It was one of those evenings where the compound was unusually quiet and the night was hot. Yusuf laid in the nude on the floor with his wife, Jaleela, their only covering a worn-out wrapper draped on their bodies while their daughter, Nadia laid on the bed.
“I am thankful no one is playing loud music that can damage someone’s ear,” Jaleela said, fanning herself.
“I am shocked. Maybe it is because of the heat,” He responded
“I can sleep well tonight. Thank God I got the mosquito coils on my way back from work.”
“I understand. Don’t worry, soon, we will leave this house, this neighbourhood, this life-”
“Not tonight Yusuf!” Jaleela warned too tired and irritated to partake in his daydream.
He continued anyway, staring at the roof. “I can see us in our own home, living the good life. I promise you-”
“Stop making promises you can’t keep Yusuf!” she yelled at him. Yusuf seemed shocked but continued anyway.
“Trust me Jaleela when I say this, you will have everything, you and Nadia will have a good life-”
“Look, Yusuf, I am not in the mood to share in your silly fantasy tonight! I had an extremely stressful day, my body hurts and the one thing I would really love is for you to keep your fantasy where it is - your head! I need to sleep.”
“I’m sorry if I irritated you but remember this is not just my dream, it is ours-”
Jaleela laughed sarcastically, her wrapper exposing her breasts as she sat up from the mat, “look around you,” she gesticulated with her finger, “What do you see?”
“I see a beautiful master bedroom, a comfortable bed-” He continued
“That is what you see abi - Now, let me tell you what I see! We are in a one-bedroom apartment the size of three toilets combined together in the building where I work!” Yusuf tried to talk but she hushed him.
“Ehn Ehn! I am not done! It is in this excuse of a small room we call a home that cook, dress, sleep in! We are sleeping on the floor because of the heat, if you haven’t noticed Nadia’s body, I have. See heat rashes on her neck and back! We share a bathroom and toilet with over twenty people and when the toilets are occupied we use a bowl and we do it inside this house, right here! Where we are currently sleeping. As if that is not enough, see holes in the roof and the rainy season is upon us and we haven’t fixed the roof yet. So Yusuf, forgive me if I can’t share in your yeye fantasy tonight!” Jaleela hissed.
Yusuf was quiet for a long while. the whinning sound of a mosquito broke his thoughts, searching for his torchlight in the dark, he flashed the torchlight to be sure that there were no mosquitoes aroundd Nadia who seemed fast asleep. When he was certain she was, he said to his wife, “I know you-”
“What do you know ehn Yusuf! Don’t touch me!” she shrieked when he tried to touch her. ”You have been dreaming for a while now. Honestly, I am sick and tired of hearing it - your dream, your vision! I need action. Dreams won’t fix the roof over our head, put food on the table, cloth Nadia, you and I! Look at my hands, she showed him her hands that bore the marks of labour. See my body and my child - our child, Yusuf! Promises are empty words when they are not backed by actions. They are empty and they are void when you do not fulfil it.” she cried.
The room was silent for a while, then she spoke, “Please, I need to sleep so I can function well tomorrow. I awake by 4 am”
Yusuf was shocked. He knew she was unhappy about their current situation. He felt sad she was unhappy. Propping himself on his shoulder, Softly, he spoke, “Jaleela, my love, my queen… I know I have made several promises to you and to our child, I know my promises seem empty right now but-”
“I need you to have faith in me, to trust me. Please do not give up on me.”
“I need to rest Yusuf. Allow me to rest!”
“Please listen, I promise-”
“Ehn ehn! I don’t want to hear another promise from your mouth!”
“Yusuf, I will go and sleep outside. Is that what you want?”
“No please, stay.” He held her hand to stop her from leaving. It was clear she wasn’t in the right frame of mind to hear the good news he wanted to share.
Jaleela stretched on the mat and turned her bare back to him.
After about a minute of silence, she heard Yusuf fart. “Kai! this man! The heat is not enough, you had to pollute the air!”Jaleela exclaimed Yusuf smiled.