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Kelvin took a trip home later that Wednesday in the afternoon.
Home was Joba, a developed town less than a fifty kilometre bus trip from the University campus in Ankara.
A trip from campus back home often came on impulse for Kelvin. But this time, it was a little more than that.
He’d planned to spend the rest of the week at home. He hadn’t taken a proper break since his last poetry performance, the biggest one of his career.
And here was another already, an ongoing poetry contest on campus which he was participating in as a contestant.
Kelvin wanted to take a brief break at home with his family before the next stage of the poetry contest.
And before the mid-semester tests starting the week following.
Kelvin had bought along two pieces of the dress he saw on Yemi for his younger twin sisters.
He was with the younger twin Kehinde. Kehinde tried the outfit on and liked how it looked on her.
The only expression Kelvin got with which he knew her sister liked the gift was just the smile that lit up her face when she received it.
But that was all he got as a thank you.
Except that he also got the only expression her lips uttered. It was a light mock on how he usually spent his money.
Kehinde chuckled. ‘Apart from buying clothes and shoes for us, is there any other thing you ever use your money for?
‘I know the money you got from your numerous awards is enough to start a business. Won’t you do something for yourself, big bro?’
Kelvin and his sisters were used to that manner of speaking. The way they showed they liked or appreciated something was to put their feelings in the ironic.
They teased, or simply taunt. And it seemed to work to shroud their emotions in a duvet of invulnerability.
Perhaps they hated the feeling of being naked. Being exposed. Being weak.
It was a self-effacing veil. It was a mask they make use of to save face; to cover up being vulnerable.
Kelvin couldn’t take what he usually did to people. He laughed. ‘Here you go, again! Can’t you just appreciate the gift and leave me alone?’
The manner his sisters talk was a clear mirror image of him.
Kelvin joked. ‘Why am I even talking to you? I remember you stole my fish the last time I came home and I haven’t punished you for it.
‘Now lemme answer your question. I also use my money to buy belts.’ He stood up and went to his backpack.
‘And one of them I’m going to use to flog you,’ he joked, zipping open his backpack and ransacking it for a belt he didn’t put there.
Kehinde ran out to the yard, screaming with deliberate exaggeration. Kelvin ran after her in a blithe, sprightly zigzag chase.
An elderly neighbour stood in front of his flat with his arm folded across his unclad, sunken chest.
They called him Baba Tailor. He watched the kids play silly.
Kelvin charged forward and, with a sweep a hand, caught his sister in his grasp.
Both kids fell on the low grass on their back, exhausted and drained.
They stayed on the ground for a long while, trying to steady their breaths.
‘Were you in town recently? I mean, were you in Joba at all, and you didn’t come home?’ Kehinde’s words puffed out amid frequent gasps of breath.
Kelvin turned his head to look at her for a second while they lay on the grass.
And then, he turned his gaze back skywards. He mumbled. ‘No, I wasn’t. Why d’ you ask?’
Kehinde spoke without looking his way. ‘Well, Baba Tailor told mum he saw you in town very recently. And he said he was sure it’s you.’
Kelvin chuckled. ‘You don’t think you’ll see me at home if I come to town at all?’
‘I thought as much,’ Kehinde replied; ‘don’t mind me minding Baba Tailor’s funny assumptions!’
Kelvin glanced at her sister and held her hand. ‘Do you trust me? Generally speaking.’
Kehinde’s reply was instant. ‘Of course, I do. I trust you, but not to the extent of trusting your dog with meat.
‘I don’t trust you with girls, your admirers. But I trust you in another sense. I trust your sense of responsibility.’
Kelvin was glad to hear that. ‘I feel like hugging you but Baba Tailor is watching,’ he said.
‘He might go to mom this time again to tell her that we’re sleeping together in the garden!’ he added, chuckling.
They couldn’t hold the hysterical laugh that followed. They both burst out in fits of giggles.
Kehinde laughed so hard her tommy ached.
When she quietened, she said, ‘You know that man’s his parents’ only child.
‘He doesn’t know what it means to have a younger sister or a sibling. So you can’t blame the poor old man.’
The older man was in his seventies. Baba Tailor was a strict man and a disciplinarian.
He was the fruit of his mother’s incest with her younger brother.
His father figure hadn’t been fertile. But there’d been a long term sexual affair between his mother and his maternal brother, before she got married.
Marriage does put a pause to some habit, at times. Her incest, although unknown to her husband as yet, ended before she took the marital vows.
But not for long.
It seemed hard times do bring back dark pasts. For when Baba Tailor’s mother eventually learnt that her husband was not fertile at the hospital they visited together, she secretly went back to messing with her brother.
And till Baba Tailor came into the world.
The stone heavy weight dangled down the heart of Baba Tailor’s mother after she gave birth to him.
Her weakened heart was caving in from a great deal of guilt for the act.
It was a guilt she sheltered in her chest for the remaining years she lived.
And it was the reason she decided to stop the child making art with her brother at just one fruit of the womb.
And stop the incest altogether.
When Baba Tailor’s father figure was eventually able to suspect he couldn’t have fathered his son, the son was already old enough to comprehend a little of some mature things.
And the manner in which the consequent pleas, agitation and family meetings blew up so loud, it didn’t escape the sensitive ears of the curious, growing son.
Mother, then, had much explaining to do with her angry son.
And even though her marriage eventually got shattered.
Baba Tailor detested his birth, the taboo and the controversies that surrounded it.
This perhaps was why, when he had three daughters, he was so strict with the girls that he never allowed them the company of male friends when they were growing up.
He also enrolled them in an all girls’ secondary school. In a bid to afford them a wall high protection from boys.
It didn’t occur to him that the girls would someday get married.
When his girls were closing in to thirty, Baba Tailor was still on the monitoring mission over them, and wadded off prospective suitors.
A family meeting had to be summoned for Baba Tailor to calm his nerves on the way he handled his daughters.
It was after the family meeting he agreed to free the young women for marriage. Things were that messed up for him.
No thanks to the incest in a far-flung past he never was part of.
When Kelvin was admitted to the University and leaving for school, his sisters had hugged him and cried they would miss him.
Baba Tailor had stood at his doorpost, watching with laughable disgust.
The old man later went on to report them to their mother, telling her to watch out for her kids lest they commit incest.
Since then, Kelvin and his sisters had always made a mockery of Baba Tailor’s overly serious demeanour.
As the two kids now lay on the grass and thought about Baba Tailor’s predicament, they now pitied him far more than they’ve mocked him.
‘Poor man!’ Kehinde exclaimed. ‘He’s traumatised from what his mother did to bring him to this world! Bearing the hurt of his mother’s mistake.’
Kelvin chuckled. ‘Like… sins of the mothers!’
Kehinde slapped him small. ‘C’mon, it’s not funny!’
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Copyright © 2019 by Kayode Olla