It is Wednesday evening when I decide to finally talk to my daughter. Three full days after the incident.
I was fourteen when I realized I might have anger issues. Prior to that time, I had had episodes of fights with my siblings and even friends which my family had simply attributed to childish tantrums and misbehavior. When I was fourteen, I got into a fight with a classmate who had slapped me because someone dared her to. It would have ended there had I not marked her badly with my fists even when my classmates tried to call me off.
By the time it was over and we were both suspended from school for two weeks, my mother finally agreed that there was something wrong with me that needed to be dealt with. Thus, began a series of deliverance sessions – from one church to another, one elder to the other.
I remember often leaving those deliverance sessions empty, feeling nothing. Sometimes, I would walk away like a zombie because I had spent eight hours without food or drink in a church because the prophet wanted to “starve” the demon in me.
I didn’t stop fighting, though. It was like I was a pot, with a lid placed tightly on it, and when that pot was closed, everything was fine, but if anything, or anyone threatened my peace, the lid on the pot flew open, letting my rage spill uncontrollably.
When I turned eighteen, and got admission into the University, I met Oyin who made me see that what my mother, my family had called demon possession was actually a deep-seated anger management problem. It was when I realized that, that I began another journey on an entirely different path from the one my mother set me on.
One of the ways I have learned to manage and control anger is by maintaining silence when I feel the storm brewing within me. This is something I learned in my University days, from Oyin and from continuous trolling the internet for information. It wasn’t easy to practice at first, but as the years went by, I learned the art of silence. I learned to mentally quieten the storm before it took over and I lost control.
By Wednesday evening, the storm has died and I just feel a desperate need to speak to my daughter.
I leave work early that afternoon, hoping to get to her school before the school bus takes off. I consider stopping to get her ice-cream – a peace offering – but a quick glance at my wrist tells me I don’t have much time.
The car park is teeming with people and other cars when I arrive by two minutes to 3pm. School officially closes by 3pm, the school bus often leaves ten or fifteen minutes later.
The lady at the front desk has so much blush on her cheeks that I wonder if she looked in the mirror when she did her makeup. She smiles at me – revealing nicely placed dimples – collects my pick-up card and signs it before picking up the phone to call for my daughter. I shuffle to one of the chairs in the lobby and sit.
Just when I am about to ask the front-desk lady to make the call again, I spot Brenda coming down the stairs, a frown on her face.
“Hey baby,” I say, once she is close enough.
“Good afternoon Mum. What are you doing here?” she asks.
“Can’t I pick my daughter up from school when I want?”
She grunts and walks ahead of me.
I follow closely behind her thinking this may be harder than I thought.
When we get to the carpark, we get in the car and sit quietly.
“I told Mrs Taiwo the truth, in case you want to know,” Brenda says, after five minutes of silence.
I sigh, “Thank you for doing that.”
“But you called me an invalid, Mum,” she says, her voice breaking.
“Oh honey, I was upset. I shouldn’t have said that. You are not an invalid. I’m so sorry I used that word on you.”
I reach out my arms and pull her into a hug.
“But please, no more lies. You know how I feel about lies.” I whisper.
“I’m sorry Mum,” she whispers as we hug.
“I love you honey. I think you are an amazing daughter. You know that, right?”
“And…” I pull away and look at her, “it’s okay if you don’t want to do the Spelling Bee…even though I know you will do an excellent job. I just don’t want you to live life afraid of doing stuff because of…you know.”
“I actually have something to tell you,” her eyes are twinkling with excitement. “I spoke to my teacher…and…I told her everything. I told her why I was afraid of doing the Spelling Bee and she talked to me. She said everyone is afraid of something but the difference between the people who make a difference in the world and those who don’t is that one set of people faced their fears, the other set hid from it.”
“Your teacher deserves two dojo points! Seriously, I owe her something special. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
“So, that’s why I decided…I am going to do the Spelling Bee!”