LEARNING TO BUILD

Nonye could not wait for Tunde to see it. Her eyes danced about in the car as she looked through the screens, anxious to reach their destination and to show Tunde the lovely place she had found. Though cheap, it would make a wonderful home for the family they planned to have, and economical for the course he was taking to make a fresh living.

Tunde was anxious too, infected by his wife’s enthusiasm. If it made her so happy it must really be as ‘great’ as she had called it. He trusted her instinct to recognize potentials in even the most apparently insignificant things. And he admired her drive to push towards success too. But, he was not as excited as she was because previous experiences had taught him that much was demanded to achieve her visions. He looked from wife to the line of buildings scrolling by. The environment looked good alright, the buildings were nice, and if what she was excited about was anything like these, then it was really worth the whole pump; and surprisingly cheap too, remembering the price she quoted to him. He too could not wait, but still restrained himself from being elated.

Then the car veered into another road that gradually contrasted their former view. All he could now see were wilted bushes, and heaps of dump scroll by gently as the car slowed down on the dry muddy bumpy road. Nonye was looking more enthusiastic yet: ‘We’re almost there, honey! We’re almost there! You’re gonna love it!’

Perhaps, another metamorphosis would take place. Perhaps, the car would pass through an invisible glass and transport them to this cheap golden palace because all he could now see ahead was a long bushy and filthy road with scanty abandoned or on-going buildings. Looking at Nonye, he frowned wondering what kind of surprise lay ahead. She looked back at him, bright white teeth spread out in childish grin and eyes glistering like what had beheld treasures desired to be shared with a most beloved. “This must really be extraordinary”, Tunde thought, refusing to be dampened in spirit already as he had feared he would.

He had become tired of looking out through the side screen when the car bent to the right and gradually halted and she screamed deafeningly, ‘There it is! There it is!’ She shook Tunde’s arm and quickly opened the door to step out without scrutinizing his reaction.

Tunde was confused as he looked at the corner the car had curved into. Surely, what his eyes were looking at could not be what his wife’s were elated about. He opened his side of the taxi for a better view but could not find any other building but the same as was when he checked from inside the car. But, his wife was looking at the same building and embracing herself like she had arrived at a grand palace.

He paid their fare and gave way for the driver to turn around and go back through the second half of the same two-way road they had come in from. The driver, he saw, empathized with him but shrugged like it was not his business anyway, and drove away.

The ground they stood on must have once been soft fresh lawn decades back. Dried dog dung and like filth now scattered about that ground with smell mingled with dusty air. Over-used trash cans and domestic refuse play around with the help of the slightly rough breeze; breeze that was probably sharing his anger about the dishevelment and filth around.

Refuse dumps gathered in a heap at the right corner of the compound and flies also gathered mostly there. Tunde waved off some agitated flies fighting him for the disturbance, but Nonye only continued to glee in oblivion of his frown. The house was a story building that had seen better days half a century ago. Its walls must have been creamy yellow in colour but, over the years, they had been greened by the gutters that formed themselves on the sandy thresholds in the rainy seasons; they also must have been blackened by coal, and browned by dust and dirt. There were some cracks on them too but they did not seem to threaten its foundation: the walls still looked like they could stand another fifty years; and that was the only ray in the whole gloom he was staring at.

Half of the entire roofing sheets must have been long lost after being blown away by storm; the wood that held them had rotted and some broken. What used to be the windows were just open square-holes children had jumped countless times playing hide and seek. It even bothered him that armed robbers must have used it as hide-out too at times. The building had been long abandoned, and if it was discovered by incorruptible government authorities it would have been flattened for better use.

“What in the world brought her this far and into this God-forsaken dumb-shed to choose for a home? What does she see in this to give her such child-like joy?” He would not ask her these questions because he knew she already had some annoyingly good answers for them. And this was what pained, and at the same time, secretly gladdened him the most about a wife who was always pushing him beyond what he deemed his limits. She had helped him overcome many challenges over the past few years they had met and married. He simply turned to her, waiting for that explanation that would calm his frown.

He could see that she delayed at looking back at him, and could also sense her secret gloat at him. And he wondered: nothing, as far as he knew, has ever downed her spirit; she was the joy in his gloom, reducing to naught his fears and anxieties at difficult times. She was the strength in his weakness, making easy the heights he had to scale to overcome his challenges. She was the good wife the Bible talked about, and he was so lucky to have. He patiently waited still for her to satisfy her smirk before explaining to him.

Recollected on how to tell him, Nonye sighed and turned to him in a considerate stare. She knew from the start he would not like it, but that was Tunde: he always preferred things ready-made. Life had dealt a heavy blow on him when he lost a well-paying job and the reputation he had built. He needed a change of environment to where no one knew him very well. They needed to manage the money he had saved by acquiring this house for good and not throw it all away as house rent within a year: landlords were merciless in demanding your annual pay and life savings for rent. He might never have expected his sudden fall, but he would have to learn to adjust and stand tall again by learning to build. This is so that he would appreciate the effort that goes into such hard work and the joy that comes with the accomplishment.

‘I know you don’t see what I see,’ she told him with a little smile written on her face as she stared into his puzzled face. ‘But by the time we finish renovating and cleaning up this house, it will be a home you’ll never regret having.’

And he knew she was right. It was an area people were just beginning to occupy again, and they could remain in his parents’ house till he got the place fixed. And perhaps also, many more people would have moved into the area by then, making it less isolated. That was her intuitive wife, he thought, shaking his head and chuckling, and then embracing her.

Written by IfeanyiChukwu Oluwafemi Chukwudi – Jan 20, 2011

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