BEING BRUNO (Episode 8)

BEING BRUNO (Episode 8)

PAST

Each generation has something to be thankful for. For your grandfather, it was the coming of the white men with formal education. For your father, it was Michael Jackson with the wide afro hairstyle and flayed trousers. For you, it was the internet with all the answers it provided. [That, and Our Lady’s bread – but we will come to that later. Now, let us focus on how the internet kept you sane in the year of Our Lord, 2010.]

It should come as no surprise that you were a naturally curious person – if there is anything like that. You wanted to know about things and why they worked the way they did. This would explain a lot of things. Like why you broke a radio apart when you were five years ago. The radio was made of a shiny stainless steel material, so large that when your father lifted it, his arms were spread wide apart as if he was hugging it, and with more dials and knobs than the average child could learn to work out. You do not remember it, but your mom tells you that you were hell-bent on finding the people who were speaking from inside the contraption.

It would also explain the ferocity with which you consumed books. You had started out with books from the African Writer Series like Spare the Rod, The Fruit of Honesty and Chike and the River, before you progressed to The Concubine, Things Fall Apart and The Telephone Conversation. Then it had been infomercial books like The Atlas, history textbooks and Encyclopedias.

It seemed like the more you learnt, the less you knew. You couldn’t get the information as fast as you wanted, and you couldn’t get books on the subjects you wanted as easily as you liked.

Enter 2010, when you acquired your second cell phone, a Nokia 3110. It was your baby, and became your gateway to the world. At first, you would use online sources, thanks to internet cheats that gave you unlimited browsing time, to learn about arcane subjects like the map of the sky and the Egyptian gods. But then came the changes in your body chemistry and you were geared toward a different direction.

First, you found sites that were dedicated to providing you with erotica stories that kept you perpetually sated and imaginative. Then you found online sources that provided answers to the things going on inside you. It was thanks to the internet that you never felt like something was wrong with as you discovered your attraction to people of the same sex. In addition to teaching you what water sport and scat meant, it taught you that your sexuality was a universal phenomenon.

You had the opportunity of chatting with people older than you in different continents, learning from their experiences, so that when eventually you started getting bombarded by homophobic comments from your immediate society, you were already prepared to handle them.

The java phone also provided you with the distraction to escape what was becoming a toxic home. This was the second time that your father accused your mother of infidelity, and the first time that he called the church elders to arbitrate over their marital issues, when what he really wanted was for them to initiate a punishment for your mom. Questions that you couldn’t answer swiveled in your mind and the only way to quell them was to read mobi formats of The Percy Jackson and Harry Potter series.

In a way, the internet saved your life.

***

PRESENT

That night, while you waited for sleep to come, you turned on the cellular data on your phone and started surfing the net on your new favorite subject. This time however, you did not focus on the things that were wrong with you medically; you sought for sites that had stories from real people who were going through this very real problem.

Even though you had never met these people; you were inspired by their stories. Men and women that have survived the infection, and had come to live with it for longer than you had been alive, happy and fulfilled. You didn’t feel so alone after reading their insights. You didn’t feel so hopeless.

For the first thing, you consciously believed that you could really live with this thing.

One post in particular however drove your resolve. It started by sympathizing with you on your diagnosis. It didn’t pretend to know what you were going through, or to fully understand what you were feeling, but rightly guessed that you didn’t feel like you had won the lottery. It then told you that you shouldn’t give in to the despair. That even though the pull might be strong, an overwhelming need to wallow in self pity, you must resist that pull because when it comes right down to it, you do not have it worse than everyone else.

That stung you for a bit. How does someone who has admitted to not knowing what you were going through go ahead to tell you that your personal disaster in the grand scheme of things wasn’t worse than a natural disaster? Except that when you put it like that, it did kind of make sense. Sure, you were at a very low point of your life. Sure, it sucked that you had contracted HIV. But then, it was not like it was a death sentence. Not that you needed to start doing that Nigerian thing where you compared notes – your illness has a medication with which you can manage it, mine doesn’t, I win the suffering challenge – but instead, looking at the bigger picture helped put things in perspective.

And then the post got weird. In addition to asking you to see this not as a limitation but a minor hurdle that you can surmount, it told you to see this as a challenge to improve your life to such a standard where it ceased to be a liability but a shove in the right direction.

You had to sleep on that bit. And by the time you woke up the next morning, you knew what you had to do.

***

You woke up before everyone else in the apartment. Well, everyone except your father, who by all accounts was not a normal person. Growing up, you used to wonder if he got any sleep at all, seeing as he came out from his room at 12 am everyday like clockwork to unplug the television; at 12.30 to make sure that you hadn’t reconnected the tube; at 3 am to go to your mother’s bedroom from where you would hear muffled sounds that were sometimes raised loud enough for you to understand that he was making a request that your mom wasn’t interested in honoring; then at five o’clock when he would start the hour-long routine before he left the house for his shops.

So, this morning, when you woke up at five fifteen, alert and invigorated, you heard the unmistakable sound of your father brushing his teeth in the bathroom. You walked past him in the hallway, trying to ignore him as he made something as ordinary as brushing one’s teeth irritating.

You went into the kitchen and started working on breakfast. You found eggs in the refrigerator, so you started slicing and dicing vegetables for scrambled eggs. Then you boiled water for chocolate drink and stored it away in a flask. It wasn’t long before a shadow appeared in the doorway and you recognized her breathing before you saw her.

“Good morning, mom,” you said with a smile.

“Good morning…” she said hesitantly.

“Hope you slept well?” you continued.

“What is up with you? Did you drink something?”

You snapped your head sharply toward her, looked her over for a moment before you turned your attention back to the task at hand. “No. Why?”

“You are uncharacteristically happy. Happier than you have been in the past two days.”

You chuckled. “So my good mood is now suspicious?”

Her frown deepened.

“Relax mom, I just had an epiphany.”

She folded her arms over her chest, covering the impression that her breasts made on the wrapper she was wearing. “I’m not sure I understand.”

You snapped your fingers and smiled. “Let’s just say that I have had a change of mindset. Yes, this is something bad. Yes, it was sad. Yes, I have regrets. But last night, I came to see things a little differently. However bad things are, this isn’t the end of the road.”

She narrowed her eyes at you suspiciously and cleared her throat. “You are doing that law student thing where you do a lot of talking but very little communicating.”

You turned down the heat on the stove, brought down the frying pan with the white-yellow mash of scrambled eggs and smiled as the aroma enveloped the room. “So ever since I discovered that–”

“That you have a problem…” she interjected, shooting you a reprimanding look.

It occurred to you that she had never called the problem by its name. It was as if she was afraid that if it came to be acknowledged for what it was, it would be more final, permanent.

“…that I have a health condition,” I said, ignoring her input, “I have been going down this ladder that seems to lead to a hole that grows darker and darker with each rung I descend. I am very hesitant about using the word depressed, but I have been sad and angry and everything in-between since that afternoon that the nurse told me that I tested positive. And, that is understandable. I mean, I had my world turned upside down. I disappointed people who are very important to me and I have probably altered my future in unimaginable ways.

“But this isn’t the end of the world. This isn’t the end of the road for me. It isn’t death. It doesn’t stop me from becoming a graduate, from becoming a very good lawyer, from being a loyal son, from being a wonderful father. In the grand scheme of things, this is more of a stumbling block than a fatal blow. It is the closing of one door but the realization that there are windows in the house too.

“If anything, it could actually be a bonus, a perk. It has taught me one valuable lesson – that actions have consequences. Two lessons, actually. It has also thought me that I should be more careful with my decisions to avoid costly mistakes.

“But be that as it may, this could be a very important lesson that will do more to prepare me for all the things I will face in the future, more than any other thing I’ve learnt in the past. This one single mistake has taught me so many things – understanding, compassion, and the fragility of life. It has taught me that I can do better, that I should do better.”

She was looking at you like you had lost my mind. And you couldn’t blame her. You had probably lost your mind at that point. The raw emotions you were feeling might have driven you bonkers.

You went over to where she stood in the doorway, placed your arms on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes for the first time in a long time. “Mom, I am very sorry for this problem. And I regret that you are probably feeling that this is somehow your fault. But trust me that I now know what I have to do, that I have learnt how to live. And I promise you that in the long run, the past few days won’t matter.”

She stood there, rigid for a while, looking at you, doubt swirling in the depths of her eyes like marshy waters. She opened her mouth to say something, and then she closed it. Her eyes got misty. She blinked the tears away.

Then she put her arms around you and pulled you into her embrace.

You were a little surprised by the gesture at first, but then you relaxed and closed your eyes. You inhaled deeply, taking in her familiar motherly scent.

You could have stayed like that, the two of you in each other’s arms, forever, never letting go, drawing strength from each other. But then someone cleared his throat in the hallway and you opened your eyes to find your father standing there.

“Can the two of you get out of the way so that I can gain entrance to my kitchen?” he said with a stern face.

Written by Uziel

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8 Comments

  1. Mandy
    May 18, 08:20 Reply

    Nawa o. What kind of father is this? Such apathy. Abeg, writer Uziel, will any light be shed on how come this Bruno’s family became this dysfunctional?

    • Uziel
      May 19, 17:11 Reply

      Eventually, we will expire the familial relationship more. The story is still progressing. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the ride.

      😀

  2. Q
    May 18, 11:14 Reply

    Amazing, bravo

  3. flame
    May 18, 15:09 Reply

    For some odd (and recognizable) reason, I only skimmed through this. That however was enough to soak in the nuances. ‘Avoidance!’ Something I recognise too well with mine and ‘his’ relationship.
    Very soulful peice, told with great technique. Thank you!

  4. flame
    May 18, 15:16 Reply

    Admin please reply me with a mail I can send entries to. Thanks.

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