The morning is about to open its second eye, still blurry but in haste to call the light of the day into life, finding strength for its tottering, scurry legs and most indefinite of two decisions but to summon the long lost sunlight. It is with the little shed that from this dawn comes that I am able to write this. My day numbered is, but the count hidden from me. I know not the number of breaths left for me to breathe in. This is for me a sorrow, a most lamentable cruelty of men. There are most lamentable cruelties which you will learn herein, my son ー one of which is I mayn’t meet you. You need learn that life is hostile, ever demanding and callous. Maybe life is not in itself cruel; men are. I just have few minutes more before we start our daily work off. I must report something very important to you, son. When you are born, I may have the opportunity to read, or may be denied that grace, that privilege.
It all started with my parents, my life. According to my mother, my parents were infertile for years after marriage. Their community already started suggesting to my father to remarry; in fact, my grandmother would not weary him with sermons that are most daunting. She would shout at my mum a lot. ‘There were times I could not walk in the hamlet. I was made ashamed: maidens would flaunt themselves to him right in my present; on my way to the river, damsels and the married would point the finger of blame at me,’ she did tell me. Life was for her unbearable in Eleko Kan. She said she visited every priest in search of the fruit of the womb. She went far and wide to have her prayers answered. There were countless religious baths assigned by those priests. There were a lot of dances around the market; innumerable times did she eat various concoctions that included the silliest things: urine, water from bath and the like. It was all in order to have a child.
My mother was lucky dad was not like other villagers: they would marry more wives without hesitation. He was different; he loved her with all of his life. He would not stand any ridicule against her. He did a lot, too. He was hardworking and clever at finding bargains. Hence, he was very rich. He spent plenty of money on sacrifices, praying in shrines almost monthly. They were married for nine years, long enough for anyone to lose hope ー hope itself seemed to be hopeless.
It was then that I was conceived. My father was very happy, Mother would tell me. He was as glad as never before. He would go to farm very late in the morning, tending to my mother as though to a queen ー Mum accused him of cosseting her ever before, only it increased a hundred per cent now. He would leave only to cultivate about one-third of what he usually did, leave the rest to labourers. He would personally tap palm for wine and would return very early to nurture her as a child ー for which there was an increase in the price of wine; wine drinkers loved my dad’s palm wine for its unusual sweetness and it earned preference than others did in the market.
Nine months sped as a rocket and the moon they reached for my birth. It was few hours after my father went out. Mum wailed, cried and screamed in labour. ‘The pains,’ she said, ‘were as though on my neck was hung a huge rock, as though knives were pricking my womb.’ It was difficult for her; and, with crude means by which midwives helped in delivery, it was made unbearable for her. She wanted my dad beside her most. Some loving neighbours already went to farm to call him. It was a time of blood and tears. Son, whatever pain a woman endures during childbirth is the devil’s tale ー no man can accurately say, none.
Your granny was given the mucus of snail to help ease her delivery. After three hours in labour, she was given herbs and many other concoctions. It was as though heavens would tear and earth would quake. There was a tremor in the village already. None was calm; every single soul in my dad’s compound paced up and down. There she was inside, clinging to mats and shrieking, calling Dad’s name ー that made it worse than Hades for her, the absence of the person she loved most. Perhaps it would be a little easier if he were there; perhaps he was, but in her heart only; perhaps he felt the screams and tears, the trickling of blood and the anguish of the hour, the immense agony of a labouring mother, of his most beloved, his sweetest. It must have reverberated in his heart; and, the thought of his arrival ー his hurry to arrive, to encourage her, that thought alone ー was solace in the midst of this seemingly eternal torment.
When it seemed the midwives would pronounce her delivery an incident against the gods’ will, when the mud walls were about to deafen their ears to her agony and every man was about to quit, roughly five hours in labour, she told me that my head then appeared. I was delivered, but with her loss of blood and strength. That refuge a mother can always be is a mystery to me.
The fact that a woman will endure such pains for love reminds me of the type of person a mother is. My wife, your mother, is but god, the god of love in your life: worship her with utmost care and love; she gave them first and selflessly.
I was born. My dad was but yet to come. Probably he was yet to be found. Soon, the news of my delivery spread to the length and breadth of my village. Eleko Kan was climaxingly happy. My father was prominent in that: his wine alone was served to our king and kings of hamlets around us and chiefs; his wisdom was astonishing and he was a member of the king’s council, the youngest and reportedly wisest of them all; he was awfully generous, as if he were an ocean. Hence, the people rejoiced over my arrival. I had the most promising father, the most caring and the wisest.
Mother said it was night when she woke up after a long, refreshing, but unusual sleep; she was so unaware how dark it was that she thought it was only twilight. Yet, her husband was not back. She was at first baffled if he was trying to gather some materials for her. However, she noticed there were no drums beating as usually practised to welcome a newborn baby. ‘They must have stopped drumming; perhaps it’s very dark now,’ she thought in herself. Still puzzled, she knew well Dad would have returned by now. He ought to be by her side, actually. Such was their love: the one does not let go of the other from their sight. There was a possible reason; but, it was not that he was out arranging for the baby boy. It had to be that the king summoned him. That only would be the reason; it had always been the reason he would leave till late in the night whenever he was back.
Son, I will write some other time. I am dead sorry you will have to read this on tissue. I have no alternative; and the warder is kind enough to let me a pen and this time to write. Inmates are ready for the day; and, I must join them. I will try to write in haste to you, the account I must give.