‘‘Amen’’ My voice rang out strong and clear and I wondered whether my deception displeased God. My brows furrowed as I chastised myself and God at the same time: it was a justified deception afterall!
‘‘Aa-ahn! Nnema! You have tried o! Look how shiny the car is Amaka!’’ My mother’s congratulations were filled with the same pride that had decorated her prayers.
‘Mama Amaka! I can only thank God.’ And she ran her hands across the top of her coral blue car, her smile a reincarnation of Mama’s pride. ‘‘Oya now! Let’s go for a ride!’’
My cousin Nnema gave a loud shriek of disbelief that grated my jealousy and made its edges jagged and sharp. I opened the door, my jealousy mingling with a new-found excitement as she started the car. That beautiful new car smell filled my nostrils to the point of anger: a very trepid rage as I recollected years of smelling body odour on my daily danfo journeys. I watched Nnema caress the shiny black wheel and I suddenly remembered my favourite song as a child:
‘Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings! Name them one by one!
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done!’
What had God done for me? Nnema’s animated voice filled her car and I began to count each drop of saliva that shot out of her mouth imagining that they were her blessings. When I got to number 18, I got bored and began to name them.
Drop one was the blessing of wealth. The shame of my mother begging for cheap Garri from Mama Nnema never left me. Drop two was the blessing of favour. Nnema applied for jobs she was under-qualified for and received acceptance letters while I became a friend to rejection. And as if that wasn’t enough, God had made her with artistic patience knowing that his work would turn out beautiful – Drop eighteen. I smirked at the reflection of my face on her window.
What exactly had God done for me? My frown deepened and my bottom lip protruded in direct challenge against God. I closed my eyes flared my nostrils trying to steal Nnema’s new car smell.
‘‘Are you OK Amaka?’’ I saw the concern in their eyes and my resentment grew.
‘‘Yes. I’m fine.’’ As little girls, Mama Nnema would measure our heights and the winner was the one who had grown most during the year. I had won everytime until we both left secondary school then, Nnema grew and my life stagnated.
‘‘It’s getting late Nnema.’’
‘‘Yes, Mama!’’ With the jerky movements of a newly-acquired skill, Nnema turned the car around and we began the journey back – two happy passengers and one heavy load of bitterness.
‘‘Nnema! Mba, You cannot drive home tonight. I will cook your favourite and we will celebrate.’’
‘‘Mama! You will kill me o!’’ Nnema exaggerated her appreciation.
My anger ebbed away as I pictured the thick, golden Egusi and Ugwu island surrounded by red oil with its protection dried fish and fried Chicken and Mama’s soft pounded yam that slid down the throat without persuasion. I smiled deliciously.
‘‘I BLESSED YOU WITH GOOD FOOD NKEM.’’ I turned my face to window and my reflection was still waiting for me.
‘‘I BLESSED YOU WITH GOOD HEALTH NKEM!’’ I lost my smirk as my guilt began to drown me and my petulance shamed me.
The voice was quiet and so were its two passengers. ‘‘I wish my sister were here to see this. She would have been so proud of you Nnema, driving around in your big car and working in your ‘Oyinbo’ job.’’ Nnema made a choking sound: a mixture of joy and grief.
I looked at my mother; her wrinkled skin hiding in the shadows and her voice low and calm with knowledge.
‘‘YOU BLESSED ME WITH A GOOD MOTHER CHINEKE.’’ I admitted. I no longer felt like a failure tip-toeing into the world. I spread my wings and I flew into life away from my bitterness, my packages of shame and my self-pity.
‘‘I love the new car smell Nnema’’ I said as I soared even higher. The love of God is my backbone.