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My Son is Coming Home

My son is coming home. Aunty Biodun, my mother’s sister is here. She is aged now, but still bothers to cook a meal she thinks he would like. Her grin summons the lines by her eyes to stretch like tired lanes when she says, ‘I know he will love it.’ I smile back a response, words are heavy, and my thoughts weigh tons.

Aunty Biodun drags her feet around the kitchen, singing a handicapped version of Bottom Belle and carrying on like the world is a patterned vase of flowers. She owns a cellphone now that feeds her all these songs she sings. Teaching her to use it had taken months, so when she asked me what Whatsapp meant, I told her it was a snack lest I spend the next two years teaching her to chat. Aunty Biodun wants to know everything in this our ‘modern world’ before she dies. This is why she is so happy that Bambo is finally coming home. Her prayer has always been that he returns before she dies.

I am in a blue Ankara knee-length gown, sitting in the living room, fiddling with my phone to take my mind off Bambo. The kids are in the boarding house and their father is in South Africa on a business trip. I hope I can solve this ‘problem’ before they return. There is nowhere else for him to go –Aunty Biodun lives with me now– else I wouldn’t have asked my driver to bring him here. Now, all I can do is wait and worry and wonder what prison has turned him into.

Ten years. That’s how long he’s been away for armed robbery. He has always caused me pain, from the moment the doctor confirmed me pregnant when I was fifteen. I remember the shock in my mother’s eyes; how her knuckles pounded my face, how she drove me out of the house, unwilling to hear me out. Only Aunty Biodun believed my concocted rape story by a gang of masked men. She took me in her small bungalow in Oshogbo and raised Bambo while I continued schooling. She obviously did a horrible job because he wound up just like his alleged fathers; raping girls and robbing people. There has been no single moment of joy over him, and now that I am married and have my own children, he is that piece of garbage I want hidden in my past.

I hear the sound of the gate opening, of the car driving in, of car doors closing. I hear footsteps. My heart rises like the sun but finds nowhere to set and begins to thump impatiently within my chest. It was I who called the police when he came home one evening with a bag of money and bloodied clothes. I have not seen him since. What would he be like? Will he have scary bloodshot eyes? Will he have horns now, from living like an animal behind rusted bars? The living room door opens, and I see a thirty-year-old, tall and dark and haggard as dirt. Aunty Biodun yelps his name and rushes to hug him.

‘Grandma!’

His voice is the sound of an old tape of samba drumbeats. He forces a smile and opens his arms. She abandons herself in them as she rocks him, water readily spilling from her eyes. He locks his gaze with mine. I stare back at the beastly expression on the face of this monster I call my son. I am reading the promise in his eyes:

‘You made me like this. I will make you suffer, mother.’

I am shaking within like a leaf in the wind, wishing I aborted him when I had the chance.

Written by Ife Olujuyigbe.