Chapter One : My History
Humble: poor, lowly, underprivileged.
Do not be deceived by the title of this entry. I am in no way a meek, servile, and subservient person. This story will not center on the goodness of my heart, neither will it talk of how I was able to impact my society by being a serving, lowly entity.
This is a story about the life I was born into. A life that slowly hacks at the innocence of a child watching it bleed thick, black-red blood and dis-integrate into nothingness.
For me, life waited like the three Macbeth witches, its cackling laughter ever resounding in the throes of poverty, hunger, and shame. It stood waiting with excitement in its eyes and amusement on its lips.
My story begins from the day when the wretched room- which I resided with my parents and five sisters- caved in and fell on the bed-bug ridden mattress situated at one corner of the room.
Hold on …. I don’t think that is the beginning of my story. Pardon me; this story dates back to a long time ago. I will give you a brief history of my background, just to help you understand all of my ranting and writing.
I was born on the morning of May 19, 2000. My father told me that my birth brought disgrace to my mother. Apparently, she had thought it safe to go for a vigil the night before- a little foolhardy on her part- I mean, who goes to a vigil in the final month of her pregnancy? Everyone arrived at the conclusion that it was the fault of the innocent child who was born on that fateful morning in front of her compound while her mother was returning from the so-called church.
Permit me to take a break here to say that my parents seriously contemplated my eradication. Abortion seemed to be a reasonable way for them. The fact that they were languishing in poverty with three children already was enough to discourage them from giving birth to the fourth one. They obviously did not go through with it, hence the writing of this diary
Be that as it may, I was born in the comfort of the icy cold hands of a fateful morning wind, with only the fluttering urine concentrated wrappers of concerned neighbors to serve as a wrap. Do not ask me how I can describe the smell and feel of that morning, turns out that imagination is indeed a beautiful thing. On that morning, Esther Alake was born.
Looking back on that day, I really wish that my parents had gone ahead with the abortion and saved me of the later troubles of this world, including the writing of this story- ha! Just kidding.
The years after that were quite foggy. I was a smart and troublesome child, not pampered by my parents but spoilt all the same. I can still vividly remember an incident that happened when I was young. I was searching for a pencil and I remembered that I had thrown a stub of badly eaten pencil earlier. I went to the bin at the end of the single room that I resided with my family and began the search for the lost pencil.
You can imagine the look on my face when a used condom fell out of a tissue shove into the wrapper of an eaten biscuit. My mind started to race, I was trying to figure out who was cheating on whom, was it my mother that was cheating on my father or vice-versa.
I know that you would not have jumped to that conclusion if you were to be in my shoes, but I was pretty bright for my age, coupled with the fact that I have seen quite a lot of Nollywood Yoruba movies.
I tried to rewrap the contraband but I found myself pulled to it. I was fascinated; I kept on going back to check it, wrapping it at the intervals. Oh… did I mention that my father was lying on the bed at the corner of the room watching a program on the little box television? He was facing away from me and I felt there was no way he could see. Probably not a smart thought for someone who thinks she is bright.
I was still deciding on whom to challenge with the cheating theory when my father confronted me later that evening asking me if I touched the tissue in the bin that he had wrapped. Trust me, I denied vehemently with tears in my eyes, but my father wasn’t buying it. He was a wise man and he knew exactly how he wrapped the parcel. So that day I was beaten mercilessly, my only crime being the fact that I saw a poorly placed birth control mechanism that was used by my parents.
That’s just by the way. I grew up happy and poor, my father would always say that money becomes insignificant once there was peace. I think that it was a lie that he told himself to feel good about the fact that we were poor. We were the real definition of hands-to-mouth, we never had any savings and could barely pay the six thousand naira rent for the room we stayed in.
I can vividly remember the days when we would all take a cup of water and go to bed with no hope of food for the next morning. The week after that would see my father writing short letters begging for tokens, the highest ever was a thousand naira. My sister and I – barely twelve years old- would be sent to his acquaintances’ that lived around to give them the letter.
You will notice that I said “acquaintances” instead of “friends.” That’s right, my father had no friends, he always believed the worst of them and he burnt all his bridges. I think that he was just too ashamed of having someone close to him know about his predicament.
Now that you have a faint picture of my history, I will proceed to the start of all things, the day when the room caved. I cannot really say why I chose this scene to be the day when things began, I guess it is the incident that stands out for me- well one of the incidents.
On second thought, I think I’ll just tell it in the next chapter, I had no idea that this diary thing would be tiring. But not to worry, I’ll see you next with the full gist of my life.
Until then, bon voyage- or is it au revoir? Oh well… I never did get a hang of this french thing. I’ll just save everyone the stress and say “O daabo”