My Father’s House by Popoola Ololade Aderemi


You’re in the kitchen when the phone rings for the third time that evening. You don’t check who it is because you already know, you didn’t have to check the first two times either.

There was no mystery surrounding the ‘ who ‘. It might have been a different story if you didn’t know the ‘ why ‘ but you knew. And it wasn’t a different story. You always know.

Like the first two times, you choose to ignore the jarring ringtone instead you move to the kitchen sink and turn on the tap, you hope the sound of water rushing from it will drown the noise but it doesn’t. It doesn’t quiet the noise in your mind either. Breathe. The phone stops ringing, you know what will follow so you

You don’t have to wait long. You hear a ping that indicates a message has just dropped. You don’t know what it says yet but you have a few ideas. You pick up the phone from the counter and unlock it, your ideas aren’t too far off. ‘ He asked about you today, Anire. He never stops. ‘

November 11th, 2006. You’re just nine years old. You look out of the kitchen window and see the dark clouds, it is going to rain. You go to open the kitchen door leading to the huge backyard, you want to breathe in the cold air, feel it tickle your skin and nostrils. ” You’re going to let mosquitoes in, close it. ” ” it won’t be open for long ” you say without turning to face him. ” Close the door, Anire. ” You do as he says and turn to look at him, he’s standing by the kitchen door, not looking at you but staring past like there’s something behind.

You think he gets it from mother, she never looks at you when speaking, but she sees you, you know he does too. You watch your brother as he walks away, his gait making him look older than his age of twelve. He is young, like you, but not so much.

You know this because you’ve heard the story many times from father. You don’t want to think about it so you stop watching him, instead you busy yourself by looking out the window again.

You’re back staring at the message, the words swirling in your vision, they have the desired effect she’d hoped they would before she hit send. In this moment, you hate her with every fibre of your being. You stop yourself from typing out a response. You’re not ready to open that door, maybe you won’t ever be.

Everyday you think about the ‘ what ifs ‘. The thoughts appear anytime you see something from before that sparks a memory, the grey sweater hanging on the chair in your room, the star of David necklace you haven’t worn since that Sunday.

What if your father had called to warn you? What if you had stayed away from home like the years before? What if you hadn’t seen him that night?

But those were just thoughts that held no water. You know you’re never going to forget the events of that Sunday, no matter how much time passes, how could you ever forget seeing your brother’s ghost? May 19th, 2010.

The day your brother died. Your father had sent him to the bus stop to buy some medicine at the pharmacy. Like always, you opt to go with him. The both of you walked soundlessly with you occasionally jogging to keep up with his long strides.

The pharmacy was on the other side of the road, he held your hand out of habit while crossing. It happened slowly, you’re both strolling to the entrance of the store, he stops and you walk right into him, he slowly moves backwards still shielding you with his body, but he isn’t careful enough, the trigger happy robbers see him and they don’t wait.

You feel the force of the bullets hitting his body but you don’t scream, He falls back on you and you don’t move, you lay there under him and wait for them to leave.

You hear people screaming and someone is dragging you from underneath your brother’s body, they pull you away from the scene and it doesn’t register that you’re leaving him behind, you wrench your hand from the stranger’s grasp and start running home, then the tears come.

If you weren’t crying so hard, maybe you’d have noticed your brother behind you, following you home. You reach your compound and find your parents standing like they’ve been waiting for you, you manage to break the news, your father gathers you in his arms and holds you, you see your mother behind him, she isn’t looking at you but you know she sees you, it is later you realize it wasn’t you she was looking at.

You’re looking at the message again, your mother never stopped calling since that Sunday, you had walked into a house that looked nothing like the home you grew up in, Your mother never got over the son she lost, she carried the loss everywhere she went, so much that it became a part of her.

She thought of the one she lost so much that she forgot the one she had. August 26th, 2017. The day you saw your brother’s ghost. You walked into the house for the first time in years, you had been living with an uncle from your father’s side, You begged your father to let you go, you couldn’t sleep in the room you shared with your brother.

Your mother met you at the front door and without looking in your eyes, told you there was someone waiting inside for you. You didn’t know what to expect when you crossed the threshold but nothing prepared you for the sight of your brother, still in his bloodied shirt from that day, perched on an arm chair.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.