From the top of a mango tree towering high above the fence, I notice as the sun begins to set and human traffic begins to dwindle rapidly as if it is not just six pm.
In my part of the world, the people do not like daytime. To them it is a reminder that there is nothing left of their existence other than working from dawn to dusk to be able to survive till the next day, to continue working from dawn to dusk. They are however grateful that they have jobs that distract them from the fact that they do not live, although their jobs are in fact what stops them from living.
But what can they do? Quit their jobs and die from starvation, ultimately no longer alive to live, though they’re not living?
The truth is that their jobs are in fact both the perfect distraction, and at the same time the source of despair that they need to be distracted from.
It has been five hours since I climbed this mango tree and submerged myself into thoughts; strategizing, analyzing, and making critical decisions for my future. I have seen the need to go back to the drawing table of life and cook up tactical war plans to avoid being defeated in this bloody battle between life and death.
Okay, let me cut the drama.
What all this sophisticated English means, is that man is broke and man has realized that he needs to find a way to make money or else…HE WILL DIE.
It is this burden that has led me up the mountain, sorry, up the tree.
But have I found a solution to my problems, a way to make money and liberate myself from this poverty?
All I have done is to remind myself over and over that I am miserably poor.
The only decision I have made is deciding to find a way to stop being poor, but sadly, this is the same decision I have been making for the past four years of my life since I graduated from the university!
I have always known right from time that I would end up being bastardly rich. I still believe that, but the only problem is that time is not waiting for me. The problems that only money can solve are increasing on a daily, and if I don’t make this money soon, these problems would bury me.
For those of you already making assumptions about my person, probably assuming that I have poverty mentality and all that nonsense talk, you need to know that I am not a typical poor person and I am not poor by any wrong choices of mine. I am not the average poor person without ambition and purpose that is full of laziness and self-pity, and is completely daft.
On the contrary, I have all the qualities of a rich person except of course, the money.
One: every night before I go to bed, I spend hours imagining one level of wealth or another for myself, and just like every rich person, I am so dedicated to this activity.
This shows a level of commitment and ambition, and this is a quality of the rich. On some nights I am a wealthy business man in the oil sector, and on other nights I am a wealthy importer and exporter of plenty containers on da high sea.
Two: I have a very elegant demeanor; that type of poise that only rich people can have.
If you interact with me for the first time without any clue as to my actual financial status is, you would be convinced that I am oozing of wealth, and this is another characteristic of rich people. When I moved into my neighborhood newly, people used to respect me as a possibly rich person and that was because of my aura. Although they didn’t see the money firsthand, they somehow assumed that the money was stacked somewhere, and soon I would begin to spend it. All of that soon changed when they concluded that I was very poor, siiiimply because I needed to always borrow little money here and there…and I began to buy food on credit. It’s not like I don’t intend to eventually pay them off one day. They just need to learn be a little patient. And come to think of it, they should even be grateful that I am offering to teach them the virtue of patience without any charges
I would love to continue convincing you all on how I am indeed not a poor person by wrong choices, but the pangs of hunger that I’ve been trying to ignore since morning is back again, and this time it has come with a level of violence I do not understand.
My stomach writhes and squeezes in hunger pangs, and my eyesight turns dizzy for a passing moment. When it passes, I begin to slowly climb down the tree, wondering how I am going to eat this night, and how I am going to make this money.
Talking about making money, I am reminded again of Chuza.
I shake my head as I remember Chuza
Chuza used to be my secondary school mate, but he disappeared midway through senior WAEC examinations because he impregnated a certain classmate that lived with this very aggressive trader and his family. When the trader had discovered that the girl they had brought from the village to live with them had been impregnated by an obviously useless boy, and the money he made from selling spare parts in Onitsha main market wasn’t going to be enough to take care of a house help and her child, he swore to make Chuza not only a father, but a husband.
Chuza didn’t want any of that, so when it was obvious that the trader was serious, Chuza who also lived with another family as a help, fled to his village and disappeared completely from the radar. We assumed the worst would eventually happen to him; he would either become a palm wine tapper or a hunter, he would end up rearing malnourished birds in a scraggly poultry, or if he ever made something out of his life, he would go on to become a political thug or a market urchin that collected dues from sellers in the market.
This isn’t however, why I am remembering Chuza out of the blues; most of my friends have impregnated at least one girl in their lifetime, so there is nothing spectacular about that news. Not many of them stayed back to take care of their child and baby mama too, so that also isn’t worth the news.
The thing is that Chuza has appeared out of the blues again, this time as a rich man.
A stinkingly rich man
I saw Chuza the other day while I was on a queue at an ATM line. I was there to withdraw my last money in order to buy garri and roasted fish, after which I planned to make the solemn declaration of ‘e go be’ and wait for the worst to happen
A tinted BMW had slowly cruised into the parking lot of the bank, and just when I was about to start fantasizing about how that could be me under the right circumstances, Chuza stepped out of the driver’s seat accompanied by a well-built guy in the passenger’s seat, both of them spotting ray bans glasses and chains that glittered under the sun. I was still contemplating whether to hide as I was thoroughly ashamed of my unkempt state when Chuza sighted me and called out.
He was very friendly and buoyant, and before he hurriedly walked into the bank, he gave me his phone number. The way the gatemen greeted him with a familiar and extra touch of courtesy was noticeable, and I was dazed
I called Chuza that night
“Aaaah Obaino my guy! Long time, no see” he shouted into the phone once I introduced myself
“It has been very long, yes it is.” I had replied in my usual composed demeanor
“Omo, e don tey since I last see you or anybody from secondary school o” he spoke in unapologetic pidgin, coated in heavy street accent
“Yes; since you disappeared in ss3, afteeer impregnating Chiamaka” I reminded subtly, not knowing exactly why I did that. Perhaps there was still a part of me that felt superior to the class dunce from secondary school, even though I feared things might not exactly be the same anymore
He laughed out loud and long
“Omo that news na old matter abeg. E don pass”
But the baby and the mother aren’t in the past. They are certainly alive, existing somewhere in the present
“How you dey now, Obaino my guy? I see you today for ATM queue. Sun been don scatter your brain finish. You been just dey look like lizard wey wan die”
Sweet baby Jesus
Had my wretchedness been that obvious?
“Well it’s not been all that easy” I declared
“But certainly we are getting by, despite our perilous economic times” I stated, calculating that if I couldn’t impress him with the financial grandeur I didn’t have, I could do so with intellectualism and grammatical affluence
“I hear you my guy. I hear you” he empathized with me
“I just dey enter Nigeria after one month for the abroad o, and true true things no too easy for this side. Dubai been make sense die! All this suffering no dey for that side at all. Next place I wan go now na France. I no fit stay this Naija for long, plus I hear say their babes for that side make sense die” he preached
This dude just got back from Dubai and was about to go to France because he didn’t like the economy of the nation and because he heard the girls in France were beautiful?
If the economy of the nation gives you the liberty to travel round the world for pleasure, doesn’t that mean that the economy isn’t affecting you?
“Obaino. This phone call parole no be my thing abeg. I no dey too like phone call matter” he pulled me out of my thoughts
“You for like come around make we link up. I dey go clubbing this night. I fit come pick you up from your place make we move together”
I was finding it hard to believe what was happening, but it was obvious that the Chuza from secondary school was no longer the same Chuza I spoke to. Yes, he could still be the sexually driven impregnate-and-run away boy that he was in secondary school, and it was obvious his lousiness and razz nature hadn’t submitted itself to twenty first century civilization either, but he had definitely added ‘rich’ to his résumé and in a society like ours, rich covers all a person’s stink like it doesn’t exist
That night Chuza picked me up in a black Mercedes Benz and drove to a prestigious nightclub, where he partied la vida loca all night long. The first part of my night at the club was spent with me trying to understand what magic he had done to become this rich in the space of how many years, eight? It was obvious that he was still without formal education, so I couldn’t help wondering what magic was in play. By the time the liquor I had been sipping throughout the period began to mess with my wirings, the remaining part of the night was spent on cloud nine.
I stopped remembering everything clearly at some point, but I remember vaguely dancing with multitude of fine slender ladies, spraying Chuza’s money all about from a gun like machine he carried with him, and continuously sipping off different bottles of liquor while enjoying very loud and violent music.
The next time I regained full consciousness, I was in a room under the beam of bright daylight.
It was cold in there, as there was an A/C running. The bed sheet was white and extra comfortable, and the mattress was orthopedic. There was a table in the center of the room, and it was littered with opened bottles of wines and spirits. There was shisha somewhere in the mix, and plenty half smoked cigarette buds decorated the mess.
Notes of foreign currency were also littered about in the room too, some of them in awkward places like on the fan above that was switched off. There was a towering glass door to one side of the room, and the curtains were drawn open to reveal a balcony beyond. This was where the light filtered into the room from. The room generally, looked frighteningly expensive
I was about to begin to freak out when I turned and saw Chuza sprawled on a side of the floor, an almost naked girl lying on his chest, and another one snuggled close by. He held a wad of cash loosely in one hand and a bottle of spirit in the other, even as he was fast asleep. It was then I noticed the two girls that were lying to my both sides, both of them asleep, though it seemed only lightly. I blinked as I searched my mind, and gradually the memories of the remainder part of the night began to come back to me slowly and enticingly.
I would love to recount the memories in as much details as possible, but readers discretion is paramount. I wouldn’t want to spoil your innocent minds with my debauchery
After a while Chuza turned slowly, and after some more turns his eyes opened sluggishly until he was staring at the ceiling. After more minutes of staring, he slowly came to a sitting position. He saw me and flashed me a weak smile, before he turned and tapped the ladies, waking them up.
When the four ladies were awake, he rallied them around and promised to see them some other time, then he made a few jokes to which they willingly laughed, and afterwards he handed each of them a large bundle of cash. They praised him before they packed their belongings and left
“Are those prostitutes?” I asked when we were alone. Chuza walked to the table and picked up a packet of unopened cigarettes
“Do they look like prostitutes?” he threw the question back at me as he lighted a cigarette, put it in his mouth and took a long draw of smoke before releasing it slowly and artistically into the air
“They seemed more intimate than normal whores are” I said in thought, as the smell of tobacco filtered into my nostrils
“Yes. That is because they are my bitches. Na only me get them, na only me fit enter them” he gloated and flashed his milk-brownish teeth amidst the smoke that floated around him
I nodded and threw my gaze away, not interested in feeding his sexual pride. As I sat there, more pressing thoughts came to my mind.
“Where are we? Is this your house?” I immediately asked
Chuza looked at me with a proud sneer and laughed
“O boy you wan insult me?”
“How you go talk say this kin yeye place na my house?” he asked, and my eyes widened in surprise. I looked at the place again to be sure my earlier appraisal wasn’t wrong. This place was probably the most expensive place I had entered all my life
A king sized bed with obviously very expensive bed sheets. A bedside drawer obviously made of the finest furniture, and on it was a gold plated lamp. A little parlor at one corner, a wine shelf stocked with assorted wines at another, tiles that almost glittered, a balcony with a view, a bathroom with a Jacuzzi, and yet he thought this place was a yeye place?
“If you enter my house, you no go even get mouth talk” he explained as if reading my mind as he leaned forward and tapped on his cigarette, shaking the ashes into the ashtray before leaning back again.
“Unto say na night time yesterday and I no wan dey do night driving, I been just check us into this hotel. E dey close to the club, so na where I dey always go anytime I leave club late and I no wan reach house yet. Na five star hotel sha. Five hundred thousand for one night” he declared.
The price came like a charging buffalo, lurching straight at my heart as a heart attack threatened. It took me a while to let that information sink in, and then to regain composure while steadying my breath. I tried to resist, but I couldn’t help thinking of what five hundred thousand naira would do in my life if I had it right now.
Immediately I did some calculations in my head. It was a rough estimate, but I was sure with the way last night went, that Chuza couldn’t have spent anything less than three million naira between the night and this afternoon.
Those bottles that cost an average of fifty thousand naira for one continued to appear in their numbers throughout the night, and Chuza hadn’t stopped making it rain with cash throughout the night as he pumped money into the air from the plastic gun he carried, and the girls that danced and flocked around picked most of them up before they even landed on the floor, but Chuza never complained.
“My guy abeg, help your boy” I blurted out suddenly, as reality dawned on me hard and long
“Man dey broke, man go soon die. Man no get money, man been dey lie, man no dey find this life funny” I lamented to him
“Show me how you dey make this money abeg. Help your guy make small money too” I declared in desperation without giving any thought to it, my inhibitions and ego flying out the balcony.
I was still miserably poor, and while clinging on to some childish ego from secondary school, I could miss out on a chance to be rich. God forbid.
A person who had unflinchingly spent about three million naira in one night didn’t seem like someone who was struggling in any sense of the word, and I figured if I could be opportunistic and tap into this reunion, I could get the breakthrough I needed
Chuza looked up and gazed at me intently for a while like he was taken aback by my outburst, then gradually a smile spread across his face
“Obaino my man” he cheered as he sat up, leaning towards the table. With the stick of cigarette in his mouth, he searched through the crowded table, pulled out an opened bottle from the mess and took a swig of the liquid that was in it
“Chuzaaa. You be big boy now. I sabi say we no been dey too rapport like that for secondary school, but forget all those ones now. Just help your boy abeg. I no dey even ask you for your own money o. I just dey say make you show me the way, make I fit dey able to make my own money” I was almost on my knees in desperation.
“O boy stop all that long yarn” he waved it off with a smile as he got up and walked to the door leading to the balcony. He opened it and stepped outside, and reflexively I followed him, like a dog following shit.
He unbuttoned his shirt and threw it on the floor, and then stretched under the rays of the sunlight like he was absorbing some invisible energy from it. When he was done stretching, he walked to the balcony and leaned on it, surveying what was below.
Slowly, like a person that is cautious because he wasn’t invited to a party, I etched guardedly until I was by his side in the balcony. If it was earlier on, I would have unbuttoned my shirt and flung it away too, and then gone ahead to bask under the soothing rays of the sun like he did, but I had dropped that rich man’s garment a while ago.
Now I was scared to show chest when he was showing chest
It was obvious now that we were in a penthouse. Down from where we were, was a parking lot filled with all kinds of expensive cars, and to one corner was a poolside. Music was blasting from there, and it was obvious that the people there were having a good time, as women on bikini strolled around, and men, both the muscular and the potbellied strolled around lazily, most of them holding a glass on one hand, and a fine woman on the other. There were people in the swimming pool, most of them being women
“E be like say before I leave here I go show face for that pool party small. Time still dey to go party ” he professed as he looked at the iced Patek Phillipe wristwatch on his wrist. How hadn’t I noticed that before?!
“I go even sabi one or two people there” he declared again
I frowned as desperation started getting the better of me.
How do I go about reminding this bastard that I needed his help, without being a nuisance or sounding overly desperate? Okay to hell with the desperate part. Even if I didn’t say it, it was probably already very obvious that I was desperate.
When I hadn’t given a reply to his suggestion to go for a second round of partying at the poolside, he looked at me and smiled mischievously. It must be that desperation he saw on my face that made him smile.
My wretchedness was now so bad that it was eliciting smiles of amusement from people
“My guy I been hear you the first time” he assured me as he placed his hands on my shoulder, the way a father would do to his son that he was trying to teach one or two things about life to
“I swear, you know say you be my guy”
I didn’t know that, and I knew that wasn’t true, but was I going to start arguing that now? I was willing to be anything he wanted me to be at that moment
“I swear you be my guy”
“And to God, I wan help you, but right now I no even dey mood to listen to anything now. But I swear I go help you, but I need to know if you dey serious to make this money”
“Ah Chuza, who no go dey serious to make money, especially when poverty don almost kill you?”
“In that case, make we talk another time. Right now I just wan go party”
He said it with finality, and I knew he meant it
“Okay boss man, but before that, you fit give me small money make I take dey manage myself?” I asked
There was a flicker of emotions in his eyes followed by slight nervousness, but he brushed it aside quickly.
“I no fit give you money now, but very soon I go settle your matter”
With that, Chuza went down to the poolside where he spent an estimate of another five hundred thousand naira
The next time I saw Chuza was two weeks later when he finally agreed to see me in the middle of his ‘busy schedule’
We met at the same hotel again, a day after which he had spent another night at the club.
I refused to follow him that time.
I couldn’t be begging someone for connection to make money, and be spending his own money like I was already made. I needed to appear poor in his sight, and ordering bottles and grinding women didn’t seem like a poor man’s behaviour
“Boss man, answer me abeg. Na beg I dey beg you, why you dey do me like this?” I pleaded two hours into our meeting when he was more interested in talking about anything except what brought me to him in the first place
“My guy. To God who made me, I wan help you” he began his sermon
“Nothing go make sense pass say, we two go dey shut down parties together, dey shut down everywhere together, dey live life together”
“But the thing be say, the business I dey do, no be today matter o. No be something wey any kin person fit do” he finally told me, and my heart sunk
I had suspected this was how he was making his money, but somehow my hopes convinced me that it might be something else. He hadn’t expressly told me what he was doing, but experience has taught me that anyone that tells you his business isn’t the kind any random person can engage in, is usually into activities that borders around an illegal and criminal practice.
With my terrible condition, I knew there was no room for me to begin to grow a conscience and talk morals on how I couldn’t do this and that to make money. I was desperate enough to discard every form of morals in the picture, but the only problem I knew I was going to have was my morale.
If it turned out to be armed robbery, kidnapping, or even fraudster business, I knew I wouldn’t have the morale to pursue a career in any of them.
“You no go know if I fit do am, until you tell me the job, boss man” I inquired some more.
“Omo forget that talk. I sabi say you no go get mind do am, so no worry. But to God, I wan help you I swear.”
“Boss tell me the business na” I pleaded
“na armed robbery you dey do?” I swallowed and threw the bait, asking in a low voice, like someone in the rooms below would be able to hear us
Chuza looked at me with a full stare before he broke into a chuckle
“I look like person wey go dey able to do that kin work? Eh Obaino? I no get that kin strength abeg” he said, a bit to my relief
“My guy how far you na? I no dey that kin thing at all”
“no guy. You sef dey think o, why I go dey yahoo yahoo, dey cheat other people?”
“So wetin be the work you dey do?” I asked with new hope
Chuza looked at me intently like he was studying me, then suddenly he threw his cigarette down and walked to the end of room, with me tailing him passionately.
He walked towards the telephone by the bedside
“Wetin you wan chop this afternoon my guy, make I order room service. Hunger don start to hold me”
“Omo Boss man, no be food dey do me now o. I get bigger problems. You sef, help your boy now” I pleaded again, causing him to smile and drop the phone before walking to the sofa in the middle of the room
“Boss man trust me, tell me wetin you dey do, give me connection make I follow dey do am. I go dey grateful forever” I pledged my loyalty, hoping that maybe that was what he needed
He looked at me again, then sighed and leaned forward, rubbing his hands together dramatically
“Okay, you no go tell anybody this thing. Na trust I dey trust you now” he started, as my hopes climbed
“Who I wan follow talk? I swear I no dey tell anybody anything” I promised
He looked at me for a brief moment and nodded
“I get one Baba” he declared with finality, and I knew he had just dropped the big bad secret in one word.
I am an Igbo boy, but having schooled in the western part of Nigeria, I know that the word Baba has many interpretations to it. But the ones that could apply to that particular situation didn’t exactly put my mind to rest
When I sat in silence looking at him, waiting for him to finish revealing this secret I suspected I already knew, he adjusted uncomfortably and stared at me again.
We sat looking at each other for a while before he continued
“I get one Baba for Ogun state. Na one of my guys introduce me to the baba. The baba dey do all this kin things”
“Which kin things?”
“Sheey you talk say you wan make money abi?” He asked, in answer to my question, and I got the answer
“So na one baba dey give you all this money?” I asked again
I swallowed as a dreaded cold washed over me. What he was talking about was using rituals to make money. In light of this, the part of me that still believed in the dark powers of the strong African juju, shivered.
“so wetin baba ask you make you do, so you go make this money?” I pressed on
Chuza seemed relieved that I wasn’t expressly condemning what he probably already knew was sacrilegious
“E no too hard. Baba just tell me to bring some things, and when I bring am, he come do the ritual, come tell me the things wey I fit no do, and after that, the money start to enter” he explained, like it was that easy
“How the money dey enter? Wetin you fit do and fit no do, wetin he tell you make you bring?” I bombarded as his eyes widened in amusement from the violence of my questions
“Na question you wan use swallow me abi?” he laughed
“I get one room for house wey na only me fit enter. Na there the money dey come from” he laughed like it was nothing
“As in the money go just dey appear?”
“O boy no ask useless questions” he rebuked sharply for the first time, and I knew I was threading on sensitive grounds
“wetin he talk say you no fit do?”
He looked at me for a while
“I no fit give person money, except say I dey pay for something wey dem do for me. I no fit just give any person money. If I do am, the money go stop to flow. The only thing I fit do na to buy something for the person, but I no fit give cash.” He explained
Now I understood why he had refused to give me money the first day I spent the night with him at the hotel, despite how much he had spent on my head in drinks, women and others
“But you been give those your girls money that time na” I asked, remembering the four girls he had gifted with money after our night at the hotel, and the numerous ones he had sprayed money on at the club
“See this one o” he laughed
“You no know say to sleep with person na service?”
“Shey them been service you properly that night, service me and you? You no know say na business be that? Plus all the ones wey been dey dance for us for club, you no know say that one too na service?” he laughed mockingly, like he was explaining basic arithmetic to a child who was finding it hard to grasp despite its simplicity
I nodded my head as I ignored his laughter and processed the information
“So wetin he tell you make you bring?” I asked. This was the final question, and this was where the crux of the whole discussion lay. I know I should have stopped this discussion a long time ago considering the taboo around this sort of money acquisition, but my desperation actually gave me an open ears to considering this path.
What would determine if this path was a possibility or not, was what he had to offer to the baba, to be able to make the money
Chuza looked at me penetratingly, then took a puff of cigarette and blew it into the air.
He looked at the ground, coughed and shot his head up to look at me again
“Wetin baba been tell me to do no too hard . He been tell me make I no chop for some kin three days, then for night make I go T-junction talk some kin things he tell me” he paused and looked at me
I beckoned him with an impatient nod of my head to go on, knowing fully well that that couldn’t be all
“The last thing baba tell me to bring, na any girl wey don pass twenty years old, but never reach thirty”
I sighed in frustration as I gnashed my teeth and grabbed at my hair with my hands, eyes closed, and head shaking
Why did it have to end like this? This was almost going smoothly, I had almost considered it!
I looked up at him with a self-righteousness stare, fueled by a frightened conscience and a weak morale.
Baba had told him to bring a girl between twenty to thirty years old, and for him to have all this money meant he brought the girl. Money through ritual sacrifice
“Chuzaaaa, Chuza na blood money you go do???” I almost sang it like a dirge as my mouth hung open with an appearance, like I was about to burst into tears. I didn’t know which one was more painful at that moment; the fact that he could actually use a human being as sacrifice to make money, or the fact that I wasn’t heartless enough to do the same thing even when I desperately needed a way out of this poverty
“Chuza na blood money you go do?” I sang again
“Obaino stop that talk abeg. No be blood money. I no kill anybody” he defended like a child that knew he was wrong, but was too proud to admit it
“No be you tell me say the baba…”
“The baba no tell me to bring the girl so that he go kill am. The baba no kill the girl, no be blood money” he interrupted me
I stayed and stared in silence for a while before continuing
“so wetin baba use the girl do?” I asked
“Baba just collect her destiny” he declared ‘
“So no be blood money be that” he added as an afterthought
“na destiny money” I added, while in thoughts
I pull out of my very long flashback as I see Mama Nkechi eatery some quick miles in front of me
This eatery is going to be my hope of survival this night even though I know the chances of me getting food from there are slim. As slim as my chances are, it’s still more than my chances at every other eatery in this small community.
My continuous buying of food on credit has made to be blacklisted in almost every shop and canteen in the neighborhood except at Mama Nkechi’s, and even at that, I know very well that I am running low on gasoline and very soon, I would be blacklisted there too.
For all I know, I can get there right now and be informed that I can no longer be given food on credit until I pay off my outstanding debts.
These wicked souls that would not help a person in need
What? Do they think I would remain in this condition forever?
If they are smart they would look at it as an investment they are making in me, so that when I eventually get rich, I would have them in my good reckoning. It is sad that they cannot see it from this angle, and all their shortsighted minds can think of is the fact that I haven’t paid for all the food I’ve been collecting on credit for about…four months now
Just so I don’t leave you wondering, I declined Chuza’s offer to make me rich on the condition that I use someone’s destiny to make money.
It’s not just right, but that is not the issue; the issue is that I do not have the morale to follow through on such action.
When I asked Chuza how he could effortlessly use someone’s destiny to make money, he defended himself, saying that many of this people, especially these girls, don’t even use their destinies to begin with, so he was doing them a favor, taking away a useless burden from them.
His exact words were: “do you know it is not easy carrying destiny up and down when you are not going to use it?”
It was said in pidgin of course
I walk into Mama Nkechi’s dim lit eatery that the faint light bulb above cannot brighten, and immediately, the mixed aroma of different soups, spices, stews and delicacies hit me and I swallow as the aroma intensifies my hunger.
It’s annoying how it is that hungry people always seem to have the greatest appetites towards everything. I am not referring to myself by the way
I stand at the door and survey the place. There are two men to one corner talking in hushed voices as they swallow balls of fufu impatiently. To the other side of the small room there is a bearded man on glasses, picking his teeth as he stares into space with the empty plates still in front of him. Just then a girl walks up to his table and picks the plate up, and as I recognize her, my heart sinks.
Nkechi is back.
As you probably have figured, Nkechi is Mama Nkechi’s first daughter, and she is usually away at the University most of the time, but whenever she is around, my brain stops functioning properly
This is because I’ve had a lifelong crush on Nkechi since I moved into this neighborhood. That was about three years ago. Then she had just finished writing jamb and was waiting for admission into the university. For a while, I had seduced her with my intellectual opulence and insinuations that there was more to me (hidden money) than what met the eye, and just coming out of secondary school and still gullible, she had fallen for it. All of that ended when she got admission and spent JUST one semester in the university.
Something about university changed her, made the scale to fall of her eyes, and when she was back, even the way she looked at me made it obvious that she now saw me for what I was; a university graduate that was extremely broke and was clinging on to the hopes of making money someday
She was never particularly rude or arrogant, but she began to avoid me, claiming to always be busy, and when our paths crossed, she greeted me with that self-satisfying prompting of superiority, making it obvious that I was below her league.
I know there is nothing else to it other than money.
Money has to be what has demoted me
I speak good English, English she had once been impressed with, and I am a graduate for crying out loud, so I definitely meet her academic criteria. It definitely is about the money I don’t have.
So, with just one semester in the university, this girl has already created a financial standard for herself? Wonders
Another thing that makes this obvious is the fact that she has begun to flaunt some pretty expensive dressings and makeup that I know her poor parents cannot have bought for her. My first guess is that she now has some rich company on her side.
Nkechi is a girl whose beauty men can kill and die for, so it definitely isn’t hard for her to get admirers who are willing to go bankrupt for her beauty.
I am also willing to go bankrupt for this beauty, but the problem is that I am already bankrupt.
We’ve finally stopped talking totally, but ever since, whenever I see her, I am reminded of feelings for her so strong that it weakens me. I figure that it is the air of an impossible romance, a forbidden romance that makes her all the more enticing.
Back at the eatery, I consider ducking and leaving the eatery now that her back is still turned against me, considering that I am at her mother’s eatery in the first place to beg for free food. I would have done this, but as I am about to take the first step out the door, a soft hungry purr from my stomach reminds me that I might not survive another night on an empty stomach, and Nkechi or no Nkechi, man’s stomach comes first or man will die.
As I inhale in light of my foreseen embarrassment, I am angered that Nkechi would have to see me yet again like this, and I would have to stomach and absorb that belittling look she always throws at me before greeting me and going about her business like I didn’t use to tickle her fancy sometime in the past
I imagine what it would be like if she had seen me some weeks ago with Chuza, living it out at a night club, throwing money in the air like I just don’t care. Certainly, she would have smiled at me today, having resurrected the belief in her head that truly there was money somewhere, even if I ask for food on credit again.
I then imagine if she had seen me in the nightclub, but this time, all that money Chuza is spending, is actually mine, all at my disposal. I can swear that Nkechi would be mine right now, clinging unto me like a handbag.
Yes, I can see it in her eyes, that all I really need to get Nkechi to be mine is just money. Ego!
Lots and lots of Ego!
At that point she turns with the tray in her hands and sight me. She hesitates for just a few seconds before turning and walking into the kitchen behind, not even passing any greeting across.
Things are definitely worse than I thought if she is not even greeting again
I sigh and walk to the counter and wait for her mother. Instead of her mother, Nkechi walks out to meet me. It is obvious she is trying to act normal, while thinking so little of me. In her eyes I am probably of a lower standing than those illiterate traders or laborers and merchants who didn’t go to school, but at least have the money to pay for their basic meals in a day.
“What do you want?” she asks me, and I freeze.
I certainly can’t tell the potential love of my life that I want to get food on credit. I need to give myself the little prestige that my situation can allow me
“Where is your mother? If I can indulge her in a mild discussion” I explain
“She is busy behind, and I am the one taking the orders” she explains coldly. I notice that her vocabulary has increased a little, and she doesn’t seem to be impressed anymore, by my flaunting of grammatical affluence. And to think that it was those words I had used one time to get her all obsessed with me
“I don’t mean to be a nuisance, but I would appreciate if I can speak specifically to your mother. The issues I have in mind to discuss, can only be attended to by her”
“You want to borrow food on credit”
Spirits of the seven delicacies of the world
Spirits of hunger and famine, of poverty and hardship, of naira and dollars, is this embarrassment what you want to happen before you leave me alone?!
My heart, prestige, ego, pride as a man, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, dignity, virtue, all shatter into a million tiny pieces as my shoulders slump
I look at her, and she stares at me coldly, unbothered with the fact that she had just broken a soul’s resolve to keep on striving for better days
I open my mouth to say something, anything, but my mouth just shapes into a circle as words refuse to come out. My grammatical affluence is probably ashamed of me too, ashamed that they belong to a man who can speak them, but can’t back them up with anything else of substance.
Nkechi looks at me one last time and shakes her head lightly, before she disappears into the room behind
If only I had money, I wouldn’t have been subjected to this level of humiliation by the woman who is supposed to see me as her king.
Is this Nkechi’s king?
With a bruised soul, I review the conditions for my wealth if I decide to go with Chuza’s offer, and I ask myself this time, if it is really a bad idea to use that way to get this money
Nobody is going to die; Chuza has assured me of that. Nothing is even going to glaringly go wrong with the person, except that the person would no longer have destiny.
In the words of Chuza: “Obaino, who destiny epp sef? As I dey like this, I look like person wey get destiny? Last last e go be say my own destiny been lost when I been still even dey secondary school, but see me now na. I get money, I fit enjoy my life, I fit do anything I want. Omo this destiny talk too long my guy. Destiny no too mean anything”
What if Chuza was right and the importance of destiny to a soul was overrated? Won’t I be denying myself the chance to get rich, simply because I was considerate of another person, someone who was likely not even going to use her destiny in the long run?
This would be a wrong business mo…
Mama Nkechi walks out of the kitchen in her fat frame, her extra flesh bouncing around the place as she rubs her hands on her wrapper in an attempt to dry her hands. She is covered in sweat, and she smells of firewood smoke
“Obaino. How you dey?” she greets in that manner that tells me she is aware of why I am here, is reluctant to heed me, but yet feels obligated to
“I am fine madam. How is work today?” I ask, trying to be as cheerful as I can
“We thank God”
“Hope business is going well?”
“We thank God”
“How is the family?”
“We thank God”
I look at her, and the indignation in her facial expression tells me that none of my manipulations would work. I rather cut straight to the chase, and If I am going to be declined, I can save myself the extra strength, playing futile mind games
“Madam. I know this request wouldn’t be one that can easily be given, considering all that is already on the table, but I need to get food again, on credit”
She shifts around on her fat frame, mumbling and groaning before she looks at me squarely
“Obaino e be like say you no know say this thing na business oo. You know how much you dey owe me as e dey now?”
“I know ma, and I feel bad that it has reached this long, but certainly I am going to pay you up very soon. I am this closest to the job I have been pursuing, than I have ever been, and immediately…
“Obaino na this message you don dey preach since. You never tire to dey talk am? I no do again abeg”
“Ah” I lament as I stretch out my hands to plead’
“This message is the gospel truth ma. I promise that I am not lying, and I promise that this is the last time I would be making this demand, but please, you need to help me out this time. You cannot leave your son and brother at this point of dire need, not when I am this close to getting my breakthrough, and inevitably rewarding you for all the goodness you have shown to me” I pause and see that she is just staring at me with hands on her hips
My words and sympathy inducing facial expressions must be getting to her gradually
“I haven’t eaten for days now madam. Do you think I am just sitting down at home doing nothing? No. I have been up, strategizing, analyzing, and making critical decisions for my future. I have seen the need to go back to the drawing table of life and cook up tactical war plans to avoid being defeated in this bloody battle of life and death. And believe me, I am so close to my breakthrough than I have ever been. So close…this close” I use my hands to illustrate how close I am.
Mama Nkechi sighs, caught in between two decisions. She certainly has a very soft heart, but at the same time she is wary of being exploited, knowing that this is business, and helping her family depends so much on this.
“I promise you mummy. I would pay up very soon, and not only would I pay up, but I would remember all your good deeds and rewards them appropriately”
She looks at me one last time and hiss, and then stretches her hand to where the plates are piled up, and my heart dances in joy
“No be all this your English dey help you so o. Na just because I wan help you. And na the veeeeeery last time I go ever give you food on credit. Better sabi now o”
I nod my head to everything she is saying, no longer interested in the talk as I see her scooping hot rice into the plate, and opening the cooler containing the stew
Suddenly, Nkechi steps out from behind and leans on the door frame, surveying me and her mother
“Mommy, so you still want to give this man food again on credit? You know he would not pay. He would still come again after this. Stop allowing him to convince you with all his English. He is merely deceiving, and the banter about a business that would soon click is a lie. This man just sits in the house all day, waiting for manna to fall from heaven.”
So this bastard thinks I am sitting at home doing nothing?!
Nkechi where do you stay when I climb the mountain-mango tree, and spend hours strategizing, analyzing, and making critical decisions for my future, having seen the need to go back to the drawing table of life and cook up tactical war plans to avoid being defeated in this bloody battle of life and death?
Her mother looks from her to me, and then to the plate, and continue pouring the stew
I sigh in relief
“No worry. I no go give am meat. No only dry stew he go chop like that” she makes her final verdict
As I take the plate from her mixed with a feeling of gratitude and heavy embarrassment, I resolve in my heart to follow Chuza’s way.
I would make this destiny money by fire, by force, and nothing would stop me.
If I vex too much, it is Nkechi’s destiny I would use to make this money.
To be continued on Monday, 23rd!
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