I was eight years old when I met God. She was twenty-something or thirty-something, brown-skinned, beautiful but not in a conventional way, petite and bespectacled. She swore quite a bit and laughed freely.
Back in those days – when I was eight years old – Mum worked in a bank and Dad taught in the state’s federal university. Mum was a hardworker. At least, that was what Dad would tell us on those nights when she was not back home by 10pm. Dad let us stay up late but it was no good since, with him, the television remained on CNN. My elder brother – Dami – and I would sit watching television with Dad, bored out of our minds but unable to speak up to him. We preferred having Mum watch us – she let us watch cartoons and play freely around the house. She did not let us stay up late, however.
Mum often returned home from work sad. On some evenings, after she got back from work and after she and Dad had discussed a while in their bedroom, Dad would come out of their bedroom and tell us to allow Mum rest a bit, that she had had a tough day at work. Sometimes, I would eavesdrop at their bedroom door. On one occasion, I overhead Mum say, “She called me a dumb woman! Seun, do I look dumb! Do I act dumb! Be honest with me, tell me, do I!” Dad would try to calm her down. I recall him telling her, “I know you, Honey. You are not dumb by any measure. You just happen to be working with a narcissist, a verbally and psychologically abusive one at that, who your organization is yet to rein in. Have faith, things will turn around.” The words of encouragement helped some, I wanted to believe, but, still, after such tough days at work, she would remain moody all through the evening even though she tried to mask it whenever she eventually came out to join us later in the evening. Occasionally too, she would be on the phone with her work-friends and the conversation would frequently evolve into tales of their woes under their common nemesis at work. Mum prayed about her situation at work a lot, telling God that she was putting in her honest-to-God – and honest-to-self – best at work and begging him to come and intervene in her situation.
I tried to cheer Mum up whenever she seemed down: I would make her take Dami and me to the Shopping Mall that had an amusement park or to the ice-cream place where we would sit out and have pizza with ice-cream. And whenever she or Dad asked me to pray in our family morning prayers, I would make sure to ask God to help her be happy at work.
One day, out of curiosity, I asked Mum, “Mum, if you are not happy at work, why can’t you just leave and look for work somewhere else?” She smiled, “It’s not so simple, Oyin. For a while now, the situation in the country has not left grown-ups with much choice but to hold onto any paying work we find, even when the workplace is toxic in a lot of ways. You’ll understand better as you get older.” Yes, maybe I was a just child, but I felt I understood enough to know that she was wrong. Uncle Wale, Mum’s younger brother, had been staying with us for close to six months. He had told me that he had not been happy at his former workplace and had decided to leave and look for work somewhere else. So, he had decided to visit us and spend some quality time with our family while he looked for work. So, Mum had to be wrong on this one! At twenty-six, now a grown-up woman myself, I understand differently now.
(To be continued)
This is a work of fiction.
Photo by Kirian Agu on Unsplash