On Tuesday by Jessica Aike

Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Izin recounts the disintegration of her parents' marriage and the emotional turmoil it causes within her family.

Image generated with OpenAI
Something broke in my mother one morning. She had been numb for years, cosplaying, ticking. So, when I came home from school in the middle of March, greeted by suitcases and stuffed boxes, I knew. She did not have to read the end credits, announcing the ending of her character, or explain where she kept all the fragmented pieces of herself, we knew.

The contempt she nursed had morphed into indifference over the years, and I had long worn, sunk into, the cloak of her regret.

There were no goodbyes, only a stiffness that followed her out the door.

"Wow, she carried her dad's entire face oh. Even his height. Na carbon copy be this,"

Dad's young sister, Aunty Becky, had said during one of her visits. "I think you should sign her up to one of those modelling competitions. She has the looks and the build."

I had learnt that day what the second sin was.

"Daaad, how comes you don't kiss mum?" I blurted out one day, as we pulled into Zuri's Street, honking when he sighted her waving at us fanatically. The Kenyan and Italian flag sticking out of her ponytails for Heritage Day at school, swaying just as erratically.

I enjoyed visiting her, most especially, witnessing the affection shared between her parents.

The kind that made you want to instinctively seek solace from another, to bare, to bury yourself so far you saw stars. Mrs Romano was always containing her giggles when she came down to check on us during breakfast. Her long locs swaying behind her, framing her deep hue. "And how are my pretty princesses doing?" she would smile when she crouched over to give us a cuddle.

"Haha, you know how your mother is like, Izin," my dad responded, mustering a chuckle that lacked its usual fare. "Oya, out sweetheart, you'll be late to school. Greet Zuri's dad for me." he said hurriedly, before planting a kiss on my forehead and giving me a quick squeeze.

He had shared their love story, once.

"So, your mother had flown into Abuja with one of her friends for a wedding. And whilst she was here, she stayed at one of those fancy apartment complexes, which happened to be the same complex my friend, your uncle Phillip was living at. Anytime I visited, I would always see her in the compound, either reading or with that her purple yoga mat that she liked to carry. She was very polished. She spoke like the newscasters we watched on TV back in Abuja. But my oh my, was she true to her roots, a pure Benin woman. One minute she's doing; spri spri spri, next minute she's changed it for you. Omorose, ahhh.

"After all the visits I was making to Uncle Phillip's house, you know, toasting her on the low, one day she just said me, 'Michael, when you're ready to tell me you're in love with me, let me know. Until then, stop gawking at me like pesin wey never chop since morning.'

Ah, I was taken aback by her candidness. As a fine bobo, I no dey chase women, na dem dey rush me," he let out a hearty laugh.

"But with your mother, she was soft, wild, human. I quickly did the needful. We were long distance for a short while, before I moved to England for my Masters, and eventually settled."

"Why won't he remarry?" I asked Aunty Becky during one of my hair wash days, cocking my head to look at her, as she carried on without as much as a pause. "He seems happier, just leave him be," she said softly, laser-focused on the soapsuds trailing down my strands.

"Easy for you to say," I thought to myself.

Aunty Becky was not there on the nights I would hear him unravel in his study.

She did not see the remnants of the man that picked me up after school. Tired, running, burdened. Bound to sorrow and regret.

It would start right after the heightened whispers; I had never heard such passionate whispers. Sometimes the chatters were in my mother's bedroom, other times they took space in different pockets of the house. The end was always the same, loud door slams as my mother breezed past.

"Your mother and I will be separating for a short while," he said one day, as we snuggled on the couch, watching one of my favourite cartoons.

"Divorce, Michael. We are not separating; we are getting a divorce. Osanobua, my God, don't you ever get tired of lying? Are you not tired? Me I no fit dey join you dey ment. Shey you hear?" my mother fired back, tugging, squeezing at the hems of her blouse as if she feared she would burst, become undone if she let go. Her crispness always evaporated when she touched rage.

"Anger is only dangerous when it doesn't move," my dad would reassure me when the chaos threatened to suffocate me.

September was ripe, and we received reluctant dawns and early evenings laced with cool air. The mellow weather was a far cry from the quiet chaos that brewed for years. Life now had an ease to it, an ease that still felt foreign.

It was a Tuesday, when Aunty Becky had asked me to stop by, and collect the gifts she had brought from her recent travels.

"Why don't you stay for dinner? We haven't had one of our chats in a long time.

You still haven't told me who you're dating. Omame! Big babe! Izin Izin! she laughed in jest. "Abi, should I be calling you a baddie now?"

"Baddie? Aunty, who told you about baddies?" I howled. "Have you been stalking my Instagram? Ughh, you're such a beg friend." I laughed as I sunk down on the coach beside her. "I'll be back. I've left my bag on the coat rack as proof. Let me just go and drop this off at my dad's and when I get back, we can gist about who has been teaching you all this lingo."

"Alright darling, go safe."

I sat my shoes on the shoe rack, took the gifts to the living room, and placed them on the couch facing the centre table. I had just turned 14 when my dad came home with the table after visiting an antique shop.

"I just had to buy it before another person will now come behind me and take it. What do you think? It's fine ba?"

"Sure dad, it's great." I did not care for it, but it made him happy, and that was enough for me.

I was ready to set off on memory lane when I heard something crash upstairs.

"Who's there?" my mouth formed, but I chose silence.

Creeping to retrieve the baseball bat hidden behind the towering plants that framed the walls, I tiptoed out the room, down the corridor and up the stairs, every step placed meticulously after the other. I was on my seventh step when I heard it again, this time, the sounds were muffled. It did not sound like they were coming from the TV, they felt present, as if we were side by side. I suppressed the urge to call out.

As I turned the corner at the top of the stairs and quietly tiptoed through the landing I stopped, in confusion.

My father, entangled with his lover.

We were close. We had always been close, but as I gaped at the bodies intertwined in his bed, I simply could not recognise this man pouring himself into another. I rummaged through years of memories, but there was nothing. The moans from the man in my father's bed brought me back to reality. It was the way he heaved and collapsed into a sweaty heap as my father pulled back from him that dazed me.

"Ahh, that was quick." Aunty Becky smiled when she opened the front door. "I didn't expect you back so soon," she said, stepping back to let me in. "How's your da-?"

"I won't be staying for dinner. I've come to collect my bag."

"Izin, are you okay? What happened?" she said as I walked past her, picked up my bag and walked out.

"I've dropped the gifts off for my father, and his lover. I must have startled them." I said, facing her squarely. "My cab is waiting for me outside; I need to go now."

She did not pause, stop me halfway or seem as astonished as I was. She was as still as a predator wating for its prey in the shadows. She knew, Aunty Becky had always known.

"Tell her I'm sorry," she blurted out as I turned to exit. "Your mother, tell her I'm sorry. I did not say anything when he first introduced her to me. It was not my place to tell her who he was, that he had stepped out throughout their entire relationship. When you find her, tell her I'm sorry."

She did not call after me as I walked down the pathway, through the gate, and slithered into the back of the taxi, enabling the do not disturb feature on my phone as my fathers' calls rung relentlessly.

Sometimes, it was best to leave nothing but a coolness that hung in the air as you exited, because peace treaties were reserved for those involved in the war, not for outsiders, like me.


  1. A poignant tale of innocence lost, due to the sexual perfidy of young Izin’s father, who seems to have lied to everyone. The foreign idiom – foreign to me at any rate – was a little difficult to grapple with at first, but I soon became more accustomed to it. In the end, Aunt Becky’s feeble explanation to her niece just adds insult to the injury that she has already suffered. By the story’s conclusion, Izin’s mother has morphed from an inexplicably unfeeling and conflicted person into a more understandable one, as Michael’s sexual nature is explained. It would be comforting to conclude that such scenarios do not in real life play out, but sadly that is not the case. Very good story, Jessica!

  2. A moving and very honestly written story of learning about a close family member's real behaviour. Sad, poignant, and beautifully told storytelling. I particularly liked the cultural aspects of their backgrounds.

  3. At first I thought, well it’s after the divorce, what is so bad? But then we are told it has been ongoing. A story of disillusionment. Well done!

  4. On the one hand, I loved how the story gave me a window into a different culture.
    On the other hand, as an outsider, I found the story very hard to follow due to all the authentic dialogue and cultural references.
    Sad ending.
    I would have liked some additional foreshadowing as to the father’s sexual preference.
    It seems to me that all the characters in the story are victims of a repressive homophobic culture…

    1. You're not aware that unrequested criticism is liable to harm the artist?

  5. This was a very “real” story. I loved the last lines about being “an outsider”. Children are powerless in the world of adults. It depicts her pain and alienation perfectly. Well done, Jessica!

  6. Did I forget publish or is there a delay? Stories like that are not as rare as may be assumed. Happened in my extended family. Lots of secrets come out over time. Suicides hidden, pregnancies before marriage, all those things that didn't happen to "good people".