ON THE SIDE | by Dara Okon

on the side by Dara okon - elsieisy blog

As much as humans were created to be there for each other, being parasitic was never in plan. Even between parents and children.

I understood that as little as sixteen when I got out of high school. I got an education that was partly sponsored by my parents and my nun aunt. I had to live with another of my aunt to get the necessary materials. Everyone trying to help push me through.

I hated it: HELP. Especially when it became a burden to them. The constant calls from momma reminding me why I needed to pass the final exams to make ‘Sister’ happy, the warnings not to do anything stupid, because they could not afford to pay my fees if ‘Sister’ withdrew. That was another kind of burden I deliberately ignored.

My whole life was centered on pleasing ‘Sister’. I had to attend the Catholic Church too, against my will.

“Dear Dora, you know what I like, right” She would hum over the phone. She served in St Leo’s Catholic cathedral, somewhere in Brazil, and word had it that she was big, almost a matron. I never paid attention to those kind of things.

“A good result, Sister” I would respond, the same answer since junior high.

“Good girl. This is the final lap, and this time I want the best result, understood”

“Yes Sister”

“Would talk to you later”

But that year, I didn’t give her the best result. I even flopped one of my subjects – chemistry.

I couldn’t go to college that year, as I had to re-sit for the exam. Sister didn’t make contact with me. My parents rained all manner of reprimands. Mum was the worst. She cried over the phone and nothing ever felt so painful.

I passed my reseat exam and it was time for college. Sister still choose the school again. Her excuse was she could afford those schools and she doesn’t want me out of that town. I felt the later was the real reason while the former was just to silence any opposition. I wrote the school’s exam, passed but wasn’t offered an admission.

This went on for two years. I requested to see my parents as it had been four solid years of separation. Subtly, I told Sister that my home town was more education oriented than the city I lived currently, I could attend classes for college intake exams while I was with my parents to avoid wasting time. She surprisingly agreed, so I moved from Enugu to Lagos, Nigeria.

Things weren’t exactly rosy for my parents. The road that led to my house was bumpy and sandy. The buildings I saw were just bricks surrounded by grasses and mud huts. Sparse grasses, red hot sand and half- naked children highlighted the poverty in the area.

“Are we in Lagos” I asked trying to remember what my hood looked like. I was disappointed with my sight-seeing.

“Yes, in a way”, my elder brother announced. His height covered his lanky nature.

“But we are just a bridge away. This is Ogun state” My heart sank. I followed on till we got to the house.

 “Anybody home”, I hid my disappointment as I got to the door of my house. It had a dirty grey cloth placed in front, as a doormat. Door was opened, and I saw my mother. She was so lean, her facial skeleton, had taken over her face. I almost cried. What had happened, I wondered.

My younger Sister was also slim. I hugged everyone, gave out my bags and the gifts my aunt had sent.

“Doradora” that was father. I looked towards the cotton whose red flowers had started fading to light pink due to longevity. He walked steadily avoiding kitchen wares scattered along the path that connected his room and the parlor.

“Yes Daddy” I stood and hugged big black body. He was the only one who hadn’t lost weight. It was more a hormonal thing than it was whatever it was. I was still yet to find out.

Later that night, momma came to my room. She tapped me and waited for me to teleport back to reality amidst stretching and yawning.

“Momma, what happened” I asked this time, alert. Momma only calls that late when she had ridiculous questions to ask about your love life (that shouldn’t include sex), or long epistles of advice to give after a whole day of verbal and physical rounds of ‘discipline’.

Anyways, I had no problem sitting up straight, since I was almost a visitor in my house.

“Father lost his business. The guys in charge with the oil barrels changed their contact and disappeared. I went on a borrowing spree for him to fuel the buttons business, we are still waiting on God for the returns” She talked slowly with her eyes curved downwards revealing extreme hopelessness. She had been crying.

If there was one thing I saw, mother was tired of ‘waiting on God’. She was always the spiritual one, forcing everyone to get in time for church service, waking everyone up with her loud clapping in the living room for morning prayers.  Always believing God for everything, whilst she sold small merchandise at a nearby nursery school.

I registered for the UTME classes, but I did something too. I told one of the teachers, I could be a private tutor to any parent who needed one.

Dad and mum felt I should concentrate on passing the exams. I told them I passed twice but I wasn’t just picked by that University, and that I am considering changing my choice of University this year to boost my chances.

“Is sister aware” Dad asked quietly.

“She will find out when it is already done”

“That’s not a wise thing to do” Mum added quickly.

“What is”, I was growing impatient. “Choose the same university for the third time and get rejected?”

I stood up to drink water and closed my mind to the continuous, ‘she is the one who is sponsoring’, ‘she has a right to know’ anthem my parents sung like bees diving around honey comb.

I went on with my teaching job alongside the classes. News got to sister about the change of institution. She told me clearly to wait and see if I would be picked. It sounded more like a threat.

I had attained a lovely friendship with the mother of my student, she sailed her exams in flying colors, then she helped gather more kids. I had over five kids to teach, and of course the pay increased.

Days went by and the results were released: I passed. I wasn’t surprised. I was just expectant of the admission list.  Sister bombarded us with calls. She kept saying my adamant and stubborn nature had destroyed my schooling chances.

 Momma had to remind her that the admission list was short of one, since my name was not found in the two that had been released, and we shouldn’t lose hope yet.

At 6pm that cold evening, I strolled back home from classes. I had had a long day with the kids and was looking forward to my bed. I got home, pushed the door open to bump into a mini town meeting holding in my sitting room. Mom, dad, my two siblings and our local pastor. They were all pensive.

“Doradora, welcome” my dad was always happy to see me.

“What happened” I refused to take a seat.

“Congratulations dear, your name came out in the third list” Mum broke the news.

“Finally!!”, I yelled and sat down in the couch opposite the door.

“But Sister says she can’t afford the fees” that bullet evaporated my happiness. Black lines came crashing towards me, I struggled to my feet.

“It’s a federal school. The fees are about the same range with the ones in Enugu.” I began protesting. I stood up, headed towards my room, dropped my bag and laid on my bed.

 My head started aching. My brain cells searched for food and what I could do to help the situation. It was a tug-of-war.

“Dora take it easy” Shirley called out. As tiny as she was, she understood my tantrums than anyone else.

“I can afford the fees”

“What are you saying” Dad looked on with interest. I felt like some television news that aired a rise of the nation’s GDP. Their attention was frightening.

“I have 150000 naira from my Side job. I would pay the acceptance fees and go on with the process. That would do for now”

“How would you continue”, tony asked. Elder brother that always looked out for me.

“By doing what I am doing on the side”, I answered politely. I moved to take a seat beside momma.

“By not depending on anybody, anything, or even on ONE THING” I ended.

In campus, I attend classes, while I am into sale of fashion wears, mostly for females. My mates can’t understand. They feel my parents should provide everything for me.

 I feel that is parasitic. Sooner or later, one organism would die.

Feature Image source – Medium

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