Bade eyed the bottle of André rosé everlastingly as if he was studying it for exam; he was sad and had determined to drink himself to stupor. Who wouldn’t be so embittered to be brusquely left by a woman one had dated for eight years? Through Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife they had been together, and they were close to the juncture where their courtship matures into a holy confluence when she said Bade was… what was the word she used? It was a Yoruba word which meant ‘selfish’ and she had stopped being the sweet little dove she was known to be from the outset.
“What about all our promises… our plans?” Bade had asked exasperatedly but Eniola’s snub had silently whispered it to him, it was over.
Throughout their eight years of inseparableness, he had forgotten how being alone felt. His phone had never rested from constant buzzing, and their friends had envied their devotedness, employing it in their scornful descriptions of love. But there his phone was, eight years later, quiet like a stone.
He was selfish. He was starting his PhD when Eniola had not started her Master’s Degree. What other selfishness was greater than this truly? He grabbed the bottle and fumbled with its lid. He had never taken much of alcoholics in his life but whatever makes sad people take alcohol in all the films he had seen, he was going to find out soon enough. There is a tale that alcohol was fetched from the rivers in the Garden of Eden and that Adam and Eve were the first to be addicted to them. Eve was drunk when the snake went to her and Adam washed his throat with wine after taking the apple. It was a professor who told them the story back at the university. They had sneered at him, cursed him for being so stupidly blasphemous, as the churchy students had put it. But right then, with the lid going off, the sweet liquid rushing down his throat, Bade was willing to drown in that pool itself if he could locate the Garden. Whatever would make time pass quickly!
His eyes had watered when he put the bottle back on the table. He threw his head backwards on the dining chair and gazed idly at the ceiling. What mess he had made of the house! An educationist he was; a trained teacher. Would he have forgiven this kind of aggressiveness in his students, putting their houses into unpardonable higgledy-piggledy because they were angry?
The door was knocked.
He glanced at the door’s direction swiftly, his hand never leaving the bottle’s neck. It was a very soft thud and he wasn’t sure he had heard what he thought he had heard. Nobody knocked; it must have been the booze messing with his tympanic membrane.
The door was knocked again, unmistakably this time. He stood. He wasn’t swaying. Of course he couldn’t have swayed; he hadn’t taken much of the André.
He opened the door to find a rather tall, rough looking man extending a wrapped box to him, a post man?
“Mr. Bade Adebanjo?” asked the man under his breath, like he was so tired he could barely speak.
“Yes?” mumbled Bade and the man carefully placed the package in his hands.
The man took few steps away while Bade still stood at the door, wondering if there wasn’t going to be some documents to sign or something, but just then the man fell on his knees, then on his back and lay there quietly he was, like he was napping.
“Are you okay?” Bade asked suspiciously, not sure of what to do.
He could’ve requested tea or the booze if he wouldn’t mind, what kind of man would just lie down and sleep on the street? He reversed into the house unhurriedly, examining the package. He lived at the ground floor of a five-storey building in Troy Court, Surulere-Lagos and he simply concluded the security men patrolling the area would soon come to wake him up. So, he closed his door, the man must have taken too much of some crazy substance or just being comical.
Something scared him from opening the package though. It was instinctive. Back at the university, he had friends who had asked why he hadn’t been studying Criminal Psychology instead of Mathematics Education. He went back to the table and took one more gulp from the bottle. Then he returned to the door to look outside; the man was still where he had left him and a boy was standing at the opposite side of the road not far away from him then, also looking at the man. Was this man trying to pull a prank or something? Or was he just drunk? He went out and bent over him cautiously. At first he tugged at him gently but the man seemed cold somehow. So he touched his forehead and checked his pulse. That was when he became fearful, he seemed to be lifeless… dead! Spontaneously, he shouted for help and a couple of people gathered immediately, asking questions. The man was dead; a doctor in the neighborhood confirmed it. Someone finally called the police and they came.
He forgot about his booze absolutely. And he was also scared to go check the content of the delivered box. He had seen enough films to know it could be a bomb.
The Police exemplified the issue immediately after they listened to his account. The building was evacuated, the crowd drawn back, a bomb squad summoned and a man in hazmat suit went alone into the house to open the package. As that went on, the estate was swallowed in fear of a terrorist attack, people already packing their educational credentials, family and stuffs out of the neighbourhood, only watching the whole thing go down from far distance. The detectives and the forensic scientists examined the body in an ambulance parked yards away, later reporting that the man was killed by a gunshot wound on his back. Bade saw nobody shoot him, and so he recounted. They said the bullet wound was twelve hours old, it was treated but the bullet wasn’t removed. The man wasn’t a postman. He had no identity card or any document to identify him as anyone. They scanned his face and fingerprints; it matched with nobody’s in the Nigerian security database.
The bomb squad later reported that it was not a bomb. They had rather found a photo album and a diary of 1938 in the box. Bade’s house was cordoned off, and as he never had in plan for the day; the corpse, the album, the diary and himself, off they went to Lagos State Police Command (NPF), Ikeja.
* * *
The new neighbours next block were just moving in when Majeed got to the Estate. He learnt they were from Port Harcourt; a Christian family with three children. As he progressed to the door, hurriedly curious to see what position he would find Olawunmi and Mr. Livingstone in; he couldn’t pay attention to the new neighbours. He did notice a short plump man though, a bottle of water in his hand, dishing out instructions in Pidgin English to the young men offloading and setting up the house.
He entered the house when there was no answer to his knockings, the TV was on, volume low, SilverBird on a program but the duo were not in sight. If Mr. Livingstone was smart, he would’ve noticed that Majeed always felt uneasy anytime he embraced Olawunmi in a romantic manner in his presence but he probably wasn’t that smart, or perhaps he simply didn’t care.
The next place he went was the bedroom; the one that used to be his. The house was a three-bedroom flat. He and Olawunmi occupied just a room while the other two were always unused. He wasn’t even thinking when he barged into the room without knocking. His heart raced. Olawunmi was his, not Mr. Livingstone’s. How could he have allowed the baloney to go this far? He stood right at the entrance of the room, looking at Olawunmi’s underpants thrown about alongside Michael’s. His heart slowed down. Sometimes anticipations aggravate but realities extinguish human temper. There were giggles and chuckles coming from the bathroom. He approached the door hesitantly, twisted the knob slowly, hesitated, contemplated, withdrew but eventually, he opened slightly and there they were, behind the bathroom’s polythene curtain, kissing under shower, in complete nakedness. No, Majeed did not do anything funny; he simply closed the door and went back to the living room.
A day before, he had complained that he was having issues with his landlord and that he’d wanted to pack in with them if Olawunmi wouldn’t mind; Olawunmi tried to counter the idea but Michael particularly said he’d like to have him around. One of the things Olawunmi didn’t want Majeed to see was what he just saw in there, the complicated part of the business.
The room which was supposed to be his then, one of the previously unoccupied rooms, that was where he finally went. His stuffs were already arranged, the room cleaned up but there was no fan there. It was stuffy. So, he drew the curtains apart and slid the window open. Next to their block was the newcomer’s and on this newcomer’s block he saw a girl, also looking out from the window directly opposite his. The distance was wide enough for a myopic eye to see nothing but Majeed saw the girl’s face, headphones on, swaying to the music known to only her, and her fingers tapping on something Majeed figured must be her phone. The girl was beautiful; of course there was no wrangling needed to prove the point. And she saw him after a while, and then, disappointingly, drew her curtains closed and left Majeed staring at mere curtain.
“Wetin dey do this one?” Majeed grumbled, kissed his teeth and crashed into the bed.
It was not up to twenty minutes after that when he fell asleep.
When he woke up, it was 8:26pm and he groped towards the living room to find Michael and Olawunmi sitting at the long couch, legs on legs as they watched a Nigerian film together.
Michael slothfully looked up at him, eyed him in somewhat a searching manner and then Majeed forced on a smiling face after all, trying to beat all the odds. The success of the business comes first, Michael was where they wanted him and that was enough good news. There was no doubting it again though, Majeed knew now that they had had sex, showering together probably after a first or second round. It wasn’t their first evidently. Would they have been freely rubbing chest against chest if they hadn’t established certain sexual connections previously?
“What’s up man? You’re back!” exclaimed Michael.
“I’m fine. I was inside all this while, sleeping.”
“Hi, Majeed,” greeted Olawunmi.
“Olawunmi,” Majeed waved curtly.
“C’mon, grab a beer and come sit down! The fridge is loaded with them.”
“Really?” Majeed said after a yawn and dawdled towards the fridge, finding it truly loaded with cans of Heineken.
He grabbed a can and took a seat, trying not to think about what he had seen back in the bathroom. He had to be a good actor in their little tragicomedy. It was simply business, wasn’t it?
“A man must show appreciation for taking him in Olawunmi but…”
Olawunmi looked at him nervously.
“I’d really appreciate it if there is something to eat right now. I’m kinda hungry.”
“Ah, I’m cooking, just be patient a bit, okay?”
“All right then. Glad to hear that. Thanks for taking me in once again.”
“Ermm…” she smiled unnaturally. “Ye—yeah, it’s nothing really, it’s your house. I mean, it’s also your house since it’s my house too, isn’t it? As in, what are friends for, right?”
“Yeah, what are friends for? Thanks.”
“I told her she could use two boys in the house. It’d be fun,” mumbled Michael, seemed tired.
Majeed surmised he must have had too much of sex.
“Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it. My landlord has been… well, it’s… thanks for the rescue.”
“It’s nothing, really. It’s us and the Iron Lady now.”
The trio laughed. Iron Lady was a name they had heard someone called in a Nollywood film they had seen together a day before. Olawunmi’s eyes briefly met with Majeed’s and both sighed almost inconspicuously. It was not going to be easy and they were starting to realize that. He unsealed the can, took a sip and focused on the TV screen too.
…to be continued EVERY SUNDAY!
-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)