Uncommon Stories

THE SORROWS OF A YOUNG WIDOW

Tales Of Misfortunes: It was the second time I was visiting her village house. Clad in a similar white cloth, almost the same people surrounded her. For whatever reason, the crowd was not as they were. This time, the arena was scanty, but she did not care.

Moving closer to her, I could not say some words of comfort. Words failed me. I stood for a few minutes and watched as she broke into tears.

I blinked slowly as my heart said to the mourner: ‘Cry, you should cry. What happened to you demands tears.’ The only consolation I offered was stretching my hands to touch her shoulders.

The Sorrows Of Rita

Rita, for that’s her name, was widowed at a tender age. Even then at 24, she had a son and the second would join a world where his father had left. But then also, Rita’s nightmare was not how to raise a family with no breadwinner, but in Nigeria, no one dies a natural death – every man that dies was killed by his wife, and every child that dies attracted the wrath of jealous village people.

In the death of Mr James, her husband, Rita was the suspect, she must have killed the father of her children, her in-laws concluded, so to inherit all his money.

A woman of sorrow, she left the eastern part of Nigeria with no inheritance and moved to Abuja. There, she did a lot of unthinkable things: some right, some wrong. Her only goal was to see that her sons lacked nothing. She slaved, everyone knew, for good five years before another tragedy struck.

It was on a Friday night, the power in Zuba failed. To enjoy her miserable life, Rita switched to her generator (I pass my neighbor). The generator provided the needed comfort but from its exhaust came the killer carbon.

Tales Of Misfortunes Continues

She was unconscious the next morning. We, the neighbors, forced her door open. On her bed, covered in her wrapper, she lay; beside her, her sons. We did all we could to rush them to the hospital but it was too late for Ikenna, her last baby. In fact, he died before we broke her door.

James, the first son, named after his dead father, was in a sorry state, but he would live, the doctor assured us.

The day they took Ikenna’s corpse back to the east, I joined Rita. She could not cry. Well wishers told her that God knows everything. Even the Priest that blessed the grave gave his words to the bereaved that she would meet her son in afterlife. I think the grave was shallow, maybe the diggers wanted the coffin to be closer to the mother – in case the boy resurrected. But he didn’t.

Rita started mourning her son when she returned to FCT. She became a ghost of herself; she hardly socialized with the neighbors. Solitude became her addiction and the once vivacious widow lost all her charm.

Three months after Ikenna was gone, in the middle of a moonless night, we heard a bitter scream from Rita’s room. There was nothing feminine in the tone. It sounded like a roar from a wounded beast. Rushing to her house, we saw her on the floor. In her hands was a lifeless body of his only surviving son, James. He was beyond redemption. The Doctor linked his death to respiratory infection.

‘Wrongly they accused me of killing my husband,’ Rita kept screaming, ‘but, with my own hands, I have killed my sons.’

It took the strength of four men to restrain Rita. No one could believe that such a steel strength was in her tiny body. At a point she could no longer cry but she hissed like a trapped viper. No one could comfort her.

How she was managed for two weeks, before she followed her son’s body to the place where she knew only but sorrows, I could not say. But once again I went to the village house.

Two mounts were there already – the bigger of the two was James Snr’s and the smaller was Ikenna’s. I saw the grave diggers. James Jnr needed a grave near his father’s. Rita could only stare. No one could tell why she was punished; why she was kept alive to witness all these.

As I left Rita, I thought about James. He was a little sweet soul, this James. His death was totally undeserved.

Ozii Baba, a TedX Speaker, is an Onitsha-based storyteller and social entrepreneur. He works directly with children and young people.

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