Houses in my opinion have souls. Souls gained not just by sheer longevity of years, but by having people live in them, they see myriad shades of life and characters, in the process accumulating a certain kind of encrypted philosophy, only lending credence to the saying that walls have ears.
That was the tale of the house I grew in, the house of Pa Adu on Church Street. The venerable man who had always been old as far back as I could remember, and yet possessed a young man’s heart. He always had a lot of witty stories to tell, endearing him to the neighborhood children. Over the years, we had become his favorite tenants, giving us the apartment which had the view of the street, while he retired to the one which faced the backyard, inclusive of a continuous discount, quite to his children’s disapproval. But he was unfazed. I remember so vividly, the constant raiding of the fruit trees in and out of season, for really, houses leave marks on you, and vice versa. This is especially so, if you lived as a family, you remember birthday parties, your haunts, hiding points, and the whole package that makes up a childhood.
It was this perfectly normal life that we led, until a time when I sensed things begin to change. Mother had always called me a sensitive child. I could never figure out what the matter was at the time, but I could feel it. It was there like the aftermath of cigarette smoke, there when the adults of the compound huddled together talking in hushed tones, there in Father’s strained smiles and the abrupt and suspiciously strained silence that ruled home when my parents stopped talking.
Several weeks into life under the unknown cloud, Father, after the customary morning devotion explained without much detail that there was an issue with the house and land, which involved the government, but it was being handled. As always, every child has absolute trust in his/her parents. That same month, some strange men with an air as becomes men of authority, came into the house, and unlike the adults, spoke loudly for all who cared to listen. We had lost the case after all. They came with a corpulent lawyer, brandishing the court order of demolition and speaking highfalutin words. It was probably in that moment that I decided to be a lawyer to right such wrongs (as I saw it then).
They left much later, but their threats remained. Unflustered, the landlord came over that night, and assured us that his friends in the government would come through, and prevent the demolition. I could hear Mother entreating Father in the nights following to allow her start packing out some things, in preparation for the worst, but Father seemed to have sworn unwavering allegiance to the landlord.
The due date for the demolition approached and myth became reality as we packed out our things like men drugged to sleep and scared to face the dawn. As the demolition crew began their work, some quirk of fate sparked an electrical failure and a fire began, gutting the very building on death row.
From all angles, you could see neighbors peeking, probably offering up prayers of thanks for being spared such an ordeal.
As we watched, it seemed man and nature had conspired against us to do that which we refused to do. I looked upon Pa Adu’s bald head and realized we were casualties, not of a tyrant government, rather our ‘landlord-loyalties’.