Thread of Lies is a novel set to be publish in 2015 by Savage, a Nigerian publishing group. The writer, Idoko Myles Ojabo, lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his wife, and is currently pursuing a Phd in Creative Writing. Folio published Part One of the excerpt last month.
While the rain fell, a song was being played in the train. They were Aboriginal chants. He imagined himself an African arriving Sydney for the first time. How would the song sound to his ears? How would the rain splattering on the train sound to his ears? Familiar. Of course familiar.
This is Mascot
(After two minutes) Doors closing
The next destination is Green Square…
These were words he knew well. But pretending to listen to them for the first time disrupted his thoughts. At Waitara Station, before Hornsby, his boyhood memories sprang on him. He tried to imagine what Kyle looked like, this day, under that thatch of blonde hair.
It was only nine years ago, seated in the dining, in front of his parents, beside Kyle. Michael, who had been impelled to the decisive action of inviting Kyle over, stared at his father, who was staring at Kyle. Michael stared at his mother who was staring at her palms. The blinds of the curtains couldn’t stop the sun’s flaky rays from entering the house, and distorting the colour of the walls.
His father tried, fruitlessly, to convince Kyle on what a penis was meant for… ‘This ugly meaty part of a man’s body with a shapeless head is used to satisfy a woman; used to bear children; and used by man to gain dignity.’ Michael would never forget that day. The next day in school Kyle had returned the birthday present Michael sent a week ago. Kyle would never lay his eyes on him again. Each day after school, Michael would bit his lips. He tried to remember Kyle’s last words to him on the phone – YOU CAN’T CHANGE ME. YOUR FATHER CANNOT CHANGE ME. THIS IS WHO I AM. I DO NOT WANT TO GET HURT.
Nothing had changed on the street he had once lived, where his parents had made hell for a while. The same rustling sound often heard from the rail track situated at the back of the house. The same noises of children heard from the school situated five blocks away. The same brown wooden fence. The neat lawn, his father mowed fortnightly. He stared at the silver door made of wood, with transparent a glass frame in its upper section. It was the same emerald green lace, hanging behind the door, shielding a view. He knocked. Knocked again, before banging. He checked his watch. Both Dad and Mum could still be at the university. Damn teachers. He would go across the road and walk down through the footpath that led to the liquor shop that an elderly Pakistani man ran.
He got a bottle of whiskey and had found a spot in front of the door to his parent’s house to sit. On every sip he took, he tried to imagine what they had thought of him after they found out he had left for Nigeria. Had they tried to even reach him? Could his mother still be suffering from the back pain she lamented about each time he was around, so he could massage them?
It was two years ago since he got knocked out of a relationship that sent him to a hospital bed in Central Sydney. It was two years ago his parents rescued him from that awkward moment. Okafor had come into his life and vanished like the moon did at dawn. He looked at his drink. Almost empty now. He was fast, in as much as he drank with an obscure reluctance. His mind had turned hollow. And he left the drink on his left side on the concrete floor, where he laid his back, with his feet, flat on a step. His head was on his palms, and his eyes, staring at the ceiling over the balcony.
In his dream, he met an ex-lover. Not Okafor. It was Paul who had lost a fight against cancer and had passed away. They were both seated on the platform with their feet in the water. There was a view of the Harbour Bridge from their right, where the breeze came in natural thinness. And the opera house, in its white ghostly facade, at the left.
‘Hey brother, aren’t you supposed to be dead…?’
Paul stared at him, grimly. His eyes had become a little darker. His face, like a glow of coal, with no glint of smile at first. Michael watched Paul lift his hand. Michael allowed the friendly punch hit his belly. The punch tickled… He laughed. Paul laughed too.
The man stared at his son lying in front of the door, beside an almost empty bottle of whiskey. His mind turned blank, and his wife, who was beside him, screamed against the walls of their house. Still, Michael didn’t move. The man watched his wife approach their son, tapping and then shaking his body.
‘Michael! Michael!’ the woman shouted, nodding her head.
When Michael’s eyes opened, the man sighed, and said, ‘He is alive…’ He walked past both of them, barely catching the motherly murmur. He inserted his key into the door and pushed it open. He dropped the books in his hands on the table in the centre of the lounge, and sank on one of the silver coloured sofas, placing a hand on his chin, watching his wife lead Michael into the house. She led him to the dining. Michael sat, and she also sat. He hissed, stood up and joined them.
‘Michael, what are you doing to yourself,’ he asked.
‘I wanted to travel and that was it. I am back and would move out as soon as I find a place,’ Michael replied.
‘Do you know what you put us through?’ the mother asked, ‘It took the police two weeks to tell us you had left Sydney. I was so distressed that I had to go on leave from work, Michael.’
‘What did you go to do in Nigeria, Michael?’ the man asked. ‘Who do you know there? Your mother kept calling her cousins she last spoke to seven years ago to look out for you. It was so funny. With about a hundred and sixty million people in Nigeria, I wondered how the search was going to end up. A cunning cousin of hers even demanded for some money to help in the search.’
‘Dad, I am thirty-three. There’s nothing wrong if I wanted to travel around.’
‘You have a country here. A very good country with a promising future for you as a citizen, and you chase a country of our past. Do you think if Nigeria was better than Australia, your mother and I will be here…?’
‘Are you still into that thing…? That gay nonsense, Michael,’ the mother asked.
Michael looked over the table, licking his lips and opening his mouth to speak.
‘We will discuss that later,’ the man said, silencing whatever Michael had in response. He looked at his wife, and then turned to Michael, ‘Go and have a shower now, and your mother would make something for you to eat.’
He watched Michael walk into the passage that led to his room. He was leaner. He watched his wife, who held a resentful look, follow. The man got away from the dining, approaching the smaller table in the middle of the lounge. He lifted one of the books he had brought home. He opened the first page, and heard his son scream from the room he and his mother had just entered. His eyes found the passage that led to Michael’s room. Michael came out with rage, heading toward the dining.
‘What’s the problem,’ the man asked.
‘The problem is about you, and your mad wife,’ Michael said, looking straight into the man’s eyes.
The man’s gaze met his wife emerging out into the lounge with the same resentful look on her face. His gaze went back to Michael, who kicked one of the dining chairs. The chair sprang against the wall. He watched Michael walking out of the house in the same way he had rushed out of the room. The man, through the open door, saw Michael lift up the almost empty whiskey bottle from the concrete floor. The luggage, which was still standing there, wasn’t spared of Michael’s kick.
‘Michael,’ the man shouted. ‘Who do you think you are? Where do you think you are going?’
‘To hell!’ Michael shouted in reply, kicking against dust. He went back the same way he came before deciding to go and get the bottle of whiskey, passing by the public library. After climbing up the stairs that brought him back to the Hornsby train station, he jumped over an automatic ticket gate, almost tipping over. No one stopped him. His gaze met the stares of some high school girls. He caught a stare of an elderly man, seated on a wooden bench. There were people seated on similar benches, upfront, waiting for the next train to Central. He wouldn’t wait. A train had just left before he came down the stairs. Suddenly there was an approaching train. He jumped onto the rail that was five feet below the spot passengers waited. When he began running in the direction against the approaching train, the high school girls screamed. He ran in patience. This train that would scream racing through Normanhurst, Thornleigh, Pennant Hill, right up to Chestwood would run over his own belly for he was tired of home. If he was indeed home, in Australia, he needed a home in hell. He was puzzled like a kid bullied from school, running home only to discover that he could have been happier pouring tears on his desk and wetting his books. He increased his pace. More passengers were screaming. The sound of the train heightened, like an alarm that had just been triggered. Only the train would stop him. Even the thoughts about the nonexistence of hell, wouldn’t. His eyes caught a full view of the unstoppable train. He couldn’t stop the wall. It was his fear that first went against it, and he slumped down in gloom. The train’s belly didn’t only run over him but forced blood out of him. He wouldn’t see his limbs splitting out in different directions. He wouldn’t see his brain thawing out as gag beside the rail.
Illustration by Hannah Stinson