My dad came into town yesterday. I had to take the day off work so I could pick him up from the airport and be his personal chauffeur. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Its just a little annoying that he still has so much control over me, even at the ripe old age of 24. When he says jump, I ask how high when I’m already half way in the air. No thinking, no room for negotiation, I just do.
I remember the first day I saw my Dad smile. Seeing as I witnessed that monumental event only a handful of times in my 24 years on earth, this particular occasion is ingrained in my memory. My Dad’s younger sister moved away when she was 24 and he was 30. The day she left for the airport is till date still one of the saddest moments of my life. I remember like it was yesterday. My Dad had warned her not to go. He told her that Italy would eat her up and spit her out and that ‘abroad’ was not meant for people like her. Truth be told, I think he was just scared of having to raise me all by himself. He tried to bully her into staying; even threatening to call immigration and claim her visa was a fake but Aunty Vicky didn’t budge. Their stubbornness was a trait they both inherited from their father, my Grandfather.
The day she left, Daddy refused to drop her off at the airport. He claimed he had an ankle injury and said he couldn’t drive. We watched as Aunty Vicky dragged her too large suitcase out of the door and into a taxi. Aunty Vicky moved in with us, the day my mother died. She had lived with us for 10 years. We weren’t sure the next time we would see her again.
One Tuesday evening, I was sitting on our front porch reading an Archie comic. My dad wasn’t back from the office yet so I was left to my own devices. I was so engrossed in what Jughead said to Betty that I didn’t notice someone was walking up to the house.
I smelled her before I saw her. She smelled like a fish market on a very sunny day. Her hair was supposed to be blonde but it looked like the yellow of urine. She had a gold cap on her front tooth, and so many spots on her face it looked like a football pitch in the middle of a match. She was wearing a leopard print jumpsuit and yellow heels to match her hair. She carried a small duffel bag and walked like she had something heavy between her legs.
‘”Dunni! Oladunni temi ni kan! I’ve missed you my baby”, she said as she tried to envelop me in a hug. I recoiled from this strange woman who knew my name. “How did she know my name?”
“Ahn Ahn Dunni! I haven’t been gone for that long. Its me, Aunty Vicky” she said.
I think this was the first time in my life that I felt truly horrified. This woman was nothing like the woman that left our house that evening three years ago. The Aunty Vicky I knew had skin as dark, smooth and shiny as a freshly polished shoe. She told me she used to win ‘Miss Ebony’ contests when she was in secondary school. Aunty Vicky had long hair that she always complained wasn’t full enough. She was slim, not thin, and tall; taller than my father. This woman looked nothing liker her.
I tried as much as possible to hide my shock, and returned her hug. I helped her with her too light duffel bag. For someone who had been living in Italy for 3 years, she had almost no luggage at all. We talked for a little while, or rather I should say that I talked and she listened. I told her about school and my friends. She never once mentioned anything about Italy and avoided all questions I asked about it. I pretended not to notice and kept talking, anything to reduce the awkwardness in the room. This Aunty Vicky was different. She had changed. I got the feeling she was listening to me but wasn’t hearing what I was saying. She seemed far away. After talking for a while, she said she was really tired from the trip and was going to take a nap.
Regardless of what she looked like, I was happy my Aunty Vicky was home! Finally someone would explain to my father that it was okay for me to go to the movies with my friends. I was so excited to tell Daddy she was back. It would be a pleasant surprise.
I heard the horn of Daddy’s car and rushed to open the gate. I couldn’t wait to tell him the good news! It turned out Daddy had already heard. Our nosy neighbor, Mrs Uzo called Daddy and told him she saw a ‘strange looking young woman’ go into our house. He rushed home immediately after that.
“Who is in my house? Ehn Dunni? Who did you let into my house? You are now friends with prostitutes? Mrs Uzo said a prostitute entered this house today!” he screamed at me. Before I could say a word, Aunty Vicky came out of the bedroom.
“Good evening Brother. Ekale”
My Dad was silent for almost one minute, and then his face broke into the biggest grin I had ever seen.
“I told you so,” he said. “I told you abroad was not meant for people like you”.