing God for bringing your father to her. Your head burnt in the dream, your nose refused to inhale or exhale the air in your lungs. Everything was still and fearful. You clutched your mind in the atmosphere, you betrayed your eyes to tears and you made no move to question everything that was happening to you. You remembered your mother saying you are as daft as your father. She had said that countless times and you held yourself too tight, you held yourself too tight not to unleash the demons you once created and accommodated in the streets of your body. You remembered everything about dying and living.
The last time you cut yourself was the day your sister said you look like an alien searching for a home. Then, you could remember you ran into the kitchen and grabbed the kitchen knife and cut your skin in many places. You said you wanted the marks to remind you of the day your sister called you an alien. The scars are still there, I know you know about it. Another day, she told her friend that you smell like a dead body. You didn’t hear her, you were busy listening to Fun’s Song “Carry on” after you have played Johnny Drille’s Papa, and she came to you again, removed the earpiece from your ears and said the words loudly so that you could hear her. She broke into laughter with her friend. Your mother was there; she looked at your face and didn’t say anything rather she smiled to herself. You stood up from the room and went to meet your brother, the only person who understood you better than the rest of them but inside the room, he was fighting his own demons. He broke the rosary, he broke the missal, and torn some portions of the Holy Bible and left them scattered on the ground. He stood perplexed in the middle of the room looking at the blue medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hung on the wall. You promised yourself never to fade into darkness again. You promised yourself never to cry again but there you are, crying again. You tried to hold your brother in your arms but the demons in you said no. they reminded you of how he had cut you when you were much younger. But you tried and he flared up masking his face with anger.
Unfortunately, you’ve not erased the memories of your Auntie also. The last time you visited her to help you in Nsukka, she reminded you again of how useless you were just like your father. She reminded you that it was because your father was useless that was why he was killed in the battlefield trying to fight for his country when reasonable men like him could not go. You cried again in her office, her words burnt your ears. You cursed God again after you cursed him in your dream. Your auntie heard you cursing God and she said you blasphemed against God. You understood what it means for someone like you, a boy like you who blasphemed against God. She dragged you up and pushed you into the toilet and locked you up. You stayed there for three days and later, she drove you to Church for confession. You could not remember what to tell the father who sat opposite you in the church. You stood up from the chair you were sitting after your Auntie had gone to urinate in the church toilet and ran away from the church. You roamed the street for four days. The fifth day, you went home to beg your mother for forgiveness of an offense you didn’t commit yet, she punished you severely. You know who you are, right?. These pains won’t go away, boy.
“Stop gathering these memories in your heart. This is your course, boy. Forget those tears in your eyes” Mama Obi, one of your distant neighbours had told you.
However, when your teacher, Monica, stroked your dick in the school toilet when you were in primary one, she said you shouldn’t tell anyone because if you do, she would pull down hell on you. You allowed her to do that over and over and over again. You enjoyed the sensational feeling. You have watched your mother came home with different men and you have heard them moaned and groaned behind the blind curtain. The day you barged into the room without their notice, you saw the movement; isn’t it? When your mother’s eyes caught yours, you made your way to the door but she pursued you, naked, and caught you midway and brought you back to the room. She said you should sit down and watch them play. You sat on the ground, eyes widely opened to watch them dance on the bed. That was why you could not tell anyone about your teacher stroking you. Even if you do, who would have believed you? Stop gathering these memories, boy.
Do you remember your first painting in your nursery school? You painted a black Jesus and a White Satan. You knew the consequences of your drawing but you drew them anyway. You made the White Satan to fight against the Black Jesus. The white Satan won the black Jesus. You smiled to yourself for your bravery but when you turned your back; your teacher was standing behind you. She let out a smile and went back to her seat. That day, she sent you into the Toilet. You were there until school closed. You had no lunch that day and she came into the toilet many times to call you Demon. It was obviously written on her face that she was the demon but you dare not tell her that to her face. The day you were beaten by your sister, it was the same demon she called you when you’ve bitten her on her shoulder. That night your mother beat the day light out of you for biting your sister but she forgot the fresh wound on your forehead which was the handiwork of your sister during the fight. She sent you to sleep with an empty stomach.
You’ve met an older boy, he told you to write these things down for those boys who are to come after you but each time you try, words of expression eludes you. Let me remind you again: every freedom has a price tag. It is not Monday; don’t be in hurry to write stress on every corner of your room. Even in chain, you can’t stop a boy from being a boy. Sanity is a mirage cooked up by humanity to fool us.
The day you tried to escape from your insanity was the day your brother died. He died out of depression. He killed himself with the sniper one Alhaji sold to him. It was the last sniper the Alhaji had in his shop. He was lucky to have seen that one after the ban on sniper in the country. He bought four liters of fuel and mixed them together. You weren’t around, if you were, would you have stopped him? Would you have changed his mind from committing suicide? You read his suicide note and let out a piercing scream that made the world shook in fear. You won’t forget that day because it was written boldly on the scars he sustained. I have written these ones on the grave of Akachi Chukwuemeka for painting boy on the lazy cloud to move to the other side of the street. I bet you, he won’t see this, boy.
The day you died in yourself you promised never to come back again to your black house or to know what humanity means. You know how to leave mountain of pledges in your cage. You caged your morality in the wing of time. You know of solidarity, you know of grace, you know of tears, and you know how to pattern your heaven because that was the first friend you had. Meanwhile, you’ve plaited the world in your head and harvested the joy of the street knowing well how to dress the grave of your father to suite your kind of person. You’ve known how to bottle up yourself into the skin of a goat because they said you looked like one. You’ve known how to walk to the bank of the sea and watch the tide rise to the sky with songful tears. You’ve known how to relieve yourself of pains because your body has the tendency of adapting to different kind of torments. Don’t you know knowing you is the principle of purity, a silence that the moon dissolved into its body, a break of frustration holding down the thought of who you are. A new wine is in your heart; you don’t have to dream of a mad man again for these boys who are to come are those who are to tell your spirit that there is a home that has new clothes and smiles that heals souls and spirit.
Boys like us are voyagers. Our emotions fly to freedom, to paradise, to ashes; to unknown heart where dreams are bodies of men heading to nowhere. Our entities of last bus stop to nowhere. Perhaps, you may not find me in poetry, you may not find me in epistles, and you may not find me in psalms or in proverbs or in the righteous part time but I’m still living. Stop looking for answers to every question that pops out from your eyes. The snow doesn’t stay longer than nature wants it to stay. Stop looking for the last song your father played before he died. Search into your mother’s thoughts and find reasons to be a man. Like your father’s words stored in the bodies of prayers march on to where hope are built.
Africa is where the wine is. Your body is the map of African lands. So therefore, you don’t have to face the mirror in wrong direction to conquer your fears. For boys who are to come is the genesis of a new world. They have to cloud they tomorrow with the heart of a conqueror. Till after this storm, remember not to forget everything you remembered because Boys are not stones, they have feelings too.
John Chizoba Vincent is a poet, Author, Cinematographer and filmmaker, and also LIBRETTO Magazine “Photography Editor”. He was born and brought up in Aba and later moved to Lagos where he had his tertiary education . His works have appeared on allpoetry, Voicesnet, Poetrysoup Poemhunter, Africanwriter, TuckMagazine, Gaze,naijastories, Praxismagazine, Nairaland, black boy reviews and forthcoming in BrittlePapers. His writings have featured in many anthologies both home and abroad. He has five books published to his credit which includes Good Mama, Hard times, Letter From Home, For Boys Of Tomorrow. He lives in Lagos where he writes.