The scent of home
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personOLUOMA UDEMEZUE calendar_month 11TH MAY 2018
schedule 10 MINS  visibility  1.4K VIEWS

The white chinas all tumbled on the floor with a loud heavy painful crash; her father would not hear of her decision, and he had made it evident with the number of shattered expensive plates which lay deserted on the cold white tiles. The wall clock ticked; his eyes were already bloodshot, and hers were just an array of innocent light with some amp of defiance. What was all the fuss about?

Nkiru doesn’t want to travel back to Nigeria all the way from the States to greet some smelly old grannies, red cap chiefs and the masquerades that inhabited such dark continents like Mr. George, her history teacher in fifth grade puts it. She just turned eighteen and she believed she ought to be left alone. Her friends even told her to move in with them the minute the clock struck twelve on the eve of her eighteenth birthday.

She walked into the living room in a tight see-through dress few minutes after midnight. She had a bottle of half-drained Tequila in her left arm with her shimmering purse that contained some leftover pieces of weed from the pool party her father was vehemently against as opposed to her mother who believed that life was in stages.

Nkiru had often heard her father condemn her mother because she had turned sour since they relocated to the United States of America, and has now abandoned her Igbo ways. He blamed her for everything: Nkiru and her brother's change in attitude was due to her negligence. Her mother, on the other hand, would either sob or blame her father for cheating on her with an American the minute the plane touched down on American soil. Their constant fights and argument got her pissed at each point that she would either roll a weed which she extracted right under her mattress or pay a visit to the nearest liquor shop through the window in her room with a fake ID.

Nkiru did not know whether to pick the broken pieces which apparently showed the state of their family or just take a swing from the liquor bottle she had on her left hand. On top of the sofa, close to her father, she noticed that her older brother's frame had been turned face-flat and her father's cellular beeped close to it. Chike had been in a correctional institute for the past eight years and counting for drug overdose and substance abuse. They grew so apart, and her father often threatened her that she was heading in similar direction if care was not taken. It all started when he was ten; his class teachers often complained to her parents that he had formed a habit of skipping school, especially Science classes. He often confided in Nkiru. He never wanted to be a surgeon; his only wish was to paint and draw, but his mother would die of frustration if she ever heard that. She was the one who coerced him to opt for science, and when it became apparent to him that his score wouldn't fetch him his mother's wish, he kept this a secret and turned to drugs instead, just to control his depression. Unfortunately, they found out too late.

She played similar tricks on Nkiru, buying her new stuffs and promising to do more if only she promised to study Law. But she was more rebellious than her brother. Her boyfriend – Zee – introduced her to weed and alcohol. Since then, she had turn into a dope head like her brother. At school, truancy became a norm; she preferred to party all night and visit strip clubs, where she had tried once to audition, but she was turned down because her boobs were too small. For the past few years, she had found it difficult to keep a steady job because she couldn’t do away with booze and others substances.

Her mother often believed that her marriage was a mistake and that was why she refused to have more kids immediately they travelled out of Nigeria. On arrival to the States, she quickly enrolled into a nursing school, after which she was rarely seen at home by her kids. As a result, Chike started hanging out with odd gangs. He usually stole out through the window, and he had his allies, Nkiru and his mother to shield him from his father's wrath. At some point, after their mother became a professional nurse, she threatened their father with a divorce and used his infidelity to blackmail him into getting things done her way all the time.

Nkiru’s father often told them how his kinsmen had warned him against taking a wife from his wife's family, but he was too headstrong. He thought they were in love. He repeatedly echoed out his regret that the children he had with Meg was a one time weakness.

The drugs and drinks were already kicking in and she wanted nothing more, but to rest her spinning head on the soft pillows on her bed. She recalled how the argument all started; how she forcefully refused to travel back to Nigeria for Christmas in the morning before leaving, and how her father said that their tickets were already booked. It was a big fight. She left the house only to return drunk to meet her mother's expensive china from Carts ruined on the white tiles.

The door clicked; her mother was home and her voice rang from the door like Santa's howl:

“Ogadi! What have you done to my expensive plates?” She asked while stepping forward.

Her father turned to her with bitterness in his heart and bile on his tongue. He replied in the most painful voice ever;

“It is your entire fault woman! It is your entire fault! Chike is dead! My son hanged himself this morning!”

“Chim o!”

What followed came after Nkiru had dropped on the carpet; the drugs and liquor fought earnestly for her attention.

The first time they came home, there was this smell – this scent that seemed to be on every surface: the grass, air and the floor they walked on. This beautiful scent came and went with each person that walked through their wide gates. It was the smell of home, the scent of family. Nkiru noticed that they all shared same semblance: flat nose, dark olive skin, narrow chin and eyes that shone like the colour of the sun. These people were members of her family. She remembered how they solemnly boarded the flight to Nigeria, how uncles and aunts came to their rescue at Enugu Airport and how they were ushered home like kings on horsebacks. Each person wore that smell; their embrace tried to squeeze her to their breast or chest while their heartbeat rang in her ears. When they got to the village through long roads, their gates were wide open, and relatives walked about, doing one thing or the other. She remembered when her dad sat beside the phone all day long with Uncle John, either talking about the house they were building for him or giving him progress report. Pictures were later sent immediately the house was completed, but nobody lived there until news of their return was sent.

They had to bury Chike in his father's compound. Her father had to add extra money since his flight was already booked to buy a coffin and cargo his only son's remains back to his hometown. They did not know which was better – to take home a demented full-fledged man or his corps. Nobody knew what happened: his burial poster read his age as ‘thirty’ and the cause of death ‘after a brief spell of illness’. They had to hide the guilt and embarrassment behind heavy-guarded black glasses like the Americans that they were. When it was time to pay him their last respect, each had to force a memory of him which did not say much. They never had a relationship, since he moved out of the house before he turned eighteen. The dispute at home did not accommodate any form of bonding, and he had come home with a thick mass of madness which hovered over his head. They could not shed some tears because there were no good memories, no good times and no love: hugs, kisses or laughter. It was the Kinsmen (Umunna) who were dumbfounded with the death of their son (Nwadiani). They were the ones who could not hold back their emotions, although they never knew him, but he was the son of their brother.

They had some months to stay before they returned to the States and Nkiru could not help it because her fingers were already itchy for some joints. Her cousins were eager to get her to join them run around. They did not leave her for once, and with time, she discovered that there was more to family. Back at home, she often heard her mother each time her father was on the phone with relatives from home. She often nagged about them begging for dollars, but her father paid her mother the least attention. None of her cousins made such moves towards her. She found out that she had nothing to offer them regarding life's lessons and they were the ones holding up for her. For the first time, she got to meet her uncles and aunts whom she only heard about during her father's conversations over the phone. She discovered that these people were not evil and poor like her mother made it to seem. Most of them had businesses of their own, industries and were highly placed.

As days went by, people came and went in their numbers. For the first time, it occurred to them how much people love those they were not familiar with and to what extent they could go to console a grieving friend or relative. His family had loved him less, and it was people who came from far and near to watch over him as he journeyed through the great beyond. Nkiru’s father knew the drastic change the encounter was having on him, his wife and Nkiru; each nursed some degree of regrets in their private corner. For the first time in many years and after many years, this experience would call them home each time they remember that Chike was gone.

Nkiru's father was surprised when his neighbours and colleagues from the university came with gifts after the burial. He was deeply touched to know that he was among the people that attracted such care. It reminded him of the funerals they used to attend back at home, where people dispersed immediately the coffin was lowered into the ground, leaving the mourners to their own fate and misery. But his was quite different because people still came to stay around for several weeks after his burial. His problems were their problem, and his burden, their burden. And after many months, while onboard a flight bound for America, each wore the scent from home, not only on their clothes but in their hearts.


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About Oluoma Udemezue

Oluoma believes that life is nothing without a little touch of romance, thriller and reality.


Let's discuss!

comment  Comments (4)

Davidposted on 31st Oct 2023 19:27:03

This is really beautiful I love the books 📚 Keep a good job for what you are doing.

Kofi Elikemposted on 31st May 2018 08:58:57

@Oluoma... You're welcome

udemezue oluomaposted on 30th May 2018 15:27:16

Thank you.

Kofi Elikemposted on 14th May 2018 08:33:03

Interesting. But is said to see that death became this family's unifier.

The scent of home

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