The four of us were in my house talking when Hover said, “I hate my parents.” My younger sister Minka and I were quite excited when our parents announced to us the day before that they were traveling the next day. We woke early this morning, and helped them with their final preparations in order to speed up their departure. And I can’t describe the joy I felt when my father said, “Nsor, you’re in charge now, don’t run things into the ground before we return.”
Today is Friday, and they’d be gone the whole weekend.
It was easy for me to call Hover and invite him. He in turn invited our mutual friend Glory. Both of them arrived together at my house thirty minutes after I’d made the first call, with a knapsack that contained four bottles of cough syrup. I gave both of them hugs, and we went into my bedroom where we were soon joined by Minka, who walked in holding a packet of fruit juice, and four plastic cups.
“Let’s do justice to these products,” Hover said as he unsealed one of the cough syrup bottles, and turned the contents into the packet of juice. He shook this new mixture, then filled each person’s cup. “Round one,” he said.
We drank the concoction while making small talk about pop songs and celebrities. We began to feel the juvenile effects of the brew in ten minutes, this later matured into a full blown struggle with drowsiness and lethargy, and I looked at everyone’s droopy faces, bemused.
“This is dense,” Minka said.
“Very good stuff,” Hover said.
“Where did you get it?”
“Are you afraid that if you tell me where you get your supplies, I’d tell your parents, and they’d lead a delegation to shut down the place?”
It was meant to be a joke, but Hover had trouble coping with it. We were all sitting on the floor, and he leaned back until he almost lost balance then sprang back upright.
“I hate my parents.”
Minka laughed, and Glory asked him, “What did they ever do to you?”
“Is that a legitimate question?”
“Yes. I mean, they didn’t name you something as stupid as Glory. Who does that? It sounds like the name of a dog.”
“I don’t think many people would name their dog Glory,” Minka said. Glory widened her eyes at her.
“Yesterday I decided to take an afternoon nap. Do you know what my father said to me because of that?” Hover stared at Glory as he spoke, but it wasn’t a real question. “He said that I’d become a weakling, and get trodden on by society.”
“What does ‘trodden’ mean?” Glory asked, squeezing her face.
“That was the exact word he used.”
“You think your dad is mean because he called you a weakling? Mine said I spend so much time on my back resting that I’d have no problem adapting to a whore’s life.”
“Time out,” Minka said as she got up and left the room.
Hover bumped up his shoulders and opened his hands. I shook my head. By now my cup was almost empty, the maroon tinged liquid that had once flooded it had now reduced to a mere puddle in the cup’s base. “Can I help you drain your glass?” Hover asked. I laughed and gulped down the remaining mixture. Hover wasn’t even his real name. He loved listening to Jay Z songs, and so we’d began to call him Hova, but since he prized authenticity a lot, he’d changed the spelling of the moniker to suit himself.
Minka returned with a fresh packet of juice. “Goody. Round two,” Glory said. Minka gave the juice to Hover, and took her place on the floor. “Listen, let me give all of you advice that’d make your life a lot easier. Don’t argue with anyone above the age of thirty, and don’t take their insults seriously too. They’re adults, they have a right to say whatever they want. We children should become the magnanimous ones. Don’t take their words to heart, one day it’d be our turn. Words from my big brother,” she smiled at me and drank from her cup that had just been refilled by Hover.
“You talk bullshit huh?” Hover said to me.
I would have slapped him, but I was already too dense, and besides this was Hover, the same guy who got expelled from high school in his senior year, who hosted all the big parties in the city, who could construct a harem from his ex-girlfriends, the only boy our age to have endured a car chase with one cop – who happened to be on foot at the time – and gotten away with it, who could drink four bottles of codeine and still drive home – he was meant to be provocative, it was his MO.
Instead, I turned and looked out of my bedroom window. It was grey and cloudy outside, a soft breeze caused the branches of trees to quiver, and the leaves on the branches to play a soft music. “Hey Hover, what did your dad say the day you got your windshield broken while running from that cop?”
Hover smiled and took a big gulp from his cup. Then he ran his hand through his hair and began. “That was deep huh? You were in the car with me. I’ve told you this before, but anyway… he said I was lucky that I wasn’t caught and arrested, because he’d have left me to rot in jail if that had happened. He seized the car keys for three months.”
“Two months and some weeks,” Glory said.
“Hey, if you know the story so well, why don’t you tell it?”
“Am I the only one hearing this for the first time?”
“Surprised your bro didn’t tell you.”
I was looking at Glory. She was short and dark, with lips that made her resemble a fish, and she had packed her hair in her characteristic fashion. A bun at the right hand side of her head. I’d been annoyed by my mum the first day I saw Glory. My mum had asked me to mop the sitting room, and do the dishes. But because I’d slept late the previous night, my head was hot, and my movements slow, so she had yelled at me for being sluggish, and I’d abandoned the chores and stamped out of the house, only to run into Glory and Hover at a favorite hangout spot.
“My mum calls me a misogynist because I don’t stay at home a lot. But who does? If I don’t hangout now, when would I?”
“Wait a sec, what does she mean by misogynist?” Glory, lowering her cup, which she had been about to sip from.
“She said all men who can’t stay at home with their families are misogynists, they think that their wives and children are mediocre company, and so prefer to be with fellow men.”
We all laughed.
“One time I returned home late, say ten o’clock, and she said I was returning from a cult initiation ceremony. My dad beat the shit out of me that day.”
“So this is what we talk about when we talk about our parents, right? In that case…I never stay out until six, you all are witnesses, but my mum still complains that I keep late hours. If I ever return home by ten, she’d kick me out of the house,” I said.
“But we know they only say these things because they love us right? Like they don’t want us to make life damaging mistakes, and so they’d say anything, no matter how hurtful it is, to make us keep to the right path. Don’t look at me like that. It’s my big bro that said this.”
Hover and Glory turned and glared at me, until Minka said that the juice was finished, and someone else should bring a new packet from the fridge. I got up and walked out of the room. I am in college, and my major is psychology. I’d wanted to study medicine, but I didn’t make the cut off score in the university entrance examination. I was in my sophomore year when I said all those things to Minka.
I made my way to the kitchen. I expended tremendous effort in order to lift and place each foot in front of the other, and I had to put careful thought into everything I did. For example, I stood in front of the fridge and pondered what I had come into the kitchen to do. When I remembered that I had come to fetch a packet of juice, I had to ask myself where I could find a packet of juice, and so on…
When I returned to the room, Glory was lying on her back, while Minka and Hover were going at each other.
“What I am trying to say is you can’t just say something like ‘I hate my parents,’ it’s not right. Yes my brother gets angry at my mother when she shouts at him for dozing off during morning devotion, or breaking a glass, or reading novels in his room all day, but that doesn’t mean he does not appreciate it when she wakes him up early every Sunday so he can prepare for church on time, when he’s ill and she takes him to the hospital, when she tops up the pocket money our dad gives him – as long as there are two sides to this story, you aren’t allowed to say, ‘I hate my parents.’”
Hover was silent for as long as it took him to complete the mixing ritual, then after he’d poured for himself and had a drink, he spoke. “You all should pour for yourselves. My hands are shaking too much. I believe I am allowed to hate whoever I want to hate, especially when that person tells me that I am not worth a packet of salt, just because I went to see a late movie.”
“Who gave you money for the movie ticket? You get into trouble with the police and they smash your windshield, and you’re angry that this got your father pissed off. Who bought the car for you in the first place?"
Minka and Hover’s argument soon got boring. I felt like an ocean liner had glided onto my chest, and was now sinking. I tossed around words, phrases, and whole sentences in my head, but I didn’t have the strength to voice any of them. I looked out the window again. The breeze had transformed into an irate wind, and the sky held grey chunks of clouds so dense that I felt I could roll one of them into a ball, and use it to play soccer with my friends.
I forced down more of the codeine and juice mixture even though every new sip made my throat drier, and my chest now felt like an ice king was holding court within it. I don’t know why my younger sister reveres me, maybe it’s because I stand up to our parents from time to time, but she respects everything I say, and she takes all my advice as scripture.
“What do you think, Nsor?” I had to be tapped twice before I realized that Hover was talking to me.
He repeated his question. “Well, I can’t wait to finish college. When I do, I’d leave this house and only return the day I bring my fiancée to meet my parents. Then I’d go back into exile, and my parents would be allowed to see my children for only one day, after they’ve been born. I’d feed my parents tidbits of my presence, this way they wouldn’t really have anything to complain about. But I won’t let them into my life. By the way, we’re out of juice. Someone else should bring a packet from the fridge.”
I didn’t need to look at Minka to know she was burning holes into my head with her eyes. I also knew that Glory was staring at me. I knew that Hover was staring at me. We heard thunder, and the metal protectors at the window vibrated. The rain came down in torrents.