Mama Ada ran out of the room to the kitchen where she got her husband a glass of water, he was asthmatic and the attack had started in the middle of the night leaving his wife at a loss on what to do.
“sorry, my husband. Take some water”.
Baba Ada tried to take a gulp of water but it choked him and he threw it out coughing.
“My inhaler, get my inhaler before I die here, he managed to say”.
His wife opened the dusty bedside drawer that was one of the properties that had followed her to her husband’s house years ago.
Fifteen years ago, she had been a beautiful maiden who had married her husband after which they relocated to Kaduna after their wedding. The marriage had produced 5 children, 4 girls and a boy. She had been feeding from hand to mouth with her husband and children until he lost his textile industry job few months after they had their last child. Her husband was the first child of his extended family and he sacrificed his education to work and train his younger ones whom he had hoped would secure good jobs and help him and his children. His younger ones had indeed secured good jobs and were doing well in their respective field of endeavor but they had all turned their backs on their brother when he lost his job, accusing his wife of bringing ill luck into their family. After her husband lost his job, she had taken to hawking different commodities so that they could feed and send her children to public schools. Her husband had been battling with a protracted asthma and ulcer that had degenerated because he had been too poor to afford good medical attention. Whenever he was strong enough, he would go to different construction sites to do menial jobs to support his wife’s petty trade.
“Didn’t you see the inhaler?” her husband asked jerking her out of her reverie.
Mama Ada: “I am checking for it, I can’t find it here o”.
Baba Ada: “Check the floor and under the bed, maybe it fell down”.
Mama Ada: “I have seen it”, she ran to his side of the bed and gave it to him to inhale”.
Baba Ada: “Nne, this thing is not working, I am dying o”.
Mama Ada: “How can you say a thing like that? You want to die and leave me with this children? Pity me now. Try and draw it in well”.
They were talking when their eldest daughter came in from the sitting room where she and her children slept. Theirs was a two room apartment in a typical Nigerian ‘face me I face you’ compound. Mama Ada and her husband slept in the bedroom with her youngest child while her other children slept on mats in the sitting room.
Ada: “Mama, what is happening to baba?” she asked with alarm in her eyes. She was almost 15 years old and she knew that things were not going well in her family. She was a constant object of mockery among her class mates who were from well to do families. Survival in their compound was a thug of war, with people struggling to queue up to use the toilet and bathroom and even to fetch water. There were constant quarrels and fights in the compound and she in her young mind always wished that her father could make enough money to get a bigger one like the one her pastor and his family lived in. Read more stories at richardayiteycom.wordpress.com
Mama Ada: “Go back and sleep. Don’t wake your younger ones up, your father will be fine”.
Ada: “No, mama. Papa is coughing hard and he is struggling for air”.
She went to him, collected the inhaler from his hand and read what was written on it. She was smart for her age and was topping her class in school despite the fact that her parents could not afford to by her textbooks and other instructional materials that other students had.
“The inhaler has expired, it will not be effective anymore”.
Mama Ada: “Ehn”, her heart pounding furiously.
Ada: “The expiry date is written on it, it says it expired two weeks ago”.
Baba Ada: “Chimo! So, this is how I will die with this asthma”.
Ada: “Papa”, she shouted and began to cry.
Mama Ada: “God forbid, you will not die o my husband. I will not fold my hands and watch you die in my hands. “Ada, stop crying there. Do you want to wake your younger ones? Oya, go to your mat and sleep”.
Ada: “No, mama”.
Mama Ada: “What did your Sunday school teacher tell you that children who disobey their parents?Go!”
Ada, the obedient child that she was ran back to the sitting room to her mat and closed her eyes.
Mama Ada got a wrapper and tired over the tattered night dress that she was wearing. She checked the time, it was few minutes past 12, she knew that Chukwudi would still be awake because he usually returned home from his chemist some minutes past 11. Careful not to awaken her children, she opened the door and tiptoed to Chukwudi’s door. Ada who was pretending to be asleep got up and tiptoed to the door where she stood and watched her mother. It was dark because there was no electricity and so she had no fear of being caught by her mother.
Mama Ada was glad when she saw a glimpse of candle light reflecting from his room. It meant that he was still awake.
She tapped on the door gently. “Chukwudi, biko open up it is me”.
Chuckwdi: “You who?”
Mama Ada: “Mama Ada”.
Chukwudi: “Wetin happen wey you no want allow me sleep for night? I dey owe you?”
Mama Ada: “No vex, brother. Na my husband matter…”
Chukwudi: “Wetin happen? Him pursue you from house? And how that one take concern me?”
Mama Ada: “Please, my husband is having an attack, we need inhaler, the one wey we get for house don expire”.
Chukwudi: “The inhaler wey I get for house na N2,500. You hold your money there? Make sure say you get change o, I no get change”.
Mama Ada: “Ah! N2,500 ke, Chineke! Last time we bought it was N1, 500 now”.
Chukwudi: “Na everyday dollar dey increase. If e increase like this, everything for market go follow increase”.
Mama Ada: “Okay, I have heard. Please give me, I will look for money and pay you tomorrow”.
Chukwudi: “Ehn, so you no even get your money for hand na im you dey allow me waste my voice this night? You want make I sell for credit for this recession? I see say you be enemy of progress”.
Mama Ada: “Chukwudi, bikonu. Na N400 be the only money wey I get for hand, collect am give me the inhaler, I go balance you tomorrow”.
Chuwudi: “Madam, no credit today come tomorrow. No disturb me again o, I wan start my midnight prayer be this, if you disturb my prayer, e mean say na you be the witch wey no want me to dey see my front. I go just use fire burn you for there”.
Mama Ada stood begging and when he didn’t reply, she returned to her room. Her daughter who was eavesdropping on her mother’s conversation with Chukwudi ran back to her mat and wept silently.
Mama Ada got to the bedroom and saw her husband on the floor holding his chest and grasping for air.
Baba Ada: “Where is the inhaler?”
Mama Ada: “Chukwudi say e no get” , she lied to him because she couldn’t bear to hurt him with the truth of her conversation with Chukwudi. She noticed that her husband was panting and struggling for air.
Baba Ada: “I am dying, take care of the children”.
Mama Ada: “Noooooo!” she screamed.
Question: What will Mama Ada do? Should she fold her arms and watch her husband die?