Remember how short my life is,
how empty and futile this human existence!
No one can live forever; all will die.
No one can escape the power of the grave
Ethan the Ezrahite
The entrance was entirely blocked. I looked up only once to see the people signing the condolence register and made up my mind to avoid them totally; I wasn’t ready for hugs and prayers and the like.
I went in by the service entrance and manoeuvred through the crowd of people who didn’t know Baba’s last child and arrived in the living room where strange women attempted to comfort my mother. I sat beside my half-brother and maintained my silence, looking around like a stranger in my father’s house. Late father. Late father; it was beginning to sink in.
“Why are you crying?”
I was startled. I realised then that I had tears running down my cheeks.
“I’m not crying sir”. I rose to shake the hand extended to me by the towering figure of Gbenga who had lived with us for years before he got married.
“I’m not crying sir”, I repeated.
“So what’s happening to your eyes?”
“Hot water is coming out”
He threw his head back and laughed and I buried myself in his arms. Then I began to cry.
The attendant was helpless as he ran after me, yelling for me to wait for assistance. I didn’t. I went straight to the door he had pointed out to me and waited while he fumbled with his keys, muttering under his breath about how I still now had to wait for him. I ignored him. I pushed the door open when he had unlocked it and half-ran into Greenland. The large room was freezing! In the semi-darkness I could see large cabinets or whatever they were, labelled neatly with a combo of numbers and letters. The attendant, now cursing under his breath at the “stupid cold” walked briskly down to the end of the room, and after consulting a little book that appeared from God-knows-where, he knelt on one knee and opened the cabinet at the bottom of one row (or column, I wasn’t certain) and cold mist hissed out, causing me to shiver and the attendant to curse loudly. This time I didn’t ignore him. As the mist began to clear, I grabbed him by the collar, pulled him up and practically threw him across the room where he went into oblivion. I didn’t care.
I could see him now. He looked so handsome as he lay there, still, frozen. I shivered and ran my hand over the goose-pimples on my neck. I went on both knees, took his hand and laid my head on his chest. I closed my eyes and cried.
Then he touched me lightly and stroked my hair. His hand was warm and soft and I felt his heart beat when he said “Don’t worry. Oluseyi esquire, you will be alright.”
He chuckled. That familiar chuckle.
“This morgue is warm”, he said. And the warmth spread from his words.
Then I remembered where I was. I woke up sweating in between the white sheets. I sat up and looked around. I caught my reflection in the mirror on the wall. At least that was what I thought till the reflection began to smile at me and I recognised my father looking like a 22-year-old.