PROLOGUE “Is papa missing?” That was the question…
Lately, Rosemary had been quarreling with Barile’s father once too often especially because he hardly provided for the family and he drank more often. One of her friends had warned her that her husband had a mistress, but she quickly told the gossip to mind her business. However that revelation ignited a fear, a cold suspicion that her husband’s lackadaisical attitude towards her had fueled. He lay on the bed beside her each night snored like a bear. As she sat on the bed and willed sleep to overtake her inquisitive son, Barile, she remembered the way her husband had left that morning.
He’d woken up before her and left the room without as much as waking the children for Morning Prayer because when she got up, her children, Barile and John, were lying like a weird painting on the floor, few steps away from the foot of the bed. John had rolled away from the mat to lie close to the small refrigerator which had become a cupboard since it spoilt two years ago, when she gave birth to John.
When she went out to void, she met Tosan, her husband brushing his teeth vigorously as if he wanted it to turn from brown to white that morning. She didn’t greet him; he didn’t enjoy that luxury when they had an issue to hammer out. She went back into their one room apartment and woke up the children for prayer. In the course of the prayer, her husband had entered the room, she couldn’t remember what he did, but he hadn’t joined in the prayer.
And then she saw his back as he left, his office box in his left hand. She’d thought he left for the office, but now she knew otherwise.
Where could he have gone? She was staring mindlessly on the floor when an idea struck her, and she stood up abruptly. God, she sighed, I hope this isn’t what I’d feared most. She held her breath as she knelt beside John who was sleeping silently on the mat. She looked under the bed, literally she didn‘t believe her eyes. So she put her hand under the bed and waved to and fro, but she touched nothing_ the Ghana-must-go bags were not there!
She bent down, crawled underneath the bed and waved her hand once more.
“Hei!” a surprise groan escaped from her mouth in the still dark night under the bed. She came out of the bed in a flash and climbed the side stool that served as their center table and looked atop the wall hanger. There were only her bags and her children’s’; none of her husband’s bag was there. The reality hit her; Barile’s father had packed out.
She couldn’t believe it; it happened only in the movies and maybe in the newspapers...
She looked at Barile who was fast asleep; his innocent expressionless face was a chip off the old block. But it didn’t occur to her that that younger copy would be the only picture of her husband she would ever see from that night.
Later on, that night, some fifteen poles away, at such a time as used to be called wee hour in eerie poems, Kweri staggered home from God-knows-where. It was his birthday, but that wasn’t why he was drunk. He was always either drunk or confused each night. As he put each foot tentatively in front of the other homewards, he edited his plan of escape from his wife and daughter in his brain which was dripping with alcohol. This marriage thing was dragging him into a pit, he thought, one had to help himself.
‘Uncle Kweri, good evening.’ A small girl greeted as he walked into the quadrangular public yard where he rented two rooms.
‘Yowaa! Good, good, good my son. Please go into my car and offload all the goodies I came back with. Be careful, don’t break a thing.’
The small girl giggled. She got exactly what she expected__ a blabber from a drunkard.
‘Uncle, where did you pack the car?’ she ventured.
‘At the runway, high up… on the hangar…’ He gesticulated weirdly.
The giggle matured into a full blown laughter. Unperturbed by the jeer, Kweri turned the knob of his door and pushed it hard. The door stayed put. Surprised that his wife wasn’t in, he fished out the key from his pocket and unlocked the door. A thick impenetrable darkness dominated the room. He turned on the electric bulb. Like the overflowing banks of a river, the light gushed into the next room unobstructed as the rooms were almost empty.
The first impression he had was that Bukola has moved out. As he took a cursory look around the two rooms, he confirmed it. What a birthday gift she gave him; parking out unannounced with her daughter? Good riddance for a bad nonsense. He was elated, but what he didn’t know at that time was that his five year old daughter, Elvis, was sleeping in his next door neighbor’s room. She was his responsibility and Bukola wouldn’t take it from him.