Everything that happened, happened in this house.
A riverine demon was cast from Sade. Pastor Oben pressed her resisting head with both hands. Next, she was falling and screaming and gnashing her bloodied teeth. Her white satin gown was drenched in sweat, holy oil, holy water, and the preacher’s sputum.
Some cultists abducted Uncle Segun and Laolu was scorned for his constant bedwetting.
“tòólé–tòólé, oloorun, Laolu the tòólé, ko pa le mò.”
Uncle Segun was besotted with the neighbour’s daughter, Akudo. She was long and busty with a head of threaded black hair, and smelled of vanilla Enchanteur powder. At 19, she was ripe and her breasts were the pillows he longed to lay his head.
After the deliverance, mother banned Sade from cooking. Witchcraft was communicable and she did not want to raise a wizard. Sade’s father, my father’s brother, had died in a motor accident with his wife, so we could not send her back home. There was no home to send her to. That night, she wailed to the audience of a whirling ceiling fan and me. “I did not know I was possessed, Tope.” she muttered between sobs. We sat on opposite ends of the L-shaped living room arrangement. I would have hugged her but I carried fear in my arms and shoulders. Family was everything to the Oyefolus and now, Sade was to be ostracised by the only family she had left.
In another life, I could easily have been her. We were both fifteen-year-olds from the same lineage of boisterous polygamist men and women whose reputations hung on the foods they cooked and sold: Iya eleba, Iya eleko, Iya elewa, etc.
There was a time when Sade would never double as a house girl. Once upon a time, we ran around my grandpa’s compound in Ijesha, bruised our knees from falling over, and used leaves for plaster. Our mothers helped grandpa’s wives in wrapping of amala and the pounding of yam. And our fathers deliberated about money, sports and when our mothers were far away, about the size and velocities of their secretaries’ bosoms and bum-bums.
The aftermath of death is a knife twister to the left-behind. Wills are protested by folk and family loyalties are challenged. If the man dies, the woman and her children may suffer. But mothers are strong. If both parents die, the children are left as prey for fortune-predators and sometimes, as burdens that must be carried by someone else. Sade had been neither at our house until the pastor came and pressed her head. She went from being Sade the cousin who attended to the same private school I did, to Sade our house girl.
The house grew colder when Akudo got pregnant for uncle Segun. There was a time Segs, like his friends called him, was the coolest guy around. He bought me suya when mother said no and video game cartridges when father procrastinated the purchase. Everyone seemed to like him but hateful heads became unveiled when the cultist came that evening. We were at mother’s shop. Sade was picking weevils from a bucket of beans and I was doing a science homework. Mother rocked on chair and sang a song. Uncle had just arrived to ask her for money, when a white bus skirled in front and ten men dressed in black tops and jeans and red du-rags with wielded daggers, carried him away.
Father paid the ransom. And sent him packing, but like Sade, he had no home to return to. Mother begged and father agreed to continue housing her brother. Akudo, now afraid that her much older boyfriend may be a cultist, dumped him and aborted the baby. Our neighbours hated us for harbouring a man who took their daughter’s flower and caused her to abort the grandchild they were just beginning to accept.
Laolu’s bedwetting made me mad. There was a time his piss would filter through the cheap yellow mattress from the top bunk into my open sleeping mouth beneath. After switching bunks, he threw caution to the wind and started bedwetting everyday. I am still not sure of how we were related, but I think he was my father’s cousin’s wife’s brother’s family friend’s son. Or something like that. Every time he bed-wetted, uncle Segun and a few neighbours would sing the song as he took his foam outside for drying.
“tòólé–tòólé, oloorun, Laolu tòólé, ko pa le mò.”
One day, he upped and left without warning. I never saw him again and we did not se look for him.
Sometimes I wonder if Pastor Oben was a fraud. Why did he push her head and slap her mouth? Wasn’t a full bottle of anointed Goya olive oil too much for one witch? And why did he collect money for the exorcism. I know the answer but wondering helps in evading the truth. It allows for the discovery of new variables. The events of that day and uncle Segun’s abduction changed everything. This is why when my wife asked why of all father’s properties willed to me, I wanted to demolish this house, I told her: “Everything that happened, happened in this house.”
Image source: Nairaland