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Hidden Haloes

By Okpara Emeka (Nigeria)



April 1980


Is my stupid brother-in-law, Tosan, missing? That was the question…

If it didn’t hurt so much, I know Rosemary would not have discussed her marital woes with me with such detail even though am her only surviving brother.

Lately, she has been quarreling with her husband of about six years now, especially because he hasn’t been providing for the family and he’s been drinking a little too often.
When one of her friends had warned her that her husband had a mistress, she’d quickly told the gossip to mind her business. However the damage was done already: there was this cold suspicion that sprang up in Rose’s belly which her husband’s lackadaisical attitude towards her lately was fueling. He lay on the bed beside her each night and snored like a bear...

As she sat on the bed around 10 pm that night, and willed sleep to overtake her inquisitive first son, Barile, she remembered the way her husband had left that morning. He’d woken up before her suspiciously and left the room without as much as waking the children for their routine devotional prayer.  When she got up, her Children, Barile and John, lay like a weird painting on the floor few steps away from the foot of the bed. John had rolled away from the mat to lie close to the small refrigerator which had become a cupboard since it spoilt two years ago, when John was born.

When she went out to void, she met her him brushing his teeth vigorously as though he could change them from brown to white that morning by merely brushing harder. She didn’t greet him; she didn’t allow him that luxury when they had an issue to hammer out. It was her way of tipping him off. She went back into their one room apartment and woke up the children for morning devotion.

They had been saying Hail Mary when he had entered the room. She couldn’t remember what he did, but he hadn’t joined in the prayers…

And then she saw his back as he left with his office box in his left hand. She’d thought of asking him what the children would have for breakfast, but somehow she felt she knew what his answer would be. What she didn’t know was that he wasn’t heading to the office.



Where could he have gone? She was staring mindlessly on the floor when an idea struck her, and she stood up abruptly. God, she sighed, I hope this isn’t what I’d feared most. Her son, Barile, was sitting quietly on the floor moping sheepishly at her wondering what had come over her. She held her breath as she knelt beside John, her second son, who was already sleeping silently on the mat. She looked under the bed, but even with the best accommodation her eyes couldn’t make out a shape. So she put her hand under the bed and waved to and fro, but she felt nothing. The Ghana-must-go bags were not there! She bent down, crawled underneath the bed and waved her hand once more.

“Hei!” a surprise groan escaped from her mouth in the still darkness under the bed. She came out of the bed in a flash and climbed the side stool that served as their center table and looked atop the wall hangar. There were only her bags and her children’s; none of Tosan’s bags was there. The reality hit her; Barile’s father had packed out! She couldn’t believe it; it happened only in the Movies, novels, newspapers. I believed it though, because unlike her I saw it from the beginning that Tosan was less than a man…

She looked at Barile who stared back at her in awe. She knew he could tell from her expression that something was terribly wrong. She could not bring herself to tell him; neither could he bring himself to ask…

That same night, some fifteen poles away from Rosemary’s rented apartment, it is told that at such a time that used to be called wee hour in eerie poems, Kweri staggered home from God-knows-where. It was his birthday, but that wasn’t why he was drunk. He was always either drunk or confused each night. As he put each foot tentatively in front of the other homewards, he edited his plan of escape from his wife and daughter in his mind which was dripping with alcohol. This marriage thing was dragging him into a pit, he thought, one had to help himself.

‘Uncle Kweri, good evening.’ A small girl greeted as he walked into the quadrangular public yard where he struggled to pay rent for two rooms.

‘Yowaa! Good, good, good my son. Howaa you? Please, go into my car and offload all the goodies I came back with. Be careful, don’t break a thing.’

The small girl giggled. She got exactly what she expected - a blabber from a drunkard. This was a treat children in the yard enjoyed most nights when no one cared to shut them up.

‘Uncle, where did you park the car?’ she ventured.

‘At the runway, high up… on the hangar…’ He gesticulated weirdly.

The giggle matured into a full blown laughter.

Unperturbed by the jeer, Kweri turned the knob of his door and pushed it hard. The door stayed put. Surprised that his wife wasn’t in, he fished out the key from his pocket and unlocked the door. A thick impenetrable darkness dominated the room. He turned on the electric bulb. Like the overflowing banks of a river, the light gushed into the next room unobstructed, as the rooms were almost empty.

The first impression he had was that Bukola had moved out.

As he took a clouded cursory look around the two rooms, he confirmed it. What a birthday gift she gave him; parking out unannounced with her daughter?! Good riddance for a bad nonsense. He gloried at the thought of his new found freedom not knowing at that time that his five year old daughter, Elvis, was sleeping in his next door neighbour’s room. She was his responsibility and Bukola wasn’t caring enough to take her from him.


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