Mama is home. You can’t even imagine the happiness I feel right now, watching her come out of the airport, her favorite pink bag- which I loathed so much, swinging on her arm. The bag doesn’t look so bad now. I don’t even remember why I hated it. Serayah runs into her arms, Mama hugging her so tight, it’s a miracle Serayah’s ribs are still intact. Of course, Serayah has always been her favorite, even though she would never admit it. “My baby’ Mama murmurs, stroking her hair tenderly. I look away. I wish I could get a hug too.
On the drive home, Dad wears a fixed smile, as Mama chatters animatedly. I stare at Dad’s smooth face in the rearview mirror- a face that has seen so much but betrays so little. If I didn’t know better, I would say everything was perfectly fine. I watch him continue this brave act in admiration. Brave man. For months, he had told lie after lie, to protect Mama. Making sure her life-long dream, for which she had sacrificed leaving her family, came to fruition. But soon, she would know the truth. Knowing her, she would never forgive him for not telling her at once. But he meant well. Staring at her black curls, I wish I could tell her this. She must have felt my gaze, cause’ she turns and looks in the backseat.
“Serayah, what’s the matter??” I look left and Serayah is crying silently. Dad glances at Serayah through the mirror, giving her a “not now” look. “Nothing Mama” Serayah says, wiping her eyes. “It’s just- I missed you so much” “Aww, baby, I missed the three of you too. I’m back now, okay?’ Even though she smiles at Serayah and squeezes her hand, I can tell she’s getting uneasy. “I can’t believe Kambili didn’t come with you guys, that girl…” Mama says, exasperatedly, a fond smile playing on her lips. Nobody answers her.
We’re home. “Kambili?” Mama calls, looking around. Serayah looks at Dad anxiously. It’s time. Dad gently grabs a confused Mama’s hand and leads her into their room. I hear her ask him “What’s going on? Where is Kambili?” her normally soft voice now gravelly with fear. I hear their bedroom door closing. I sit beside Serayah on the couch, both of us waiting. It soon comes, Mama’s piercing cry, which cuts through me like a knife. I look down at my wrists as they start to tingle.
Anyway, August, I must go on now. What awaits me, I do not know. Thank you so much for bringing Mama with you. Dad and Serayah were having it so hard without her. Now that Mama is here, hopefully things would get better. I wish I had thought to write her a letter like I’m writing you now, telling her it wasn’t her fault- any of their faults. That I was dealing with much more than I could express, to get the help they would have surely given me. That I’m really sorry.
© 2022 Sherif Oshinowo