Short story ~ The Sins of My Brother ~ Omale Allen Abduljabbar

 



"We are Creatures of our own inventions.  Possibly, we are inventions of our past, and of our times possibly even of some mad dream in the mind of fate, But in the end, we are our own Inventions. That is our tragedy and our hardest fate." -Julia Cleaver Smith from the novel MORNING GLORY


"Not to Resign to Fate is Madness"- Ola Rotimi.





"A glowing nimbus of light surrounded the area where I sat, against a huge tangerine ball of a setting sun. A booming, black and red thunder-head of sound cuts across the air from the Northern zone to the South, ruling the night with a majestic zest. Calls so long and loud resonated and rumbled through the earth and bounced on the moon, roaring back in rage to the earth. Then they softened and fall, mournful and low, grieving for the pain of the evil of the night.

It was an awesome night in Jos, 1999. No clouds sailed the skies. A white cumulus built on the horizon seeking a late good rain to soak the land. The grass where I sat that very night was straw dry, the period being the dry season. Thickets creaked, the winds exhaled the dust on the grass and the land itself, harbouring the grass was cracked, brittle leaves whirred and whistled in the night air like locust wings and the air was stiff with expectation, suspense, latent fear and an uncertain kind of excitement which mixed and mingled with the fear lurking in the night.

I sat. A black hood pulled over my head, blinding my eyes and uniting me with the sounds of the night. This night, I became a "MAN".

There were other brothers like myself around. They, like myself, had sought the brotherhood of men and, for one fine reason or the other, had sat with me on this same night on the grass behind the Abuja Stadium of the University of Jos. Although I could not see them, I could hear their breathing, I could taste their fears.

On this cold and windy day in Jos, on this solemn and mournful night, I became a "Sailor", no longer a "Lubber"

I joined the cult of men; THE PIRATE CONFRATERNITY.

I became a "Sailor" in my second year in the University out of the need to "belong". I longed for the power, the ability to do and undo on the campus and even in Jos town, to bask in the awareness that I was a "feared guy”, an "untouchable"... now I have my "reg", "the ship must sail’’, ‘’the deck is full..."

I found these words in my brother's diary several years later when I had grown up and had waited, tilled and toiled and became a "MAN" and attained success by societal standard. I am currently a Naval Captain with the Nigerian Navy and an indispensable functionary officer of the Nigerian Maritime Academy in Calabar - a real Sailor, an officer and a gentle-MAN. My brother and I have never gotten together to discuss the tragic and regrettable events that culminated in father's death. I have not seen him in the past ten years, neither have we communicated all through this period. I question myself for the thousandth and one time about why I had agreed to come to this crazy meeting in the first place, why do I have to sit at the lounge of the Agura International Hotel in Abuja with this strange looking man of God, waiting for my brother this terribly windy and chilly night, when Abuja was as cold as Europe in winter or better yet - a well digger's ass?. Why I sit here now with this stranger drinking my coffee, telling me some crap and religious mumbo jumbo regarding forgiving and forgetting, turning the other cheek seven times seven thousand times and some equally useless abstractions? This crap, perhaps potent still as in the days of old, could never bring my father back!

Gravely, I sat there, gazing over the head of the man of God at the poster of the TITANIC movie hanging supreme at the entrance of THE VIDEO WORLD in the hotel lounge while all the while more Jericho sermons continued to waft out of his mouth like a rumor. If only he'd known that he had brought his trade to the wrong occasion, that whatever he was selling, I was not buying and incidentally was not going to pay him a dime when he was done, he'd have simply packed his wares and left. So why did I heed his plea and come to this meeting? The answer was simple. I was curious. I wanted to see what my brother looked like after all these years.

About forty minutes later, when my brother crept in silently through the hotel entrance and sat directly facing me, I was suddenly struck by his un-mistakable and strong resemblance to my Father and tears blurred my vision. As I dug into my jacket pocket for a handkerchief and dabbed my eyes, my brother was doing the same.

We sat there. The man of God had left, his mission which was to bring us face to face having being accomplished. We sat in the dark side of the lounge where the light was faint, talking, pausing, and talking again as cowards do - of utterly useless things, avoiding as much pain, as much seriousness, as possible, neglecting that one day in our past when truth did shed a tear or two, changing the course of our lives forever, our tumultuous and cancerous hatred for each other over the yeas dangling before our eyes like a bunch of keys.

I noticed that when I looked away, he'd steal quick glances at me, studying my form, the man I'd become as against the little brother he once knew. When I was certain that his examination had ceased, I stole glances at him. Like a long shut door being opened, persistent images and sounds of the pains of my childhood resurfaced and in some passing moment, replaced the Titanic poster on the wall. Heart wrenching images of how this very man used to terrorize our family!

As if reading my mind, he fixed his eyes squarely on mine, wanting me to read in them what he, in turn, was feeling and I noticed that fresh tears had welled and were dripping off his eyes slowly like an overfilled bucket. But I could never forgive him. Never! When all I needed to do was look at him to be reminded of father – the unbearable knowledge that he was never coming back.

I don't know how long he had been out of jail, his last sentence being seven years ago. Uncle Omadachi had called me one day to say he’d seen him in Lagos heading for the Shrine during FELABRATION concert last year. Now he sits in front of me, this man who was my idol when I was a kid and growing up. I remember all the stories he told me as a child, one particular story held my attention then, and did for a very long time thereafter. This story he'd always told with relish and was his own favorite from the bunch narrated over a long period of time. It was of a mafia movie called The St Valentine's Day Massacre. I remember the thoughts that formed in my very young mind then which remained and harassed me for a very long time, ‘’why would there by a massacre on St. Valentine's Day?’’ I always wanted so much to ask this question.

He has really changed since the last time I saw him. He had been sentenced alongside his Capone Brothers who visited our home that rainy night in August 2000 and shattered our lives for good. I took a very good look at him for the first time since he crept silently to the hotel and sat in front of me. He sported black clothing all through and I wondered momentarily, if he was into the Elvis Presley thing or had simply maintained the attire of his Capone days. His hair was bushy, cut in the 70's Afro style. His lips were very black from the long habit of weed - his teeth were stained.

He sat there, perhaps like he did on that grass, a very long time ago. I could see in his tearful eyes gravely fixed on my own tearful pairs that he was sorry, he felt contrite. He wanted sympathy, he wanted my forgiveness and reconciliation. But I knew from information contained in the dossier lying on the table in my study that he was still sitting among his brothers, still sailing in rough seas. He was now some kind of local Don in the Obalende area of Lagos where he now resides. I searched in my heart for a split second and floored all sentiments; I had no sympathy for him!

Yet, I wanted answers, I needed to know why? Why I had come home that night from having dinner with my best friend, along with my baby brother and sister - Attah and Zoey, - and having had a fantastic day at Bobby's house, I had come home that night at age 15 - and found my father lying in front of an opened safe, where he usually kept the cash he needed to use on immediate - important projects, and a deep hue of red and brown liquid was flowing from a hole in his heart and the last word he ever uttered to me was "Aromeh... and his cult friends".

Where would he start? With father who was a Senator not caring enough for him? With the day he had sat on that dry and terribly dusty grassland? With the University of Jos where he attempted to study for a degree? Or would he simply say it was the fate, his destiny? I needed to know. I felt he owed me the explanation at least. But I didn’t ask, and he didn't explain. Yet in his eyes, it was clear that he had been having nightmares about that one single act - snuffing out the life of the one man who gave him life - and he had lived with it ever since.

Our rendezvous came to nothing. In a way I was thankful to the man of God who had sought to bring us together. He is my brother and it was nice in a rather intricate - we - are - the same -blood kind of way to see him again. But the twist was, he reminded me of my father. Looking so very much like him and I could never forgive him, especially being reminded afresh that he blew his heart away, knowing that he was still sitting on that dry and windy grassland that roared to the heavens in search of rain. He was now a proper criminal in Lagos! Who knows how many innocent people he and his gang have killed over the years?

I remember shaking his thick and very strong hand as we walked through the exit of the hotel lounge and left later on in separate automobiles, that this might be the last time I would see my brother again. There is a part of me that he was carrying off with him and very sadly, I hoped that, that minute part would blossom and change him some day. But right then it was better that we forgot each other for good.

 

As I drove away from the Agura International Hotel Complex, heading towards Wuse-Municipal Area Council, I was held back by the traffic light around the Area Ten post office in Garki and like the old days when I worked in Abuja, I marveled at the ship-like post office and I wondered - rather sub­consciously - how many young men of my age being held by the traffic were marveling too; how many were also thinking about the sins of a brother.

 

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With a pseudonym ‘’Masaihead’’, Omale Allen Abdul-Jabbar is the author of the Poetry collection Behold, Your Scented Daughters.  A former Chairman and Public Relations Officer of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and recently elected as the National Vice Chairman of the Northern Nigerian Writers Summit (NNWS), he writes poetry, prose, drama and essays and was winner of the maiden Pen Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize and a honorable mention in the Korean Nigeria Poetry Prize 2011 & 2012 respectively. Highly anthologized and influenced by the works of Toni Kan, Helon Habila, Garcia Marquez, Ben Okri, Isabel Allende, Margaret Artwood, Pablo Neruda, Maik Nwosu and Toyin Adewale Gabriel. This story is taken from the Collections The Front of The Past. He works in Abuja where he lives at his home of the ‘’Purple Rain Suite’’ with his wife, five children and his dog, Steel. Omale can be reached @ omaleabduljabbar@gmail.com and @allenabduljabbar.

 

 

 

 

 

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