By Osa Amadi
My so-called love for her turned to hatred as I kept seeing her and the man. At some point, I began to suspect she had come to the knowledge of my jealousy and decided to spurn me further, for she became louder than necessary whenever she was laughing and cracking her usual jokes with mama Ozioma and other members of the yard.
She knew I was always watching her from my bedroom window; I had revealed that to her when she came to my flat. I had the feeling she was putting up some shows for me whenever she noticed that my bedroom window was open. Sometimes she would even start dancing the erotic Afikpo traditional dance after which she would laugh raucously and cast a Jeering glance towards my window.
Why is she mocking me? I ruminated. Did I commit any sin by loving and desiring to marry her and make her life better? I decided to fling her out of my heart but it was not easy for me. I determined not to open that side of my bedroom window any longer but it was like someone who was addicted to a psychedelic drug – I kept going there whenever I was in the house.
I also noticed that whenever she was going to bathe or pooh-pooh she would carefully use her wrapper to cover the side of the bathroom facing my window. Maybe she believed I had been peeping at her nakedness. And so what? Is it me that gave her the manhole as bathroom and toilet? Is it not from that shit I am trying to rescue her?
From nowhere I knew of, a thought dropped into my mind: are you not hastily concluding that the man you have been seeing with her is her boyfriend? It was a disturbing thought, and I decided to put my mind to rest by finding out. One day, I met mama Ozioma when she was returning from the market.
“You don’t bother to ask of your wife any longer,” she began, laughing as usual.
I feigned a smile but the paleness of it betrayed my hidden rampaging emotion. “Who is that man that is always coming to see her?” I have always been a straight shooter. I don’t like to beat about the bush. I looked deeply into mama Ozioma’s eyes. She could not meet my gaze, and with that I didn’t need any more answer.
“My brother, when person see road and decide to enter bush, wetin me I go do? I don’t try my best. So I said: ga fili ga doki (horse, see forest, go ahead and roam)”
“Did she ever ask you any question about me?”
She looked down and paused, carefully weighing the wisdom in releasing whatever information she was about to give me. “It was that day when she came back from your house…she asked me what work you do. I told her you are a teacher.”
“And she said she doesn’t want to marry a teacher,” I said, rescuing mama Ozioma from the burden of having to tell me that. “Don’t mind her,” she said almost angrily, “what is she herself? Even the man she is following, is he not a casual factory worker in Nestle at Agbara?”
So it’s because she saw me as an ordinary teacher, I retorted. “Is the man from their place?”
“Yes,” mama Ozioma said, sounding as one pitying me. I hated that. I have never in my life cried over women. As a matter of fact, most of the women I have had dealings with were the ones who practically threw themselves at me. From that day I excised Amaka from my heart like a leaf of an exercise book containing irredeemable errors.
I kept my bedroom window opened without any more desire to observe her. Even when I looked through the window into the slummy yard I saw everyone but her, even though she would there with them. For me, she no longer existed and somehow she appeared to have sensed it, for she no longer laughed raucously and danced erotically to annoy me.
I concentrated on my work as a piano teacher, going to Ikoyi and Victoria Island to teach my private students who were increasing every day in number, especially the Indians.
For a very long time I did not see Amaka in that yard and I did not care or bother to ask about her. In fact, I completely forgot about her.
About a year later, one morning, I heard mama Uche, Amaka’s sister, crying. People gathered all around her, including mama Ozioma. I watched the scene from my bedroom window as usual. I thought that her husband who was always looking frail was dead.
I had to be on the Lagos Island to teach an 80-year old woman, Mrs. Joseph, who wanted to learn to play church hymns on the piano. We had arranged the lesson to start by 11 a.m. after all her grandchildren had gone to school so that they won’t be laughing at her as they always did whenever she sat on the upright piano to thump at the keys.
I used to teach Mrs. Joseph’s grandchildren in the evenings after they returned from school. One day she asked me whether it was possible for her to learn to play the piano at her age and I told her I had thought a man who was older than her. “How old do you think I am?” she had asked me.
“You can’t be more than 80,” I said.
“You are correct. I was 80 last month.”
“My oldest student was 85,” I told her.
Before I left that family for greener pastures, Mrs. Joseph was playing quite a number of Methodist hymns. She so much loved me. Each morning before we started the lesson she would instruct he cook to serve me breakfast of fried eggs, bread and coffee. She said I did not know the value I had added to her life at old age by motivating her to start piano lesson when no one else believed she could do it.
The next day as I was going to Alaba to buy something, I met mama Ozioma on the road. “I heard mama Uche crying yesterday. What happened to her?” I asked.
She put down the load she was carrying. “Guess what happened?”
“What happened?” I became alarmed.
“It was Amaka. Amaka is dead!”
I stood rooted like a tree in the ground. “What happened to her?”
“She was having a baby and died in the process. My brother, when God is protecting us we won’t understand,” she said to me, lifted her load and walked away. I returned to my apartment and spent the whole day meditating.
See you next week.