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ABLUTION

depressed woman photo: Depressed Woman depression.jpg


Why do people wear black to funerals?  I remember asking my mom when I was a child. Six or seven. I did not believe the answer, for even as a child, I saw clearly, the oddity in wearing black and shedding tears at a graveside in the morning, and by afternoon, dancing and eating, glamorously clad in whatever was the fad at the time.

This was a different funeral though. It was uncle Toye’s and at first, I did not feel like attending. But on second thought, I knew I had to. I wanted to. It was the key to my complete ablution.

Uncle Toye was a close relative, dad’s cousin I think. He had come to live with us while he searched for a job after his NYSC, and he really was the coolest uncle fabian and I had ever had. We loved him because he bought things for us from the little money dad gave him from time to time. He protected us from street bullies and taught us so many things.

Mum’s love for him was extraordinary. Strange because mum never wanted anything to do with any of dad’s relatives since they all opposed her marriage to dad, on grounds that she was from a different tribe. Uncle Toye was the only exception. He was the first and the only one mum ever allowed to live with us. Mum worked late, and by evening when she got home, uncle Toye would have helped us with our home works and made dinner. He was an exceptional cook too.

Many nights, dad, who always got home later than mum, would praise mum at the dinner table for making ‘such delicious dinner even after working all day’. And on every occasion, Uncle Toye would quickly second dad’s motion, blocking any chance of mum telling the truth. This went on for several months as even segun and I kept the faith. Eventually the truth came out. I can’t really remember how.

I think the biggest help he was to dad, was washing his car every morning. And dad never got tired of talking about how much money he was saving on car wash. The way he went on about it, one would think the cost of washing a car was the equivalent of buying one.

When uncle Toye finally got a job after two years of searching, it was at the company where mum worked, and this further strengthened their bond. They would stop by at the market on their way home and spend time in the kitchen cooking together. Dad was just excited that mum had finally accepted a member of his family, even if it was only a cousin.

The only quarrel between mum and dad that involved uncle Toye, happened about two years later when dad had found uncle Toye in the maid’s room one hot, windy August night at 10pm. Dad was upset but mum defended Uncle toye with all of her breath. I wondered why mum never asked dad what he was doing in the maid’s room at 10pm as well. I also wondered why mum defended uncle Toye so vehemently.

The silence between mum and dad in the following weeks was grave. And uncle Toye, in a bid to restore the peace, announced to all of us at dinner one evening that he had found an apartment. Mum conjure up all sorts of reasons why he should stay but it was done, he was merely informing us. I was fourteen at the time with barely two years of high school left, and uncle Toye had lived with us for nearly five years. He moved out the next morning and the silence in our house became deafening, stretching on for weeks.

Even though he had moved out of our house, uncle Toye was never far from us, he had dinner with us often and on several occasions, mum insisted on him spending the night. He was the only relative at my Valedictory Service, mum and dad had to work. fabian did not count as he was moving to SS2 in the same school. He had no choice.

When Uncle Toye got married, we were all there. When he had his first child, Victoria, we were all there as well, thankful that this beautiful child had chosen to come on a Saturday, so we could all attend her Naming Ceremony on the eighth day.

When Victoria was two and her mother was pregnant again, they both moved with uncle Toye to the U.S. At first, communication between us was frequent, but it gradually reduced to a trickle. By the third year of their emigration, we had completely lost touch. When Abigael, Uncle Toye’s wife, called mum after eight years of complete silence to say that her husband had died, mum was speechless. Literally. And she hung up. We were all sufficiently shocked at the news but we still had dinner. Eight years of silence had shredded most of the memory we shared. Only mum was truly shaken, she skipped dinner that night, and for the next few weeks, ate only fruits.

A few weeks later when the shock had passed, spurred by dad’s insistence, mum called Abigael. She sent her money to cover hers and the children’s flight tickets and also made funeral arrangements.

As I got into the car that would take us to the cemetery, everyone looked at me as though I had lost my mind. Maybe I had, maybe today was the day to regain it fully. I wore a deep yellow blouse on golden yellow pants. Purple heels and a gold clutch bag completed my outfit. Nobody said a word though, I think they knew better.

I endured the crying rituals at the graveside. I endured the dirt shovelling. I endured the practised frowns and long faces of people who really couldn’t wait to get the party started. I waited patiently until everyone had left and went about settling my scores with my demon.

Yes, sweet, nice uncle Toye was my demon. And he did a good job of tormenting me through the years. At thirty two, I was still single, scared by the decades of negative feelings this demon began to sow in my life when I was barely twelve. As I stood by his grave, I resisted the urge to spit. To scorn his corpse and say “I’m here, you are not”

I remembered when his hands first started to move around my body, it started with long hugs. I remembered when he started showing me things, when he told me it was ok, even though I knew it was not. I remembered the feelings of guilt and filth that washed over me after every encounter. I remembered these feelings trailing me even years after he had left the country.

They spread their claws around my neck, these feelings, interfering in every relationship I had with anyone around me. I pushed away everyone who cared about me. Everyman who spoke to me about love was a monster. They had to be. I wasn’t good enough for anyone and no one was good enough for me. I was scared and no one knew, until Uche came around. He reached for my heart like no one had done, and I poured it out to him like I had never done. Gradually, with love, he helped me heal, and I look forward to reading my vows to him in two months’ time.

I am thankful for the healing, but sometimes, I can’t help wishing that I never got the wound in the first place. That my father, or at least my mother, had paid close attention while I grew up. That they had seen to the protection of my innocence till I was ready to let it go. I still wonder about the relationship about mother and uncle Toye, I wonder if perhaps mother had a clue, but was too carried away to care. And dad too, with his capers with the maid and others. Fabian was unscathed because uncle Toye was straight.

But when I woke up that morning, I knew that my healing was not complete, I knew I had to face my demon–dead or alive, to complete my cleansing. This was my last chance, so I decided to attend uncle Toye’s funeral, for victory, not mourning, so I did not wear black.

After fifteen minutes of staring, conjuring, and cleansing, I walked away to continue with the rest of my life.


My name is Oyinye by the way, and you can find me in every school, every community, everywhere in the world.

Oluwaseun Martinson
Articles 5256153409218624181

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