After I read your story about angels, it got me thinking about something that happened to me years ago and all I can say is, it could only have been an angel.
Years back, I think I was 9 years old; my dad, who worked in advertising then was always coming home late. He is late now, God rest his soul.
Dad always came home late and I remember that many times my mum would have slept before he came home. I was daddy’s little girl, so I would wait up; though my mother never knew.
I would be awake in my room. When dad came home, he would pop in to check on us. Sometimes, he would come to my bedside to talk to me, knowing I would be awake, many times, he would just beg me to sleep because I guess, I made him feel guilty for coming late. He must have been hurrying home every evening to make sure I got some sleep.
Anyway, so this day, as usual, my mother had ensured my siblings and I were tucked in bed and as usual, I had pretended to fall asleep. I waited for her to put off the light and as soon as the entire house was quiet, I sprang out of bed.
I would usually read a story book or go walking around the house or put on the tv in our room and mute the sound or sometimes I would go hunting for something to eat…
My mother was a nurse and was always tired and by the time she sent us to bed, she herself would have been yawning and ready for bed. Not once in all of the years I laid awake did my mother come to find me out, only my father knew and he kept my secret.
That day, mother was in bed, my brother was in the other room but I shared a room with my younger sister. We were three then. I became hungry. I really don’t know what time it was but I wanted food, so I went to the kitchen to find something to eat; there was nothing I felt like eating there and in those days, we didn’t have a microwave oven but we had a gas cooker and a kerosene stove which my mother got because she was always afraid she would run out of gas while cooking.
So, I decided I wanted to warm the left-over porridge in the pot. I had seen how my mother did it several times, I had even tried it out when she wasn’t around, so I basically knew how to operate it but I chose to use the kerosene stove. I removed the component parts, lit it and replaced everything back. I warmed my porridge.
Now, if you remember those kerosene stoves, even after you lower the wick after cooking, you still have to quench with water. You remember?
So I lowered the wick, which I suspect I didn’t lover it enough, I sprinkled it with water and the flames just rose whaaaa, like that!
I tried it again and again, the flames rose…what I suspect, with the power of hindsight now, is that as the flames rose, a spark caught the kitchen curtain. After one more attempt, it went out, the stove was quenched. I took my food to my room to eat.
I didn’t smell anything, I can’t even tell you how many hours or minutes it took before the fire began. I was 8 or 9, remember, I couldn’t gauge the time. The fire began of course in the kitchen, my parents room was at the front of the house while the kitchen was like at the back, it was a bungalow.
The fire consumed everything, we stored kerosene back then, in the store just outside the kitchen door; everything was consumed.
There was fire everywhere, thick smoke everywhere.
I remember my mother screaming my name, telling me to get up from the bed, she was dragging my sister out and calling me to follow her. I couldn’t see through the smoke, I just felt the fire licking our windows and as soon as my mother opened our door, the fire just gained power, swept into our room from the ceiling; I stood rooted to the spot.
Later, I found out my mother had rushed to my brother’ room to drag him out of bed; the corridor was filled with smoke and fire. My mother didn’t realise that I didn’t follow her. She was running to open the doors. Did I tell you that we normally locked our doors and gates and when my daddy came, he would use his keys to open the gates and locks?
Somehow, my mother got my siblings out, then she realised I was still in the burning house. At this time, the fire was already burning the beds, wardrobe…and I actually thought I was going to die, I was choking, couldn’t see a thing and I felt my skin getting singed.
Then suddenly, a man came into the room; he had full afro hair. He called out my name and carried me out of the burning room. I don’t know how we made it out but there were lots of people outside the house, the man just put me down gently and told me I would be ok.
I was a child so I didn’t ask questions as to who he was or how he got into our house. It was days later, when we were talking about the fire at my grandma’s house, yes, because that’s where we moved to with the rest of our things.
My dad was asking me how I got out of the fire, I told him an uncle had come into the room and carried me out. My father said, there was no uncle at the burning house that day. I said, there was, I described him but my parents insisted no such person was at the scene of the fire that day, they said in fact, the only adults present were him, my mum and a neighbor who was neither young, didn’t spot an afro and didn’t fit the description I gave and they said there was no crowd either!
But I was lifted out of the burning room and set down in front of a crowd, I swear!
My parents made inquires, they asked our neighbours on the street, they wanted to say thank you to the uncle with the ‘afro.’
To date, no one saw, knows or has seen afterwards, the ‘afro’ wearing uncle. Now, tell me, wasn’t he an angel?
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande)