The ringing of my phone woke me up. I groan and stretch my hand across the bed to get it. I wonder who could be calling this early. I checked the name and it reads my superwoman. Yeah, that’s my mom. But why would she be calling so early this morning when it’s just 4:30 am.
“Hello mommy, good morning ma,” I spoke into the phone but the response I got chased the sleep away. Oh no! How could I have forgotten something so important?
“Happy Birthday baby girl,” she says after singing for me with my younger ones and Dad backing her up.
“Thank you, thank you. I’m truly grateful.” I say as a smile creeps on my face. I can’t believe I forgot my own birthday. Gosh! I thought and sighed.
“Jiro, you’re now a big girl oh! Do and bring my grandchild for me. And take care of yourself,” My dad says before they hang up.
On a normal day, the mere thought of the stress awaiting me in the day, would make me return to bed and wait for the alarm to wake me up. But today is kind of different. I clocked 21 years today and the first thing my dad said after singing a birthday song was for me to bring his grandchild home.
Six years ago I was this bright little girl who won’t go a day without smiling and thinking about how the future would be. I wanted to be a medical doctor with her stethoscope around her neck and a big bright smile defining my success and great achievement. A sad smile creeps on my face and I couldn’t help but sigh.
It’s another year and thoughts keeps flashing into my head. How did I get here? Why here of all places? Why didn’t all my struggles pay off even after six years? What exactly have I achieved?
I thought about the phone call I got from my younger brother three days ago.
“Jiro, Kayode is now a big boy oh! He’s practically walking on millions.”
What do you mean? I asked.
“He’s now a Yahoo boy. I’m so envious of him. I mean, his dad is rich and he isn’t lacking anything, and now he’s a Yahoo boy with fame as well. Life is tiring. I think I should just join Yahoo. I mean, I’m tired of suffering. Today we haven’t even eaten anything yet. And Rukevwe isn’t feeling fine either. Suffer no dey tire person?” He had said while I listened carefully.
“Oh boy! Suffer dey tire person, but our reputation comes first. Just because we don’t have for now doesn’t mean tomorrow is blank. Just calm down and try searching for a job. E go better,” I told him.
Now I understand what Erriga, a popular Nigerian artist said; respect who get but fear who never collect.
It’s funny because been broke can actually make someone think of so many negative ways to make money.
I thought about what he said after we ended the call, it won’t be bad to be bad for a little. I’ve been going through one routine every day of my life and that is avoiding illegal business that would put me in trouble. It won’t hurt to try something different. But then again, the good girl inside of me won’t cooperate.
My mind flashed back to a year ago when I was still living with my parents. So many things happened that particular year, so many unforgettable experiences. Kayode’s father sent men to beat up my younger brother just because Rukevwe warned Kayode to stop claiming our land. Kayode twisted the story and went to tell his mom that my brother threatened to kill them. Everyone knew it was all lies, but who will dare to support us?
My mom had to plead with him but he ordered the men to beat her up too. I ran to pick up a stick but my mom who was receiving slaps saw me and said: “Jiro, if you know I’m the one that truly gave birth to you and you respect me, please stay out of this fight.”
I cried. I yelled. I begged for help, but no one came. The few neighbours who came out just watched the free show given to them. I could’ve done something. I could have easily use wood to break the man’s head who was hitting my mom and I believe my younger brother would’ve been able to free himself from the grip of the other man that was hitting him knowing there’s now three of us. But it never happened. I stood and watched like the coward I was. I still wish I could rewind the time and go back to that particular day, I would’ve stabbed that man to death. I would’ve made him feel how he made my mom feel.
I stared at everyone who came out that night, and I remembered what someone told me; Money rules the world. At first, I took it as a joke but slowly harsh reality hit me pretty hard. If you don’t have money, you’ll regret been born. The oppression from left and right might even make you commit suicide.
A few months later, a neighbor who lives opposite us who owes my mom money from the little thing she sells in front of our house kept rambling while I stare in awe. He was one of the people who watched my mom been beaten up by those men.
“Sir, you don’t have money but you bought two bags of rice and can foods with snacks. You’re owing my mom ordinary four thousand naira and you’ve refused to pay it. You were there when those men were beating my mom and bro, yet you felt no ounce of sympathy. Do you know if she wants to use the money for drugs? You should pay up if you don’t want me to be your alarm,” I said as a matter of fact.
His wife came out and fed me the insults of my life. Starting from my background to my educational status. I just watched her without saying a word, because I would rather spend my time sleeping than exchanging words with others.
Later that same night, we heard someone calling my name with so much disgust and venom. Without thinking twice, I remembered the voice. I’ve heard it lots of times and I could tell something was off.
“Where’s that illiterate that had the guts to insult my mom? Come out here you moron,” she spat with venom.
“Did you get the wrong address?” I asked quite confuse.
“How dare you insult my mum and still put on that clueless face? Why did you call her a madwoman?”
“Your mom insulted me but my only response was that she should judge herself before judging others. I’m not supposed to reply to you but you’re making noise,” I said with a smile. Yeah. I did say it and that angered her a lot.
“Shut up, ashawo wey dey pretend to be virgin. Witch!” She continued to hurl insults at me but as I was getting bored she calms down.
“Aunty, are you done with your insults? Please leave, you’re making noise.”
“See who is speaking English. Illiterate. That’s why you can never be like me. Nonsense wretched girl,” she said and hissed. She turned to leave when I stopped her.
“I want to insult you. Call you dirty slutty bitch with big shitty butts, but guess what, I’m too lazy for that.” I noticed she didn’t get it so I added. “That’s an indirect insult,” I chuckled.
“Hey!” She called when I turned to go inside. I stopped and turn.
“The reason why you’re still in this poverty is that you refused to step up. We finished secondary school and wrote WAEC the same year, but I’m in my 300 level at the university and you’re still working as a salesgirl. Talking about age, I’m just two months older than you. But look at me and look at you,” she smiled and left.
These were my motivation to leave home. I didn’t even bother to think twice before choosing this path. My aunty secured a job for me in Lagos and even provided transport for me. Sometimes, I wish I can be a normal girl, with makeups, fancy clothes, and fancy lifestyle. I just want to hang out with friends and probably play games, I want to be free.
Sometimes I think about what she said. We attended the same school but she got into higher institutions before me. She’s your typical girlish girl and I’m her opposite. She dresses in fancy clothes while I prefer wearing my elder brother t-shirts. Not because I didn’t like fancy clothes, but because I really wanted to support my mom so I gave my all. And I guess it really wasn’t enough.
A few days after my birthday, I was sweeping the house when my mom’s call came in. I picked it and I listened attentively as she spoke with so much bitterness. She talked about how our roof is leaking because its rainy season and how they barely sleep.
I felt their pain cos I’ve been there before. But then, she said the most shocking thing ever. I felt this was all a joke.
“Mommy, you’re not serious right?” I asked a little bit unsure of what I heard.
“It’s true. Your mates are doing it. You refused to get married, do you also want to refuse this one? Don’t you think we’ve suffered enough? Abi suffer no dey tire you? What’s the big deal in it? You can read and write so stop sounding as if its something hard.”
“You really want me to do Yahoo just to provide money? You want me to scam people for money because my mates are doing it?” I asked holding back the tears that threaten to fall.
“You don’t need to overdo it. Just do it and get money for us to build our house. I can’t be living under a roof that leaks whenever it rains. How can I have a daughter and still be suffering?” She asked
I didn’t know when I laughed out loud. I can’t believe this. She didn’t even tell me to look for another job that’ll provide more money, she actually wants me to be a fraudster. I’ve been under her, obeying her every command not because I can be easily controlled. But because I didn’t want her to lack, I didn’t want her to complain that my elder ones aren’t helping her.
I wanted to ask her questions, I wanted to yell and ask her why me. But then, it wasn’t worth my time. I let her finish talking but couldn’t give her a response before their airtime got exhausted, and I didn’t bother calling back because it wasn’t necessary.
I thought about all the struggles I’ve been through in life, all the hard jobs I’ve done just to be useful to my mom. I thought about how I would fall sick and still act strong because I didn’t want anyone to see the weak side of me. I thought about how I’ve always neglected myself just to put them first.
I won’t stop caring or providing for them, but I won’t be that foolish little girl they thought I was. I’m almost a full-grown woman and I need to care to myself. I rummage through the few clothes I brought to Lagos which are the best of clothes I have at home, and I couldn’t help but sigh. They weren’t just ugly and old fashioned, they made me look older than my age.
I was microwaving food for my boss when my phone rang. I checked the caller and realized it was my dad. I picked up and greeted him.
“Jiro, how are you?”
“I’m fine daddy. Hope you’re okay?
“I am oh! Just hunger that’s dealing with is here, he said I didn’t know how to respond.
“Jiro?” he called. “Do you still remember Kayode? That Yoruba man’s son?”
“Yes sir. I do.”
“Do you know he bought a jeep today? He’s even building his second house now? And guess what, its the money he got from defrauding people that he used to get all these things.
I stared at the phone without replying. He waited for a few seconds but didn’t get any reply so he continued talking. I won’t say Im disappointed in you. I won’t say you didnt try for us, because you did. But you of all people know that we still need more. You also know Im not getting better right? Most times I can’t hear properly and it hurts because I cant even go out without been laughed at. Were not asking for much, just help get out of this situation. He finished and hung up and Im glad he did.
The last time he and mom asked me to do something for them, I ended up with chest pain which I’m yet to recover from. I worked in the out water factory for a year or two and bagged water both day and night. Sometimes I would bag and still clear the water because most times we lacked loaders.
No matter how hurt I felt, I didn’t want them to feel I wasn’t trying. Sometimes I lose appetite and had lots of sleepless nights, but I didn’t quit until it became unbearable. Nothing, absolutely nothing can make me scam others for my familys needs. Never!
I snapped out of my thoughts when the microwave machine beeped. I took out the food and served my boss.
I picked up my pen and book and thought about the things I need. I need perfume, cream, new clothes and probably buy myself cheeseballs and chocolates. I smiled at my childish needs. I got a few things down before closing the book.
My journey so far may not be interesting, but my journey ahead won’t end without a happy ending! Everyone deserves a happy ending and I’m not giving up until I get mine. Just like what Erriga said; Tomorrow get belle, witch no fit abort am!
My name is Henry Ejiroghene, and this is my story!
Story written by Ejirooghene Henry
Edited by Booky Glover
All rights reserved. Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.
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Until next time,