Introducing Mary. She doesn’t believe she writes well; I do. Show some love, drop a line. She also wants honest criticism.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the writer’s imagination.
Dedicated to the ones we’ve lost…
For a few seconds, I blink through the dark and forget where or who I am…this has happened since I came here but the amnesia doesn’t last for so long because reality hits and the memories come rushing back like an angry flood…I lay stiff on the cold, clammy floor. I know that if I shift any closer, my ass will be to Awin’s crotch and he won’t hesitate to put his arms around me ‘cause word around says he is homosexual and he will assume it is an invitation.
My name is Tunde Fadeyi; I am a jobless 30 year old and a graduate of Civil Engineering from the University of Ilorin. Presently, I share a cell with over 200 criminals. This cell stinks; it stinks of stale urine, body odour and fresh faeces and death. At first, I refused to believe it but it’s been two weeks now and just yesterday, I had to accept my fate and face the truth that my years of youth and vibrancy will end in prison. I will be here for 25 years and you won’t believe it is an iphone5 that brought me here.
Okay, scratch that…it is not exactly an iphone5 that brought me here but it is the genesis to my lamentation.
Besides remembering my identity and the harsh reality of where I am, my bladder aches and the urge to ease myself gets stronger by the second. I wish I can cross over to the other end of the cell, where the small toilet is, but the bodies that lay on the floor will make that impossible and the forefathers of the cell sleep near that corner. I take a deep breath and release my bladder into my underwear and I feel the warm urine trickle down my laps to the cold cement floor. Shame floods through me and I fight back my tears and swallow the self-disgust. Before the terrible feeling sinks, Awin slaps my back angrily.
“Guy, you de piss for here? Wetin be dis nau?”
I whisper my apologies and try to sit up but it is difficult to sit up because of the other bodies around me. The cell is still dark and from the other cell, I hear the groaning of two men. At first I wonder if someone is having a bad dream but I finally realize that it is the sound of two men having sex. Fear grips me as I hear Awin’s giggle.
“See as you de keep ya nyash as if I go rape you!” he whispered. “But you like what you hear abi? That is the sound of passionate love-making from two dogs!” he said in a febrile tone. “You better start enjoying such sounds o, cos very soon you will be making such sounds when I-“
“Fuck you Awin.” One of the bodies on the floor says.
“Sharrap dia Tito!” Awin replied angrily. “Na because I no wan near your-“
“SHUT UP!Una no wan sleep?No make me comot your teeth dis night o!” A voice bellows from the other end of the cell near the toilet. It is the voice of one of the forefathers and Awin and his partner obey the thunderous voice. Just as I am about to shut my eyes and beg God for sleep, I feel Awin tap my shoulder.
“You think keeping to yourself will keep my gay hands away from you?Never!”
“Look man, I don’t want any trouble and I am…I am not interested.” I whisper back.
“See this fool o!” he said mockingly. “Did anyone ever tell you that I wanted to be homo? This cell turns princes to pigs, my bro.You see me,I was as straight as George Clooney. You who that is right?” my back is still to him but I shake my head in the negative wishing he will shut up.
“Anyway, I am not gay or if you prefer, was not gay but I guess time and experience changes people.” He was quiet for a while and I thought he was finally asleep until the man sleeping on his other side farts in his sleep.
“Nawa o! what kind of wahala is this? I am here, trying to sleep and someone is messing in my mouth! Tunde shey you see? After people will say I am wicked when I slap them.” when I do not reply, he taps my shoulder.
“Please I want to sleep.”
“Story!” he says with a hiss and then continues in whispers.” But you sef, I heard you got into prison because of that babe that came to see you yesterday. Is it true?”
The dampness of my soaked underwear makes me nauseous and his words make me feel worse. I say nothing at first but when he jabs my back with his elbow, I turn to look at him. Awin is a slender looking man in his late 20s. His Northern features make him look somewhat feminine and I suddenly doubt that he was never gay. I had heard that he was in prison because he beat a man to death; some say it was his gay partner he killed while others claim that he killed someone who accused him of being gay. Although Awin denied all these claims, his gesticulations and attitude betray him. Gay or not, Awin was not one to mess with because his fighting skills are crazy! You should see him fight. So being enamored with all theseinformation, I definitely did not want to be the one to mess with him so I obliged him. “No, I am not in here because of her.”
“Borrriiinnnggggggg!” he says and yawns, bathing my face with his bad breath. “Lemme catch some sleep.” He turns to the other side, turns his back on me and wraps his arm around the other man that farted.
I lie in the dark and think about Jovita.I try to fight my tears but it wins. I think of how I have ruined my life and once again, I accept that this was all I was ever going to be anyway – a damned failure. I will die a failure like my father and mother who refused to fight fate back. It was a jinx I thought I will break but I guess that was never meant to happen.
I had been dating a girl for over 4 years now. Her name is Jovita Mbakwe but I call her Jovie. I will try as much as possible not to sound cheesy when speaking of her but guys, forgive me if I do sound cheesy in an attempt of not sounding cheesy. Simply take it that she is soul mate, the woman I fantasize bearing my children, growing old with and loving till death do us part. But all the fantasies I had have shriveled up because I’m in here now and another man is preaching the gospel of love to her and taking care of my unborn child.
Well, let me tell you the full story and reason of my present predicament. I already told you I was jobless but that doesn’t mean I have not been hustling. I have been neck deep into job-hunting as well as fixing Blackberry phones in Computer village. I have no parents and neither do I have savings. My mother died during child birth and my father never remarried. My father, Sam Fadeyi, lived a drunk and died a drunk. Even though he worked as night watchman in VGC, I took care of him, took care of myself and NEVER complained. To be honest, I kind of blamed myself for his state because everyone says he died as result of broken heart because he was in love with my mother and never came to terms with her death. Well, to me, that is total bullshit; he died of a bad liver, an irresponsible, selfish and careless life. God bless my mother for passing on! She would have probably died of nagging. I gave up on that guilty feeling a long time ago. I actually started complaining when he died because having someone to call dad was better than having no one at all. I blame him for every misfortune I have. No uncles or aunts took me in and the only good thing was the fact that he passed on when I was leaving for NYSC. Gratefully, I left Lagos to Niger State for my compulsory service to Naija.
That was when I met Jovie… and as Job adeptly put it … I forgot my misery and remembered it as waters that pass away. (See Job 11 verse 16)
We were both in Platoon Four. The very first moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one for me. Her smile, her frown, the sound of her laughter and even the funny way her pidgin sounded enchanted me. I wanted her to notice me so I became the Platoon leader and it wasn’t long before we hit it off. She quickly became my Achilles heel. After our three weeks on camp, I was super-excited when we were both posted to Minna, the state’s capital. Being Platoon leader came with a few benefits; because I was active on camp, I was rewarded with serving in Minna not some interior village but Jovie on the other hand, who hardly got involved in camp activities, managed to get posted to Minna too.
I and Jovie nestled in our love throughout our stay in Minna. Money was not exactly the problem because while serving at a private secondary school, I kept fixing phones at Obasanjo Complex. Jovie served at the Government House and her salary was better than mine. I still do not know how she got all the connections to serve there but I was sure she was not cheating on me.
Apart from having Jovie by my side, my best friend, Jenson Ubor was also one of the reasons life was worth living before my present state. We did not serve in the same state but we saw each other often. He served in Abuja so it was easy seeing him. We share almost the same backgrounds and same experiences. He is actually in the next prison, the one next to mine. Jenson is popularly called Smokes and he is the apple of his mother’s eye. She sold everything she had to send him to UniIlorin and he did her proud by graduating with a 2.1 despite his wayward ways. His mother, even though she sold garri at Oyingbo market, had insisted I spend every holiday with her despite the fact that she had little. I usually agree to everything Jenson said because despite his dreadlocks in school, a brain filled with wisdom laid beneath the locks except the day I introduced him to Jovie…
“Dude she be fine babe. That kain girl no dey touch water o” He had said in Jovie’s room on his first vist to Minna. She had gone out to buy cold drinks for us.
“Abi.” I smiled proudly.
“Wetin her popsi dey do?”
“ She talk se him be doctor for LUTH and her momsy na midwife.”
“The way her body dey, you go know se she hold.”
“Well, kinda.” I was getting uncomfortable with the tone of his voice.
He looked at me squarely. “She go wait?”
“Wait for wetin?”
“ She go wait make you get money? She dey humble from wetin my eye de see but she go gree wait for you?”
I pulled out my defense shield “ Which kain talk be that na Smokes?”
“Na simple question I de ask you. You know se no be this fixing of kpalasa phone you go carry feed dis babe when service finish. Now, allawee de but after that nkor? Abi no be long term matter you de do so?”
“See this guy o! you think se Jovie de like that? She don already tell me se she go wait na! she is the one for me and nobody else but me. You know se I no de date babe for long but it is almost a year and we are-“
He raised both hands in surrender and cut in. “Guy, relax na! You no se the only girl for me na ma mama and I no fit date until I hammer so no feel se I de wish you bad.” He dropped his hands and tapped my back playfully. “So, just chill. She is cool people so I hope it works between you two.” Despite the fact that I had defended my love for Jovie and hers for me, Jenson’s words resounded in my ears.
The end of my service year came and I dreaded returning to Lagos. I considered remaining in Minna but Jovie resided in Lagos too and was not into anything long distance. Coming back to Lagos was hard and that was when the ‘real’ life began; I had to move in with Jenson and his mum in Mushin, I had no salary and the hustle and bustle of the city wore me out. The interviews were endless and the disappointing ‘no’s’ made me feel like killing myself. My former course mates kept asking if I had a job and kept sending me text messages of links to job opportunities and the worst part of all this was the fact that every employer asked for working experience. That really angered me! How do I get job experience when no one is willing to employ me? I remember one of the employers say something like :“ you don’t have experience and you are even 26 years old. Didn’t you see the advert placement? It says from 21 to 25 years old needed. Sorry, we can’t employ you but we will get back to you when something comes up.” Can you imagine that?
To pass time and keep waiting, I went back to the shed I shared with another guy at Computer Village but it was pulled down by God knows what/who so I just started selling recharge cards (using some money I had saved during service) and repairing phones on my street while job hunting. Jovie too was searching for a job and we hardly saw each other but communication was not an issue, not until I started noticing changes.
Jovie was a pretty girl, no doubt. Her skin was the colour of honey, her hair was long and full, she hardly wore make up in Minna and still was a head-turner but all of a sudden, she started fixing this long hair and her skin became unnecessarily brighter or should I say fairer? Anytime I asked how she afforded all the long hair and new things, she said her sister in Malaysia sent them to her. Okay, fine, I knew she and her sister schooled in Malaysia and her sister was still there so I always lost that argument. But the thing that really pissed me off was the fact that she did not want me to visit her.
“Okay, why?” I asked during one of our heated arguments over the phone.
“Baby why are you doing this? I’ve told you countless times that this is not the time to meet my parents.”
She sounded frustrated but I refused to back down. “In Minna, this was not the agreement Jovie. This was not the agreement at all! You said they will love me. You even said meeting in Jenson’s place was not going to be convenient and that-“
Her voice sounded hoarse when she cut in “Yes I remember saying all that Tunde but will you come here empty handed? Besides my father has said that over his dead body will he allow me, or any of my sisters or brother, marry a Yoruba person.”
The line fell silent and none of us spoke. Her words were hurtful and I felt like a deflated balloon. I can’t exactly say how long we were silent but when I heard her cry and begin to apologize for all she said, I forgave her. She was the only sane thing in my life and losing her would be tantamount to death.
Three years rolled by and my struggles with life did not make my relationship easier. I went for every interview available and more than once, my hopes were dashed to pieces. My 2.1 result did nothing to help and every dream of working in a prestigious oil firm gradually became pipe dreams. Jenson did not handle the blow well too. He took to smoking weed more often and funny enough, I joined him. I did not make it a habit but I smoked once in a while to ease the stress. But when Jovie found out, I stopped. I could never watch her in tears and it broke my heart to see her cry so forsook smoking weed or any other thing at all. Jenson made fun of me but that was a little price to pay for her. The day we made up after she had caught me smoking, she shared her good news with me.
“I got a job!” she screamed in excitement.
“What? Babe that is so dope! I can’t believe it! I’m so happy for you” I kissed her and she settled into my laps and placed her head on my chest. “What kind of job is it?”
“Oh. Didn’t I tell you?” she rose her head to level with my eyes before speaking. I noticed the way she hesitated but I did not push her. She said something I could hardly hear so I asked her again before she was audible. “I said marketing. It is for First Bank. My uncle got me the job so I couldn’t refuse it.” She tried to smile but it did not work. I shifted her weight from my left lap to the other.
“But you know how I feel about Marketing.”
“ What are you insinuating, Tunde? You think I will sleep with different men? Or you just want me to stay jobless?”
“ Baby I never said that but you-“
She sprang up from my aching laps. “Oh, puh-lese! Tunde Fadeyi what do you take me for? I see your judgmental eyes are staring back at me. You will rather see me cooked up in the house than have another man look at me. But I’m so sorry to disappoint you, I have taken that job and men are working in that bank too. Capiche?”
To Be Continued…