Seven-Ten 5 – Midnight Exchange

You always spoke of his discipline, and influence on you. I’m sure he would watch from a wonderful spot in the bosom of the Lord, seeing what you have, and will, become…

– O’bailis


It was a building that caught my fancy as soon as I saw it and although it had no furniture and it was still largely surrounded by undeveloped land (meaning bushes), I chose to pass the night there.

Just outside, six feet under red sand, the smile remained.

It was his custom right from the time we lived in Alausa till we moved to Unity Estate. He would come in to check up on me, adjust me if necessary, douse the lights and then regard me in the darkness.

It was surprising to me to discover it on the third night after moving in with him. I woke up to find him smiling down at me. Then he touched my forehead and asked if I was alright. I said I was. Was I sure? Yes sir. Any body pains? None sir. Okay.
Pele“, he said, smiling at me. He doused the lights and told me to continue my sleep. I did.
That became our ritual over the years; the midnight exchange. From it, he found expression of his love for me easier, while I gained reassurance of that love – I needed it, considering how disciplined my father was.



I woke up with a start and sat up. I couldn’t recognise where I was at first even though the lights were still on. Slowly, things began to take shape. My brother and cousin were asleep on the mats beside me. In the distance, the generator hummed noisily.

I took my shirt and cleaned my face; I was drenched in sweat.

“Did you have a nightmare?”
I was startled and turned to see who spoke.
I heaved a sigh of relief when I discovered it was only my father. He was standing by the door, straight. He had on the white singlet and blue pyjamas trouser combo we were used to seeing him in at night. Characteristically, his left hand held the door post as though he needed to support himself.
“Yes sir”, I replied.
“What was it about?”
I told him. I told him I had seen him die and that we had gone to the village to bury him and that mother cried a lot and I didn’t want her to cry even though I didn’t stop crying myself. I told him I saw him in a coffin and that he was buried outside a beautiful red cottage and that we would never see him again. I told him I thought it was all true till I saw him now. I told him I was sorry if I had done anything wrong. I told him I was sorry I didn’t spend more time with him and that I would change. I told him I would listen to his endless stories about Methodism, Igbobi College, Unilag and Guinness and how things have changed about them. I told him I would listen to stories about anything so long as he did not die. I told him not to die.
He threw his head back and laughed. It would be the first time he would laugh and I didn’t find it funny.
“Don’t worry. Everything is fine, my dear”. He smiled. “I’m not going anywhere”.
I finally smiled.
Pele“, he said, smiling at me. He doused the lights and told me to continue my sleep. I did.



“I just discovered that the generator was on through the night, but the lights were disconnected. All the lights were off in the house!”
“How is that possible?” I was still rolling on the mat trying to ward off my cousin’s wahala and get my brother to leave me alone to sleep.
“The house is not wired yet! Everything is currently connected directly to the generator”
“So how do you know the lights were disconnected?”
“There are no switches yet in the house. If the lights go off, its either the generator is off or the wire has been disconnected. And the lights were off since 2am or thereabouts. I’m not sure. I just connected the wire now”
I was confused. If there were no switches in the house, then how did he douse the lights? Before I could ask my brother how father turned off the lights, he flew up from the mat with his phone.
“Get up! Let’s go”. He started looking for his shirt in his box.
“Where are we going to? It is still early”, I grumbled.
“We need to find a carpenter to adjust the roof so rain water isn’t directed to the grave”.
I jumped up instantly.
“Grave? What grave?”.
My brother sighed heavily.


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