I skipped back home after a long day at school.

I  loved the after school fun I have every day because my mother  concentrates more on my father due to his ill health. He has been at home for weeks now and he seems to get worse everyday. The night sweats have increased, his breathing has got worse, he looks really skinny now, well I can't ascertain his body size now because I have not seen him stand in over a week. Our house, our one room apartment, now smells of herbs and ointments. People visit us less now, even the pastor has stopped coming to pray for him in his usual noisy rendition. I guess the lord already told him my father will die. 

Mom is hypertensive. she has being all my life. she has fainted twice in the past two weeks. 

My elder sister got pregnant when I was 10, she is 4 years older than I am. She got pregnant for one trailer driver who my mom sells food to whenever he stops over at Ipokia on his way to Lagos. Well, he hasn't been stopping over since he got the news. That baby is 6 months old now, he gets sick all the time, we all live in that same room. My sister stays at the shop where my mother sells food.

Well I am Aro. You can see why I prefer to stay away from home.

As I approached home, I thought about one of my dad's friends, well my dad was actually his mechanic. I liked how he spoke on the phone, how he wore white shirts all the time made him look like he's above sin. Whenever he brought his car to my dad's shop, I'll sit there just to watch him. It seemed like his life was kind of better than ours. He looked like he had everything. He asked me once if I go to school,well I wasn't going then. He put me in a public primary school and promised to pay for my school needs till I am done with primary school. He has also been paying our house rent for the past two years. 

Home was in view ...well people were standing outside our house. When I approached, they looked at me with concern, then I saw the pastor in his usual white garment. He walked towards me, hands on my shoulder he said, 'Aro, your father has gone to the lord!'

I ran!

I would have taken 50 steps before realising that I wasn't thinking. Where was I going? Looking ahead of me, I saw the school gate,my safe haven. 'Oh no, the gates are locked!'

I sat there at the gate. It was my worst moment, i was missing!

The tears didn't come. Then they came, then they came hard, I couldn't control them, I felt like my head would explode from my heart. I am fatherless, like all the things I have less of isn't enough. I wouldhave been there for over 30 minutes then I remembered, 'mom!'

I sprang to my feet and started to run towards home. This time, as I approached home, the crowd has increased and there was noise, they were pouring water on somebody. Yes it was my mom, she had fainted! I rushed there, squeezed my way through the crowd. She wasn't breathing, all her body was cold like those ice fishes we use at the shop. My sister was just there looking petrified, her baby was at herback wailing, people tried to stop me from getting close. I hugged my mom, I held her close, I screamed, this was the end of my poor  family, I looked at her eyes, they were shut. I shook her. 'Don't die please mummy!' Then I remembered...

Oh, sorry I am going to digress a little.

The man who paid my school fees never left a mechanic with his car, so he only brings his car when he has the time to sit. He always comes with a book. One day I asked him why he was always reading, his answer  was,'Son, I read to sharpen my mind.' 'and you', he continued,'start  reading anything you can find, you see, books will take you to places you might never go to, help you meet people you might never get to meet, and teach you what teachers might never teach you in school. If you want the whole world to be at your feet, read!'

He gave me some books and since that day I started reading books.

...I remembered that I read how to resuscitate someone who fainted through  something called mouth to mouth respiration. I didn't know if I really understood it well because I couldn't read English well but Ihave to try something...

My mother lived, books helped me, that day I became the husband to my mother and father to my sister. I was 12. I was the oldest child in primary 1 in my school.

Today,I sell pure water after school,  am 14 but I look 8 years. I don't play anymore, I have a home to take care of. Even if no one has dreams for me, I have dreams of my own. These dreams I see while awake so they are not dreams, they are my state of mind. I am going to read my way out of this slum to the big city, i will bring comfort to my family, my people. Today might seem hopeless, but I know if I don't give up, today is where my hope is, tomorrow is where I can be better.

I am not just a dream, I am the dream!

More from aKoma