“Richard you eat like a fowl, just look at what you did to the floor.”
“Perhaps it’s proof that you suck at cooking”, I retorted.
“Lie that this jollof rice doesn’t taste as good as ‘burial Jollof’. Last I checked you couldn’t even boil Yam”.
“At least I can boil water” I replied with a grin on my face. We both burst out laughing disturbing the quietude of the night.
My elder brother, Collins, or Mmesoma as we call him at home, had visited that evening and we lost track of time while playing Playstation Games. I wanted to show him that I had improved.
I’ve almost forgotten how fun it usually was with Collins around. We grew up together and had an uncanny resemblance we were often mistaken for twins.
There was something about this particular visit. Something odd and seemingly paranormal.
We chatted the evening – he was right there in my self contained apartment but I felt an aura of sadness over him. I unexplainably felt sad too.
He was right there but my heart was heavy with his absence. I missed him like he wasn’t there.
In between conversations, I’d stare briefly at him, and he’d stare back with a cold smile. He looked pale.
Well, it’s probably the cold weather I had muttered to myself – it was some minutes past 1 am after all.
“Richard” he beckoned at me.
“Collins, what is it this time?” I asked nonchalantly
“You wanted me here, I had to come”.
“Keep telling yourself that, as if it’s not obvious you were bored from your countless meetings with your project supervisor and decided to step out for a while”.
I busted out laughing, but this time he wasn’t.
“What’s the matter,” I thought to myself, “was that not funny?”
“I had to come” he repeated.
He sounded different this time, almost like he choked on those words. His voice was low and disturbing.
I turned my gaze from the series we were both entangled in(late night movies had always been a tradition to us both) to his face.
He wasn’t smiling, his expression was straight, but his eyes spoke volumes.
Sadness – emptiness – regret – affection.
It was almost scary.
“I had to…… ”
I instinctively blocked my ears. I’ve had enough.
I turned back my gaze to the flat screen TV on the wall.
The images on the screen became blurry. I felt light-headed and was overwhelmed with certain emotions. Painful ones from a seemingly tragic event. I had never felt that way before – I was clueless.
I tried to focus more on the movie while adjusting in the green plastic chair I was seated on.
The images in the Television transformed.
“Collins why?! Why did you leave us? Why did you leave your Mother?”
My mother wailed helplessly as all attempts to console her proved abortive. I couldn’t remedy the situation as pangs of pain stabbed my heart repeatedly. The earth beneath my feet sank in, replaced with nothingness.
Everyone was moody, and the atmosphere melancholic.
I could spot my Dad at a corner as he tried to hold it all in with occasional sobs, as tears subsequently trickled down his cheeks.
“Mmesoma you didn’t come to collect my wrist watch you’ve always wanted before leaving us” my junior sister, Philomena bemoaned as the tears rolled down so uncontrollably down her cheeks, the white handkerchief she held on tentatively did little to quell the flow.
I stepped towards her as she stared deeply into a white box. It wasn’t just a box, I realized as I stepped closer. It was a coffin.
Slowly I moved my gaze to the content, and there he lay, motionless.
His eyes were closed, his skin pale, wrinkled and darker. He looked thirty years older.
Cotton buds were stuck deep up his nose – a clear sign that he won’t be needing them anymore.
They were not just images on the television; this was real.
I felt every single emotion. I wasn’t seeing the television anymore, I was in it.
Reality dawned on me as I was transported to the most painful moment of my life.
Then I recalled. Collins had died a few years back just during the last months of his university education.
I was encapsulated in several shades of painful emotion as phlegm rolled down my nostrils and hot tears beclouded my eyeballs.
I was still seated uncomfortably in the chair as I assimilated the full episodes of the series of reality.
The familiar voice jerked me back to reality.
I turned my gaze towards the direction. He was standing, fully dressed in the same suit he was dressed in at his ‘lying in state’.
“You wanted me, so it had to come” he repeated as he inched towards the metal door that led outside my apartment. I was petrified as I shivered.
Was he leaving already? I had never really gotten over him fully and often missed him so much I sometimes wished we could trade places. He owed me an explanation, I had many questions.
He smiled at me then turned his back as he edged closer towards the door.
I leaped up as the plastic chair fell flat on the cold tiles and went after him. I reached for him and caught the atmosphere.
Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I jerked up from the bed and ripped up the blanket that seemed to be a disturbance.
It was a dream – a nightmare but yet felt strange, or rather strangely real.
I felt it all. It couldn’t have been just a dream.
“I had to come”. The voice resonated in my head and echoed in spirals down the corridor as it fades out transcendently through the cold night.
‘I must be hallucinating as a result of the intensity of the nightmare’, so I thought to myself.
I quickly reached for the light switch and turned the lights on.
shifted my gaze towards the right and noticed the door was ajar.
I habitually make sure that door is locked before retiring for the night.
“Well that’s weird,” I thought to myself as I locked the door.
“Anyways, mistakes do happen”.
I turned back to retreat to the bed and probably stare at the ceiling for the rest of the night and then my left foot kicked something.
I looked down and noticed it was a plate. My hard ceramic plate was there on the floor of my room.
On closer inspection, I saw another plate with grains of cooked jollof rice littered all over the floor and a spoon beside each plate. By the right was my chair, flat on the floor just opposite the television.
I live alone.
I had never cooked for the past couple of months and I had no foodstuff.