A DIFFERENT NIGHT

I stared silently at my laptop as the night slowly crawled, perhaps it was limping from the fatigue of the sunny day that had burned the hind legs of the moon. I was not sure whether I was listening to the sound of darkness or there was something about the clueless meaning of silence that was visible on my computer’s screen – which was the only source of light in the room. The poem I had finished writing looked back at me distrustfully, as though trying to measure the equilibrium between the helplessness in the alphabets and the gravity of the heavy emotions in my eyes. I sighed deeply, and abruptly jammed the laptop down. I rolled back to the center of the bed in shriveling hysteria. That was when I heard tiptoes towards the room. It sounded like the walking of an absentminded, long-legged and barefooted person.

The steps were coming closer for the sound was getting higher. I just laid there without moving even the veins in my body as the person touched the doorknob and screw it. The door was keyed. Could it be Nadia? I began hesitating. Nadia, our house girl, was the only person that could possibly come to my room around 2:30am. And she hardly come till I summoned her myself with a phone call. But she had been sick for the past three days and father had to even carry her to hospital the previous day. So who could this one be? Definitely not Mum; because she was on night shift at the hospital and was only expected to return in the morning.

I rose as my mind attempted to reaffirm that I was a man; so I could be able to convince myself that my heart was not drumming out of fear but curiosity. Then there was knocking at the door. Sharp and tactical knocks.

“Who’s it?” I asked in a deep voice that struggled to squeeze itself between fear and bravery.

“Please just open…open quickly!” My younger sister, Sasha, answered.

I quickly searched the wall for the bulb’s switch and turned on the light looking around for my keys. I found them on the bed close to the packet of condom I had bought on my way back from school. I hurriedly carried the “Gold Circle” and threw it under the bed. And then looked around to make sure there was no any other thing fishy; because Sasha was a too observant person and an incurable gossiper. I once told her that the husband she would marry must either come from United States of Perfection or she would live all her life single. And she only laughed and said “men will always be men” in a ridiculous feminist tone that could equate “pigs will always be pigs.”

“What is happening? Why are you here by this time of the night?” I asked as I opened the door. My hands still on the door.

She didn’t answer. She only bowed and penetrated into the room through the very narrow space beside my body and below my hands that were on the door. She went in and rested her back on my wardrobe. Her eyes looked terrible; the only way her eyes looked when something gravely serious was happening in the house. I was about to speak again when she hissed me off by placing her finger on her lips.

“Armed robbers have just entered father’s section,” she said in a low voice, lifting her arms to her head, like a frightened Igbo woman.

“What the hell?” I said as my heart thundered, walking hurriedly towards her, “are you serious? How do you know?”

“I was in the toilet when I saw torchlight through the window casting rays from the backyard, they must’ve entered through the garden gate.”

“Now what do we do?!”

“That’s why I’ve come to notify you.”

“Should we call mum?”

“What can she do about it? You know we must act very fast.”

My hands shaking, I carried my phone and began dialing the police station’s contact. It rang three times without response. Sasha kept telling me to act quickly and I became confused. We needed to act quickly before they did something to father.

“Please do something… Please do something!” Sasha insisted helplessly, stamping her legs on the ground.

“Give me ten minutes I’m coming.”

“Where are you going?”

I didn’t respond to her as I walked out of the room. I shut back the door and locked her inside so she couldn’t try anything stupid before I return.

“Open the door!” I heard her shouting as I reached for the gate.

The man I met at the police station’s counter could fit every definition of a beautifully sculptured idiot; that’s even if I chose to be so kind with my judgement. He kept asking me unnecessary questions despite telling him it was an emergency issue involving armed robbery. I had to shout at him after showing him my ID card as a masters student of Law before he winked in a horribly disheartening way and dialed the 50-year old telephone before him. He hissed and put back the telephone handset and then asked me to wait for few seconds. He disappeared into the other part of the station, staggering. He must be drunk.

“Have you seen them with your eyes? How many are they?” The DPO also tried to waste time as I climbed into the police jeep alongside 3 other policemen, all holding faded rifles. The DPO had an AK47.

“My sister saw them with her eyes through the window, so she couldn’t count them.” I told him.

They packed the car at a considerable distance away from the house. I didn’t know why. But I didnt want to think it was done for easy escape. We reached the gate and silently pushed in, tiptoeing into the house. There were three sections in our house: the main section, where my mum and Sasha and our house girl Nadia stayed; father’s section where he stayed alone; and the boys quarters where I stayed alone anytime my elder brother Dhahran was not in town. I led them to the father’s section and they all got their guns ready in quiet anticipation.

We were not surprised to find father’s room lit, but very quiet. Could they have shot father and left? Oh my God! My heart skipped a terrible beat. My eyes became teary. One of the police went and pushed in the door with his leg so forcefully that it almost broke and they all pounced in at once shouting “you are all under arrest!” like a group of possessed sorcerers about to start an incantation. There were no any sign of armed robbers in the room. But then I saw one very weird and horrifying thing happening in the room. It was Nadia, our house girl, kneeling before Father and crying, her eyes were so red, her nose running and tears trailing down her cheeks. Father was sitting on his bed facing directly at her, his hand holding a belt.

Father looked at us open mouthed, out of extreme surprise. He was about to talk when the DPO looked at me. “Where are the armed robbers?” He asked.

Before I replied, father rose to his feet, he was in his Jallabiya. “What armed robbers? What’s happening in my house? What are these people doing in my room by this time?” Father said, looking at the police and then at me.

“Ermm, Sasha came to my room and said armed robbers had entered your section that’s why I went to call the police,” I managed to explain despite terribly confused more by the presence of Nadia in his room than by what Sasha must have seen in her dream to idiotically conclude was real.

Father gave out a hiss as the DPO began lamenting the type of foolishness that impaired with their sleep.

“Now since the police have come, you will force this girl to tell me who has impregnated her,” Father said casting an annoying gaze at Nadia.

“Is she your daughter?” The DPO asked.

“She’s my wife’s housemaid, I took her to hospital in the evening and the result shows she’s two months pregnant.”

The DPO went and held her by the neck. His frightening eyes alone was enough to make Nadia gave out a strange cry like a labouring cat.

“Who the hell is responsible for your pregnancy? You either tell us to go and arrest the bastard or we will go and lock you in our cell till you are ready to confess!” he shouted at her, his voice echoing in the ceiling. Even the walls of the room answered.

Nadia stopped crying. She kept silent. We were all anxious to hear what she would say. Then she raised her hand and pointed at me. Yes me. I looked at her and instantly remembered the day I didn’t use condom. Yes, I was out of condom on that day and at the same time out of my mind.

“But it was only once I didn’t use condom,” I said defying all traces of shame.

I didn’t know when father walked and gave me the most terrible slaps my face ever hosted. They landed on my face in a kind of somersaulting movements that highlighted the windows of hell fire in my eyes.

“Go and lock the bastard till I come in the morning!” Father commanded them bitterly.

I looked at Father and he looked back at me with enormous disgust. His face indicated he really meant what he said. Two among the police held me tightly at once and father took away my room’s keys from my hands and we moved out of the room leaving Nadia behind who continued crying deeply.

We stopped at the boys quarters and father unlocked the door. Sasha quickly came out, her head swinging from one direction to the other like a malfunctioning robot.

“When did you see armed robbers?” Father ask her.

“It was just an April Fool,” she said.

The police did not allow me to listen to the style of slaps she would receive from Father. They dragged me in front of them and out of the gate to their car. We drove to the police station only to realized Father’s car was following us. And I smiled inside me, reasserting my knowledge that fathers would always be fathers; just as I knew what Sasha would say to me regarding Nadia’s case: “men will always be men.”

© Aliyu Jalal

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