“Take heart”, ” Hard luck” and all the things people say at the house of the deceased these days, they were once daily choruses in my ears. I’ve lived my life believing nothing else can hurt me to the point where I break. I’ve always blamed myself for my mother’s demise. And I think she still blames me.
Aunt Omoyeni was a headstrong woman. It was January, the month of cold and dry pockets. This was two years after mother was widowed. She decided we have boiled yam, egg sauce and tea for breakfast. Unusually, she didn’t make it herself. Breakfast was served, but mother’s egg was missing, so no one would eat. Aunt Omoyeni decided to make it. “Kunbi, there’s a coflin bottle on the table in my room, go and bring it”. I galloped to the room, fetched the bottle and took to her. Her eyes reflected darkness and evil. There was sweat on her nose. She fixed her glance on me, opened the bottle and poured into the egg sauce. I already knew what it was. Something about the air choked me to silence.
Mother came to the dining, we said grace and everyone started to eat. ” Mummy, I want to eat with you”, I said, near tears. “Why, you don’t like your food?”, I stared at aunt Omoyeni in fear “it’s already cold, please let me eat with you”, aunt got angry “Kunbi, I have told you to stop behaving like a child, you have a younger sister now, you’re a big girl”. I kept staring at my mother as she ate and laughed and said “Let her be, she’s still my baby”. I barely knew what poisons do, but I knew my heart wasn’t beating normal.
My mother drove us to our cousins, and went to work, and the next time I saw her was in a grave, with wool in her nose and mouth, breathless. They said it was food poisoning, that her intestine was eaten up by a certain substance she ate.
For the first five years after that occurrence, I startled awake with different scary dreams. A terrible childhood. So when people who have no idea ask “Lardo, how is your mum?” I am sliced all over again, and the guilt salt is spread all over my wounds.