By Onyedikachi Helen Nwabueze
One very sunny afternoon, some four years ago, I looked across the road and saw two kids, a boy and a girl not more than six years old, trying to haul a sack of sawdust onto a wheelbarrow. I quickly went over to help them and brought them to the other side of the road. The boy came around later in the evening, while on an errand, to say ‘thank you’ to me. He came the next day, and the day after, bringing the girl , and the day after, till they became my friends.
His name was Chukwuma and the girl is Precious. They were twins.
Their mother got pregnant with them and her boyfriend didn’t take responsibility. She later got married and couldn’t take them with her, so they were left in the care of their grandma who couldn’t do much for them.
Chukwuma was closer to me than his sister. He would come around, looking so unkempt, to disturb me, keep me company, and sometimes, to complain about how the grandma left for the farm or wherever without leaving some food for him and his sister. He usually comes with her on such days. One day he came, looking so cute and neat, and asked me to take pictures of him and I did.
Some months later, I was going through his pictures when my sister called to tell me that ‘my Chukwuma’ was dead. I froze.
He went to the farm with his grandma and they went to the nearby river to bath at the end of the day. He suddenly went missing. His grandma came back and didn’t tell anyone till two days later when people started asking of him. A search party was organized and they left to look for him. He was found, trapped in the roots of bamboo in the river. He was dead.
I came back the next month and his sister came to visit me. The first thing she said was “aunty, ima na nwanne m anwugo?” My heart broke and I hugged her. I saw a child who, even if she doesn’t fully understand death, is lonely and misses her brother.
It’s been three years now. His sister is still with the grandma. She started hawking water a few days before the lockdown. I thought their mother would come for her, having seen how much they were taken care of, but she didn’t.
What prompted this story?
I was at the farm yesterday and I went to a nearby stream with my mom. Thoughts of him came to me then and just this morning, I read a girl’s eulogy to her grandma who took care of her after her mother ran away when she was barely three.
If the boyfriend had taken responsibility, would their lives have been any better?
If their mother had married someone else, would the story have been any different?
Why didn’t his grandma speak up early enough?
I don’t know.
I miss him.
Dear young lovers, nobody said you should seek love. By all means, please do. I sincerely hope you know when to stop and think, when to say no, and how to take responsibility.