Back in the house mama paced up and down. She should have told him about papa. Or she should have told him more. She would have said that papa needed help, that papa did not have a job. She should have said she no longer thinks of intimacy, of sex. She just wished pastor Dave knew more. Heard more. When she finally served some food, for once she ate all of the rice until the plate was clean. Mama had left to meet Chief Joe in his office the next morning. The austere emptiness of the office made her nervous. She wished there was a picture to distract her. Something to make her remember the good old days. Something to remind her of her wedding night. The night she and papa had undressed silently, marveling at the comforting compactness of their virgin bodies. An entanglement of emotions and a new page soaked in love.
There was only a small crucifix on the right side of the wall and she was peering at it when Chief Joe came in. she had forgotten what being handsome was. It had been six years since papa’s taxi was stolen. The only source of livelihood he was known for. It had been six years she’d have to endure his snoring loud through parted lips. Lips thick with the smell of liquour every night. She spoke immediately, “hello, Chief. Good morning.” Chief Joe looked at the calm, the ever unending greenness of mama’s face and said, “ah, Jacinta, you are welcome!” mama had told Chief to forget about adding the mrs before her name. The sun had begun to take its rest when mama came back from Chief’s place. When she walked in, there was a luxurious, womanly slowness to her gait, a lift, a roll, a toggle of her buttocks with each step. Her appearance spoke loudly of the days papa drove her out to their COM meeting and then to the market.
“Mama, is anything the problem?” I inquired wile starring hopelessly at her. “Where is your father?” mama sounded frighteningly calm, while pretending she didn’t get my question. “Mama, he went to see uncle Ola.” “Yes, he’d always go to see uncle Ola, when his mates are looking for…” she had paused suddenly. The coolness of the room had dissipated quickly. Warm, humid air gagged the room and I soon saw mama tossing in the wetness of her own sweat. The sweat of making sure I registered for my final exams. The sweat that made sure there was food on papa’s table. The very table I would never see both of them sit together on. At least not in years. Sometimes I wonder why mama hasn’t left papa. I had thought to myself that with her absence, he would wake up from the life pastor Dave was always talking about. Or lieing about.I hoped that he would realize that all these years it wasn’t the Canon Law or the Indissolubility of marriage or that for-better-for-worse anthem or love, that made her, my mama, stay with him. I wish papa knew that she bore all that, that she’d always come back home from Chief’s place, because of me. Just me!