Maxwell sat in the back seat of the commercial taxi with two passengers flanked on both his right and left side. He was on his way to his family house which was some miles away. Even though he used to be a regular customer of the route he was on, many things appeared differently. It had been ten long years since he used that road and the passage of time had left in its wake, desolation in some places, renovation in other places and at certain places, totally new structures had been put up. He saw an old bar which was called “The Place”. It used to be the talk of the town because at night, all sorts of people gathered there to have fun and especially get drunk but now, it had become a deserted place. The walls of the once famous pub had now been eroded by constant rainfall. His face gave off a smirk when he saw an eatery which was famous for its name and type of food served. The eatery was called “Today be cat”. It literally meant cat meat was the only meat on their menu and surprising enough, the place was always filled to capacity. Most of the customers of the ‘restaurant’ were customers who had been ‘wasted’, from ‘The Place’ and wanted something to eat to deal with their hangover. “This place too is still here”, Maxwell said to himself as he reminisced on how he used to play around that place as a child. Maxwell smiled and said, “The life I have lived”, as the taxi took another turn leaving “Today be cat” out of sight. Maxwell was off from work and decided to pay his grandmother a visit. It had been ten years since he last saw her. He had moved out of their spacious family house with his family to rent an apartment. After three years, he also decided to separate from his parents and siblings because he felt he was growing into a man and had to separate himself from family to start living an independent life. He had been working for the past two years after completing the university five years ago. The taxi maneuvered a turn into the neighbourhood he grew up in. As the car passed by a kindergarten school, Maxwell looked through the school to see if would chance upon someone he knew as a child. His face lit up as he saw his first teacher, Aunty Rosemary. She had grown into an old woman now. After going on ahead a few blocks, Maxwell ordered the taxi driver to stop, “I would alight here”, he said in his usually cool and collected voice. He paid the driver what he owed and politely asked the passenger on his right side to allow him disembark from the rickety taxi. Maxwell had a masculine figure and was well built. He was dark in complexion and had very tough skin. He always spotted a faded haircut. He loved to wear long-sleeved shirts but with him, he always folded the sleeves to his elbow level. It had become his trademark. As he alighted, he walked back to his first school, ‘Christian Children’s Centre’. As he approached the gates, Aunty Rosemary came outside. “Who am I seeing?”, Aunty Rosemary blurted out in surprise as Maxwell approached her. “Is that cry baby Max?”, she asked jokingly. Maxwell smiled and remembered being told by his mother how he often would cry nonstop when he was being taken to school as a toddler. “Good morning, mummy”, Maxwell greeted politely. “Good morning, son”. “You have grown into a big boy now and you are even growing a beard”, Aunty Rosemary said as she hugged Maxwell and touched his chin. “Where are mummy and daddy”, the inquisitive Aunty Rosemary asked. “They are all well and are still around”, Maxwell replied to avoid any further interrogation. “We thank God”, Aunty Rosemary said. “So what brings you here?”, she pressed for more information. “I came to visit grandma”, Maxwell replied. “That is so thoughtful of you”. “You know that ever since your grandfather passed, she has been very lonely and it would do her a lot of good if she saw you”, Aunty Rosemary added. After answering a few more questions , Maxwell asked to take his leave and started walking along the dusty path to his grandmother’s house. Maxwell’s family was at war. His grandfather had died intestate so his children were at each other’s throats trying to scramble whatever property they could lay their hands on. It was chaotic because it was sometimes embarrassing how they could engage in a war of words with each other over a dead good man’s property. It was out of this scramble that led to his father asking them to move out of the family house till their differences had been settled. It had been ten years and still their disagreement continued. Maxwell’s grandfather’s property had become a curse to his family. It managed to take out all the love that this once big and happy family shared and replaced it with greed and hatred. Maxwell was trying the best he could as one of the oldest grandchildren not to allow the differences of his father and his siblings to trickle down the family tree. He was always in touch with all his cousins and ensured that they incubated the premature love and affection they had managed to birth in their own small circle. Maxwell’s own life had been shattered into many different fragments over the past few years. He was a happy person and was always there to listen to anyone who needed a listening ear and offered advice freely. His own soul was in need of saving. He was in a constant battle with his pillow anytime he lay his head on it. He had countless sleepless nights. He wanted solutions for his problems but he wanted to find the solutions himself. He was involved with two different women. These women had become his undoing. He allowed himself to be carried away by the pleasures their bodies provided and it had led him into what seemed like a bottomless pit of endless pain and torment. As he walked along the path, he met many faces from the past. He made many stops at shops, homes, eateries and workplaces to exchange pleasantries with people he knew as a child. His famous walk down memory lane was one he cherished because in that moment, he at least got some respite and for the first time in a long while, he felt a sense of peace, love and belonging return to him. Close to his family house lived another extended family just like the size of his. They shared a very big wooden structure which served as a house but lived in harmony. Maxwell knew that they had their own differences but they managed to overlook their differences and more often than not, they agreed to disagree. “Why can’t my family be like these people?”, Maxwell thought to himself as he waved at them. They all appeared hearty even as they sat to have a round table breakfast of a big bowl of porridge. As Maxwell approached the gate to his grandfather’s house, he heard his name being shouted out from a distance. “Max, Max!”. The voice belonged to his childhood friend, Rudolph. Rudolph was more like a brother to Maxwell. Maxwell used to idolize him as they were growing up even though Rudolph was just a year older than him. Maxwell was so fond of him that he would often cry when they made selections for a game of football and he was not in Rudolph’s team while they were still kids. Maxwell’s mother always left Maxwell in the care of Rudolph’s mother because of her busy work schedule. Rudolph’s mother was like Maxwell’s second mother so to Maxwell, Rudolph was like the brother he never had. Though Rudolph had a twin brother, Raphael, Maxwell was more fond of Rudolph than Raphael. When Rudolph got close to Maxwell, he said, “As for today, my breakfast, lunch and supper are on you”, as he hugged Maxwell tightly and patted him on the back. “I miss you my brother”, Maxwell said as they broke up the hug. “How have you been and how is Raphael?”, Maxwell asked Rudolph. “As you can see, this place hasn’t done us much good”, Rudolph replied. Rudolph had been a talented footballer from birth. Right from the get go, he was a joy to watch on the football pitch. His skills surpassed that of the other footballers his age then in the neighbourhood so more often than not, he was selected to play in the ‘big leagues’ while the rest of the children his age, including Maxwell served as ball boys. Maxwell was the least perturbed by his position because so far as Rudolph was on the pitch, he represented all the other children. All his age mates were proud of him and it appeared that Maxwell was not the only one who envied Rudolph for his football prowess. Now, Rudolph had stopped playing football. He was poor but proud. He always saw himself as the best among his peers and that caused his expulsion from the countless football academies he joined. He had now taken to drinking and had even started to develop a potbelly. Maxwell looked at Rudolph’s protruding stomach and said, “I can see why this neighborhood has done you no good”. “I know what you are thinking but I don’t need a lecture from anyone and that includes you”, Rudolph said to Maxwell. “If only you knew what I was thinking about”, Maxwell said. “So what brings you here after so many years?”, Rudolph asked. Maxwell sighed and said, “Brother, I am going through some personal issues and I want to cool off a bit so I figured coming back here would help me find my sense of purpose because it seems I have lost it”. “I can see that the years have done no damage to your philosophies of life because you are still talking about purpose and all”, Rudolph said jokingly. “There is no purpose in this part of town brother, just a bunch of people trying to get food on the tables and a place to sleep”, Rudolph said. “Just look around and tell me if this was how you left this place ten years ago”. Maxwell took a look around and realized that the neighbourhood in which he had dreams of growing up as a child now stood as a shadow of itself. The only thing that kept them going was their communal nature and sense of hospitality. “Anyway, it is good to have you back, Max”, Rudolph said. “Now, pay up!”, Rudolph added. Maxwell dipped his hand into his back pocket and doled out some notes to Rudolph who greedily counted them wide-eyed and stashed them into his pocket. Maxwell asked Rudolph to join him in the house but he refused the invitation with the excuse of going to buy something from the market. Maxwell pushed the big gate open and started his way down the pathway toward the main entrance to the house. “What am I going to say to this woman?”, Maxwell thought out loud as he slowly approached the main door. “Here comes your prodigal grandson”, Maxwell said silently and with that, he said what seemed like a prayer and put his hand on the door knob.
…To be continued