See What’s Coming


It was raining cats and dogs as Seyi made for the small Baba Ijebu shop at Alayabiagba close to the popular Boundary market in Ajegunle. He needed to win some money before he lost his crush Sikira to Odior. “Ungrateful bastard”, he thought to himself as he ran towards his favourite Baba Ijebu joint. Odior had been his best friend for 10years and his partner in trouble making. Together they shared a room at number 49 Uzor street. It was a face-me-and-face-you apartment with trouble just across the hall. Everyone in Boundary market knew Seyi and Odior and they had stories to prove it too. However Odior had never been too keen on work. He worked on days when it was inevitable and when Seyi didn’t make much “tax” from the commercial bus drivers and motorcycle riders popularly called Danfo drivers and okada riders respectively. As a popular Agbero, Seyi had the task of forcefully collecting money from Danfo and okada drivers and remitting to the park chairman. He had daily targets and only after those targets had been met can he keep some money from himself. There were days he had nothing left. Those days were rare and far between.

Seyi had been to the Baba Ijebu joint early that morning to play the numbers, hoping that day his tide would turn. Just the week before, Odior had won N50,000 and since then, Odior hadn’t been to the house. However Seyi had seen him a few times with Sikira going into Easy Bar and he knew that Odior had finally crossed the line he had been waiting years to cross. “Ungrateful bastard”, he said again. This time loudly to himself. He will show both of them on these streets, he promised himself.

***

You had left home this morning for the Apapa ports to clear some of your containers already there waiting for a pass from immigration. You needed to get your goods out and into the waiting hands of your eager customers. Obinna your clearing and forwarding agent despite his years in Lagos and deep understanding of Yoruba hadn’t been able to get it done. The immigration officers were proving difficult and nothing he said would make them budge. You needed to fix it yourself. An inconvenience of course, but the thought of losing substantial money like that was not something you would consider. Of course you knew the officers only wanted more money and you went with a few extra bundles. As your driver descended Eko bridge and headed towards Ijora, you noticed the slight shower of that morning had graduated into huge sleets of rain. “Not today”, you thought. Apapa was difficult enough without rain. Slowly your car descended Ijora bridge which became Marine bridge as you drew even closer to Apapa. You noticed the queue of parked trucks and tankers on one side of the road, the bridges included. The queue had started from Ojuelegba, you recalled. Your driver made a right towards Ajegunle to avoid the traffic of trucks and tankers on Marine bridge. He would make a turn just before Mobil depot and then a beeline for the ports. Just the thought of the turns and diversions was stressing you already. You just wanted to be out of there as fast as possible.

***

The rain had slowly ebbed. It had been two hours and you were just still approaching Mobil. A truck had tried to make a turn and had overturned right in the middle of the road; blocking your side of the road. Typical of Lagos, the Danfos had quickly found a way to cut into the other side of the road; openly flouting traffic laws. Ajegunle equalled den on unlawfulness so you weren’t all that surprised. Law enforcement officers looked on, clueless. What quickly became a solution suddenly became hell as traffic on the other side of the road soon became locked too. From the look of it, no one would be going anywhere soon. Passengers were already alighting from the commercial buses and trekking down the road towards Boundary bus stop. The crowd was overwhelming, unending. Who would have thought the slums housed such number of people? You told your driver it was time to leave, he needed to find a way out and back home. You would call Obinna and ask him to pay whatever was needed. You rolled down your windows slightly to assess the situation and just then you saw him. He didn’t see you yet but you saw him.

***

Seyi held on to his Baba Ijebu tickets as he downed a shot of paraga at Iya Rasaki’s. He stepped it down with the peppered Ponmo which made Iya Rasaki’s paraga popular with the boys at Boundary park. It didn’t matter that it was a N50 distance from the park itself. There was something about Iya Rasaki’s paraga and peppered Ponmo on a cold rainy day. The combination sent a spiral of warmth down your spine and left your brain at maximum capacity. And Iya Rasaki’s ponmo gave life on all kinds of levels. Seyi thought about Rashida, Iya Rasaki’s second child. The girl was not bad and he had seen how some of the boys described her with lustful looks in their eyes. He had even seen a few attempt to corner the girl but Iya Rasaki was always there to shield the girl. She just knew where to be and when. But Sikira was his real prize and he had let Odior beat him to it. He couldn’t believe it himself. Seyi had looked up just then to see you sitting in that car. He sat frozen in time. You hadn’t changed much, he thought as all the emotions he had kept at bay slowly began to hit him.

***

You saw the emotions run through his face. Recognition. Shock. Sadness. Pain. Anger. You saw his face as he fought the emotions for control. Just like his father, you thought.

***

Seyi remembered in detail. How years before you had told him to learn to take care of himself. How you wouldn’t be around much. How you needed to find his father’s people. And one day, he got home from school and found you gone. No note. No contact detail. The next day your sister had come for him. She had passed two years later and with no way to reach you, he had gathered what he could and left the house.

***

You looked at the man sitting across the road from your car. He reminded you of the man you loved. You had thought you’d be back in weeks with enough to take care of you and your son. Instead a few weeks had become months. You had begged your sister to keep taking care of your son till you could. Months had become years. Your sister had died and the boy had left home. You searched and searched but no one knew where he was. Now, there he sat across the road from you.

***

Seyi slowly rose to his feet. He looked across the road at you and you saw that big smile you remembered so well. You smiled back at him. Just then, he flagged down a bike and just as quickly, he was gone. There were no goodbyes.

***

End.

 

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Lost


That morning, Salewa logged in to her twitter account to find another tweet of a missing 16-year old girl. This time it wasn’t the usual stranger asking everyone to Retweet until the missing girl was found. This time it was her friend @niniayo who posted that his younger sister was missing. He had gone ahead to include his phone number for anyone who might have any information about the missing girl. Already the post boasts over 500 retweets and Salewa realized her 2-day hiatus made her miss the post. Lately it had been the norm – missing teenagers, kidnapped school children, residents killed in their houses. Salewa hurriedly took her mind off the recent happenings to concentrate on the post staring squarely at her through her phone screen. She did the needful by quoting the post “She’s my friend’s sister. If you’ve seen her please call this number”, posting it and then retweeting the original post by Niniayo. It was Tuesday morning.

The alarm on her phone subsequently went off. It was lecture time and she was still at home. She contemplated calling Niniayo first but decided not to. After all, there was a chance they’d meet in one of the classes holding that day. “Wasn’t Fiction class holding today?” She asked herself. Everyone called Niniayo “Ayo” because “Niniayo” sounded like a name one’s parents would give a daughter. Salewa hurriedly went into the bathroom she shared with about 50 other girls on the first floor of Queen Amina hostel at the University of Lagos. The day was going to be a tight one. There was still that quarrel to settle with Titi her best friend. Salewa had told Titi that her (Titi’s) boyfriend was cheating on her. The matter had led to a row and Titi’s boyfriend had accused Salewa of being lesbian who wanted Titi for herself. “Funny matter,” Salewa whispered to herself, smiling in that smug way of hers. She definitely was no lesbian, especially with her here-and-there relationship with Ayo. She and Ayo were not close enough to be called an item, but they were close enough for something to be brewing between them. However, Salewa sometimes gets the feeling she’s misreading signs from Ayo. “Time will tell”, she mused. Their friends knew they were just really good friends or worst case scenario, friends with benefits. She never bothered with what people said. There was class to attend and the thesis supervisor to meet after. There was also the school Library to visit as well.“One at a time”, Salewa said to herself as she headed out of the bathroom to get ready for school and face the business of the day.
*******************************************************
“How long are we supposed to keep her?” Awele heard the-man-with-the-slur ask. By now she knew there were three of them and she’d come to identify them by their voices. The men never call each other by name when with her. There was man-with-the-slur, man-that-stammers and man-with-the-calm-voice. Of the three, man-with-the-calm-voice scares her the most. Something tells her behind the calm is a devil she wouldn’t like to meet. Awele has been held for so long now that she could have lost count by a few days. However the rise and set of the sun which she peeped through her not-too-tight blindfold helped her keep count. It’s been no more than three days.

Awele knew Ayo would be blaming himself right now. She was supposed to wait for him to get back from class the day she was taken so he could drop her off at boarding school but Awele had wanted to see the latest Spiderman movie at the nearby Ikeja City Mall. She knew Ayo would never let them watch it, he despised Spiderman. Ayo’s said there was nothing unique about Peter Parker. That he was just a science experiment that bit into the wrong hands. Literally. And as a rule in the house, Awele was never to go anywhere without Ayo. She could not bear going back to Queen C, the nickname for the prestigious Queen’s College situated at the heart of Yaba, to tell her friends that she hadn’t yet seen Peter Parker’s latest antics. It would only confirm everything they think of her –Daddy’s girl.

So immediately Ayo had left for class that day, Awele had snuck out of the house and joined a cab from GRA to City Mall. She had done it several times with Ayo she could have done it so many times in the past by herself. But that was the first time she will be doing it.
************************************************************
Ayo was shouting at Charles in front of the faculty – something about grown men acting and talking like women. He kept shouting at the poor guy who stood bewildered at the rage. Everyone knew Ayo had been temperamental since his sister went missing. There was a bond between Ayo and Awele which many do not yet understand. Not even their parents. So his mood was explainable. But why Charles?
************************************************************
Mr. and Mrs. Ofure had been with the police trying to find their missing girl while their home was swamped with sympathizers. Ayo stayed away from home more, avoiding the pitiful glances of sympathizers especially with the continued absence of his missing sister. On one of such days, Mrs. Ofure had walked into Awele’s room to ensure it was in order. She wanted to stay connected to her child. She walked in and found a couple of lipstick stains on the dresser as if someone had left them there in a hurry. She looked around the house hoping in her heart that the girl had somehow returned home. The lipstick stains. She wondered at the lipstick stains.
*************************************************************
“Hiya! Thi-th-this world dooooon spoil o. Wha-wha-wha-what is-this world co-co-ming to?” Awele heard the man-that-stammers say to man-the-calm-voice.
“How caaaaa-an man be slee-slee-slee-slee-ping with man, Ngwanu?” He continued. “Tuuuuu-tu-fiakwa”. Just the, music credit from Fox’s Empire series filtered in through the room where Awele was being held. She instinctively knew that whatever man-that-stammers was about, Jamal Lyon was right at the centre.
“Thiiiiiis Oyibo peo-eo-ple dey ma-ma-mad I swearrrr. H-ha-how pikin go for front of hiiim Pa-pa-pa talk say na-na man li-li-like am him dey like kp-kp-kpansh? I tr-trust my Papa. Pa-pa-pa…”

Shhh”, man-with-calm-voice cuts in in that commanding tone that lets you know who’s in charge.

“Guy abeg”, man-that-stammers retorted. “I-i-i-magine say for that yaaaaa vil-lage, your wife tell you say sh-sh-she born man. As in ma-ma-man wey strong, man wey-wey be say if your wa-wife born as first pi-pi-pikin, other men go-go-go greet you Twa-le! Say-say you do-do-do well. Ma-make that man com-co-come say na fe-fellow man e wan-wan dey follow”.

“But na true dis guy talk”, says the man-with-a-slur. “Our people talk say pikin wey go be man, na from how him stretch him small manhood we go take know. This kain one wey dey wear girl cloth, e don already dey show where him manhood dey.”

Again the man-with-calm-voice said, “pikin no go bad sote we go carry am give lion chop. As pikin don say na man im like nko? Nna, no be that one we come do for here. After all, this thing na film”

As snippets of the conversations got to Awele, she again remembered Ayo. As a child, she always went in search of the next toy to play with – from Barbie Dolls to neighbours’ children to classmates. She always wanted more playmates. Being the only girl, she even begged her parents for a sister but their parents already had a plan. They would not have more than 2 children. And Ayo already came first. Awele didn’t mind that. Only that sometimes, she wished Ayo was a girl so they could both bond in a way only sisters could.
*************************************************************
It’s been three days since Awele went missing. Whenever Ayo had been home, he’d go straight Ayo to Awele’s room but no one knew. He missed Awele greatly and holidays when they could both hang-out were his best. Awele was a great listener and very intuitive. She understood him and could almost read his mind. Every minute with his little sister felt like she was put in the family to be his guardian. Even though she was younger, sometimes Ayo felt she helped him keep his sanity amidst all the expectations their father heaped on him. When they were younger, their father had put him in boarding school just because he was playing dress up with Awele and had dressed up as a girl. He didn’t understand it. It was innocent child’s play. Ayo knew how deeply Awele wanted a sister and how much their parents wished he were a girl, their-mother-come-back, they’d mentioned countless times before. So in that one instant, he thought to himself, “let me be a girl just this once. Let me be her sister just this once”. It was an instant that changed everything.

Ayo had pleaded with their father to let him remain at his former school and promised never to dress up as a girl again. Their father had been adamant. His reason: Ayo was supposed to be the elder. Why should an elder dress like a girl to make his sister happy?
Ayo had resumed his new school a sullen child. Gone was the care-free Ayo. Awele became his only connection to the life he was once a central part of and only when he was with her would anyone find a smile on his face. By the time she was completing her primary education, Ayo was getting ready for his senior secondary education.

Not long after, she had been enrolled into Queen’s College which was a far distance from his secondary school. He realized he could no longer sneak around to see her in school as he had done in her primary school. But his admission into the University of Lagos changed that. It meant he could always stop at QC to see Awele.

Then Ayo met Salewa and he could see everything his sister was and more. And again a lot changed with him. He had found someone outside his sister who could understand him. Someone who didn’t have to wait for him to say anything to know what he was thinking. They were really good friends, at least that was the front they kept among their other friends. However only he and Salewa knew there were sparks in there somewhere. His friendship with Salewa changed a lot of things. She knew he was carefree but the expectations from his father put pressure on him and on some days his smiles were far. But with her and Awele, it was easier for him to laugh.

No one knew he and Salewa were more than friends. A lot of times, he had overheard friends and class mates saying that Salewa was a lesbian and that the only man they ever saw her with was Ayo. He always laughed when whispers like that came to him. Salewa was a voracious lover. He knew that for sure. This time, a big smile came to him. It was an easy laugh. He let it out just as easily.
His mind went back to another time. He was nine. He had returned from playing football at the field just opposite their home when he overhead his mother speaking with his father.

“You know Osaron I had wished Ayo was a girl when I first held him. I so wanted Mama to come back to us.”
“Our mother returned to us, Omo”, he replied. “She only came as a boy”.
“If he were mother, she wouldn’t come as a boy”, she replied.
“He is such a handsome boy. I think we should have given him a name of his own, instead of imposing Mother’s on him”, his father affirmed.
“I agree, we should”, his mother replied as if reading her husband’s mind.
It all made sense to Ayo then. The jokes Ayo’s classmates made of his name. How they said it was a girl’s name. They made fun of him. And one day, when he had had enough, he changed the name on his notebook to just “Ayo” and he had punched anyone in the face who so much as snickered behind his back. But that day, he realized he was not the child his parents wanted. They wanted their mother back and he came. He was supposed to be a girl.

A week later, he had found Awele crying from her favourite toy missing an arm. In no time at all, he had her laughing again. Their father had walked in on them. “Abomination”, he had shouted as he looked disdainfully at Ayo who was in one of their mother’s clothes which they had both made into a cropped top over his chest. Two weeks later Ayo was on his way to King’s College and it was the last time Ayo ever played dress up.
************************************************************
It’s been two weeks since Awele went missing. Four days since she was put on a bus along with 12 other girls to begin their trip to Europe. She had been sold to a prostitution ring and her new buyers will hear nothing of calling her parents for a ransom. She would work her way to freedom, they had decided.

For Ayo, it’s equally been two weeks. Two weeks since he decided, until Awele returned, he would be the daughter their parents had always wanted. The daughter Awele would have been if she was home. Mr. Ofure had denounced him immediately, refusing to habour an abomination in his home. “No son of mine will live in my home a girl”, he had announced furiously. Their mother had been inconsolable.

Salewa had gone back to Twitter and posted “My boyfriend is now a girl. His sister is still missing. My bad, make that “her””. Already she boasts of over 10,000 retweets with even more mentions and replies. Retweets are still counting.

Written by Taiwo Odumala
©July 2017

Reunited (A Bankole Banjo short story)


“Don’t ever tell me goodbye again,” she said, tears clouding her unusually bright eyes.

 

“I won’t. I promise. I just really couldn’t take your indecision any more.” He responded with a smooth smile, his hands smoothening her wig. They were locked in the office meeting room, making up for lost time.

 

They had been hired by the bank on the same day, same grade level. While he worked in Risk Management, she was in the Legal department. They had met at the canteen one afternoon and her bright smile had arrested him. There was something about a lady with a toothy smile that melted his heart. He watched her every move as she queued to be served while he, already served, pretended to be busy with his bowl of amala and gbegiri. He wished he had ordered something appropriate. How would she feel seeing him battle a mountain of amala and gbegiri wearing a suit and a tie. “This life ehn,” he sighed.

 

“Can I sit?” He heard someone say just as he balanced a morsel of amala plastered with gbegiri. He looked up, morsel suspended, mouth open, to see the babe with the toothy smile. Embarrassment washed over him as he slowly dropped the morsel. He cleared his throat and responded: “Yes, you can.”

 

She sat with an effusive ‘thank you’. He took a side glance at her plate knowing what to expect. But he was wrong. Sitting like Olumo was amala dudu and surrounding it like Ogun river was gbegiri with a team on ponmo for company. Their eyes met. And she smiled again.

 

That was when he knew he was going to be close to her.

 

“My name is Gbenga,” he whispered.

“I am Uzo,” she responded.

“Ibo?”

“No. Delta.”

“Huh? Why…” he wanted to refer to the amala but she cut him short.

“My mum is from Ibadan. She thinks amala is the food of the gods.”

“Hmmmnnn. I believe her you know.”

“You do?”

He nodded and answered: “I am witnessing a goddess eat a bowl of amala right now…”

She smiled again. And Gbenga felt something kick in his tummy. He knew that sign too well…

 

***

 

They started dating three days later. Gbenga couldn’t get over her sense of humour and open-mindedness. She was everything he wanted in a woman. He thanked his stars he took the job when the offer came. Having tried unsuccessfully to get into AxaMansard where he knew he would get a higher position as a Risk Manager, the bank was his last resort.

 

Now the bank has brought him joy from the South. He was going to keep her. Forever.

 

Until Femi happened.

 

***

 

Femi was the debonair new Head of Legal. He was appointed two weeks after the erstwhile Unit Head left for the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

 

All the ladies adored Femi. He was dark like a bottle Of Guinness and tall like Idris Elba. And his command of the English language impressed every one. Someone said he spoke like he was born speaking. No one knew much about him beyond his professional interests. But everyone agreed he was a looker.

 

Uzo liked him the very first time. It was a harmless adoration that quickly developed into more. Soon, working late became the order of the day. If it was not Board papers, it would be some Relationship Manager’s pending case. While the late night work seemed official, many observed that it soon became a Femi and Uzo affair. Only the two of them of the 8 lawyers and legal assistants worked late.

 

The rumour mill started gradually. And by the time it got into overdrive, Gbenga knew a risk was brewing. The duo no longer met at lunch nor saw movies together Friday nights.

 

“Ol’ boy, Uzo don dey give that Femi boy toto,” Tobi, the bulky Relationship Manager who knew about them told Gbenga one night out. “If you think say na work dem dey do, you be number one fool. I even hear say dem go watch Black Panther together for Circle Mall.”

 

“Black Panther?” Gbenga repeated. Was it not the movie they’d been meaning to see for some three weeks only for her to say she was no longer interested?

 

“Baba, ja’ra e! You have to do something,” Tobi concluded.

 

“But guy, are you sure of this?” Gbenga asked, hoping it wasn’t all true.

 

“Ok o. Dey ask me foolish question. Dey there s’ogbo?” Tobi countered as he reached for his bottle of Trophy.

 

Gbenga would confront Uzo with the accusations. She would flare up like a fire disaster. He would beg her to forgive his indiscretion. She would walk out on him.

 

That was when he knew he had to do something.

 

***

 

“Baba o! Irunmole to n sise ni Bank. Iwin ti o need make-up. Okunrin ti o we to n dan. Eyan Anthony Joshua. Imule Tobesco, alaanu awon boys!”

 

The street boys hailed Gbenga as he galloped into the street, 8 bottles of Trophy coursing through his system.

 

Gbenga chuckled despite his grief. He had stayed out late with Tobi again with Uzo dominating discourse. He knew he needed to do something. But what exactly, he doesn’t know.

 

“Baba e da wa loun, e ki n se bayi,” Rasaki, the one with the bit-off ear hustled him.

 

“Rasky, eni o da. Maa ri eyin boys later,” Gbenga responded. Rasaki would hear none of it. Gbenga was their sure guy. Every other evening, he would drop money with Iya Codeine, the woman who sells all manner of drinks in a big brown earthen bowl, to sell stuff for the boys. He was loved and respected by the street. He was street-credible.

 

“Baba, e ma wo pe awa o kawe o. Ki lon bother yin? E je ka gbo.”

 

Lacking the will to shrug Rasaki off, he told him everything.

 

Shockingly, Rasaki had a plan; one so fitting Gbenga dipped his hand in his wallet and bought off the remaining skuchies on sale.

 

He went home feeling better. But first, he had to break it all up with Uzo. He opened his WhatsApp and began typing:

 

Sometimes we happen on life

And think, is this it?

 

Life is never fair

Will never be in a thousand years

But we owe it to us

To live. For self. For love. For joy.

Still we forget

Indeed we lose it all

Trying to please

Those who would never matter

 

But life goes on.

In our choices. And options.

In our troubles. And triumphs.

In love found in awkward places

And emotions battled to death

 

I live. For life.

 

I love. For Uzo.

I move on. For Gbenga.

 

 

Goodbye.

 

***

 

Uzo never acknowledged his best effort at poetry. He knew she had read it but to ignore his creativity hurts.

 

He moved on, hoping Rasaki will pull through with his plans. He was tired of the drama and the boys gist. He just wanted his babe back to her senses.

 

It took three days for it to happen.

 

No one saw anything. Not even the car park security. A passer-by heard screams coming from the direction of the car park. But this is Lagos: you must mind your own business.

 

Daybreak brought out the gist.

 

A group of four faceless guys had ambushed Femi as he opened his car. They had redesigned his face with blows and what-nots. Rumour has it his five front teeth up and down were removed and packed into his suit pocket.

 

For one week, Femi was absent at work. Uzo was distraught. The entire office was shocked. Security was beefed up at the car park to avert future occurrence. But there would be no future occurrence.

 

When Femi resumed, he spotted dark shades and his face had uneven ridges like a pawpaw. He spoke little and clenched what looked like unusually whiter teeth when he spoke. Everyone noticed he suddenly avoided Uzo like death.

 

They asked him what happened. It was an accident, he said. He had run into a wall. The lie was whiter than hissop but no one bothered to probe further.

 

***

 

“Promise you won’t say goodbye again?” Uzo asked again.

 

Gbenga smiled this time. He was not going to promise anything. He would take things one day at a time.

 

He drew her closer and kissed her forehead.

 

“I’m glad to have you back,” he whispered.

 

***

 

Iya Codeine’s was bubbling with guys when Gbenga was returning from work. As the boys sighted him, they all stood in unison, raised both hands and saluted.

 

“Baba o! Agbalagba oye, ekun oko Uzo. Your head dey there.” They chanted as if rehearsed.

 

Gbenga smiled and waved. Sometimes, the street fights for its own.

 

***

 

The End.

The Boy Almajiri


Yanju’s day started with his bicycle. He rode it all the way to Ilupeju where his mother owns a small kiosk. He helped her get ready everyday before he goes to school. Today was no different. As he rode in the early morning traffic, he steered expertly away from motorists most of whom were already familiar with the boy as he pedalled, sharing a wave here and another there. His cream-coloured school shirt already taking the colour of the sand gathered on the side of the road.

***

Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!..

It was the call to prayer from the main mosque loudly breaking the silence of dawn as Ahmed grudgingly roused from sleep. The night before, Alfa had decided the boys weren’t bringing in enough for their keep. He had threatened to hand over a handful of them to Alhaji Sule if they didn’t come back to the school at the end of the day with enough money for 3 days’ upkeep. Ahmed had been scared. It was open secret among the boys that Alhaji Sule used boys as a man would use a female. The boys who had been unlucky enough to experience it had not remained the same ever since. Something was just off about them, something Ahmed couldn’t exactly put into words.

Ahmed was one of the older boys in the Goje Arabic school. With the announcement, he had gathered a few of his friends and some of the more industrious younger boys and one by one, they had disappeared into the famous Suleja market. The Sun had risen with intensity. Sweat was soon streaming down their backs and it wasn’t even 7:30 a.m yet. They had agreed to start there at the market. Begging, harassing, threatening and if it came down to it, stealing. Anything so long as they escaped Alhaji Sule. Alfa had told them it was haram to steal. But didn’t Alfa also say Allah’s curse is on the man who commits adultery? Perhaps it’s not adultery if it’s a man and another man doing it.

“Astaghfur llahi”, Ahmed whispered. He didn’t want to commit sin with his thoughts. Thoughts of going against Allah’s will must be a sin. Allah sees our thoughts. “Astaghfur llahi”, Ahmed said again, this time loudly.

*****
Yanju soon noticed the sky. The Sun which had been fierce earlier that morning was gradually receding behind a film of clouds in the distance. It was going to rain. He pedalled at twice his prior rate. He needed to get to the kiosk and then, school before the rain poured. The wind was gathering.

******

The Goje boys were having the time of their lives in Suleja market. While walking through the throng of shopping crowd, Ahmed had pushed a woman mindlessly . The woman had turned around sharply and confronted him. It was obvious she wasn’t from around. Her uncovered hair and caramel-coloured skin stood her out like a sore thumb. How dare she confront him? Wasn’t she supposed to lower her gaze? If she had would she have known it was he who pushed her?

The ruckus had grown fast. Like wildfire. The boys had gathered round the woman and begun taunting her. A crowd was looking. The woman looked angry and kept speaking in that language Ahmed had heard Alfa speak sparingly with visitors. She kept pointing fingers in his face as the taunting continued. But something happened with her face – a dawning. Soon Ahmed saw her running so fast as if chased by a ghost, out of the market. She had dropped her purse in the hurry. It wasn’t stealing if the owner dropped the purse. Or was it? Ahmed quickly picked it up before any of the other boys found it. He counted 3 One Thousand Naira Notes. That’s the largest amount he had ever held in his hands. Alfa would be really proud.

****

The rain was pouring now in torrents. ‘Yanju had found a shelter to wait the rain out. the shop looked like its owner hadn’t come around that morning. ‘Yanju was late for school. He could tell by the dwindling number of cars on the road. Earlier in the mornings meant more traffic. The later in the day it gets, the fewer the vehicles to be seen, until the early or late afternoons when it’s rush-hour again.

****

“Ahmed”, Danjuma called out as Ahmed ran to cross the road…

****

‘Yanju heard a voice call out. Thunder rumbled as he heard the name “Ahmed”. The voice came from very close to him, like the caller was standing right beside him. Yanju looked around to see if someone else was hiding in the shed. But he was alone. Yet he had heard the voice loud and clear. It was an unfamiliar voice, yet it sounded familiar. And he had heard it loud and clear. He saw the boy Ahmed as he made to cross a road. The road was strangely unfamiliar. Thunder struck this time. He saw so many boys on the road, all dressed in tattered clothes, which they had obviously outgrown. They all held out a bowl, approaching people he did not know. Except the boy called Ahmed. He didn’t look any different from thing e rest. Only he had no bowl in his hand…

****

Ahmed told Danjuma about his early morning find with excitement in his eyes and together they went to find food. The money was enough to buy both of them a week with Alfa. Ahmed could not stop talking about his find. the boys looked in envy at the huge fortune that had smiled on Ahmed.

****

The rain was subsiding. Yanju decided to wait a few more minutes before he continued on his way to school. Thunder struck again.

Some boys gathered round the boy. He saw them make for his pocket. He saw the boy try to fight. Another boy was with him. Fighting. Yanju saw nothing else. The group of boys started walking away. Behind them, two boys stayed unmoving.

He recognized the boy Ahmed. A piece of paper flew through the wind. It was a Thousand Naira note. The two boys held something in their hands. A Thousand Naira each. The rain started again.

****

Used (A Bankole Banjo short story)


 

The SMS was three words long: I am pregnant.

 

You blinked twice, hoping your eyes would un-see what it had seen. But no, the words stood desolate on your phone screen.

 

Pregnant? How?

 

You sat back and closed your eyes. You recalled that afternoon you met her at Eko Hotel roundabout. You had closed early and was rushing to the Mainland when you saw her about to enter a red Camry. A closer look at the car told you it was a Uber. You double-parked and requested to take her wherever she was going. She was not going to enter until you promised to take her right to her doorstep, wherever that might be. While she pondered your offer, you quickly got down, palmed two crisp one thousand naira notes to the driver and opened her door.

 

Fast-forward three months and you guys had become an item.

Another month later, the SMS dropped, like unwanted fart at a high profile gathering.

 

I am pregnant.

 

“This is trouble mehn,” you muttered as your brain shifted into drive. “This cannot be, no. I just can’t…”

 

The opening beats of KSA’s Merciful God, which had been your ringtone since forever, broke into your thoughts. It was her.

 

“Hey baby,” her voice filtered through the earpiece.

 

“I got your message,” you responded, not bothering with any form of affection. “Why did you let that happen?”

 

Silence was the response you got.

 

“I am talking to you, don’t play deaf and dumb on me now,” you chastised, anger welling up somewhere inside you.

 

The line went dead. She had cut the call.

 

You called back. Again and again. She would not pick. Indeed she never picked nor responded to your many text messages. You became worried as the days gone by. Her line always connected but she never picked. The one time you used a new line to call her, she dropped the call immediately she heard your voice.

 

You went to her office, they told you she had resigned. You began frequenting her various fun places hoping you’d run into her.  You never did.

Every day, you sent a text. Each day, she kept mum on you.

 

Soon you began realising your foolishness. Were you not the one who had professed love tp her at various times? Were you not the one who refused condoms each time you got in the sack with her? Were you not the one who always told her how much you wanted her in your life?

 

Four months after she went blank on you, four months into your misery, you finally gave up.on looking for her. You deleted her number and the long list of unreplied messages on your phone. You moved on. You even impressed on your boss to transfer you to the Ikeja branch of your  office: passing Eko Hotel roundabout every day had become depressing.

 

Ikeja brought back your mojo. The transformation of Opebi, where your office is located, from an idyllic cosmopolis at daytime to a sprawling red light zone at night intrigued you. You registered at one of the high profile strip joints on there so you never have to hustle nor sit in the popular side like everyone else. You were VIP. In weeks, your memory of her faded in the daily lap dances and the weekly executive sessions with the ladies in the dimly lit private rooms.

 

Until that Monday morning.

 

You had woken up with a fever and general debility. Work was not an option. You called in sick and called a Taxify to take you to the hospital. You struggled out of bed when the cab called to say he was around. At the hospital, you went through the motions of the vitals and waited to see the doctor.

 

That was when she walked in, with a man in tow.

 

Your fever disappeared when you saw her with a visible pregnancy. You stood up so she could see you. When she did, she barely broke stride. Instead, she walked on to the ante-natal session her arm linking the man’s. She ignored you like a discarded underwear.

 

You were not going to take this lying low. After all, that was your baby she was carrying. So you waited. Even when it was your turn to see the doctor, you passed it up and allowed those after you go see him. You were not going to miss her on her way back.

 

She saw you first and smiled. Her smile disarmed you but you manned up and stood to meet her.

 

“Hi, how are you?” she asked stretching her hand for a handshake.

 

“ I, I am fine,” you stammered.

 

“Meet my husband of 4 years, Steve, he is just back from his PhD studies in the UK,” she introduced the man beside her. “Baby, meet my friend, the one I told you about that worked with the IT firm on Ligali Ayorinde.”

 

Steve offered a semblance of a smile and enclosed your hand in a firm grip of a handshake. While she did the introductions, your head began to spin like a helicopter rotor.

 

Husband of four years? PhD studies in UK? What is going on?

 

“I’ll see you later,” you heard her say as the headache and fever returned in a blast.

 

The text was sent almost 6 months ago. Three weeks before then, she had gone to the UK on vacation, she had said. When she came back, you tried to sleep with her again but she refused all your attempts. Then she sent the text.

 

It all made sense now. She had gotten pregnant in the UK. For him. And the text and subsequent call was for her to explain to you. But you had jumped the gun. She had decided to stay away from you. For obvious reasons.

 

You turned in time to see them leave the hospital arm in arm, like teenage lovers. There and then you got it. You were used, the foolish victim of a lonely wife.

 

***

 

The End

A Happy Ending?


On a street not far from yours, lived an everyday girl, who also doubled as a slay queen and head turner. Under the fading light of the evening sun, with gentle breeze and childish giggles in the air, is a party happening. It is the celebration of a marriage, and there she was basking in the melodious tunes of the party band as it ascends to a climax.

At that same party was a young man who couldn’t take his eyes off the dancing Damsel. He was no prince but was fine enough to be a Demon. “Demon”, her brain screamed in acknowledgement of what she already knew. But her heart was doing the somersault. It was turmoil inside of her. Her feet kept up with the music, unbothered with the war inside. Her face remained lit. LIT!

He walked towards her, letting his feet speak the same language as hers. And together they danced the evening into the night. She kicked her shoes off in total abandon. They weren’t glassy like Cinderella’s; they were just rubber slippers – the kind that women are quick to substitute their heels for after wearing one for hours.
Party bystanders looked on, in enjoyment of the dance romance unfolding before their eyes. “Lovely couple”, they complimented in a wishy tone. A few women were seen throwing evil glances at them. She just stole another brother they could have hitched. She couldn’t be bothered.

As the music took a mellower tune, he looked at her in awe. He was marvelled by her open disposition and the make-up streaked happiness that brightened her face. “I’m Dotun”, he finally said, introducing himself. “Veronica”, she said in a whispery tone. Taking in the sound of her voice, its feathery sound, like gentle breeze on a Harmattan evening, he popped the question. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

The question throws her off-balance. Her heart skips as she gulps in air, stalling for time so she can find her voice.

“No”, she said.

He smiled as an echo of silence passed between them.

Her thoughts: He looks like he is scouting for a girlfriend

His thoughts: She is really beautiful.

Skeptical, almost unsure, like he needed to gauge her next reaction, he said “You’re really beautiful. Are you sure you don’t have a boyfriend? I’m asking for a friend; come, let me introduce you to him. He is a gentleman.”

You Will Remember Me


I remember the first day I saw you. It was that day I had a big row with Anu. The argument had been over C. Ronaldo – Did Sir Fergie make him the success he is today or was he just a natural? Anu had insisted it was all natural talent. I stated it was nurture and nature else Ronaldo would have been ordinary. That Sir Fergie trained Ronaldo to demand a high expectation from  himself, to  live up to the heavy expectations from Beckham’s No. 7 shirt he got at United. initially the other guys took sides. But after heated minutes, they left us to it. By the time the episode ended, I was left very angry.

You had walked in just then. The proverbial cold water to calm me. Oh Jennifer, how pretty you looked. I wiped my face twice when you walked in. The guys thought it was from the sweat I had worked up form the earlier argument. But it was you.

Even then I knew you were off-limit.

I remember our first date. I had buzzed to check up on you. You said you were fine and mentioned you were seeing a movie that evening after work. I joked that hope it wasn’t The Wedding Party because that makes you a copy-cat. You laughed and said, nah, seeing as you mentioned the movies first, I was the copier. We agreed to meet at the mall at 6:10pm and watch together. It wasn’t a first day per se. It was just coincidence.

You were not so off-limit then.

We had so much fun at the movies, we decided to do it again. And again. And again. It’s been 4 months.

Limits? is that even a word?

I can’t take back those months. Oh! I wish I could. You’re still the prettiest girl I know. And the things your laughter do to me, if only you knew. Love found me in the wrongest of places.

OFF-LIMIT

Bode is on his way home now and you must be his wife again – the wife he left at home when he went off-shore. And I must be the best friend I was before that movie date – the best friend I’ve been since age 5. This time from a bigger distance – Sydney, Australia. Once again, I choose friendship over this pain in my heart.

For Lack of a Title


“I should have eaten”, Gbenle thought as he manoeuvred passers-by at Oyingbo market trying to get the heavy weight of foodstuff on his shoulders to a car parked somewhere on Apapa road. Behind him, an elderly woman walked briskly; tailing him to make sure he doesn’t run away with her purchase.

Gbenle is one of tens of young boys that live at Oyingbo market and who did anything and everything to make food money on the daily. Today he had decided he would be an *Alabaru. His friend, Wande, with whom he had arrived Lagos from their little town in one of the South western states had told him market sellers and their customers pay much to boys who helped them carry goods to and from the market. What Gbenle hadn’t envisaged though was the weight of goods he had to carry to earn it.

Gbenle had never been one to burden himself in any way, not with thoughts, girls, or heavy things. That was why he had chosen to be a bus boy in the first place. As a bus boy, he simply alerts passengers going the route of his bus by intermittently shouting “Yaba, wo le, Yaba” and gets paid a little sum for his efforts once the bus is filled. This helped him meet his daily needs with some extra on good days. But the last few days hadn’t been good as the bus he calls passengers for had developed faults.

So that morning when Gbenle had woken up to a monstrous hunger, he knew it was time to find an alternative. Even the worms in his belly seemed to have had enough as they bit unapologetically into his stomach walls. The hilarious comebacks he usually had for the other boys’ jokes didn’t come through either when the boys mocked every person who passed. “See her leg”, one boy said. “See that one, bringing children to market. Psheeaw”, another said. “Wicked woman, giving a pregnant Alabaru such load. Can’t she carry them herself?” went a third. “These ones are playing love in the market” yet another boy pointed out as they hurled at passers-by in raucous manner. Gbenle who was usually the gang leader had more pressing matters on his mind; food.

Gbenle had looked around to find Wande at an extreme corner of the group clutching nylon of Garri and another of Groundnuts. The look on Wande’s face indicated he wasn’t open to sharing but even if he was, Garri and Groundnuts didn’t count as Gbenle’s choice of recovery after days of feeding on water. His stomach growled as if in agreement. Wande had simply looked up as Gbenle’s shadow rested on him and said in unblemished Yoruba, “Alabaru is the job that pays now. Being a bus boy at this time of the day will only earn you promises of Lunch which may not happen especially if your chosen bus driver is the type that likes to collect his own money.”

Needing no further encouragement, Gbenle had made his way into the market, keeping an eye out for anyone who remotely looked like they needed a porter. Until he found the woman. She had helped him put the load on his shoulders, walked behind him at a steady pace as they made their way out of the market and towards Apapa road. Soon the sound of a car being unlocked remotely and an accompanying flashing set of taillights told Gbenle they are at the car. The woman promptly opened the car boot so he can deposit his burden into it, then followed through by digging out a dirty One Hundred Naira note from her purse which she handed to him.

“No more. No more load-carrying”, Gbenle decided as he headed back to Oyingbo to join the other boys.

 

 

 

*Alabaru- a market porter who carries commodities from or to the market at a pre-agreed price.

A Different Kind of Fall


“I wish I was 16 so I can know what it feels like to fall under anointing too” I hear Biola say in that childish grating voice of hers. Gradually, I stir from my fall, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the sunlit room. Biola is my 14year old younger sister. I hold my head gently as a wave of headache slammed me. Slowly I shake my head trying to recollect what happened and how I came to be on the bare cold cement floor of our new church.

“You were in a trance,” Biola says as she looks down at me from her upright position in front of me. “What does it feel like?” “Did you see Jesus?” “What about those Ogbanje spirits? Mummy said maybe they are the reason you talk in your sleep on those days we played much.” “Does this mean you’re no longer one of them?” On and on came the battering questions as I try to shake off the ache pounding the back of my head.

But what I really am is hungry. I hear my tummy sigh in agreement as Biola runs towards the back of the church building to get my parents. You see it has been days I had any real food as the last 6 days has been about our yearly Family Restoration Week. Usually during this week, the entire family engaged in series of prayers to ward off evil, pray for blessings and do things together to strengthen the family bond. I particularly like the Restoration week because it is that one time when we children get to eat anything we like.

But this year was different. Mummy said it will be an entire week of Fasting; the first three days without food and water. Fourth and fifth day, we will have water alone. By Day Six, we’ll have fruits and on the seventh day, we’ll have family prayers in church which will mark the end of the Week after which we can go back to our normal diet.

Usually we children were not involved in Fasting. However when I went to the kitchen the morning the Fast began, I couldn’t find my food. Mummy said I’m a big girl and only Biola and Segun would not be allowed to Fast. Biola said she didn’t believe I’ll see the Fast through as I love food too much and she dared me to prove her wrong.

So here I am, six days later with only two days of water and one day of fruits in me, ready to let my parents believe I fell under the intensity of prayers rather than tell them I fell because I hadn’t had food in six days. I look up to see my parents approaching, Biola is right behind them. I hear Pastor Sola shout Hallelujah in that frenzied way of his, praising God that the demon has left me. I close my eyes in exasperation as I hear mummy say; “Oh! God you are great. Thank you for saving my baby”. At that, I slowly let myself fall back to the ground.

The Things You Thought You knew


As Bayo left the house that afternoon, you saw the spring in his steps as he headed towards the Red Toyota Camry packed just outside the building. At first glance, you saw a gentleman. Another look at him didn’t tell you he has a wife and two beautiful boys at home as he wasn’t one to put on a wedding band. Many a time, you’ve seen ladies stare at him with hearts in their eyes. You noticed that Bayo wasn’t extraordinarily good-looking with his thin lips, large nose and squinting eyes. But when he smiled, he could be the most beautiful being as the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes beckoned you to just live in the magic of that radiant smile.

Unhappy woman lying on a couch
Unhappy woman lying on a couch

Everyone called him a wife beater. You too have heard the screams and shrieks coming from the room he shared with his wife. As if those weren’t proof enough, almost every other day, you saw telltale signs on his wife, Teni. The black eyes ill-covered by layers and layers of concealer, the almost blackish two lines that seemed a permanent tattoo on the side of her neck as well as the obvious limp in her step all of which weren’t there before.
But that afternoon, all you saw was the good-looking Bayo in a deep-blue Polo shirt with matching shorts and nice brown sandals. His appearance was of someone out for a fun afternoon. You saw him debate with himself for a while before he went back into his apartment.
Earlier you had seen his wife get back from her mother’s place where she had gone visiting. She had told you she was visiting the night before when you met at the supermarket.
What you however didn’t see was Bayo coming back out of the apartment and sneaking back in through the Kitchen which was at the back. You didn’t know he had to quietly sneak into the room he shared with his wife to get his wallet from the pair of trousers he wore the day before. Neither did you hear Teni call “Bayo” as she entered their room in that graceful way of hers- the one that bellies her limp. You didn’t see him almost jump out of his skin in surprise while he watched her pick up the vase by the bedside, testing its weight.
You didn’t hear her ask “Where are you going, Bayo?” without a trace of emotion in her voice.
You didn’t hear him say “Oh Teni, not today please”, almost pleading in that sultry alto voice that reminded you of melting ice cream.
You didn’t see her eyes go darker as he said that. You didn’t sense him quickly gauge the distance between himself and the door knowing only by sheer fate would he reach it before the vase in her hands sought him out.
You were not there when he gently walked towards her, choosing his words carefully as he said, “Teni, it’s just a hangout. You can come too, if you want. But it’s…just a hangout.”
You were not there when their 4-year old son walked into the room, crying; giving Bayo a chance to escape.
What you also didn’t know was that Teni wasn’t the victim. Bayo was. Bayo was the one who almost got scarred with a steaming Iron because he didn’t pick her call while in a meeting. He was the one who had narrowly dodged the kick she threw his way, dislocating her knee in the process. Bayo was the one on the receiving end of a thrown knife that had chipped the wardrobe door and one of the pieces had flew back at her, almost blinding her in the process.
Bayo was the one who had learnt to run when Teni was overcome by the very thing she had sworn not to be- a woman who beat life out of her husband like her mother did.
But you only heard the noise from the room and saw the scars on her.