fiction, Inspiration

Boarding Pass (3)

He has made everything beautiful in its time

Ecclesiastes 3:11a

boarding-pass

IMMESAURABLY MORE

When Demi got to Lagos, Mike was furious. “Dude it’s like you missed a penalty kick in the 89th minute of the Champions League final. How did YOU let her go? Ke tu e se je” He said. The last question in Asaba genre of the Igbo language meant how did that happen, and Mike rarely spoke his dialect except in dire circumstances.

“What was I supposed to do?” Demi responded raising his voice slightly.

Ikeja Electric restored power. The humming of a freezer in the background was a delightful soundtrack.

“What you were supposed to do? Jump on the plane. That’s why you have money. Jump on the plane or the next one. You should be in the US now tracking her down. You have money, you have a visa…” Mike reclined in a chair to calm down. Above him was a picture of himself, his wife and his daughter. Demi stared at the picture for what appeared to be eternity.

“There is a company to be run. I barely know this chick. I can’t justify jumping across the Atlantic for a girl. Yuck.” Demi was trying to sound tough.

“Can I sincerely ask you if you are crazy? Do you have mental issues, do you smoke crack in your spare time? Don’t you remotely think this chick might be THE ONE and you didn’t fight?”

“Pardon me but I am not a hopeless romantic like you. America is a faraway place….” Demi got out his phone, he could use a distraction right now.

“…..nowhere is that far, wasn’t it Westlife who said something about swimming across a river just to climb a thousand walls?”

Demi shot him a glance, stood up and once he was at the door he said disgustedly: “Did you just quote Westlife? Good evening?”

Mike stood rooted to the spot wandering what he had just said.

Like twenty seconds later, Demi resurfaced: “Yeah dude, that’s how stunned and rooted to the spot I was when Shade left me. I feel your pain.”

Six Months Later

Monday was Demi’s longest day of the week as interim CEO. The Board had agreed to appoint him CEO on an interim basis. The canceled wedding was proof that he had indeed made an attempt to meet the requirement to become CEO, or so they thought. His father had stepped down on medical grounds, and these days with more chemotherapy, although he felt better, he preferred to focus on his health than the business. Thus Demilade was in full control and under pressure to perform.

Meeting after meeting made Demi tired. He had yet another one before closing at 8:30pm. He was glad when he got a call from his Operations Manager canceling the meeting. Just as he exited the building, his phone rang.

“Hello?” He tried to sound alive. Leaders are supposed to be alert at all times. “Hello?”

“Hi CEO or shall I say interim CEO?” He knew the voice.

“Shade?”  Demi sat on the curb outside ‘Cobblers R Us’ unconsciously and the security men surrounded him in a rush to check if everything was alright.

“There you go. How are you?” She sounded excited, sweet and alive.

“I am fine thanks. I just sat on the curb, I am shocked.” The security men helped him to his feet, his driver ran to grab his things. He signaled for him to just bring the car.

“I knew you would be, I hoped I would get through to you. “

“For heaven’s sake where have you been? Your dad is the only way I know you are alive. That’s not good.” Now it was raining just like it had been on the night she left and he could close his eyes and just almost touch her again.

“Well someone asked me to get a job. I was busy doing just that.” She chuckled.

“About that…what I was trying to say was….” He scratched his head, and his driver wondered who it was that made his boss appear so ordinary.

“….You don’t have to explain Demi! I was just joking. Plus it was great advice. I have a job with a medical research firm in Maryland.” Shade was excited.

Wow there goes my dream of ever getting her back. “Congrats. I am happy for you.” He managed. Lord save me from lying.

“Thanks. Plus one more thing. I sort out started checking out church when I returned. Last Sunday I made a decision to be a Christian….”

“You are joking right?! Don’t play with stuff like that.” Demi protested, his heart beating faster than normal.

“I’m not. Check out my last post on Instagram, there’s a picture of me and my testimony.”

Demi grabbed a tablet and swiped as fast as possible. And He saw it.

“Oh God, you’re not joking. You aren’t joking. This is amazing!” His grin was as wide as ever.

“I said to update you about my situation. Thanks Demi.”  He didn’t want her to go.

“Um…You skype right? I’m home in thirty minutes tops.”

“Not while I’m at work. Maybe later. But I’m sure you’ll be well asleep by then. We are six hours apart remember?”

Homecoming

From thereon, Demilade looked for meetings that would take him to the United States. None came. The closest was three months away. He couldn’t wait. He took an early vacation.

A day before his trip, he got a call: “Demi, I’m coming back home.”

He was in the middle of some handover meetings with senior management. He wouldn’t have taken the call, but rules are often bended when people fall in love.

“Coming back home where?”  Nigeria was never home to her, at least that she said again and again. Demi’s question was valid.

“Nigeria! My company is launching out to Africa, and they want three of us to oversee the launch. I’m doing West and Central Africa, it would be a lot of trips, but I work from Lagos, my office would be there.” Shade said in such a hurried manner, she was running out of breath.

There was silence. Demi sank into the leather swiveling chair unable to say anything, too stunned. “Demi, you there?”

“I’m here. I’m too stunned. This is too good to be true.” He said almost whispering. She could only laugh. The day was brighter from thereon.

****************************

A week after the call, Demi was at the airport. Her plane had touched down. It was raining in Lagos as it had been all week. He adjusted himself for the umpteenth time.

Once she appeared from the door marked ‘Arrivals’, he was sure he had been smitten. She was as beautiful as ever. She was cautious herself. Nobody knew what to say.

When she was finally before him, he wanted to tell her a thousand things but only this one came out: “Did all your bags come?” That wasn’t what I meant to say, That’s not what I should have said.

She nodded. And they couldn’t resist the urge to go into each other’s arms. He lifted her up, well made a shallow attempt to, and she screamed.

Once in the car, Demi started the engine but he didn’t move. Then he stopped the engine and got something out of his jacket. “Last time, it was our parent’s idea. This time, can it be ours? Will you marry me?”

She looked at him. “ Gee,It’s been a long flight. If I say yes, would you drive me to my Dad’s and let me be?” Demi nodded like a child.

“Ofcourse yes. That’s the major reason why I convinced them to launch in Africa genius.” She replied with fatigue in her voice.

Demilade was elated. Shade was tired yet excited.

“Bae, I guess your dad still has the invitation cards for last year’s canceled wedding, could we perhaps just use a biro to change the date?”

She shot him the ‘You are joking, right’ glance. “Is the economy that bad?!”

He winked at her.

 

 

 

 

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Boarding Pass (2)

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being Acts 17:26-28 NKJV

boarding-pass

A ‘Romantic’ Elope

Demi woke up with a very funny idea. It always amazed him how creative he was in the mornings. After a long hard brainstorming last night and some prayers (this he was learning, and so far, it appeared to work), he had a plan. He texted Shade, well he rewrote the text five times to arrive at:

Good morning Beautiful. Arise and shine. Call me when you see this.

She called back two hours later.

“Demi?!….” What kind of game is he trying to play?

“Hey you. Um…can we do lunch?” Was he asking her out on a date?

She agreed, they did lunch that afternoon. Over a steaming bowl of Amala and Gbegiri at Bukha Hut, Demi unraveled his mysterious plan: “…..And that baby is how we get out of this scheme.” He thought it was brilliant, she thought he was crazy.

But when she arrived home that night to see printed Invitation cards and her father signing them at the table, too buried in the activity to even return her greeting, she was irritated.

“Demi, uh….thanks for lunch today, do you think the plan would work?” She said with desperation when she finally settled in to make a call.

“Say what, Girl? The network over here is bad.” Demi replied with a chuckle.

“Do. You. Think. The. Plan. Would. Work?” Shade asked again.

“Ofcourse it would. Oh I heard the first time. Your American accent is gorgeous damn….”

She cut the phone, and put it down smiling. She couldn’t tell if it was the plan or the man that tickled her.

 

*****************************

Thursday afternoon, they were in Abuja. A delayed flight due to weather conditions meant that they had to spend three and half hours together before leaving Lagos’ MM II. Now they were a little more than just acquaintances.

Demi now understood Shade wasn’t obnoxious, and Shade understood that Demi was not a Lagos ‘player’ with a lot of money. They had exchanged stories.

The plan went sour the moment they found out that Shade couldn’t just buy a ticket to the US, just like that. Currency issues with the Naira meant the foreign airlines were quite hesitant with selling tickets, thus Shade was on a waiting list. If they approved, she would be given a ticket.

“You are always….always on the laptop.” Shade blurted out on Friday evening. Demi Shrugged. She wasn’t lying. “Let me tell you something Mr would-be CEO, the company would flourish in your absence, the world would move on if you God-forbid died. Take a chill-pill.”

Demi put down his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. “This is why my father wants me to get married. Would you marry me?” He chuckled.

“Joker!” She smiled. “Hey, let’s take a selfie. If we are supposed to be on a trip shopping for the wedding, we have to make it appear so.” They took selfies: the smiling one, the pouting one, the crazy-faced one. Ten shots later, and three Instagram posts later, it was boring.

“I like this one, Bae and I…the world can wait…Are you always mysterious and introspective?” She asked curious as ever.

Truth was he just wrote something. “Um…I’d rather refer to it as being spontaneous.” his was a cheeky yet smart reply.

The evening wore on beautifully. They went to dinner, and just…talked! And with each conversation, they felt less vulnerable with each other.

“So….how does it feel to be a billionaire’s son?” She asked with a soft laugh.

“You tell me. Your father is a billionaire as well. Billionaires in Naira are just starting. When you convert the net worth to the dollar, it’s not so much anyway.” He shrugged.

“Oh please…..this is not an interview with the Financial Times, can you just be real?!”

“Ok…well there are two sides: you have a lot of fun because you can do almost anything, money is not exactly a problem. It can make you stupid because what others consider a blessing, you see it as a right. Then there’s the other side where you work crazy hard to protect your wealth.”

“….And you play hard as well?” She asked with a wink.

“Maybe in my early twenties. Straight out of college, partied hard, painted the town red. I almost got into trouble a lot. But God’s mercy, that’s what I call it, just helped me cos the moments of pleasure versus the long-term effects….” Is there something she wants to know?

Their dessert arrived just in time.

“So are there any liver problems, STDs or diseases I should know about?” They both laughed.

“Girl, are you like out of your mind? Oh wait you’re a doctor, I forgot that. I’m sorry I can’t provide my medical history….” Another laugh. “….But as far as I know, I had none of those. I consider that to be a miracle in itself.”

The marriage issue was the elephant in the room though and as they ‘washed down’ dinner and desert with a glass of wine. Shade decided to ‘hunt the elephant’:

“I have being dying to ask a question..” Shade started.

“Shoot.” Will the questions ever end? He played cool though.

“This marriage benefits you more than me. You become CEO, you lead a Billion Naira company into the future, and I give you kids. You can play along and have an affair outside, like some side-chick or something like most African men….why aren’t you going along?”

He sighed, and took a long sip from his chapman; The grilled Chicken was to die for!

“First of all, when you say MOST African men cheat, that’s an accusation without empirical evidence…..”

“….I apologize”

“…..Second I don’t want to do this to you to me, to us…this….arranged thing where we have no commitment, and we are almost being forced….”

“Who says we have no commitment? We’d say vows in front of a pastor or priest in front of God?!….” She protested.

“…more like lying. Because we haven’t made up our minds to…or more like I haven’t made up my mind to. I’m not sure this is how God intended marriage in the beginning.” Demi made his case with the most serious look she had ever seen of him.

There was a silence brief but meaningful and her next words came right out of her heart. “You are a godly man. Are you religious?”

He gave her a look that made her clarify her question: “Mercy….miracles…..now…marriage and God’s intention?!”

“Well I am a Christian…..” He replied afraid that all his street-cred was about to be burned yet at peace with his confession.

“Jesus-follower Christian? or Christianity as per religion?” Shade asked her voice slightly lowered.

“Jesus follower Christian!” Demi said even more sure this time. She was quiet. He did not know what to think.

“Karl Max said religion is the opium of the masses. Most people around here need God for blessings, miracles and breakthroughs, why on earth do you need God? C’mon you know I’m right.” She had to speak a bit louder above the sound filtering from a Jazz band playing on the hotel foyer across the room.

“Shade, the point of Christianity is not getting blessings. Man’s ultimate purpose is to worship God. Without it, life is empty and meaningless. This applies whether you are rich or poor.” Where did that answer come from?

“Wow, well I wouldn’t call myself religious. I am sure God would be very mad with me at the very least.” Shade forced a laugh. He was straight-faced.

“Why?”

“Let’s see…one….I partied hard in college, alcohol, some drugs in my freshman year. And oh…sexperiments in my sophmore year. I was sober in my Senior year” Shade winked. Demi mouthed ‘wow’. She laughed.

“….oh one more…” She looked away. “..Early on in my medical practice, I lost a child, a patient, due to neglect. I mean I misdiagnosed his condition, and prescribed a drug that killed him. My supervisor swept it under the carpet and the hospital paid a very heavy fine to keep the family quiet. I was fired to avoid the scrutiny of a medical board which could revoke my license. And to this day, I live with a guilt nothing can ever take away.”

“…..But the blood of Jesus certainly can! And before we had our crazy life moments, God was ‘crazy’ enough to send his son to die on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him via His son Jesus can have their sins paid for, thus they are forgiven and free. Nothing we have ever done is bigger than what Jesus did on Calvary. But we have got to accept and appropriate the grace freely given.”

There was silence! Like one where no one is sure exactly what should be said. He took her hand and squeezed it gently but firm. Are you even supposed to do that? Demi Focus. He cautioned himself.

The night was getting windy and it was their cue to hitch a cab to the hotel. “Demi, did you just preach to me?!” she said once they were in the cab. She had switched moods almost instantly.

“Yup. I think I might have. Was it good?” Demi replied attempting to sound upbeat.

“I don’t know…But if it was I’m supposed to be crying and converted. But since I’m not…oops sorry.” She laughed in a way that if he hadn’t known better, he’d call her drunk.

“You are evil.” He said with a grin.

“Sorry! But seriously I would think about it.” She said with a smile.

“I have to write that letter to my Dad tonight.” Shade said a few moments later, bringing their minds back to the plan. He agreed she should. They needed to stay focused.

The plan was for her to go to the US and email her father vowing not to return until the whole marriage was cancelled. Abuja was also Demi’s secret part to see if he was right to dismiss Shade. Only he knew that part though. So far, he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to let her go though.

It is so hard to say Goodbye

Saturday moved so quickly. In the morning, Shade got a call from the airline:

“Yes ma’am your ticket purchase was approved and we even have a flight to New York you can be on tonight, if you want?”

“I’d take it !” She replied quickly before she changed her mind. Demi wasn’t sure if he liked the plan anymore.

All afternoon, they shopped. She wanted to take away as many Nigerian memories as possible: Sandals, hats, hand-made shoes, books, Kilichi, bags, clothes, etc. By early evening there was a full box, scratch that, two full boxes.

In the evening, she was ready to go and when they got to the airport, neither wanted the plan anymore but neither had the courage to opt out.

She checked in and thereafter they had some time before she would finally disappear. They shared a Coke, just one can, with plantain chips. They were barely talking now.

“Shade, you are beautiful and smart. A doctor with prospects and a bright future…..”

Oh God please let him beg me to stay, not to go. I won’t even move. Wait Shade you’ve got to have a response. Focus.

“….Get a job in the US! You have lived your life with your father’s decisions, now you live! Live the life you have always dreamed and don’t you look back.” He closed his eyes meaning every word.

What?! Is he pushing me away? Is he even serious? “What?!” Shade blurted out.

“What?!” He replied. She stood up suddenly. “Are you sending me away? Demi? I live where I want, I do what I want! My decisions are my decisions. Yes my father has directed them, but I made those decisions. Don’t you tell me what I can or cannot do with my life!” Now Shade was raising her voice as tears welled up in her throat.

What did you just do Einstein? You just ruined a perfect moment Demi. Why are you just stupid?  “Shade please don’t take this the wrong way!”

“How am I supposed to take it?” He begged. This wasn’t happening. “I was…….” He was interrupted by the airport announcer.

“Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately! Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately.”

Shade turned and left. Demi stood wondering what in the world had just happened. It would be a long trip to Lagos in the morning. He would take the bus.

*****************************************

Somewhere midflight across the Atlantic, Shade recalled the entire situation and cried her eyes out. Did she overreact? Was Thursday, Friday and Saturday a romantic scam? For one moment, she had felt he was very sincere but why did he push her away? “Get a job in the US? Who is he to tell me where I am to live. If he didn’t want me, why didn’t he just say so..?” She gathered herself and she wondered if she hadn’t created a scene already. Thankfully she hadn’t.

Her eyes travelled across the aisle to a Hispanic couple. The man appeared to be in pain and what appeared to be a nebulizer on his nose. The woman, his wife seemed to reading to him from a tablet. Was she speaking English? Shade strained to listen for some reason:

She could hear the woman reading in English above her accent: “….I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”

Was God trying to talk to her?

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Boarding Pass (1)

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

boarding-pass

As he adjusted his suit in front of the mirror at the hotel, he felt excited, ready for the next step, Shade was awesome, and he felt lucky. A year ago, he would have described Shade as everything but awesome. A year ago, he could have married her, however it was the least thing he ever wanted to do. But today….Demilade weds Shade!  Demi + Shade = Demshade?!  Does it even make sense? Whatever men…it doesn’t even matter. He smiled to himself.

“Demi, we need to leave now else we’ll be late to YOUR wedding.”

“In a bit, give me a minute!”

12 Months Earlier

“Demilade, I can’t lie, these are the most unromantic pre-wedding photos mankind has ever witnessed.” said Phillip as he went through a slide show of the photos taken only minutes earlier. Demi couldn’t agree more. The smiles were forced; the shot where the guy was looking into the girl’s eyes looked like they were rookies auditioning to play a role in a Bollywood movie, totally horrific.

Shade walked in and the guys ended the rant. “Awwwn just look at these. How romantic. Anyways Demi, I have to go. We would see tomorrow?”

“Yeah I guess. I would call you.” He managed a reply.

Shade walked away and returned in a flash. “I have your number right?” she asked half puzzled, half embarrassed. Demi was even more horrified as he scrolled through his contacts. How do you explain not having the number of the girl you would be marrying in a few days?

“Um…You know what? Can I have it again? 08…..” He said just staring at his phone. She obliged and left. There was an air of formality about her, her approach to everything was business-like. Hian, please what’s that?

 

Philip was seated sipping a coke, this he had to see.

 

“What?” Demi said, once he noticed the photographer giving him a ‘what in the world’ look. “I think the photos are great, we can use them for the souvenirs, right?”

 

Philip nodded and gave a shrug, it wasn’t his call. His was just to take the photographs and get paid, no questions asked.

 

However, that night after work when Demi met up with his friend Mike, reality came calling.

 

“Demi, let me get this straight. Your father has arranged for you to marry the daughter of his longtime business partner, to qualify you to take over as CEO so he can retire? Dude this is 2016 men!” Mike said having to raise his voice to be heard over the loud music at Shaunz Bar.

 

“Well that’s what it is.”

 

“And you are doing it?”

 

“Yup. I feel terrible but Shade is a great lady, talented, not drop-dead beautiful but just precise. She is smart, this could work, you know.” Demi was convinced himself he was saying nonsense.

 

They paused a minute to listen to someone do an Awful rendition of Chris Brown’s With You in a shallow attempt at Karaoke. It was good to laugh and release some tension. Karaoke was one activity that always thrilled Demi about Lagos’ night life. Maybe he could bring Shade one Friday night and they could do Lionel Richie’s Endless Love or Banky W’s Don’t Break What’s Left of My Heart. Whatever.

 

“Dude, COULD is not a good bargain for the choice of a lifetime. But how is this marriage even a criterion to be CEO? There are tons of single CEOs. How is being married even your father’s or the board’s business?” Mike’s piercing look drove home the question.

 

“When my father started out Cobblers R Us, he had a partner: Tega. Totally smart. He was the brain behind the designs for the shoes in the early days. It was his idea for them to even invest in Oil in the early days of the Nigerian oil boom. Tega committed suicide. A life of partying, heavy drinking and women, made my father deem him unfit as a business partner. So my father manipulated him to sell some shares, bought over those shares, and became CEO. Once CEO, my dad fired him as Head of Operations. Tega’s heavy spending made him broke after a while and depressed too. After the suicide, Dad put a clause for any incoming CEO to be married. My Dad has cancer now and wants to retire as soon as yesterday, therefore I, as anionted heir, have to be married before I become CEO. You see.”

 

“Hmmm.” was all Mike could say.

 

As He drove home, all Demi thought about were the words: COULD is not good enough for the bargain of a lifetime.

 

Daddy’s Girl

“This is like old times Daddy.”

 

“Like old times baby. You, me and a cup of tea before bed. I am glad you are back Shade.”

They savored the rich blend of Indian teabags in silence for a few minutes.

“Daddy, is this the way you and mum got married?” Shade asked with the inquisitiveness of a little child.

 

“How do you mean dear?” And now her father sat up.

 

“I have known Demi what? Two weeks? We would get married in what, ten days from now? I don’t even know if I like him and I can’t tell if he likes me, he is just bland.” now she was lamenting.

 

The great Chief Olopade laughed heartily and so long, he coughed. Ki’ l’omode mo?  He laughed again. He had always chosen for Shade. It was his idea for her to go to Queens College, it was his idea for her to study to become a doctor at Drexel University, Philadelphia; He was the ‘genius’ behind her majoring in Pediatrics in India and working for two years in Abu Dhabi. Now it was his plan that brought her home. It was time to get her married to a respectable young man.

 

“Shade….Do you trust me?”

 

“Yes Daddy.” Not exactly. Why do I always say yes to his schemes?

 

She liked pedatric medicine, she liked kids but not enough to hang around them all day in a hospital. She did not like Nigeria nor consider it home.

 

“Shade, Demi will love you. Chief Shonibare is my goooooood friend. We are like 5 and 6. His son Demi is like a son to me….”

 

“….then doesn’t this marriage become incest?” Shade cut in. Why did her funny American accent always creep up on her when she asked genuine questions?

“ba wun e ko ma s’oyinbo. Pschew… Your mother and I were third cousins…she was from my mother’s uncle’s second wife’s brother’s compound….Did it not work? Me I am going to bed.” And he left.

 

“Dad…I don’t think this African thing is such a great idea…?” She yelled as he climbed the stairs to his room.

 

“Odaaro…” He replied. Her Odaaro reply was as pathetic was her situation appeared.

To be continued

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The Average Nigerian and His Precious Well

The average Nigerian is the eternal optimist; longsuffering and deeply religious often engaging the divine in a conversation albeit negotiation for a change of story. His God should not be joked with, his place of worship is sacred never mind that he may or may not care about the tenets or laws of his religion in his daily hassle. On his day of worship, he is serious about his prayers or his ‘breakthrough’, if you like.
At the turn of the year, he proclaims: “This year is my year!” and he is sure of it, after all the ‘crossover’ night between the 31st of December and 1st of January is the one night year round when a vigil is not only compulsory but mandated. After a long meeting with his maker, he is only assured that This year is his year!!! The eternal optimist!
The average Nigerian is a ‘coper’. He figures a way around a difficult situation as he has always done now for many years. He has coped with power failure for many years with worn out lanterns and near-death experiences with candles proof of his resilience, and when NEPA became PHCN without any significant difference, he wasn’t surprised; he just coped like he has always done.
Gather round, and he will tell you a story: a precious but sad tale, a tragedy-in-progress, a classic example of an anticlimax. The story of the man and his well, it’s a story he knows like the back of his palm for he is the man in the story. The well is his well, located in his own backyard. He watches everyday as tanks from other towns come and take the ‘water’ from his well shoving a bundle of notes into his landlord’s greedy palms. Yet the landlord sells the ‘water’ to him for a fortune. Once upon a time the ‘water’ per ‘bucket’ was paid for in kobo, and then the price rose till it was 11 naira, then 35 naira, 50 naira and finally 65 naira.
Every time the price rose, the landlord said to him: “it’s for the best. Trust me, I’ve called the oyibo man. He says he’s on his way. When he comes he’ll lay pipes to your kitchen, toilet, bathroom, and your room if you like. The oyibo man would build tanks overhead in this compound and then you would pay little or nothing for ‘water’ just be patient.” The average Nigerian, an eternal optimist has always believed in spite of his many questions. Deep down inside however he has always known that Baba Landlord a liar, never to be trusted.
Then on his favourite day of the year, 01st of January, the one day he feels most optimistic and forgets about his trouble for a moment to move ahead assured of goodwill approaching, the landlord sent the water caretaker:
“Una well done o!” the short potbellied man in glasses said storming into the room of The Average Nigerian invading his privacy.
“Who are you?” The optimist asked.
“I am The Water Caretaker. From today Baba Landlord no longer pays a dime for the production of water in this compound. Therefore the price may go up, it may come down. But be calm, the water is still good and this change is for your own good believe it or not. Good day!” The potbellied man said reading the announcement from his folder.
The water caretaker stormed out of the room the same way he entered with questions unanswered and a party ruined. The average Nigerian covered his plate of fried rice and shoved his bottle of coke under his bed. In a flash, he stormed out with his big 50-bucket keg to the tap where the little girl that sold water stood in awaiting his arrival.
“H-How mu-u-uch is a b-b-bucket?”
“150 naira!!!” the sales girl replied calmly.
“What? What nonsense! How can you change the price like that? What kind of compound is this?” The Average Nigerian replied trading his optimism for rage, having a fit.
“Order from above.” She replied.
The sales girl was unmoved by his gesticulation and waited for him to finish displaying like a young lady auditioning for the sitcom Tinsel, and she silently asked: “How many buckets are you buying?”
“Fill the keg.” The Optimist-now-cantankerous replied.
As the keg was being filled, The Average Nigerian looked up and there stood Baba Landlord dressed in his white agbada.
“Happy New Year, the change in price is for your own good.” Baba landlord said suppressing a grin which was now obvious.
“Baba Landlord you have always deceived me with those words but not this time.” The Optimist-turned- Cantankerous replied with anger in his voice.
“We’ll see.” Said Baba Landlord said seeming unmoved by the fact he just heard.

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fiction

11:55

He had never thought the day would come when he would take his own life. He only began considering it the previous week, but with each thought, the idea began to solidify and sounded convincing as the way out of his dilemma.

He wasn’t sure how he would do it, but painless and quick would be good. He chose a quiet rainy day, and the timing was perfect: at noon, when no one would notice he was gone until he was on the other side.

He decided not to leave a note behind, or to prepare for his departure after all if death had come any other way previously he wouldn’t have been notified.

He emptied the sachet of rat poison into the glass of fruit juice and sat down waiting for the clock to strike noon.

As he closed his eyes, images of his life flashed before him. His parents and siblings, his two years playing on his school’s football team, the bitter sweet years of studying law at the premier University of Ibadan, his call to bar ceremony and his brief stint with the chamber he had worked for before he was accused of a crime he never committed. He had slept a few nights at kirikiri maximum prison, Lagos before he was charged to court.

The criminal was found miraculously and his lawyers (well colleagues) put up a brilliant defense and he was found not guilty but his license to practice law was revoked on grounds that he was an unintentional accomplice to the homicide since the accused was indeed his guest at the time the crime was committed. It was a harsh verdict which he appealed not once and not twice but each attempt fell through.  He was fired at work and life had gone down ever since. The case had been widely publicized by the media and his name and reputation had been badly stained.

It was 11:55am, he would have to wait five minutes. It seemed like the longest wait of his thirty-year life. It had stopped raining and power had returned. In those quiet moments he began to hear a piano piece coming from the next door. It started soft, but as it was played over it grew louder. It sounded familiar but he couldn’t place it, however he was not pleased. He wasn’t a lover of music and this noise would disturb the quietness with which he wished to transit to the other side.

He decided he would tell his neighbor to stop the music. He reached the door from where the music came but was stopped in his tracks by the husky baritone voice he heard.

Every day is so wonderful and suddenly, I saw debris. Now and then, I get insecure from all the pain, I’m so ashamed…..” and with energy the voice continued: “I am beautiful no matter what they say, words can’t bring me down. I am beautiful in every single way; yes words can’t bring me down so don’t you bring me down today.” 

 He was now in tears as he listened hoping the song hadn’t ended. He sat down on the floor and rested his back against the door as his neighbor continued to sing: “To all your friends, you’re delirious so consumed in all your doom. Trying hard to fill the emptiness the piece is gone, left the puzzle undone. You are beautiful no matter what they say, words can’t bring you down. You are beautiful in every single way, yes words can’t bring you down don’t you bring me down today.” As the chorus was sung again and again he wondered how the pianist knew what he was about to do. They weren’t on the best of terms as he had always seen the pianist as the wheel -chaired eccentric musician who made a living writing sad songs and a few jingles yet the man he had never been kind to, just saved his life without knowing it.

His name was battered but he could save it, yes he had been sacked but he could start over. He vowed to fight back rather than kill himself after all two wrongs never make a right.

“You liked my song?” asked the neighbor who was surprised to see the other man at his door.

“sort of….well….yes.” replied the lawyer now cleaning his eyes hoping no tears remained.

“it’s not my song,  it’s Christiana Aguilera’s.”  

“I know….well I figured so…..” said the lawyer as he stood up. And as he walked back to his door he said: “Thank you.”

“For…….?” Asked the musician puzzled.

“…..for saving my life.” The lawyer replied quietly as he entered his apartment and shut the door.

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