The voices roused him from the fitful and deep sleep, he’d been dreaming of fried rice and dodo with spicy grilled chicken on a plate with his name engraved on it and of baptizing his throat with sangria laced fruit juice. He could discern snatches of Yoruba, Igbo and pidgin English swirling in a heated mix, an explosion was imminent. “What are they quarrelling about at 7am” he wondered aloud as he walked to his balcony to get a good view of the drama.
From his balcony, he could see the two gladiators- Iya Kasali and Iya Risikat shouting insults at each other from behind the people restraining them, he was momentarily irritated by the scene. If they wanted to fight then they should be allowed to, not that they’d even fight if you left them. He’d counted ten threats to “fun wan eleti” since he began watching the fight and he was sure he’d here at least twenty more. He wanted to shout at the peacemakers to leave the women to kill themselves if possible, the noise would end immediately. He scanned the crowd, to know who could give him the full gist about the cause of the fight.
He smiled when he saw Mummy Junior and Mama Chinedu pointing at the fight scene and laughing. This was ironic because they were the most notorious fighters on that street. Their fights were fierce but the next day would find them gossiping with each other again, they had the perfect dysfunctional relationship. He went inside to get a bench so he could be comfortable, on his way he met his father coming out from his room
“Good morning Dad” he said with trepidation colouring his voice. His father could find fault with the Hope diamond, nothing pleased him. His father’s eyes scanned him from head to toe, he steeled himself to avoid squirming.
“What’s happening outside” the older man asked. The son could see the tiny vein in his father’s temple tick and he mentally wrote his will.
“I think they are fighting” he replied while wishing for a dove’s wings for escaping or for his baby sister to appear at that moment, she knew how to diffuse the man’s anger.
His father eyed him, and asked if he knew the reason for the fight.
“I just woke up, in fact they woke me. So I went to see what the noise was about” he replied
“That’s what joblessness causes, if you hadn’t been jobless you’d have been preparing for work right now and not have time to be following everything that happens in the neighbourhood”…
He wanted to scream out all his frustration, his father never failed to remind him about his joblessness. Every opportunity to rub it in was utilised by the man although he’d claim he was trying to spur him on, he was wearing him down instead. He’d become sympathetic to certain mass murderers who’d killed people in a rage, he could imagine his satisfaction at killing his father, the remorse would come later, much later.
He plodded his way back to his room and didn’t come out until nine am when his girlfriend came to see him. She was pretty, smart and calm, he liked to hold her close and claim she was his Gibraltar in a turbulent world. She was smiling as she flopped on his bed, he looked at her with baleful eyes. She was still smiling despite his fierce demeanour, the wahala girl probably thought she had odeshi.
“Did you see or hear about the fight this morning?” she asked with a smile dancing or on her lips.
Falling in love with her was the most shocking thing he’d ever experienced or seen in others, not even R Kelly’s flipping and flopping into Christianity could compare. He’d thought she was too young for him, plus dating a girl who’d lived in the area was too much work. At the end, what brought them together was studying the same course but in different universities. She collected class notes and textbooks from him, and with his guidance she easily topped her class. After his youth service he asked her to be his girl and her reply was “It’s about time“.
She repeated her question and he told her what had happened with his dad, she tapped his shoulder and told him “it is well“. She then launched into the story of the fight, two young children Kasali and Nuhu were saying silly things about Risikat’s mother. It was popularly known as “mess”, you usually messed mothers, Fathers were never messed. they said her mother couldn’t cook or wash properly. Unfortunately for them, her mother came home early and caught them. She beat them throughly and even scarred Kasali. The next morning when his mother was bathing him she discovered the scars and the hounds of hell were released. They both agreed Risikat’s mother had taken things too far, it was a normal game children played.
Suddenly he asked her what she’d do if a much richer young man came to marry her, would she leave him? She smiled.
“Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring my darling, let’s live in the moment. Who knows you might get rich quickly too. I love you, always will even if we end up together or not. I even dreamt you got a job in NDS“.
He guffawed, “NDS kor, NDS ni. You know I did the aptitude test some months ago, they’ve taken the people they wanna take”
“If they eventually take you Mr Doubting Thomas, you must buy me a car” she pursed her lips.
“NDS pays crazy money Oma, if I get the job my first month’s salary can buy a brand new car for you and I’d still have money to live on. Those guys are the biggest players in oil prospecting and drilling in sub-Saharan Africa”. “And it’s owned by a woman” she said with laughter lacing her voice.
“I’m going to mummy’s shop, you know I need to be in her good graces so I can get enough money for my project“. He looked away in shame, he was an impotent boyfriend. She guessed his thoughts and told him not to be stupid. “Walk with me to her shop” she pleaded, “staying here with your thoughts won’t do you any good“.
After taking her to her mum’s shop and indulging in some small talk with her mother, he decided to talk a long walk to clear his head. He thought about all the paths life had taken him through and wondered if he should just end it all rather than continue at the mercy of his father and end up a mass murderer. Just then, his mother called. She’d travelled to see his elder sister and her children. She told him she had a troubling feeling about him and wanted to tell him that she loved him and he was her greatest treasure. He smiled a little, she told all her children they were her greatest treasure and favourite child. He turned towards home, his mother’s words bolstered him.
In front of his house he saw Kasali, Risikat, Biliki, Junior, Chinedu, Mariam and Nuhu playing ‘catcher’. The same ‘yeye’ kids who almost caused the second civil war were playing happily together. Soon their mothers would come home from various markets and the battle lines will be redrawn, they’d go back to being enemies. He decided adults were the trouble with the world, the world would be a much better place if no one lived beyond the age of ten.
As he opened his gate, his phone rang. “Are you Bolaji Chidi Taiwo?” The caller asked.
“Yes I am”
“I’m pleased to inform you that you did very well in the aptitude test for Nedima Drilling Services, your appointment letter will be sent by email and you are to resume tomorrow”. He was too stunned to be coherent, the man understood and told him he’d give him time to let it all sink in. He’d call back in an hour to give him more instructions.
For the first time in months, Bolaji laughed.