Fiction

WHERE SILENCE RESTS BETWEEN ECHOES

You were in your past that evening. Your past lived, so much it became like your present. You turned the Music up louder to drown out your mother’s painful sobs. To drown out the sickening thud that reverberated through your skull with every punch. Your father’s drunken voice, roaring slurred cuss words. You sat huddled on your bed. Dreading the end of the song. Hating that brief period when your headphones went silent and you could hear the sounds of your mother being beaten like *Aso Ofi*.

***

“Kunle, are you not old enough?” your aunts had screamed at you the last time you visited. “Can’t you tell your mother to leave that house before our brother finishes her?”
No, you were not old enough. You would never be old enough to tweak things to what suited you. It was years ago, this memory, but it still wouldn’t leave you alone. It plagued you, filled your life. Crushed you under the pain and fear that still raged on the inside. It got so bad you became theatrical. At Board of Directors’ conferences, when they shook your hand warmly and hailed your reputation, you were often tempted to tell them who you were, that you were scarred, that your background was ugly, that you were haunted by the loss of everything you had loved. Haunted by the loss of everything you had never loved enough. You closed your eyes and cried bitterly. You let the music carry you away. Back to the worst day of your life.
You waited for the track to end, so that you would endure the awful sounds that would soon disrupt the silence that you longed for.
“I’ll teach you to disrespect me, bitch!”

Your father’s roar shook the house.  The blood pounded in your head. You were a boy leaning against the bedroom door. Listening. The pressure in your head was growing. Crashing and pulsing painfully, increasing with every sound. Every thought. Every second. You hated yourself for being so weak. You wanted so badly to stand up for your mother. The only thing holding you back was fear.

***

You hated yourself for being so scared of one man. And you hated yourself for watching while the woman who had given you life, raised you, protected you, suffered. You pounded your head against the wall; you needed to feel something else apart from this. Your headphones slid off of your ears, exposing you once again to the horrifying reality that was your life.

Dazed, you slumped against the wall, warm slow blood trickling down your forehead. You wiped it off angrily. Your fingertips were sticky. Your mother’s cries echoed in your head. Almost of its own free will, your hand slid under your pillow, and you felt your fingers slip over the now familiar grip. You squeezed it; your knuckles shone. You breathed deep, waging a war deep inside. You wanted to, you needed to; the blows were getting louder, heavier. Her screams had quieted to whimpers.

***

You stood up; your headphones slid off completely. Before you had time to question your choice, you bolted from the room, your right arm dragging behind you. You stopped dead the moment you emerged into the kitchen. There was blood, everywhere. So much blood. Tears streamed down your face. There was no way someone could lose that much blood and still be alive, you knew. You screamed, roared your anger, vented your pain into the thick, copper-smelling air.

***

You crumpled to the floor as you took in the scene: Your mother, curled on the floor, covered in cuts and gashes. Her arms, her chest, her throat. The knife, the same one she had used to peel potatoes for a meal that would never be eaten, buried in her stomach. The blood, tainting every surface, covering the floor, smeared on the wall. Your father, standing over her body, covered in the crimson liquid, disbelief and anger etched in every inch of his being. You were only eight. A boy tightening his palm around the object in his grip as it threatened to slip from his hand. You had found the gun in his old drawers. The assurance of the molded rubber-coated body was the only thing keeping you sane; everything else only tried to overwhelm you.

***

Shaking with rage, you raised your hand. Three words were all you said, “Should’ve been me.” You closed your eyes and pulled the trigger. You felt the kick of the gun; you heard your father’s choked cry—the bullet had entered his chest. Fresh tears rolling down your face, you dropped the gun and scrambled across the floor to where your mother lay, lifeless. The last thing you remembered about that night was pressing your forehead to hers, your tears leaving silver streaks in the blood, tainting her beautiful face.

***

A slim hand on your shoulder brought you back from your reverie. You cracked open your eyes, and struggled with a smile. She was the reason you were still alive. The reason you had found the strength to keep on.

“You need to go to bed,” your wife finally said, a concerned look on her face.

***

Then you took her hand, feeling the immense sense of rightness that came with the feel of your skin on hers. You smiled at her, wanted to tell her that the sadness wad already fading to a dull throb. You pulled yourself to your feet, and put your arm around her. No matter what, as long as you had her in your life, everything would turn out fine. You looked into her eyes, needing her to understand how much she meant to you, how much she would always mean to you. “Yeah,” you said, finally, quietly. “You’re right.”
READ ALSO: DEAR AUNTY CAROL
-AKINSANYA ADENIYI AYOSOJUMI
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