I could never watch a Nollywood film completely, in my home, when I was eight years old. It was always filled with scenes of black magic/voodoo. Women waking up at midnight dressed in white and red, their faces marked with charcoal were just a few of the many scary cases to mention.
The worse was when they conjured spirits of the dead. Immediately they appeared, I would shiver from what these spirits looked like. Protruding braids sat on top of their heads, resting on their faces like demons, teeth painted black, clothes stained with blood.
On one occasion, a spirit-man held a live baby upside down and was feasting on its legs. He was defiant to the infants screams. Mother said he would hand it to his subject to complete the task for him.
“Desperate people did this to acquire unexplainable wealth,” She added disapprovingly.
I sat still out of shock. The hairs on my members standing erect, my heart beating faster than experts on a talking drum. I crossed my legs to prevent the outburst of urine that had piled up. This was the craziest thing I ever saw. I couldn’t take it, so I ran.
I slid under the dining table adjacent to the TV that faced the Kitchen. Closing my eyes, I secretly hoped it would block my ears. I was still shivering. Mother and Aunt Sonya couldn’t help laughing. That was the least of my worries.
They had no idea the war I had to wage every night with those tormenting images in my head, before I slept.
Then one time, I stumbled on a TV program: BEHIND THE SCENES, and found out the amount of lightening effects the computer gave each movie, the red paint disguised as blood, the black charcoal responsible for the ‘spirits’ dark teeth, I was astounded.
I laughed loudly and since then I watched any seemingly scary movie with that discovery playing at the back of my head. It neutralized all fear.
At thirteen, I laugh when I recall these moments with my friends at Junior high school. How lame I was as a child. They also had their own share of the vinegar. It was that bitter.
But I never talk about something. How that feeling comes whenever I am been told to handle a glassware. I have broken several tumblers and plates, received spankings and verbal insult that I loathed glassware.
I quake each time I am handed a tumbler, or a saucer to return. My heart rate hits the roof instantly, it looked like I just ran the Olympics.
I was nicknamed ‘BUTTERHANDS, AH-BREAKS’ because I had really set a record. Eight plates, six glass cups and three saucers were no joke.
But there was an occasion that changed everything. That cold evening, Dad asked me to get a saucer for him to put his kolanuts.
I set out immediately for the deadly mission.
I tip-toed to the kitchen. Since I wasn’t tall enough, I climbed the wooden stool then stretched my hands towards the cupboard. I swung its doors open, and immediately reached for an unlucky white saucer poking its Polar bear design at me.
I started reciting the alphabets while still on the high stool. When I got to P, for some reason I bent, dropped the saucer on the tiled kitchen table and jumped down.
I returned the stool and started applauding myself silently. Tomi you can do this. I picked up the shiny white object and head out the kitchen.
As I swiped the kitchen curtain behind me, everything seemed hazy. It seemed like I was in Father’s room already. Had I teleported? I was stagnant, then I realized it was a mirage. I still have the corridor and the ironing board to cross- my danger zones.
I tilted past the corridor decorated with massive cartons of books. The sight was still as archaic as it had always been: Old books with torn pages, pouring out like an overfilled glass of wine. I looked past quickly, overcoming the temptation of distraction. I was mid-way to father’s room now.
The ironing board was three steps away from Father’s room. It sandwiched the thick brown curtain, that covered the mouth of the room, and the visitor’s bathroom.
That curtain was responsible for more accidents than an express road with potholes. Celar, my kid brother had broken a tooth while we played hide and seek, I had broken three plates just by the wooden door block whist trying to avoid the curtain. It was certainly marked danger zone for me.
Two steps away from father’s room, almost singing my panegyric, I am before the dreaded curtain, I step in with so much confidence, I don’t realize the translucent liquid lying carelessly on the floor. As soon as I step my bare left foot, I slid quickly about making a goliath fall, till I grab on the black light stand just beside the door. The saucer – was all that occupied my mind, I never cared if I broke a bone. I needed to prove a point.
Father watched on with captioned interest. The grip my left hand had on the saucer was so strong, it looked like I held an IV bag that contained the last pint of blood for a dying Barrack Obama.
I gained balance and skipped the slippery floor, Checked my legs for wounds, dusted my clothes and looked on at Father’s eyes. I could only imagine the worse things going through his mind that moment. ‘you never seem to do anything right’ or ‘you are never good at house chores’.
I start walking towards him oblivious of whatever emotion plastered on his face.
“Stop,” I am startled. He walks towards me, smiling, I breathe in relief.
“You didn’t break this one. How does it feel?”
“What?” the question left me blank as he retrieves the saucer from my hands.
“Oh” I start not sure of what to say. I feel a lot of things, but how do I put to words this exhilarating feeling of victory. It was almost like the triumph the 300 Spartan soldiers got over their ten thousand enemies. Only that the war was fought within me.
“A victor. I just won a battle that haunted my self-confidence. I won father, I can handle anything right” I finally find the right words.
“oh honey, do forgive our frustrations.” He knelt down in front of me and dropped the saucer on the king-sized bed.
His eyes spelt remorse, like he had committed some unpardonable offence. I had never looked at it that way, I was too busy being afraid that I didn’t realize they had sabotaged my self-esteem.
“You can handle anything honey. You just put your mind to it and realize you are bigger than it.” He was trying to find a way to get through, so he held my hands.
“whenever you are given a task, say to yourself, I am bigger than it, I can accomplish it. And don’t doubt it for a second. You’ll see you would always win. Got it?” he searched my eyes.
“Got it!” I nodded.
I can boldly say I handled sets upon sets of glassware, assignments, house chores and family dinners without any flaw. My fear was seeped out once again.
Now at twenty-five, fear is more than some nostalgic feeling that haunted me in the past. It is not those episodes of goose bumps painted on the exposed parts of my body, or the untimed racing of my cardiac organ, it is more of an unseen restriction that takes an iron form.
The language even changed when I talked about it to my circle. I felt restricted in taking that business online course I had wanted to. It was seeming as though, I was the smartest kid in my family.
I held myself from investing in a new noodles company that had just sprung up in our neighborhood – what if they close down in three months?
And could Nathan be real when he says he loves me? lord knows I haven’t healed completely from the last heartbreak, and I can’t handle anymore lies.
Presently I am still discovering an efficient way of breaking free from these strongholds. I make research about the noodles company and apply for that online course without publicizing it.
As for Nathan, I open my heart to discovering what he is made of and who he is. I could decide on love later.
I just decide to pick my fears one at a time and conquer. So far, it is working.