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.

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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.

An Evening of Many Days…

It’s Christmas eve as Ebun walked home from the hospital where she works as an intern pharmacist. Normally, hospitals are her least favourite. The irony, here she is, a hospital Pharmacist. Over time, she came to realize that it’s better being a worker in a hospital than a patient. Besides if everyone hated hospitals and stayed away, who will take care of sick people?

Her friend Biose always wondered why a cheerful lady like Ebun would choose such a depressing profession. At least, that’s what Biose calls it. But Biose would never understand that despite the hundreds of sick people that throng to the private hospital where Ebun works, She feels fulfilled when one person walks out hale and hearty, ready to take the world again.

That night, just before Ebun left the Gynaecology clinic Pharmacy where she has been posted for the past three weeks, the Pharmacist on duty asked her to attend to her last patient for the day before another intern took over on the next shift. The patient seemed pregnant. However on checking her case note, Ebun realized the patient wasn’t. With a Fibroid growth in a dangerous position and a HIV positive status, doctors seem afraid to operate on her. However, no one would summon enough courage to tell the patient.

“Help me”, the patient’s cries of pain and frustration echoed in Ebun’s mind as she took the few remaining steps towards home. “Pharmacist, e gba mi. I don’t miss clinic nor my drugs. Yet whenever I come here, the doctors say my PCV count is too low and they can’t operate on me. And when I go for tests, the other doctors say my PCV count is normal. Who exactly is deceiving me?”, she added just before Ebun handed her some prescribed drugs.

Ebun remembered how after the patient left again for HIV clinic to see if someone would consider her plight, the Pharmacist on duty had casually mentioned, talking to no one in particular, that no surgeon would take on the lady’s case because they think she has little chance of making it out of the operating room alive.

Ebun knocked on the door to her brother’s flat just then as her sister-in-law opened the door to let her in. The sound from the TV in the sitting room welcomed her home as the door shut firmly behind her. Ibadan is a cold city this time of the year.

There is Love in Sharing?

*Singing* share a Coca-cola with… *insert friend’s name here*

Now replace “Coca-Cola” as seen up there with your boo’s name. Did you just say “Ehn?!”

When I heard this story, my jaw dropped. Literally. So I decided to share.

Here goes…
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A scene was playing out at The Peppersoup Place where Damola had dashed in quickly to get a hot spicy plate of the local delicacy. Two ladies were shouting each other down as a guy, dressed in casual tees and Jean watched them both with amusement dancing in his eyes.

“Boyfriend snatcher!!”, screamed one of the ladies, “leave my boyfriend alone”.

“Your boyfriend?” Lady B laughed hysterically. “abi our boyfriend? He can’t be YOUR boyfriend when you invited me into his room with you and had a threesome. And please, don’t even give me that excuse of ‘it’s because we were drunk’”.

“It’s not your fault na. If his friend who had asked me to bring a friend in the first place hadn’t cancelled at the last minute, why would I have allowed you near my boyfriend, lest to talk of getting drunk together.

By that time, everyone at the place had tuned their ears to the juicy drama unfolding before their eyes. All the while, the young man with laughter in his eyes kept watching, enjoying the scenery ne, without any thought to breaking them apart.

“Leave my boyfriend alone!!”, one shouted, punctuating each word with a clap in that way women in this part of the world are wont to.

“Leave who? Mo se se bere (I have just started)”, the other replied.

At that point, more people had gathered around the scene. The guy spoke just then.

“You two better stop this nonsense right now or I’ll post the sex video of all three of us on social media…”

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#StoryTime: Of A Girl, Paulina…

I started this story to tell a particular story but at the end, emerged a different one. Oyin, I hope this holds the forte for when that story comes…

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My name na Paulina. You see, me na from a good home. Church every Sunday, Bible study Tuesdays and Thursdays, Evangelism on Fridays, that kain thing.

As the only girl of my parents, you go expect say dem go spoil me. For where? I dey work like Jacki. For my eye, my hands be like Ponmo wey don see sun. But my friends say I get fine hands. Anyway, that one na tori for another day. You see we get blender for house yet Mummy go send me grinding stone for pepper. Pounding machine dey o because as a correct Ondo man, Daddy no dey use Pounded Yam play, but every Sunday afternoon, na me, mortar and pestle go dey make tungba tungba for neighbourhood. Everybody don know me, ‘Lina the Pounding Girl.

Na so my life be till I enter University. As I enter Uni, I get boyfriend. The boy deflower me, wetin dey there? But to yarn truth, e pain o! One, Bobo come my room. Roommates no dey. On top bunk bed wey get iron spring wey sabi do prin prin every time pesin move, na on top that kain bed e take deflower me. The discomfort no be here. Two. Bobo no use condom. But as JJC wey I be, wetin I for do? Na so e begin beg me after. “Baby, sorry. Baby, maybe I should get you something. Let me call my friend, he should know. Is it still paining you? Maybe I should just go to a chemist or something. Are you okay?”

As e dey talk the sorry, dey talk all these things, I dey cry the more. For my mind, fear wan kill me. Jesuuu!! What if I get bele? How I for do? Wetin I go tell Mummy? Jesuuu!!! STD nko? To come top am, that day after Bobo go, to piss na issue!! What if trumpet blow? Wetin I go tell Baba God? Na so I begin fire prayer of forgiveness, against pregnancy, STD ati bee bee lo.

But as I begin get sense, I come realize say even if Baba God go help me, me sef go help myself. After that first time, I come talk to Shayo, one of my roommates, make she follow me go Pharmacy. When we reach, I beg her make she help me buy condom and contraceptives. I too shame. Abeg, how pesin for take ask for that kain thing? But Shayo get weyrey for head well well. The way she take ask ehn, you go think say na cloth she dey buy for Yaba.

Na so things be until that stupid Clara wey her room no far from my own for Block Two decide say she want my boyfriend. JJC wey I be na, I no see wetin dey happen until Clara don steal Bobo finish. E pain me o. when I ask Bobo, e say “You’re too much of a good girl. Every time Missionary. Every time Mummy” E jo! Ewo tun ni “too much of a good girl”? As we dey argue, I use style google “Missionary”, make I first know wetin e mean. Finally, I leave Bobo for Clara, after plenty weeks of crying and begging.

Anyways I come get am for mind say, I go do Clara back. Say I go find way learn all the things wey Bobo leave me for. After she collect Bobo from me, I collect 2 guys from her but this her current Bobo, I no want. Every night na him Clara dey fire my devil for prayer. I dey hear the prayer because she dey shout “Paulina Fire! Paulina Fire!” every night, come complete am with bell. Mumu girl, instead of make she dey fire her current boyfriend for prayer, na me she dey fire. Everybody for Block One and Two know say the guy dey panel beat Clara face well well and when we see am, ask wetin do her, she go say she fall from bike, or she waka enter door. Yinmu! We know say your boyfriend na Bash Ali.

Anyways, jungle don mature and time don reach wey I go close Clara and her boyfriends’ chapter. University don nearly finish and girls don dey become women.

This afternoon I get Lunch with one of my brothers’ friend, Michael. The kain question wey I ask Michael ehn, you go think say he wan contest for President; whether e don get STD before, whether e get pikin for somewhere (too many baby mama drama these days). When I wan come finish am, I ask whether he don experiment with another guy before. You sef talk “Ha!” Be there o. You never hear say side chicks don dey be guys now?

Now I dey go downstairs go meet Michael. Our lunch na this afternoon. E say make I suggest. E dey expect say I go mention Chinese restaurant. I just tell am, “I know a place in Marina, close to Union Bank. We can have Amala there.” Bros shock. Anyways, I don dey hostel car park. I see Michael as e stand near one black Toyota Corolla. I waka go the car. As I reach, “Hi, Michael”, I talk for correct English.

#StoryTime: Joy At Christmas

“A bi olugbala kan fun wa…,” the children sang happily and Caroline watched with pride as her son, Dimeji presented his gift to Baby Jesus in his school’s Christmas Play. “He looks just like his father,” she thought. If only he were here to see him.

Dimeji’s father, Dare hasn’t been to the school carol in years. Truth be told, the family had grown distant in the last few years. Dare was always either out of the country on business trips or he was busy supervising the Real Estate contracts that his company managed across the country. At least, those were his excuses. Either way, Carol made up for his absence by being there for Dimeji.

But Dimeji wasn’t the only one in need of attention. Dare, the few times he was home, rarely noticed Caroline. Four years ago, she went natural with her hair. He hadn’t noticed the change, something he had wont to in earlier times. He hadn’t looked at her as his love in years either. Now, they’re just strangers living together. She knew a woman was involved but she wasn’t one to bring up the topic. Until last night.

“Who’s she?” she asked him as they both prepared to sleep.

“Who’s who?” he asked. It was the third night in a row he had come home and early too.

“Clara.” She continued

The answer came enclosed in silence. At first, she thought he hadn’t heard her. But his voice came up just then.

“She’s someone you shouldn’t know about.”

Her head erupted in steam and her heart broke at the confirmation. Clara was the reason Dare had no time for their family.

She looked at him with eyes glistening with tears. She should be throwing things at him, cursing him. Instead, she said calmly, “I still love you, Dare, and I’m willing to fight for us, to make it work even but I can’t do it alone. I can’t fight for two.”

Dare was lost for words. How could she be so willing to forgive? To give him a second chance?

“You don’t have to say anything now, tomorrow is Dimeji’s school play. If you come, then I’ll know you still want us.” With that, she bade him goodnight, even though sleep was far.

Now, she’s holding her breath. It’s make or mar. This play is the deciding factor. Just then she felt someone slip into the seat beside her. She looked up and a big smile appeared on her face. It was her Dare. He had come.

#StoryTime: Seen From A Bus Window

Today I sit on one of those yellow-and-black painted killers they call buses in Lagos. This one I’m on is better compared to the many I’ve been on recently. Quietly I sit by the window eating Lagos traffic staple of Gala and of course La Casera. They say the La Casera company underpays staff but who cares? So long as it’s cooling my internal system in hot, fume-filled, horn-blaring Lagos traffic while I let my imagination run, it’s none of my business. Not like I have much in the way of business anyway.
Just then, a song catches my ear. And before you think it’s the usual we produce as Nigerian music, it is not. It is a bunch of children come to my side of the bus window to beg for money. About 5 to 6 of them, all girls, are singing in that incoherent manner I barely make out as English. Just to get them moving, I give them the squeezed N20 in my palm. It is change from a pure water seller from earlier. They greedily left me and went to the next window opening to harass the next passenger. I look out the window to see another set of girls coming my way; I quickly shut the window as I look towards the conductor who is still screaming, “Ladipo, Ikeja Along, Agege o. Agege Agege o”
You see I’m one of the millions of young graduates in Nigeria who every morning leaves home in search of greener pasture. In truth, I’m not even looking for greener. I only want pasture. Before graduation, I had it all planned out. Finish school with good grades, serve Fatherland, save some cash during service, get back home, apply to companies, get a good paying job and live.

Here’s how that went. Finishing school with good grades is not a problem. It however becomes a problem when your good grades end with an HND. Serving Fatherland, that’s relatively easy too until you realize you are expected to work 8 to 5 daily while earning 19,800 Naira a month. That’s if you weren’t first thrown like a piece of garbage to a town where you have to travel miles to get phone network. That means all plans of saving anything just went downhill. As one who is never afraid of days of Garri, that isn’t a big deal either.
I’ve been home now a few months. Tens of job applications have been sent with the promise of “We’ll get back to you”, which almost never comes. The reality I was afraid of is already dawning on me. Most firms are requesting for Chattered Accountants. The ones that aren’t asking for an ICAN certificate are requesting 5 and above years’ experience and that’s making someone like me out of the league, for now.
Banking institutions? Those ones won’t employ HND holders as Staff. And as Tellers, the pay is certainly not encouraging. I’m not sure it will take care of transportation to and from work each month, not to mention feeding and accommodation. But I’m here on this bus eating Gala and hoping to get a call soon from this company I just left.
I feel a tap on my shoulder. It is a young man well-dressed in a buttoned-up shirt complete with tie. He is holding a transparent folder, the kind you keep important documents when going for an interview. He quietly whispers to me. “Bro, abeg you get 50box to take me to Ikeja Along?” Recognizing a kindred spirit, I dig into my wallet and hand him a worn note. Then I go back to looking out the window.