Thump! Was the sound that woke me up. Startled I crossed myself, then looked at my phone. Three messages, all ignored. The time was 22:22hrs. I got out of bed and, going from the bedroom to the living room, I turned on all the lights.
I have stayed alone most of my adult life, though recently I got a new flatmate. She was out running the Easter down. My brother had not come home either. So I was home alone. Still wondering where the thumping sound had come from, I jumped as my phone vibrated in my pajama pocket before D’Angelo’s “Cruisin'” reached my ears. It was my neighbour calling.
“Uncle Frankie, did you hear any sound?” After we had been visited by Night Cowboys almost a year ago, she could never sleep deeply at night.
“Yes o, neighbour.” I said.
“Do you have fuel under the stairs?” She asked me. “Why d’ya ask?” I asked her in typical Naija fashion.
“Because it sounded like a gallon exploding due to pressure, or something like that.”
“No o, I don’t have fuel.” With that I returned to the room and lay back down.
Barely thirty minutes later I heard another sound. “You have to be joking.” I muttered under my breath as I turned the wheel on the shower. The drip, drip, drip of the water hitting the tiles on the bathroom floor had sounded eerie in the still of the night.
When at 00:35hrs my phone rang, I automatically picked the call before the ringtone penetrated the cotton wool that was my brain. “Hello Franque, I just wanted to inform you that you have a son. Congratulations.”
A million questions formed in my brain. Sleep, and everything else was forgotten. “When?” I managed to croak, my throat suddenly parched. “I am tired and trying to get some rest,” she said. “Oh, sorry. I will come as soon as day breaks.” Even as I said those words, I was already calculating whose car I could access that late. Getting off the phone with her, I called my neighbour. “Congratulations o. E ku ewu omo.” She enthused. “But it’s late o. Why don’t you wait till morning?” She asked. Beaten, I agreed. “So will you still need the car then?” She asked, this neighbour of mine. Not upset that I woke her up so early knowing she was nursing a two-week old herself.
“Nah, neighbour. I will take public transport then. Thank you.” And I hung up.
I checked the time every few seconds, willing it to move faster; I sent my Mum a text, sent one each to my sisters, and then sent my brother a BB message – I knew for sure I would not be sleeping anymore that night, but I did not want to wake up the entire clan to keep vigil with me.
I was composing a message for my cousin, M.E when my phone rang. My eldest sister, Big Mama, was calling. We screamed together, tele-hugged each other, jumped up and down together, then I told her good night. From that moment it was a deluge of phone calls and text messages and BB messages too.
All of these I appreciated because they helped pass the night. I did my dishes, did my laundry also. I was going to grow my facial hair over the period because I never got a chance to with work, but for want of something to do to keep busy, I pulled out my clipper and shaved it off!
I was floating! I had a bad case of the trembles. My heart ballooned to my neck region, and I was having troubles keeping my voice level. Oh, and there was the bowel movement. Nerves I guess. I went three times in forty-five minutes. At a point I thought the next visit would be for my intestines.
I probably should have cried. I probably would have cried if I still remembered how, if only to relieve the emotional pressure building up inside me. I was like a dam threatening to burst. In all this I would still check the time.
As soon as it was 05:00hrs, I jumped into the shower, took my bath as calmly as I could – really hard to do, this staying calm business – got dressed in record time in a pair of light blue jeans and a coffee tunic I had selected hours before.
I walked/trotted/jogged/ walked briskly to the busstop. It was at times like that that I wished I had a car. After waiting several minutes, I hopped on two okadas, one after the other, and arrived at the hospital gate just before 06:00hrs. I remembered the time because I stumbled through the Regina Caeli standing at the gate while the gateman took his time to let me in.
In the Lobby, the first person I saw was her sister, and her sluggish response to my urgency kind of ticked me off. Following her, I was led to the Maternity Ward where I first beheld my son.
He was wrapped in a thick cream coloured, Winnie the Pooh shawl. Lying in the cot under what I hoped was a treated mosquito net, he was propped up on his right with a folded cream coloured towel and I wondered if he was not too warm. The cot was placed at the head of her bed away from the fan and the airconditioner that did not ‘condition’ anything. I walked up to her, and brushing her chin lightly with my fingers, I said “Well done. And thank you very much.” Those words, barely a whisper, caught in my throat. A throat once again chocked full with emotions.
Then I turned my attention back to the miracle lying in the cot. The first thing I noticed, standing over his head, was his nose. That there was the family nose alright. I changed my position to the foot of his cot to take a second proper look at him and it was then I noticed the slight frown/scowl on his forehead. I knew I had seen that before, and it took only a few seconds to realise it was identical to the one I wore when I was concentrating, or thinking about something. His well formed fingers, curled into a semi fist, were resting on his chin and he seemed to be deep in thought. Not the cutest mien for an infant, but he managed to pull it off! “May I?” I asked no one in particular, gesturing toward him. And without waiting for an answer I rolled back the netting, reached inside the cot and gently lifted him out.
“Good morning son.” I said to him, and almost dropped him for shock when he rewarded my greeting with the lifting of his right lips in a smile I know too well. In that instant my heart shattered into a trillion tiny pieces, and reset again. But I knew inside of me that it did not reset the same way as it was before. It felt fuller, better, perfect!
I brushed the back of a finger against his cheek, so soft and rounded; pulled back his cap to reveal a head of hair so shiny and dark; rolled up his sleeve to expose the back of a hand already showing well defined hair folicles – dude was hairier than me! I hugged him tight against my chest, talking to him and telling him how much Daddy loves him; not saying the words out too loud, just letting them wash over him as they rumbled in my throat and chest, knowing that he could feel the vibrations coming off me, hear the words I was saying to him.
Standing there, holding him in my arms talking to him and smiling at him, I knew. I knew that everything was going to be alright because, believe it or not, this son of mine is sent by God. My defence, my vindication. And I knew that I love him fiercely and he loves me in return.
PS: Love is an understanding. A quiet understanding in which a thought may not be spoken, but is still understood.