Time stood still.
After she said, “Mummy I bumped my head against the window.”
Then moved slowly like a ticking bomb, tick-tock, tick-tock.
One irritated child, another crying child, an unhappy mother, and a grim-faced driver rode from Ikeja to Victoria Island. I wielded the power to change the sombre atmosphere in the car—one sentence, “Sorry, let me take a look at it,” was the magic wand that could banish sorrow to a faraway land.
Instead, I sat tight-lipped like a woman whose husband had asked, “What is the matter now?” after forgetting her birthday. The word sorry had become as precious to me as Silas Marner’s gold was to him. I did not have any more sorry to spare.
Our day had started innocently enough. The children wanted to visit The Fun Place, and I acquiesced. Undaunted by traffic, their incessant chatter filled the car before they succumbed to the go-slow and dozed off. They woke up just as we approached Opebi and bounced gently in their seats to the rhythm of their melodious voices.
So what went wrong? Nothing. Nothing really, except that from the moment they woke up, they had been running in my direction in ardent search for those precious words.
“Mummy, I stubbed my toe as I was coming down the stairs,” one complained and looked at me as if I conspired with the builder to build steep steps.
“Oh sorry dear, come closer, let me take a look.”
Then I gave the toe a gentle rub to soothe the pain. The pacified child retrieved his toe, announced that he felt better, and disappeared. As the day wore on, both kids took turns to seek this cure-all for life’s little mishaps.
“Mummy, I fell down.”
“Mummy, I bit my tongue.”
“Mummy, I cut my arm.”
“Mummy, my sister won’t play with me, the sun won’t shine, the dog won’t bark, the flowers won’t grow, there’s no light, there’s no water,” and on and on, and on and on.
To these and their array of mounting complaints, I have learnt to either feign concern or inject a sufficient amount of compassion in my voice, as I give an appropriate response by rote while multi-tasking!
It was the same story at The Fun Place. I opened my novel, read one paragraph and then said sorry. A little sorry here, a little sorry there. I read another paragraph before tales of being pushed and hit, tales of being unfairly treated, and tales of falling down, assaulted my ears. A big sorry here, a big sorry there, and in all, I had read four paragraphs of my novel by the time we determined to leave.
I eased into the car, looking forward to closing my eyes and dreaming of my bed. I wiped apple juice from my hands, mildly irritated by my sticky fingers, and dusted popcorn off my jeans. The gaping pothole that rocked the car from side to side, had caused everyone and everything to shift position, including my mood.
It was at this precarious time that my daughter pouted, “Mummy I bumped my head against the window.”
I folded my arms and pursed my lips.
It was time to count to fifty, but I would not.
Who will tell me sorry? Did I not also bump my head against the car window? Had I not also stubbed my toe last night in the NEPA-induced darkness? I had muttered, “ow,” rubbed my toe myself, and continued with life.
Who will tell me sorry for the fact that I could not stretch my monthly chop money to cover the whole month due to inflation?
Who will tell me sorry for my car shaft, which needed replacement because the road to my house had become a river?
No, I did not think I had any free sorry to dole out. Let her tell herself sorry for a change!
Her cries slowed to a whimper. A quick glance confirmed my suspicion—her eyelids were drooping in preparation for sleep. Something stirred within me. I reached out and caressed her head, “Sorry darling, does it feel better?”
She sagged against her seat belt, a contended smile barely breaking through tired lips, as everyone else visibly relaxed.
So, who will tell me sorry?
© Timi Yeseibo 2013
image design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013
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