“You do not know me and I don’t know you either. Let us wipe the slate clean and start all over again. I am Mam Mirabel Ebisina, but you should call me Mam Marbel.”
My mouth dropped, but the words that clung to my throat, that had choked me for fourteen years refused to follow suit. They didn’t fall out of my mouth as I had rehearsed countless times. My eyes remained dry, the tears were too stunned to fall.
“I… I…. “I stammered. My eyes were wide open but they saw nothing, they were eyes wide shut. The smile on her face haunted me, it was misplaced, she should be spitting fire.
But instead she oozed a mythical aura of ease. I could sense the sincerity in her voice but still I doubted. She had no reason to ask for a clean slate. I should be on my knees, blood gushing from my eyes for tears. Lips cut, cheek swollen due to unending slaps from her. But none of those happened. I was on a chair, hands stretch out on the table, handcuff hugging my wrist, clothed in a blue short sleeved button down shirt and pants. The numbers 4014 printed on my back, and a laminated paper with INMATE hanging loosely from my neck. The hall was filled with other inmates and their visitors.
“You have a visitor,” a guard said as he led me out of my cell to the visitor’s room. I have not had a visitor in eighteen months. The last person who came was my mother and she never made it home — she had an accident. It Confirmed what everyone said about me —I was cursed.
I didn’t attend her funeral. The judge refused to grant me permission to and moreover my family didn’t want me there. I had longed ceased being one of them. I accepted my fate without struggle. I had done the unforgivable. I was a rabid dog undeserving of the crumbs of love from the master’s table.
My feet froze when I first saw her. She was at the far end of the room, hands and head buried in her. I needed no introduction, even though I hadn’t seen her since I was sentenced. Her face hunted me. I had taken everything she held dear in split seconds, and the resentment she spewed powered by pain during the trial sliced my heart with the easiness a hot knife goes through butter.
When she was called to the witness box she could barely speak. The few words she said surely made the Judge’s decision easier. I was an animal and she wanted me locked up for life. She didn’t get her wish, but I got what I deserved according to the law. There was no appeal.
My father was not in court that day, I was my mother’s son and he had longed dissociated himself from me. He saw it coming, he had voiced his concern several times that I would end up in jail and had given up on me long before it happened. When news of my incarceration reached him, he went on his knees and offered thanks to God. “I have been vindicated,” those were the words he said. I never heard anything from him again.
“You don’t have to apologize, I have long forgiven you,” Mam Marbel spoke when she noticed the words were not willing to become subject to my use.
“You see, I forgive you not because you deserve it but because I have found peace and I intend to keep that peace. There is a peace that is beyond human understanding, a peace borne out of foolishness according to human definition and I cannot enjoy that peace as long as I hold on to an offence. I have suffered long enough, I have mourned my loss for years, I have practical stopped living and I have decided to set myself free by setting you free. I want to start living again, and I pray you too can.” She was smiling still, a rainbow of a smile. Amidst the tears flowing freely, her smile was the ray of hope.
I tried to see things from her perspective but couldn’t. Heaven knows I am not strong enough to forgive easily. As she spoke others were drawn to our little scene, they all stared in disbelief. I did too. I couldn’t shed a tear nor could I utter a word. My lips remained glued to each other and my heart sank deeper in self-pity. I wept profusely but it was soul deep, nobody knew I cried except me.
I was forgiven, but I couldn’t forgive myself. I doubted the authenticity of her words even though I shouldn’t. It was too good to be true. I wanted to work for it, the script I had written in my head involved scenes where I would pay countless visits to her house. She would chase me away with a gun and even have a court order, give me a one mile restriction. But she came to me, offering forgiveness on a platter of gold and I just couldn’t accept it. What business does pigs have with rubies?
As I returned to my cell I reminisce the events that just occurred and decided it wasn’t real. Justice must be served, I should pay in blood. Mam Marbel might have forgiven me but I have to do more to be liberated. Even the bible preached that I should work out my salvation. Moreover some people are beyond saving and I am a chief in that clan.