“Are you willing to talk to me?” Daluchi asked with an appealing voice. Amarachi was overwhelmed with emotions; she bent her head and tried to hold back her tears. But tear drops ran freely down her cheeks.
Prior to this, Amarachi sat alone on her bed with a vacant look. She shook her head as she summed up how long she had been living in the Face-me-I face-you type of accommodation, in the city of Lagos. For almost a decade. The furniture in the room made her feel distraught.
“What did I do wrong?” she had asked, moving her hands in frustration. She glanced towards the door as she heard a knock. There were more knocks. Reluctantly, she moved to the door and opened it.
Daluchi, her friend, stood before her with a broad smile. Amarachi did not smile; instead, she strolled back to her bed and sat down.
Daluchi was thrown off her gleeful mood. She was a health care aide who lived in the neighbourhood and a close friend of Amarachi. She understood the change in her mood. So she calmly sat beside Amarachi and, with an appealing voice, urged her to talk about her dissatisfaction.
Amarachi gave in to her friend’s show of concern. Holding her palms together in despair, she muttered in a low tone, “I want to tell you a lot.” Daluchi nodded her head without interrupting the dejected lady.
“I am from a family of five in Amaichi town. My father died in my childhood. My mother, Chima, laboured arduously to feed her three children. Though there was no support for her after our father’s death, yet she strived to make us happy. My younger brother, Afamefula, and my little sister, Isioma, were a lot of concern to her as she advanced in age. She wondered if they could fend for themselves in her absence.” She stopped talking and Daluchi moved closer and held her hands. She had observed that brightness was going off Amarachi’s once lit face. She knew that she may not be able to do much for Amarachi, but listening to her might just be the therapy she needed to heal.
“Go on,” Daluchi encouraged her forlorn friend.
Amarachi continued, “Mother paid our fees through her toils in the farm and petty trading. When I graduated from the secondary school, I knew that she would not afford my fees in a higher institution but I was not bothered. One day, Afamefula announced that he wanted to become a medical doctor. Our mother’s joy knew no bound, but it was short-lived, because she couldn’t sponsor Afamefula’s aspiration.
“I decided to move to Lagos in search of a job so that I could help her financially. Her dream was for Afamefula to become an outstanding personality and I wanted to help her realise that dream. She reluctantly gave in but wept on the day I left the village.
“After a prolonged search in Lagos, I got my present job. This helped a lot, because the income enabled me to have a modest provision shop. Our mother was joyful when I brought the first fees home after Afamefula was admitted into a school of medicine. She looked at me with concern, ‘How did you get all these?’ she questioned.
“I explained that I also made some money from selling provisions.
“She broke into a dance, ‘My chi has remembered me,’ she said as she danced excitedly.
“I was moved to tears, because I had never seen her as happy as that. Afamefula was also quite appreciative. He promised to work hard and always made jokes on how he would take care of his adorable mother and his charming sisters.
“Afamefula became the reason for laughter in my family. Relatives and neighbours always walked in to greet ‘the intelligent doctor’s mother and siblings. Even though he had not graduated, still they regarded him as a doctor.
“After a while, things became alarmingly difficult. The fees weighed us down. Mother became unhappy and developed high blood pressure as well. The doctor counselled that she should work less. My burdens became compounded. I paid Afamefula’s fees and also made more trips home to take care of our mother. Mother could not bear my suffering for long, so she sold a portion of land that our father left for her.
“Afamefula grew up to become a great man. At his graduation, his mother smiled amidst tears. She couldn’t contain her joy because he made us proud. That night, the birds in the dark surrounding thick forest sang beautifully with sonorous voices in appreciation of our chi.
“Soon Afamefula got a job in the city of Port Harcourt. He always visited our mother because he was close to home. He took over Isioma’s school fees, though we resisted him. Soon, he became everyone’s doctor in our community. Most of the time, he attended to the patients without any bill. He became a household name in the community.”
At this point, Amarachi began to weep.
“What is the matter?” Daluchi asked in confusion. “Where is Afamefula presently?” “He is dead,” came the chilly answer.
“What killed him?” she asked, bewildered.
“He committed suicide,” Amarachi whispered miserably.
Daluchi shook her head at such a bad experience. “Why did he commit suicide?” she asked again as she watched her friend wail uncontrollably, but, before she could get an answer, there was a knock on the door.
Knowing Amarachi’s state, Daluchi opened the door for the guest. Chigbogu, Amarachi’s uncle walked into the room. Without cognisance of the situation, he briefly said, “Your mother wants to see you immediately.” There was not much time for questions as he insisted that they should travel with the night bus despite Daluchi’s plea. Notwithstanding, Daluchi accompanied them.
They arrived home at dawn, and Amarachi was ushered into her mother’s room by her aunt. Inside the room, there were a few other relatives. She directed her gaze to the bed where her mother lay. Chima, her mother, was in tears and breathed heavily. At this sight, Amarachi cried and her mother beckoned on her to move closer. The others encouraged her to listen calmly.
Then Chima pleaded, “Please, forgive your brother.” Amarachi wept more in protest. She had refused to forgive Afamefula but looking at her pitiable mother she considered that. “The elders have refused to bury him. They said that suicide is an abomination and utter wickedness. No one wants to forgive my son. I learnt that a lady he wished to marry left him. He became depressed for some time before he took his life. My son suffered much pain but I never knew,” Chima ended.
Amarachi, who heard the reason for her brother’s suicide, for the first time, ran outside sobbing. She could not believe that Afamefula could fail their family. “He did not remember all our toils and dream!” she exclaimed tearfully.
Daluchi came to her in a while and appealed that she should return to the room. As they entered, her mother pleaded with Chigbogu, her uncle, to appeal to the elders to give her son, Afamefula, a befitting burial. Then, suddenly, Chima began to gasp. Daluchi urgently checked her pulse and suggested that she should be moved to the hospital immediately. While the arrangement was on going, Chima passed on. Everyone present was in utter confusion and despair, especially her daughters. The elders made the arrangement for the burial. Afamefula was buried at the outskirts of the town, because the elders insisted that his death was an abomination, while Chima was buried in her compound amidst tears. That night was as silent as a graveyard and the clever birds declined to sing.
After a few days, Daluchi, Amarachi and Isioma decided to leave for Lagos. They locked the ghostly house and began to walk away. Amarachi looked back at their house which once held many dreams but, at that moment, was empty and desolate. Her eyes became misty. She turned to Daluchi and muttered, “I can only hear the echoes of my dream.” There was no response. Daluchi pulled her away and the trio trudged the dusty route.