Leaving Home (A Memoir)

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but never out hearts.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

 When you leave home for the first time; alone, you are sitting at the back seat in the bus, face leaned to the translucent window, trying desperately to ignore the lump in your throat.

Earlier that day, you had woken from a rather short and disturbing sleep and sat on the twin bed you shared with your younger sister. You could hear the jouncy sound of your heartbeat as you look around the room to see your sisters sleeping soundly. Your little niece is snoring slightly until she stirred circuitously and sluggishly opened her eyes. She staggered to you, and you held her in your embrace and cuddled her back to sleep, she is agitated when you try to put her on the mattress, so she remained in your arms. It is thirty minutes later that your mum comes into the room and ask that you get prepared. The ticket says you will take off by Six thirty. You had your bath at a snail’s pace, talking with your sister while at it. Your dad’s voice could be heard telling you to be fast. But you do not know how to be fast to leave home.

Your younger sister is chattering and your elder sister helps with your middle sized luggage, you carried your niece over one shoulder: tickling her and letting her giggles tickle you into laughing as you all walked downstairs; mum and dad leading the way. They tell you goodbye and your sister says she won’t miss you. You laugh as you hug her again and say a rather painful and silent bye – because you have never been one to bid farewell to people you love, you do not know how to let go of memories, friends, lovers, family. – In the car, Daddy says a long comforting prayer and ignites the engine. Mum sits in the front seat, asking for the umpteenth time if you had sprayed perfume. It is still dawn and you look out the window, hoping to catch the sunrise, but the bipolar weather changes and the sky turns cloudy. Your heart is beating again and when you got to the God is Good bus terminal, you see that it is crowded already and it is not yet six thirty. Daddy and you begin conversing: he is telling you about how the transport business has grown compared to the past years; he is telling you about hardwork, about the government; and you realize you will miss these father-daughter talk you two engage in regularly. Mummy joins in and says something that makes you laugh. Daddy is worried: he had insisted you take a flight, that it was a long journey and you have never been on this kind of travel before. But you had also insisted on a road trip, arguing that you wanted the full journey experience. Sitting in the terminal for another thirty minutes, you feel relaxed and silently hope there had been a postponement. You call your sister to tell her you were still around, that she should drop by on her way to work.

Now, you are in the backseat of the bus, alone. You wave bye again, to mum and Dad. Mummy is trying to hold back her tears. She is probably thinking how time flies and her baby girl was becoming an adult, you know this because you feel the same. When the bus is about moving out of the terminal, you had your earpiece on and switch the music to shuffle play: it plays Ed Sheeran’s Supermarket flowers. Mum mouthed an ‘are you okay?’ and you nod, still waving, and a tear dropped.

Home has always been comfort zone. For the past years of your being, your whole life revolved around being with the same set of people; family. At home, you are at ease. You do not need to be any one but you. You are not afraid to make mistakes. And after having a bad day, you find relief in getting home and burying yourself in the consoling softness of your mattress, assured that mum’s stew will make the day right again. Home was familiarity and comfort; gift and contentment. And that is why you never want to leave; for fear of change.

When you arrive Port Harcourt in the dark of the night, you breathe in an aura of newness and of calm. You feel welcomed when your brother grins at you and his wife clasped you into a warm embrace. They call home to inform them of your arrival and you hear your daddy’s laughter as he called you a big girl. The first night, you cannot sleep. You feel a lump in your throat as you think of home, you imagine what is happening at the moment. You think of the warmth you have gotten accustomed to, then you cover yourself with the duvet, trying to tap into that warmth as your heart broke into fragments of tears.

Port Harcourt is lowkey hustling. Here, there is no noise as of that of Lagos and it has a placid ambience. Here, you know that the next person may be a kidnapper or an army general, so you learn not to look down on anybody and to respect yourself. Here, the city is cold at night and forces you to cuddle up. It is here that you learn about yourself, for there is no distraction, so you come to the realization of what you are and what you want to become. You absorb the fact that you are from far away; that nobody knows you here; so you imbibe a new personality. You let your crippled wings fly as you dive into uncertainty. You take up new chances: you are limitless, unafraid. You feel a vacuum when you think of home, even some days find you brooding, and because night is always intense, you cannot help but allow the tears saturate the pillowcase. It is here that you make tough decisions; it is here that you grow up. So one breezy evening, you are sitted in your brother’s Corolla and you come to the acceptance that you are not even ready to go home; because you are already getting used to being an adult; that you have adapted. That you have defied change.

by Elizabeth Joshua

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