Golgotha

golgotha-richard-russ

We all have choices, even when we think there’s none available to us. Usually, it is at that point when we think we have no options that our lives take radical turns.

My little girl was sick. I was flat out of money and my wife was an hysterical nagging mess. I couldn’t blame her, what’s a man when he’s got no money? Of what use is a vegetable of a human being that can’t even save the life of the one he loves.

“You don’t love us!” She cried.

“What am I to do? There are no jobs. The last foreman robbed me off my wages and I broke his nose in anger. Maybe I shouldn’t have but a man can only take so much from a fellow Jew. If Romans treat us like shit, should we do the same to our kin too?”

“Enough sermonising Tobias, If you channelled half the fire in you towards getting funds to treat our Hannah instead of brawling with your colleagues and losing jobs, that would be fine. Instead you just –”

“Enough of this already woman!”

“No! It would be enough when you actually do something useful. Our daughter is dying Tobias, do something!”

I’d had enough. There’s no winning her, especially when she’s right. I needed to do something fast if I didn’t want to lose our daughter to some illness that a few shekels of silver would cure. If her nagging was unbearable at that point, then I couldn’t imagine how it would be if something terrible happened to Hannah. She’s the last flicker of light in our gloomy home and anything other than a recovery would break us in half.

I needed to do something. I had to see Sirach.

We grew up together – brothers of necessity after our home in the city of Dan was sacked, our fathers killed and mothers taken off as slaves. We looked after each other, stealing what we could and surviving any way we could. In time, we grew to be known for pulling off some of the most dangerous heists in the city of Jerusalem. I only did what I could to survive but Sirach however had grander plans to rise and control some portion of the game. I was to help him, offering counsel while he called the shots and found others to get their hands dirty on our behalf. We would have been big time bosses…

But I met Edna, fell in love, and got married.

I hadn’t seen Sirach since I left with Edna. She made me turn my back on who I once was and I’m eternally grateful that I could know some semblance of peace. But like a dog going back to its vomit, I needed to call a brother from my past to help me out. When you have a child born out of love, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to save her.

*******************************

“So you could show up after all these years. Funny how others seem so appealing when you need help, even after walking away from them because of some whore from Samaria.” Sirach said with a smirk.

I couldn’t escape his scathing tongue, not if I hoped to get his help. He took it on the wrong side when I left to build a family and the passage of time didn’t appear to have softened him one bit.

“I’m sorry Sirach. I don’t expect you to understand but I fell in love and had to make sacrifices. I’m sorry I had to turn my back on the life we had built and the dreams we had but I needed to do what I did.”

“You don’t just turn your back on one family to build another, Tobias. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have found love but you messed up brother. I know you need my help now but here’s my answer before you even tell me what’s going on and what you want from me. No.”

“But Sirach…”

“Get out Tobias, you’re not welcome here.”

I felt defeated. Sirach doesn’t dally. When he says something he means it and even I couldn’t change his mind back then without a lot of prodding. So  what hope did I have when I’d walked out on him years ago, leaving sour grapes behind to ferment and stink up the situation?

I turned and walked towards the exit, imagining the look of anguish on Edna’s face and the hopelessness of Hannah.

“Wait!”

I stopped and turned.

“There’s something I can do to help but you don’t have family privileges anymore so it wouldn’t be for nothing. We just might need your skills in pulling off a job at some Roman’s home in the heart of the city. I know your daughter’s sick but you should also have kept in touch. Do this and you would have enough to take care of her and substantial change to make something of yourself. Go with Baruch here, he’ll fill you in. It’s tonight. I only hope you haven’t gotten rusty but I need not worry; you’re a natural.”

I heaved a sigh of relief but the worry didn’t still leave my face. To save Hannah, I have dip myself into the murky pit I leapt out of years ago.

 ********************************

We got in easy. Sirach’s men learnt from the best and their planning as well as execution was flawless. Baruch’s and the others already had the guards in the problem areas subdued and I was left to unlock the door to the treasury and avoid whatever booby traps lay in our path to the treasure.

I’d never seen so much unique stones in my life. Baruch said just one piece was worth a fortune and we had packed five bags to go with. Light enough to ensure we moved fast, worth enough to have us pretty much made for life and I began to envisage a quick recovery for my Hannah and a comfortable life afterwards.

But that was when everything went to shit.

Unknown to us, the guards that were relieved of duty were still within the premises, having a warm bath and fooling around with the maids. When they were moving out, one of them noticed that the replacements that had been subdued by Baruch and the others were not at their posts. We couldn’t run without putting up a fight. It was bloody, and by the time it was over, Baruch was dead with most of the men, two others escaped with some of the loot.

I was knocked unconscious and by the time I came to, I was chained up in a dungeon with some guy named Joab who told me everything that happened.

Life was pretty much over for me. Robbing a Roman and getting caught is death at the worst and slavery at best, but Baruch killed two guards so I could only hope for the former. I was going to die but it would have been fine because I did what I could to save my daughter.

However, nothing broke me more than when Edna showed up in a week later – puffy eyed from crying – to tell me that Hannah died two days earlier because she didn’t have any money to get her to the physician.

********************* *************

Pain.

Intense, constant throbbing shot up my feet and hands but I couldn’t do a single thing about it. I thought the whips were bad. I thought I would pass out and just die but I didn’t. Death would have been a mercy I didn’t deserve yet after all that had happened.

I looked over to my left. Joab seemed to be oblivious to what I was going through and was busy yelling curses at the Romans and anyone in sight from his new pedestal.

“Calm down Joab, save your strength.”

“For what exactly; to just hang here like some scarecrow in a farm for people to point at and kids to stone? No, I’ll rather go with a bang than a whimper. Let these Romans know they didn’t break this Jew like they have done the others.”

In the few days I spent with him, I realised Joab couldn’t be reasoned with so I let him be. Beyond the physical pain I endured, I could never get the thought of Hannah’s loss out of my mind. It tortured me. I hoped to see her again but how’s that even possible with what I did? As the scriptures said, I would end up in Sheol while my innocent child would be with Yahweh.

Then they brought him. Somehow, from high up he seemed different. He didn’t fight or stare down the Romans when they whipped him. He let them do whatever they wanted – even when they stripped him down and cast lots to share his clothing. In a way, there was some inevitability about him, like he wanted them to do it.

He said nothing.

When they nailed him and raised him to be between us, he just hung his head and breathed slowly, waiting for the end to come. When he said he was thirsty some soldiers fixed a sponge soaked in cheap wine to him on a stalk of hyssop and further mocked him.

“He fed thousands and healed scores. He saved others, let him save himself.”

That was when it hit me. This was the Galilean everyone had told stories about. If only I had sought him out to save Hannah when I heard he was in Jerusalem instead of going to Sirach. But he looked so ordinary beside me that it was hard to believe he had as much power as people ascribed to him.

Seeing a new target he could mock despite being in the same situation, Joab began to direct his insults at the Galilean.

“Aren’t you the Messiah they say you are? Save yourself and us!”

I didn’t know what made me speak but it felt right standing up for someone. Joab was a killer and had no right to say the things he did.

“Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence as this man but we did what we did. We deserve our place here but this man, I doubt it. He has done no wrong!”

I looked at the Galilean, still silent with his head bent, his eyes focused on a few women below and a young lad he would later address as John.

“Remember me Jesus, when you come as King!”

Jesus raised his head, smiled at me and said, “I promise you that today, you will be in Paradise with me.”

At about midday, the sun stopped shining and a strange darkness enveloped the countryside for a few hours and the earth shook violently. Suddenly, Jesus cried out and died. Some hours later, I closed my eyes and succumbed to the kind of gloom that shrouded the city. I died.

I thought it was over. But when a strange kind of bright light washed over me like the sun does when someone opens the curtain covering your window, I stirred awake. I looked around and realised I wasn’t alone. A multitude of bodies began to float, as I did towards the source of the light that I later knew to be Jesus. His face shining brighter than the day ever did, adorned with that same smile he cast upon me on the cross before we died.

That was when I understood what was going on.

Dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.

The darkness was no more. I was going to live again; I was going to see my little Hannah.

****************************************

3AM. Lagos, Nigeria.

I’d just had the strangest dream and it was as if I’d seen it before.  Nursing a cup of water while trying to figure out what it was all about, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to write about it and try to recreate what I’d seen before it became clear.

I sat down at my desk, set my glass down and welcomed the shiny grin of my computer coming to life. The first thing my out-of-hibernation computer displayed as I unlocked it stopped me for a bit. But it wasn’t bad at all; if anything, I knew I needed to write and I know exactly what I had to share.

The Gospel according to Luke

I smiled, closed the window, opened up Microsoft Word and began to type.

Golgotha…

THE END

Image credit: (Golgotha by Richard Russ) www.fineartamerica.com

FOR-NEVER

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What a time to be late.

I just couldn’t make it no matter how hard I tried. This is beyond me. Irrespective of what I do, I wouldn’t be at my wedding. Her wedding. Our wedding.

What a time to cancel.

By the time  I got to her room she was a crumpled mess, sitting on the floor in her white gown looking like a pack of exposed serviette in drizzling rain.

She looks even more beautiful when she’s in tears, just like she did when I asked her to marry me. Those were tears of joy and she didn’t mind that her mascara was ruined.

Now she’s crying for real, and why wouldn’t she; when the love of her life decided to bail on her on her wedding day. Their wedding day.

What sort of douche would do that? But I didn’t decide; it was made for me and there was really nothing I could do about it. What can I say, fate throws curve balls at you.

I couldn’t be at my wedding. Her wedding. Our wedding. Now she’s going to attend another event I couldn’t miss even if I wanted to. She’ll see me there for the last time and say goodbye.

I’m boxed in on this one and no matter what I do, I cannot miss my own funeral.

What a time to die.

#FlashFiction

DEAR YOU…

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Remember that wedding in July, the one where Seyi got married to Wande? Maybe it’s crazy but that moment’s forever etched in my mind. Maybe it’s because it’s the first one I’ve ever been deeply involved in – I was one of his groomsmen. Maybe it’s because of what I saw that day when the couple took their vows.

I was seated in front with the other guys when this happened. It was really beautiful watching Seyi and Wande take those vows but I wasn’t really looking at them. I saw you instead, in that resplendent white gown, looking into my eyes with nothing else but pure affection in your eyes as I vowed to love, hold, cherish and protect you for the rest of my life.

I saw our wedding that day.

So what happened? Just two more years down the line and we’re in pieces – with the shards set to cause more damage at any attempt to put them back together again – like two people in a Humpty Dumpty relationship. I was a fool and you were just plain silly at times.

You wanted me to talk more. I do talk, but I’d carved a cave where I stuck my innermost feelings, passions, fears and hopes into. That’s the part of me that you wanted to see the most and you did try. I’ll give you that; you badgered, pleaded and coaxed me to let it out. I’d almost get to that point where I finally let you in but then you tune off and disappear and the hurt of finding you at that crucial point and not meeting you waiting where you said you would made me recede even further.

So I would express myself the best way I could, by imagining how things should be – just as I imagined myself making those vows. We’d have a lot of conversations, half of them in my head but they’d seem so real that I would wonder why you still didn’t get me. To me, you should know why I’m the way I am. Why I act the way I do. Why I only keep real conversations at the simplest, most mundane level. I thought I told you so you should know. But you didn’t know; you couldn’t have known because half of what I told you about how I am was all stuck in my head.

I should have been gentler with you, more patient. I shouldn’t have treated you like you should automatically get me – like some sort of robot that I act like. You’re human, I am too but it beats me why I don’t act like one. Why I’m rarely excited or enthusiastic about anything. Like I’d been here before and seen it all so I’m bored with the world and the people in it. But I’m interested…sometimes; I just don’t know why my emotions on the inside don’t translate to my expressions on the outside…sometimes. You almost get me to the point where these two become one but you’d give up right at the most crucial moment and I’d fall back.

You would reach for me before I fall and I would reach for you just as I fell to grasp your nothing. No hands, no straws. So I got used to falling, deeper into my shell.

I could blame you for this but if there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s a keen sense of perspective. So I could say you were lazy, not so committed or just playing games with my heart but I’m a difficult person to love as well. I’ve got no problems loving, I like imagining being loved but the thought of it happening in reality, seeing pure love radiate through someone to me scares the living shit out of me. If I’d be nice to myself I’ll just say that I’m not meant to be loved. But I’m not so nice to myself either. Put simply, I’m insufferable as fuck.

So when you told me you cheated, I was broken. I fell apart like the contents of a toppled hourglass but as hard as it was for me, I was hopeful. I felt that the fault was meant to be a shared burden. Maybe it was at this nadir that we could have finally gotten everything back on track. So I wanted to know what the problem was. Was it me? Was I not as attentive, caring or passionate as you would have liked? I probably wasn’t. Was it my inability to be really there for you? It was probably because of me. So I felt that the solution was in the knowing. To you, the weight and shame of the initial confession was more than what you could bear. Still I wanted to know, for my sake and sanity. For our sakes.

And this has always been my problem. You’ll give a little taste and I’d always want more of what you’re reluctant to offer. You still expected me to chase even when it was obvious you (and I) were going nowhere. I on the other hand expected you to keep up with me. Whatever it was, I don’t know.  In the end, we’d run off in different directions without realising the chasm we were creating would be too wide to bridge. And now that we’re done running, we’re too spent to find our way back together.

I’m not a bad person, you know this. But I’m kinda messed up. I hurt people – I don’t agree but they say I do. I wonder how. They’ll read different meanings to my intentions or motivations for leaving people alone. I think people are confused: they want to be with you and they want to be alone as well. I have this problem but my awareness of the fact is already half the solution. People always leave dear. So I wondered why you didn’t even after all this. But it’s not that hard to figure out. I say to myself that I’m done with you every time. Then I see you and just want the shared moment at that time to linger forever.

People always leave and I let them. Why you’re still in this messed up relationship, I don’t know. I don’t love you any less and I even think I’m undeserving of you. But then, it’s never okay knowing just half the story – that’s torture. Completing it is my way back to you and as much as I want to, I can’t jump that far. I’ve got to retrace this bit by bit and this tip of the iceberg that you’ve given me isn’t enough. In fact, I believe it’s sinking our Titanic. And this is why I’m doing what I’ve never done before.

I’m leaving you.

I don’t wanna hurt forever
I don’t wanna keep on feeling
I just wanna say what we both know
I’m letting you let go…

Letting You Let Go – Paper Route

Image Credits: https://twitter.com/bitters101

I LET HIM DO IT

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Family is overrated. Those who say that blood is thicker than water could not be more wrong than those who said the earth was flat. Blood is thick, but only in relation to what it is meant for. Blood is blood. Water is water. Piss off if you think there’s a relation to using the relationship between these two elements to describe familial bonds.

We’re all alone in this world. We came alone. We only make alliances that benefit us for a stint or stretch of time. Family is one of those alliances. Long running, yes; but overrated as heck.

I realised this when my sister threw me out. My sister. Far from our home back in Abia, we were supposed to be all we had to ourselves in this unforgiving city of Lagos. And what did I do to deserve it? Nothing that would warrant an eviction. But I get it, big sis needed her space and I was cramping it. Besides, how could I, the last child in the family go toe to toe with my elder sister during arguments when I knew she practically held all the aces?

I had nowhere else to go. My sister decided that the best way to punish my feistiness and big mouth was to throw me out and really show who’s boss. My brother beats me at will when he can’t offer a superior argument. I’m a woman and I shouldn’t talk back to men; it is his responsibility to teach me with his fists before my future husband gets the honour –just so he wouldn’t conclude that my family did not train me well.

I couldn’t go to him. There’s no comfort in his presence because he would only mock me and I wouldn’t take it on the chin. The end result would be a black eye the next morning and sore joints so I passed on another lesson about how the good gift of pain could make me a good woman.

It was 10PM. I lived in Ajah with my sister. Getting out was not exactly easy at that time of night and my closest friends lived on the mainland. So I called Osita to see if I could spend the night at his place before figuring out my next move when day broke.

He felt like a safe option. We were close. We should have been closer but I didn’t want what he wanted at the time. A month later, he found a girl he liked and we moved on like nothing happened. He was the only friend I had at the moment.

Osita was happy to help. He knew my struggles and my pain. Once, he was so angry when he saw my bruises that he wanted to go after my brother but I stopped him. It would only have gotten me into more trouble for involving an outsider in our family drama and I’d suffered enough already.

But you never know with men. His mattress was on the floor of his room and he said he would sleep on the rug so I would be more comfortable. But he wasn’t on the floor when I woke up a few hours later to find his hand cupping my right breast, fingers kneading my nipple the way someone would tune a transistor radio.

I jumped like the bed was on fire. Caught in the act, Osita’s face was a brief mask of shame under the dim green night light in the room. He said he couldn’t contain his feelings for me; I was irresistible and had a hold on him that even his girlfriend didn’t have. He would break up with her if I gave him a chance with me. All he wanted to do was be with me and feel my warmth against the harmattan chill.

He tried to kiss me but I held back. Rather than let it go, he grabbed me. I would feel differently about him if we made love, he said. He’d always wanted to make me feel like a woman, he said. All I needed to do was to let him.

You never know with men. That was my mistake; mistaking his kindness towards me and willingness to remain in my life despite the rejection as signs of maturity. I’ve been in this situation before and I didn’t win – the blows made me submit.

This was different. I let him do it. Like a peaceful rainforest assaulted by bulldozers, I let him part my legs and invite himself into me. It was different. There were no blows.

The next morning, Osita barely said a word to me beyond a murmured apology and the devil using him. He wouldn’t have touched me if I wasn’t his weakness and being the man that he was, he succumbed. He told me to drop his key under his doormat when I was ready to leave; his girlfriend was coming to spend the weekend.

There were no blows then because I couldn’t fight. I only had a big mouth which got me into trouble with my brother and sister so I kept it shut for the time being. I let him do it. What I wouldn’t do is to let him get away with it like the others did.

Photo credit: Mohammed Alnaser via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

HANDCUFFS AND WEDDING RINGS

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December 20 – 21, 2013.

Some days are just made to go sideways.

From almost hurtling off the top of an uncompleted bridge to landing in a police cell with the groom’s best man, crazy got as crazy got. Maybe if we had all stayed at our hotels instead of having that night out; maybe if men can truly be men and stop being men for a bit then this wouldn’t have happened.

Okay, I think I’m going too fast. Let’s start again.

It was finally Sir T’s wedding. We all thought he was joking when he announced the date and told us to get ready. Knowing him, we all expected some kind of drama and a last-minute cancellation but Friday morning met us all confirming hotel reservations. Unlike the others, some of us couldn’t leave Lagos for Ijebu-Ode till late on Friday evening because our offices were closing for the weekend. I had to attend a party organised by my office for the less privileged and finish my annual report before going anywhere.

Sir T isn’t our boy; he’s more like an elder brother to us. The other guys were his peers but I and my friends were a few years younger even though we all shared a unique bond because we graduated from the same university one year apart. I, Scooby, Ephizzy – we also call him Epps – and El Flint all lived in his apartment during our National Service year in Akwa Ibom. We were there when he and his guys threw and attended all the parties from Second Base to Lounge Uno and others; we covered for him when one side-chick came calling and another side-chick was around, helped out with his sales job and generally enjoyed a service year many others could only dream about.

Not attending Sir T’s party wasn’t an option; besides everyone we knew from Akwa Ibom was gonna be there and we’ve missed them.

Epps finally called me by 7:30PM. He’s the one driving and I was the first person he had to pick along the way.  Scooby and Pinana were already waiting at Berger so we just had to stop for a few minutes to pick them before hitting the expressway. They brought bread and drinks, and after the initial greetings, I and Awo dug in. We had no idea how hungry we were.

Even at that time of the day, the Lagos Ibadan expressway was still being a bitch but thankfully, the only one among us with the driving skills of a Lagos Danfo driver was Epps. One minute he’s finding pockets of space to manoeuvre, the next he’s driving off road with the impatient interstate bus drivers.

Two hours later we got to Ijebu-Ode. Other than the harmattan haze which reduced visibility to about fifteen metres, It looked different. There was a flyover bridge at the intersection where you’re either headed towards Benin, turning left into town or heading right towards Ikorodu. A few minutes after passing the Lagos Garage, we realised we were driving up another bridge where there was formerly none. Thankfully we stopped and backed up; we would have dropped off the top if we kept going because the bridge wasn’t finished and the signs weren’t readable at that time of night.

By 10PM, we were settled in our hotel rooms. Surprisingly, Sir T was in his room instead while the others were at the club. Nothing we said could get him out; he said he was tired and needed to sleep. He said he wasn’t really in the mood and didn’t want to wake up with a hangover. It was as if he saw what we all didn’t.

When we got to the club, everyone was there; Kay, the best man; Boyo had been transferred to Imo from Akwa Ibom but he came in with Folly; Tony, Boyo’s childhood friend was home for the holidays from England. We didn’t know the others but it really didn’t matter; a friend of my friend is my friend. Besides, new friendships can always be forged over bottles of Absolut and Johnny Walker.

There were very few women though.

Kay was outside with some guy in a white kaftan. He’d been told by Kaftan Guy that he could get some female university students to join us because they lived off campus. Boyo was not interested; his fiancé was at the hotel. Tony was having a nice conversation with a pretty bartender who happened to be from his hometown in Edo. I, Scooby, Epps and Pinana weren’t bothered either but Kaftan Guy somehow managed to convince Kay to goad Awo into drive them to go get the girls.

About fifteen minutes later, I got a call from Epps so I stepped away from the loud music

“Guy, police don arrest us o. You guys should come quick abeg!”

“What the fuck! How?”

“They said I’m driving a stolen vehicle o. I don’t even know how that’s possible. We’re at that police station that we passed on our way to the club –”

The call disconnected.

I ran back inside to tell the others and within one minute, we were all parked at the gate of the police station. Alarmed at the sound of screeching vehicles bathing the entrance with multiple headlights, some officers rushed at us with their assault rifles.

“Who una be? Wetin una dey find?

“Oga, two of our friends were just arrested. We’re here to see them.”

“Which two? Na six people our people carry enter station!”

Apparently, they were returning with the girls.

“Two of our friends are among them.”

“Okay. Come back tomorrow.”

“Officer that’s not possible. We have to see them now.”

“I say make una dey go! If I count to three and una never comot here…” The officer cocked his rifle.

We didn’t wait to hear the rest as we scurried into our cars and drove a few metres across the road. Then we got out and decided to send two people over. It was while we were debating who to send that we realised Tony didn’t leave with us as we left the entrance to the station.

Some of us began to panic. Boyo however told us not to, he was just going to join Tony to plead with the officers but Tony was with us before we knew it.

“Guys, dem say we fit enter.”

How did he do it? How come they didn’t manhandle him? Tony somehow felt we had questions so he told us he only showed the police his ID as an officer in the British Navy.

Bloody hell.

Buoyed by this little progress, we got to the counter to see Epps and Kay stripped down to their boxer shorts. Awo had forgotten his licence and ID card at the hotel. Since the car belonged to his company and the officers couldn’t find anything to link him to the company, they simply arrested him, Kay and the girls. Unable to keep his big mouth shut, Awo had further infuriated the officers by insulting one of them.

We had no choice but to beg. The officers said we had to pay N20,000 but they were only going to release Kay, the girls, Kaftan Guy but not Epps and his car. We refused; everyone needed to be out though we didn’t care much about Kaftan Guy and the girls. And damn, those girls were so not fine! Looking at them, it was as if they’d just arrived from the fufu Olympics. Awo said he overheard one of them talking about leaving her two kids with her mom.

Folly suggested calling Kay’s dad since he retired as an Assistant Commissioner of Police. Boyo suggested we shouldn’t because Kay’s fiancée might find out. How would she react when she got the details? It wasn’t going to be pretty.

So we continued begging and hoping they’ll let everyone go for twenty grand.

At around 2PM, they finally agreed to release everyone but the female officers at the counter demanded an additional 10 grand to let them go. These were a greedy bunch and it seemed we had unwittingly become an ATM for this bunch.

All this time, Folly was generally being Zen just sitting outside the station with a flask filled with liquor when a muscled, bare-chested cop closed him down and asked to know what was in his flask.

“Officer, na Black Label o. I no fit let this harmattan cold kill me for outside.”

The officer laughed, before adding that Folly could have emulated him, seeing as he wasn’t fully dressed in the cold.

“Bros leave that thing jare, you’re used to staying outside on patrols and all that. And I sure say you go dey drink too. Follow me go car make I give you better drink.”

When they got to the car, the officer was surprised at how much alcohol Folly had in the boot of his car. Folly just shrugged and told him that it was the way he and his pals rolled in Akwa Ibom. Now the officer was curious because he did his National Youth Service in Akwa Ibom too in 2009, Batch B.

Boyo also served in Akwa Ibom in 2009, same batch.

Folly couldn’t hide hi excitement at this new piece of information, “Bros some of my people for here dey the same camp with you for Akwa Ibom. Make I take you go meet them.” He gave the officer a bottle of Jack Daniels and half-walked, half-ran back to meet us at the counter.

“Boyo!”

At that time, Boyo was pleading with the female officers who refused to sign out Epps and Kay without something for themselves. After an agreed 20 grand, we weren’t gonna budge but the officers were just as adamant.

When he got to Folly, the look of recognition on his face was unmistakable as he stared at the officer with him.

“I know you. Akwa Ibom NYSC 2009. You contested for Mr Macho when we were at the orientation camp.”

Kay, a fair skinned dude who hadn’t said much since we got to the station suddenly shouted, “Agbara!”

That was what they called him back then because of his muscles and body-building. The crazy thing was that Boyo, Kay and the officer all lived in Uyo with Folly’s elder brother for a while before they got their own accommodation.

We were now so confident because we had a friend who was willing to help us – it was a breeze from then on. Fortunately, we hadn’t even paid the 20 grand the police were asking for so we halved it and asked Officer Agbara to settle things for us. The female officers also got nothing.

As we left the station at about 3AM that morning, I asked Epps if he was going to drop off the girls they went to pick up.

“Abeg, fuck that shit. I didn’t ask for this in the first place.”

The laughter that erupted among us was palpable. It’s been a crazy night.

We barely had two hours of the sleep at the hotel before Sir T came knocking on our doors to get us ready for the engagement. The lucky dude was just laughing his head off as we narrated our ordeal, thanking his stars that he wasn’t with us as it all went down.

I’m not gonna talk about the wedding but I know you’ll be wondering about how we all made it through. It was really fun but let’s just say we were a bunch of groggy-eyed groomsmen for the first couple of hours.

And then…we took pictures! 😀

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Epps and 1 – My favourite pic of the day.

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Flint and my goggled self

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Myself, one of Sir T’s friends and Epps

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Pinana, Epps, Myself and Flint that can’t photobomb with dignity

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Sir T le badass groom!

 

Featured image credits: Sugar Six Photography, https://isgphotography.wordpress.com

SAME BOOK, DIFFERENT PAGE

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It’s been a hectic week but for once it didn’t really matter because everyone was looking at the perfect holiday – the Christmas weekend. Four non-working days is any employee’s dream and it certainly held true for Mark. He’d been swamped all week and had only just broken out from under the pile of work he’d been buried under. Still, he was one of the last to leave the office. Being the reliable leader he is, he prefers having so little to carry into the next weekend and this is not the weekend where he’ll want to take work home.

He finally left the office at 8:00 in the evening. When he got into the car he whipped out his phone to call his wife, Nonye. It’s been a while he’s checked his brother and he preferred he did so on his way home. Celebrating Christmas together would be awkward at the moment and he didn’t want to unsettle him yet. He’d put Nonye on speed dial so he only need to long-press one number.

“Hey honey.”

“Sup Homie.”

“Ode, let your in-laws hear o. Be calling your husband homie. Rubbish wife”

“Hahaha, I’ll tell them I married some playful dude that likes to act like an uptight idiot at times.”

“Touché. Smartass oshi. Just wanted to tell you I’ll be a bit late tonight. I’m just leaving the office but I would be stopping over at Jerry’s place. It’s been a while since I visited and I’m feeling guilty, especially considering that I’ve only been over there twice, and he was discharged three months ago.”

“Okay dear. Send him my regards. It’s a good thing we’re not working tomorrow so take your time. I’ll wait up.

Mark drove over to Jerry’s place feeling burdened. They only had each other since their parents died years ago and had done pretty well. Jerry wasn’t married yet. His special case of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia ensured that the girls disappeared whenever he had a breakdown. The last one was particularly worse because the voices in his head convinced him to kill himself by speeding into the fuel pump at a filling station. It was the worst he’s ever had – an episode that kept him in the asylum for one year.

Once he found a suitable parking place in the estate Jerry lived, he got out of his car, walked to his brother’s apartment and knocked. Jerry opened the door from the other side and his surprise at seeing Mark wasn’t hidden.

“Whoa, look what the cat dragged down here,” he said as he moved to the side, allowing Mark to go in.

“Fool, which cat? You and your silly oyinbo writer expressions,” Mark said with a smirk.

“I feel sorry for you man, being a management consultant has made you a boorish snob. There’s beer in the fridge though. Want one?”

“Sure. So how has it been since I last visited?”

“You mean with my condition? It’s been great actually; I think I’ve finally broken through it this time around. I even met a girl but she’s based in Kenya,” Jerry tossed Mark his phone so his brother could see the girl’s picture.

“I’m travelling tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with her. Trust me, I wouldn’t have told you if you didn’t show up but as usual, you always know when something’s up. Warlock oshi.”

“I know bro, I’m awesome like that.”

An hour after the regular brotherly banter and catching up, Mark hit the road again and was already three minutes away when his phone rang.

“Hey dumbass, you forgot something – don’t let Nonye curse me because I didn’t send her gift.”

“Dang it! Good thing I’m not far away, no thanks you your yeye road. I’m coming.”

****************

Nonye heard her husband park on the road side instead of his usual spot on their small driveway. He came in, kissed her on the lips, and handed over Jerry’s gift. He wasn’t saying much so she felt his encounter with Jerry had dampened his mood a bit. He didn’t finish dinner and went to bed soon after.

Was he just having one of those sharp mood swings he usually had? Sometimes she wondered who had the bouts of madness, her husband or Jerry. Or maybe he was just slightly tipsy and didn’t want to get her upset about him having too much to drink.

She worried too much.

Soon after, she worried that the car wasn’t safe where he parked. She’d parked there once only to find a broken tail light the next morning. Nonye got up, picked the keys and got out to park properly. As she climbed the speedbump in front of their driveway, the boot bounced open.

“This blasted boot. Told Jerry to fix it a week ago o!”

When she was properly parked, she went over to close it and felt something wet as she lifted the boot. She switched on the flashlight on her phone to look.

Blood.

Nonye now had a reason to be really worried. Did he hit someone? Maybe that was why he was acting strange. But she was curious and her worst fears became real when she opened the trunk and found a body inside, face down.

She covered her mouth in fear, thinking her husband actually ran someone over. Holding the phone between her teeth, she turned the body over and the phone clattered to the ground when she saw Jerry’s lifeless eyes staring right at her. She tried to scream but it got caught in her throat. Who was in bed with her that night?

“Now I wish you hadn’t found that. You should have just left the car where I parked it.”

Nonye shrieked and jumped. She stared at the man with the voice exactly like Mark’s. That was when she realised she was staring at Jerry.

Mark’s identical twin.

“A few hours ago I used a cat expression on Mark. Now I’ve got another one that’s more popular. You’re one curious lady Nonye and you do know what they say about curiosity and cats yeah?”

That was when Nonye saw the silver glint of the kitchen knife Jerry was holding in the light of the moon.

ONE-0H-7EVEN

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They’d had a wonderful time at Barbies 2.0, a favourite hangout at Ita-Merin, usually frequented by modest boys who wanted to spoil their girlfriends, the yahoo-yahoo internet fraudsters and the rich kids. Barbies had become the favourite spot for students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, rivalled only by Belle, another joint about 500 metres away.

Timi couldn’t wait to celebrate their anniversary which was still a good nine months away so he decided that they’d toast to new beginnings on the day that marked one year since they met. One year during which he was made to chase after a girl who made the others he’s had pale in comparison. One year since they met at the Motion Ground on campus.

Jessica had just finished taking some new photographs that morning and was rifling through the old photos in the photographer’s stall, looking for the ones she’d taken a week ago. She loved tTimig photographs that much; sometimes Timi had to say his battery was low just so he wouldn’t indulge in selfies with her. Sometimes he won; most times he lost both his battery and the anti-selfie battle.

When Timi saw his photograph with Jessica that day, she didn’t just go through it and continue searching for her pictures. She lingered and only lifted her eyes ten seconds later when Timi said, “You so much admire your future boyfriend in the picture. I bet he’ll let you keep that if you ask…nicely.”

Jessica looked from Timi to the picture and back to him before realising that she was indeed staring at the dude in the picture, all six-foot-plus-something of him. His remarkable jawline stood out and the way he pursed his lips as he spoke made her dislike the cockiness in him. But there was softness in his eyes, a certain glint of kindness that belied his physique and it wasn’t something she’d miss. So what if he’s a cocky, kind asshole? Not to be outdone, she shoved the picture back into the pile and continued searching for hers, offering a two-word comeback with a chuckle as she did, “You wish.”

Good, this one didn’t know who he was. Or she knew and was still defiant. In any case, he liked that. He was not just intrigued by her beauty but by her quick wit and calm as she dismissed him. So he waited, and when she was done searching for her picture, he picked out his own from the pile, ran after her and still asked her to keep it. Jessica simply smiled as she took the picture and disappeared into the new Management Sciences building.

Good. Now he knows where she receives her lecture.

They met again at the same building three weeks later. She sure was hard to find and he’d asked around for a while, wondering how such a girl would be so difficult to pinpoint. He was walking by on his way to the AA lecture theatre when he saw her. This time around, he made sure he got her number and dialled it to be sure it wasn’t fake so she won’t slip away again.

And she didn’t. But it didn’t mean he had her. Yet.

They got closer and she finally found out who he was – what he was. Hidden within the calm, wit and humour was the stone cold leader of the fearsome 7even, one of the deadliest cult groups in school. At first she couldn’t reconcile the charming, intelligent Timi with even the lowliest 7even foot soldier. But she figured it out – his going off radar when violent clashes occurred, his selectivity for surroundings and some other clues. It was true. He was. He is.

So Jessica put her foot down. She was so much in love with him already but she swore to ‘zone’ him if he didn’t quit.

“Nobody quits Jessica. You only appear to quit when you leave school or you really quit when you die.”

“You will quit Timi. Find a way, you’re their Number 1. You always find a way. If you don’t then it only means you’ve found a way to lose what you say you really want while holding on to what you never wanted in the first place. I’m not afraid to say that I love you but I’m not afraid to walk away either. It would hurt but I’ll live with knowing I did the right thing. Leaving 7even isn’t only for me, but for your own good as well”

Timi knew she was right. He never really wanted to be in the 7even but they recruited the smartest as well as the strongest with subtle persuasion as well as force and intimidation; creating a deadly mix of brains and brawn in the clan. He rose through the ranks and despite some dissent within and became their leader in the first semester of their final year. Now it was time to leave.

This wasn’t something he could wriggle out of; Jessica meant every word she said.

He called James ‘Jamie the Viper’ Beck, his Number 2 and told him he wanted out. It wasn’t going to be easy because it had never been done before but Viper agreed after a lot of lobbying. It wasn’t cool but it was done.

And their celebration that night was both an acknowledgment of his new lease of life as well as their ‘epic’ moment. He was free. She was finally with him. Nothing else mattered.

After dinner, they got into the car he borrowed from his roommate so he could drive her home. But a student’s car is never to be trusted and a few streets from Jessica’s hall, the car broke down.

They weren’t far off, they would walk. Nothing was going to spoil the wonderful moment they’d just had, not even a broken down car.

But there was something. Sometimes fate takes the most inopportune moments to suck the joy out of people.

As they approached Jessica’s hall, seven burly figures emerged from the shadows.

They knew where he’d been. They knew he was coming. They’d been waiting.

Timi could tell from the scarves around their necks that they were from his clan but he couldn’t recognise them because they were wearing masks. He hailed them. They replied but he knew something was up; the boys never wore masks if they weren’t out to score.

Oh Viper you bloody son of a gun! Fuckin bastard knew I could take three or four down easy.

But it wasn’t Viper. His former right-hand man washed his hands off like Pilate did Jesus. Nobody leaves. Leaving the clan made Viper look weak and the mutineers felt a lesson had to be taught. Forgiveness is a sin.

“Okay guys, I know you’re here to serve a beating. But I won’t make it easy for you; that much I owe myself,” Timi said before turning to Jessica to tell her what she really needed to hear.

“Run.”

As she ran without looking back, the goons – his former goons – took off their masks. No, this wasn’t just a beating but a death sentence. No clan member leaves his face open if there’s going to be a witness. There were four clan members who never liked him and three members he couldn’t recognise – fledglings.

“So this is how it’s going to be? I bet you aren’t following Viper’s orders so you’re gonna kill me and make him think the Scorpions did it. Then you’ll finally have the war I’ve stopped you from having for a while. You better be sure that I’m dead when this is all over tonight. You better be sure…”

He didn’t finish before they attacked.

`                                               ***************************

When Jessica returned with her neighbours, they found six bloodied bodies scattered across the street. They couldn’t make out whether they were alive or dead at first but some faint groans caught their attention. Two of the men were still alive, calling for help; three others were even more messed up. They weren’t moving; the remaining two goons weren’t on the scene, suggesting that they weren’t badly wounded. Timi’s was found farther off from the rest in a pool of blood; his skull had been bashed in from the left side of his head. He wasn’t moving as well. Jessica screamed as she threw herself on the floor and gathered him into her arms checking for any sign of life.

There was no pulse. He wasn’t breathing too. Timi was gone and there was no stopping the piercing wail of anguish that Jessica let out as she realised this.

******************************

The police arrived with an ambulance in tow and proceeded with cleaning up the bodies. Timi and the three other bodies were zipped in bags and carried off to the morgue in the police wagon; the other two injured were carried off in the ambulance to the general hospital.

At the morgue, the coroner examined the bodies and shook his head; this was one brutal fight. Throats and ribs have been crushed and cut; noses broken in such a way that splinters would have been sent up into the brain and there were multiple stab wounds on some bodies. Timi’s head was still bleeding and the coroner wondered why, there was no pulse and his body temperature was zero – he was toast. There was no need to cut anyone up that night and he’ll only do so if the police came over.

All done, the coroner instructed his assistants to put the bodies inside the ‘fridge’. The fridge an assistant would open about four hours later because he heard faint thuds from within.

It was Timi.

*********************************

Time slows down when you’re healing. You want to get over your issues quickly and move on. Time can be both a blessing and a curse; when you’re healing in the flesh, it can be frustrating to wait; to see the holes fill with flesh and the bones mend. And even after waiting, scars remain. What’s worse, time doesn’t seem to close the deepest wounds of the heart.

It took one year for Timi to be discharged from the hospital. His parents wanted every form of therapy done abroad so he was flown there as soon as he was in a stable condition. They mourned in public but rejoiced in private that their only son was alive. To everyone else, he was dead – even Jessica. Dead people aren’t hunted, tracked or killed and as funny as it might sound, the dead are the safest.

After a week at home, Timi headed back to school to see Jessica. People wouldn’t readily recognise him because he wasn’t expected to be alive but he still took extra precaution. Wearing a baseball hat pulled down to cover his face; he stepped out of the car and went to the block of self-contained rooms where Jessica lived. When he got to her door, Timi took a deep breath and knocked, raising his finger to his lips as soon as Jessica opened the door.

Jessica was shocked, but the joy that flooded her was so much more. She leapt into his arms, buried her face in his neck and sobbed quietly.

They talked about everything and anything that happened while he was gone. His friends had rallied impressively; Jamie called often, for weeks he swore he had nothing to do with Timi’s death. She believed him but she wasn’t ready so say anything about her loss or why it happened. She didn’t want to. Still, James kept calling once in a while to see if anyone was bothering her or if she needed anything. Jessica needed to grieve, and she did for months – sometimes with a smile on her face. She had basically shut everyone out when he was gone and buried her head in school work. She was a year behind him so she was now in her finals. Still it was very painful that they had lost a year of each other. But it didn’t matter; nothing mattered. He was there with her, now.

The next morning, Jessica saw Timi off to his car. He couldn’t stay around for long without anyone discovering at some point and it wasn’t time yet. As he started the car to leave, he heard a knock on the window on the passenger’s side. It was Jessica so he wound down.

“One year away and some things still haven’t changed about you, Timi. You’ve got something on your mind and I know it. You won’t move on easily and there’s something you feel a need to do but you don’t know how I’m going to react so you kept quiet.”

Timi locked his gaze with hers for a bit and sighed. He wasn’t shocked that she sniffed him out. He was shocked at the calm, level tone with which she spoke when he knew she was burning from the inside.

“I know, I understand. You renounced your membership of the clan Timi, but some came after you. You showed that you were better, you chose me. You chose love and life over death and violence and they took one year away from us. They almost took everything from me…”

At this point, He knew exactly what she meant.

“There’s three down, four to go. It’s time to finish this circle. Go get them.”