My name is Adesewa but my friends call me Sewa. I am the first of four children; the first of the four daughters my parents were blessed with. I was born into a perfect life! Mum and dad loved each other and loved us all. My father worked in a bank and mum had a provision shop two blocks away from my school. She would drop us off at school and head off to her shop. I still have fond memories of going to her shop with my sisters after school. I remember the treats that usually awaited us after a homework well done. Life was perfect until death came calling. My joys of knowing a father and a life envied by other kids was snuffed out after my 11th birthday. By the time I was 13, I was sure my life would make a movie because of the chain of unexpected events that played out in our shattered world.
Today, I’m sitting at my front porch replaying in my head a story that shouldn’t be left sitting in the shelves of my heart. I’ll begin flipping through the pages of my tale from one Monday…a Monday that began to shape my life in ways I never thought possible.
It was that kind of Monday afternoon when the sun beat upon the streets of Lagos with a sense of vengeance; another day of journeying to Victoria Island – the home of job opportunities. There, we believed our destinies and dream careers lay in some office in those high rise buildings. My heart ached with hope for the much-anticipated job as I heard that overused line, “We will get back to you.”
I held onto a frail thread of hope as I headed home that day. Home…that was a blessing I was thankful for. Monifa my friend from University days was fortunate enough to have a father who had paid for her apartment in Surulere and she had asked me to move in after my Youth Service. That was the place I called home. Through the bustle of Lagos which included bad tempered bus conductors, disgruntled commuters and a whir of busyness where everyone was in a hurry, I alighted at my bus stop. My feet hurt as I pushed the door to the self-contained apartment open. I kicked off my shoes. They were my greatest mistake of the day as I had not gone out with the proverbial flat shoes that lay behind every woman’s high heels. I peeled out of my dress that had stuck to my skin with sweat serving as the adhesive.
I sighed as I tossed the clothes aside and headed for the bathroom. All the trouble and hassle of the day would have been worth it if I got this job. I was that smart and bright undergraduate who had almost made a first Class in Mass Communication at the University of Nsukka. My lecturers told me I was not going to spend a day roaming around in the labour market. I was that kind of smart young woman that the corporate world awaited but then… this was my fifth interview in a row with no offer letter to show for it.
God, please. Don’t let this one pass me by. Those lines were constantly in my heart and spilt over from my mouth. I didn’t want to get to the place where I was living from hand to mouth. My meagre savings were thinning out. My mum had given me twenty thousand naira from her bean cake business; twenty thousand that represented her sweat and tears. Not to worry, I will fill you in on how our fancy provision shop became a distant memory and a roadside akara business – our stark reality. She had bid me farewell to Lagos with the heartfelt prayer of every loving mother. How I wanted to give her that call that said her prayer was answered and that the reward of all her pain was finally a reality. I shuffled into the bathroom, set my bucket beneath the tap and turned on the faucet. A gurgle escaped without water gushing out as I expected. Hissing, I turned off the faucet. There was no power supply since the previous night and that meant no water. Fatigue held me in a vice as I ambled back into the room.
As I tossed and shoved through my clothes in the wardrobe that I shared with my friend Monifa, the door to the room flung open and in came my roommate waving an envelope in her hand, all beaming and doing a jig. I straightened myself.
“Ahh, looks like someone has hit a jackpot o.”
She tossed the envelope at me. “You can say that again or what do you call landing a job with Briggs Advertising!!”
She twirled around and flopped onto the bed.
My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as I read through her letter. “Wow! Congratulations babe! This is amazing!”
“Thanks, my dear,” she beamed.
Her good news was a faith booster for me. We had both applied for the job and gone through the stages of the job interview together. If she got the job then mine was on the way. Cheered up by this new flicker of hope, I pulled out 300 naira from my bag and rushed across the road to buy two bottles of Fanta and puffpuff to celebrate the new job. Rejoice with them that rejoice, wasn’t that what God wanted me to do? We ate and drank to this new level.
Even though on the outside I celebrated with her, in my heart on that fateful Monday was a growing fear that I was destined to always be an onlooker where good happened to others; just like I became an onlooker at 11 when my father walked out of the door of our lives forever.
Monifa resumed on the first of the next month. The weeks went by and she settled into her new routine while mine remained a tortuous wait for that one call.
I was a second class upper degree holder. I had held countless vigils. Made declarations of God’s word, done all that I knew to do but the heavens seemed to shut up against me. Every day, worry gnawed at my heart. My savings were slowly depleting especially with me having to contribute to feeding and not waiting idly for Monifa to feed me even if she didn’t complain. One of the reasons I didn’t go down to zero too quickly was because the church was in our neighbourhood. I was gratefully spared the expense of transport fare. I made do with walking instead of biking or boarding the yellow and black clangers popularly called Danfo buses. That, coupled with the discipline that a far from rosy upbringing had handed me, I pretty much knew how to put a knife to my throat and stifle frivolous cravings.
One of those dreary mornings, when Monifa had gone off to her new corporate world of budding dreams, the curtains parted and light beamed on the stage of my life. The new drama that my life was going to become started.
Our weather-worn wooden door rattled as some determined knuckles rapped at it. It was 11:30 am. We hardly had visitors at that time of the day. Cautiously, I got out of bed and inched towards the door.
“Who is there?” I called
“Open up Sewa. It’s your father.”
My heart kicked into a wild beat and slammed into my ribs.
What would you do if you were that girl whose daddy had been snatched by death as a little girl and several years later, someone showed up at your door claiming to be your daddy?
…Keep the pages of this book open. My story just got started…