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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode IX

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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Despite that I practically lacked nothing materially, I still felt hollow, depleted, empty—so unfulfilled. All things have headed south for me, and that was not a good place to be, to say the very least. I had hoped that at twenty-seven, like Ayotomiwa, I would have gotten a second degree so that I could proceed with doing something meaningful with my life, then get married and raise a family.

“It never occurred to me that I was on a consistent path of slipping into depression subliminally. It’s not a place where anyone wants to be—in between the Devil and the deep blue sea.”

“Why can’t I, like him, be fortunate to have things go my way? I compared. He has everything going on for him; he has even found love. “Here I am, neither particularly loving anyone nor do I have any loving me,” I pondered. The closest friendship I have is with him, of course. It never occurred to me that I was on a consistent path of slipping into depression subliminally. It’s not a place where anyone wants to be—between the Devil and the deep blue sea. It was almost like being surrounded by walls of non-progress—very stifling at best. 

Stuck in an awful situation—between the Devil and the deep blue sea. 

I thought of Nathan, my friend. I weighed his option one more time—desperation can really push a man to his wit’s end. His words resonated in my head. “Of what value is a long life when it’s lived in abject poverty? Are you not better off if you would dare to take a few bold steps…? “It was time to go see Nathan and ask one more question about these “bold steps” of his, I assured myself.

Gratefully, I finally escaped the worries and fell into a deep slumber at about 3:49 AM GMT, but only to be woken more frazzled, lacking in desire for anything. So I lay back in the bed till 10:00 AM GMT—two hours after Cookie’s bark woke me. Then it was a few minutes before the hour of eight o’clock when I presume it saw Iyabo. Such times alone, or rare occasions when a stranger walked in, were the only times the dog usually barked. I yawned lazily, cupping my mouth with both palms, and hated—the morning breathe, something.

“However, despite the feeling of disgust, I was too defeated to clean up and begin my day. So I lay still, coiled in the blankets.” 

The milk—more than the drugs I took a few hours ago before going to bed—had left a bad taste and breath in my mouth and a bad morning breath, to say the least. Every yawn was an, “Oh! Boy! What’s that reek? However, despite the feeling of disgust, I was too defeated to clean up and begin my day. So, I lay still, coiled in the blankets. The lights remained turned off. The window blinds unfolded. Even my cell phone did not get treated with a usual fondness—things I ordinarily never failed to do even if I were sick, especially phubbing on my phone. I practically wound up. “Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, o kabukwa ukwu a ka Efi-Nama Ji agaru Aba?” (Does this look like you would eventually get a chance at living?). 

On the other end, my mother has not been her usual very understanding self lately—all she drums into my ears has been—get a wife, get married, and make babies! Granted that she showed a great deal of understanding all these years to the fact that I had no job and even made excuses for me in a bid to take pressure off me. But all that has changed; ever since, I deemed it worthy to set aside a token for her from whatever came my way—which were always, and mainly from my hosts’ generosity. I had feared she might misunderstand the gesture. At such, I prayed and hoped she didn’t misinterpret the widow’s mite meant to augment the paltry sum the government paid her monthly for “my son has begun to make money. “But that was what she did.

 “…my son has begun to make money.”

It was noon soon, and I was still in bed. I appeared to have recovered considerably from the grips of unwritten rules that have steer-guarded my continual stay at the Ajayi’s home. But, on the other hand, maybe the sacredness has started waning in its efficacy. I was reluctant about watering the flowers, wheeling out the trash to the gate, washing the cars, or bathing Cookie. These I have done for as long as I have lived here, and in all honesty, they were just the least I could have done for the Ajayi’s.

It was 1:00 PM GMT— “my gosh, how time flies when you feel like you are in a bottleneck,” still pondering to myself. I didn’t feel any different except for some compelling nudges to visit Nathan. So, I dragged myself up, brushed my teeth, took a quick shower, and got into some clothes. Today, I was a man on a mission to see if I could get some answers and get myself out of the psychological rot I was in, all things being equal. So, I set out to Branamah Island, to Nathan’s place. 

“I set out to Branamah Island, to Nathan’s place.”

“See, my man, we have come far too long a road for me to lie to you; when you taste money, you will know that every split second of this life is super sweet. And you would have been a fool not to do something out of the ordinary, especially when it promises an untampered flow of opulence. So even if it’s for only three years—enjoy it!” He repeated the same lines, just as a thousand other times. 

“What’s the use of a thousand wretched years when you can make it shorter but live it out meaningful?” Nathan questioned. “You are my childhood friend Iyk, and that certainly comes with the privileged closeness that not even my wife of ten years enjoys of me,” he said. His last words, to say the least, were true, at such, impactful. I may not have agreed with all he said, but that certainly was not a lie.

“Nathan and I have been friends dating back to the years at Junior high school.” 

Nathan and I have been friends dating back to the years at Junior high school. He wasn’t particularly interested in education beyond its barest basics. However, he managed through to college and stalled. To him, it wasn’t anything else other than a phase in which one has to pause perfunctorily and impatiently ready oneself for an all-out-money-grabbing journey.

He strictly followed up his belief with requisite actions after senior high school. Then luckily for him, death struck as was instructed. He hit it big and has ever since been a template for most youths around where we hailed. Maybe, not in the way it was believed he got his wealth; but certainly, in the way, he took care of himself lavishly and flaunts wealth with a small circle of super-rich friends.

“…he took care of himself lavishly and flaunts wealth with a small circle of super-rich friends.”

He had been so fortunate in whatever bred him money at such a short time and young age. As a result, he has gotten almost all the things he had mapped out and has now been married with four kids—precisely the things I moisten my lips, hoping to have someday.

“If you sought my opinion, I would have told you that you were too poor to have considered going to school instead. I’m still in shock that you opted for university education; instead of upholding your father’s legacy in business, and I’m not alone in establishing this fact.” He paused to gauge the effect of the mockeries, then ran a hand over his saggy belly, extended it to the scanty and unkempt beards on the jaw, then continued.

School vs. Apprentice Work.

He ran through the list of five other of his friends I met a couple of times I visited him, who held the same belief. The credence that the dividends of trade and business supersede the ROI of going to college. He kept on singling his friends out and representing each of them with a finger of his bare left palm, nodding along with the mentioning of their names.

I wasn’t surprised, only mildly disappointed in the names the opinion was attributed. But, of course, they were of the same type anyway. And I mean not just in their level of exposure alone; they were “big boys”—flashy cars, chains of beautiful mistresses, married with kids—living the life, at least in their definition.

Living the rich life.

“Having you around for all-eternity isn’t a challenge to me, you know it, but I want you to have a taste of life,” he continued to prod. That also was yet another truth. He has always welcomed me, regardless of the gapping gulf in terms of material wealth; showed me salacious hospitality and assured comfort for however long I chose to be around.

He chipped in one incisive mockery aimed at motivating me, after another in between a gulp of a glass full of exotic drink. He then guzzled down another plate of “nkwobi” munched in a most despicable manner, supporting it with another platter of suya, then belched loudly, grotesque at best and a show of no manners and indecency. 

“…in between a gulp of a glass full of exotic drink. He then guzzled down another plate of “nkwobi” munched in a most despicable manner…”

He tugged one of the mistresses clinging to his either side indecently and blared out a burst of feigned dry laughter. He then looked around the faces of everyone on the table seeking support and got their mimed approvals. Only I wasn’t sympathetic enough to lend mine, so I maintained an expressionless face, ruminating at the back of my mind, “Why am I even here?”

“Life is good, meeehn!” He howled.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode X on Oaekpost.

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Caleb Ogbonna Onwe is a guest contributor of Oaekpost LLC, a US-based online media company. He is a seasoned on-air personality, a communication expert, an entrepreneur, and a writer specializing in the prose genre. He recreates experiences using fictional tales in the hope to impact, alter and influence character positively. His area of specialty on Oaekpost are the categories, Fiction and Good News. You can reach him at cogb.onwe.gc@oaekpost.com.

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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode XII

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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I was utterly at a loss as to what to make of or say to her. But from that second, it became expressly clear to me that I did not even know the very least thing about Iyabo’s personality. To be honest, I have judged her relatively too fast and, I have done it wrongly. I was moved by her gesture so much that I wasn’t aware that tears had welled up in my eyes and trickled sluggishly down my cheeks.

“The twin feelings of brokenness and shyness were so abundant that I had to tilt my face down momentarily, to screen the emotional weakness and vulnerability of the moment.”

The twin feelings of brokenness and shyness were so abundant that I had to tilt my face down momentarily, to screen the emotional weakness and vulnerability of the moment. I quickly pulled a hankie and blew my nose into it noisily. She perfectly understood how I felt and took a walk to allow me time to pull myself together—another pack of goodness she just unveiled as I looked in her direction.

Ikenna looking at Iyabo’s direction.

I followed her at a comfortable distance to the carports. Iyabo wore a black Yunclos Women’s Elegant two-piece office lady suit set work blazer pant set. She looked elegant in it. She then mounted her-fragile-self on a six inched heels Sam Edelman Women’s Yaro Classic Dress Sandal, although she appeared comfortable. That was not all. She also looked exquisite, elegant. Her signature sweet fragrance, Angel By Thierry Mugler For Women, filled my nose as I walked behind her.

She chose the car we rode in yesterday, repeated her usual I-want-to-drive-out-rituals without any identifiable alteration—dabbed the center of the steering wheel twice politely, signifying her desire to have the gate opened. The gateman was swift in opening the gate ajar as we left. She drove us to Akoi.

“She parked the car several feet away from the company’s parking lot, took my right hand, bowed her head, and prayed.” Prayer changes everything. 

By 7:30 am, we had gotten to Widenberg. She parked the car several feet away from the company’s parking lot, took my right hand, bowed her head, and prayed. “Dear God, we love you and appreciate the life you have given, please Lord, grant that today marks a new beginning in our lives, in Jesus’ name…Amen,” she prayed. “Best of luck, Iykay,” she said with a smile on her face.

Immediately, feeling swung from that of contumacy to great respect for her. I was still too embarrassed to look her in the face. However, I managed to mutter an amen after hers and alighted from the car. I leaned on the car door with my backside to press the door shut, folding my arm across my chest.

“It was a rush hour. Workers were steaming out of the park entrance to the office complex on the other side of the road.”

It was a rush hour. Workers were steaming out of the park entrance to the office complex on the other side of the road. A traffic warden motioned the cars to stand still, then beckoned on workers who trooped across for a few minutes before the warden let loose the line that had pegged back many vehicles. While the next bunch gathered and waited to be freed by the officer, Iyabo swung into action.

She opened the cardboard paper displaying the inscription she had made on it the previous day. She unashamedly held it to the crowd’s faces—the workers—employees, business owners, company executives, etc. Dinking them, ‘good morning sir, good morning ma’am, good morning…,’ passing infectious smiles on her face to them, with them reciprocating in kind at her debonair disposition and zeal.

Iyabo’s smile…always infectious!

“Oh my God, is this it? How could I not have thought of something this extraordinarily crazy? I questioned myself. My respect for her hiked yet again. I became very embarrassed that I couldn’t conceive anything outside the usual writing of application letters and going for interviews. “Little wonder she accused me of doing too little to get a job,” reminiscing on her previous comments on this note.

I was engrossed in this thought when she bellowed, “Iyk come with me.” That brought me back to alertness. She was already locked up in a conversation with a stout-looking Asian man who bounced like a tennis ball as he walked. I crossed over, ran a few steps to catch up, for they had gone ahead. I drew close and listened intently.

Mr. Jin picks interest in Iyabo and Ikenna. He wants to learn more concerning Ikenna’s qualifications.

“Mr. Jin, this is Ikenna, my partner,” she said rather tersely. The man held both palms together over his face, lowered his head a bit which I reciprocated duly. He snapped almost immediately, engaged two other black men in our company I suspected were business partners. He spoke battered, incoherent English with confusing gesticulations. Iyabo quickly seized the minute to update me on what I missed seconds before I joined them. “Mr. Jin believes we are partners, okay. My part, which is basically to grab the attention, has been played. The next phase is over to you, and I trust you can deliver,” she gently picked and caressed my left palm to bolster my confidence.

“Yeah, sure I will…Thank you…” I reaffirmed confidently. She shushed the other words I was about to say back into my mouth as Mr. Jin turned to be sure we were with him. We joined him and other men in the elevator to the twentieth floor. He asked that we sit in the reception hall while he bounced away. A couple of minutes on, he appeared and motioned us to come.

“He asked that we sit in the reception hall while he bounced away.”

“You… architect?” He mouthed, compressing his brow and nodding his head in a way he hoped had signified a good, which I presumed he was supposed to use to fill in the gap between his “you and architect.” It was my moment, so I took up the job from there as tipped by Iyabo earlier. However, she was still very much needed, though in the capacity of something in the semblance of an emergency interpreter of the English into English still, to say the least. 

Mr. Jin posed me a few instant questions, looking fixedly into my eyes, and I approved I made the grade on the paper. He nodded pleasingly, excused himself, and walked out of the room again. In minutes, Mr. Jin was back and led us away from the floor to the base of the building. He had come to Widenberg for some business engagements. He explained. Therefore, we were to go to his office. Iyabo interpreted, although I did not need an interpretation to this one. Mr. Jin said that in a way that sounded off accurately the bit of the English we knew while working on his laptop and answering calls as they came in while we commuted to his office.

Mr. Jin working on his laptop as we commuted to his office.

His driver revved the engine; we drove off, with Iyabo trailing in the Range Rover. Mr. Jin tried to familiarize himself with me, but it was difficult now that our lingo co-adjutor and mediator, Iyabo, was gone. I didn’t see him wanting to converse; I would have had Iyabo come with us in his car. However, I was to attach more meanings to all he said than the first time; after all, it was still English that he was speaking. 

His driver drove with tact as he wove through the city traffic. It never ceases to amaze me how busy the city could get during the rush hours. It did not take us too long to arrive at the office, luckily the traffic wasn’t as bad. We alighted from his car at the front of the building while we briefly waited for Iyabo to catch up with us after parking the car in the visitor’s parking spot. We entered the building, found the elevator, and went up to his company floor.

“We entered the building, found the elevator, and went up to his company floor.”

In his office, he offered both tea and coffee, but we politely declined both. He fiddled through my documents—resume and architectural portfolio. He asked me more questions to gauge my understanding of construction documents or working drawings, estimations, spatial designs, etc. He also proceeded to assess my knowledge of CAD (i.e., Computer-Aided-Drafting), which I gladly scaled. Thanks to the fact of constantly brushing myself up on ArchiCAD, Revit, AutoDesk 3D, etc., while I was waiting to land myself a job. My answers and knowledge levels were on point, definitely giving a thumbs up to the qualification he saw on paper on my resume. He nodded approvingly.

He offered me a five-year contract to join his architectural team currently in the process of designing a sleuth of structures in Nigeria and abroad. They were developing and in line to build four hotels in the six major cities in Nigeria. Four of such are in Ghana and thirteen in South Africa. He also offered a contract renewal at its expiration or make the contract permanent if I desired and be part of the stakeholders, ceteris paribus, provided there was a mutual concord concerning the terms of the agreement. He espoused that the level of skill that he saw in my portfolio and listening to the answers to the questions would only be a plus to his commercial architectural team. 

“He offered me a five-year contract to join his architectural team currently in the process of designing a sleuth of structures in Nigeria and abroad.”

“My partner and I would be most pleased if you could allow us some time to go through the terms and then get back to you within a short interval,” Iyabo quickly interjected before I could give an answer. “Sure, sure…reasonable; I look forward to hear back from you soon,” he asserted in his choppy English. “Time kee you dia!” I whispered the moment Iyabo ended her statement. She took and rubbed my palm gently under the table where we sat facing Mr. Jin. I held my nerves as much as I could muster the courage.

…to be continued.

Watch out for “Near and Dear – Episode XIII” on Oaekpost.

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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode XI

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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Once I got downstairs, in a bid to forestall her from commanding me around, as usual, I proceeded and leaned on the Wrangler. She got out from the main building, looking resplendently beautiful in a pink pattern mini dress, fitting perfectly; it projected her figure. She complimented the outfit with a Sarah Flint Perfect Sandal 100. Her beautiful legs were like elegant towers. She had only lip gloss on her lips. Indeed her elegance was the highlight and the best view to the inception of the day.

“As she angled towards me, my breath ceased. She beamed and winked in mischief; my jaw dropped. “Come this way!” she commanded.”

She flared her hair to its entire length, a Louis Vuitton Sailor & Lula pilot sunglasses fancifully placed atop her head. The hyper-slim frame surrounding the pink Monogram-printed photochromic lenses glistened as the sun hit it—an exquisite sight, to say the least. She accentuated her elegant look with a white Taurillon leather Louis Vuitton adorable Game On Capucines BB with a bright print of concentric hearts on its front, and she was done. As she angled towards me, my breath ceased. She beamed and winked in mischief; my jaw dropped. “Come this way!” she commanded.

“She got out from the main building, looking resplendently beautiful in a pink pattern mini dress.”

“Hmm… am I ever going to understand this girl? She is always as capricious as the weather. Today’s occasion isn’t for Wrangler?” I thought but was too charmed to voice the same. I would have staked an arm that we were going in her car. Hadn’t she thoroughly washed it earlier? She pressed the keys on her hand using her right thumb; as we headed to carports and a Range Rover sports SUV let out two short blares, and the headlamps came alive in sympathy to the electronic command of the key fob.

“A man who has been stung by bees is always frightened at the sight of the big greenfly.”

I trailed her in awe. We climbed on in and in an unusual manner; she blared two short sounds alerting Mr. Zach. This time I sat at the front but made sure I fixed my gaze on the road defying the temptation to mope further at her. Immediately she rolled out of the compound; I frantically grabbed and buckled the belt. A man who has been stung by bees is always frightened at the sight of the big greenfly. She noticed and chuckled out loud.

She didn’t disappoint my expectations; she took off frenetically, making the machine groan in a particular manner that entertained me in no small measure. I wasn’t aware I was smiling and nodding in admiration until she gave me a stinging slap on my left thigh, then asked if I liked the car.

“…she took off frenetically, making the machine groan in a particular manner that entertained me in no small measure.”

“Yeeeees, I replied slowly, but what I admire right now is the way you handle it.

“Do you want to handle her?”

“Her?”

“Yes, her. Mum names her cars. This one is ‘Queen Bee, she said light-heartedly.

“Oh yeah… this is mum’s?”

“Yeah, one of her three. So, you sure ‘wanna’ drive her. She asked the second time, and my heart missed a beat. I felt hot inside. It has always been my dream to push this toy at some point, and finally, the chance has arrived.

“Errrrm…no, I don’t”. I answered unassuredly.

“Why not, com’on….”

She relented, then took her leg off the accelerator completely. She then indicated left, matched the car to stop, uncladded her belt, and descended the other way. I was still fixed in my seat when she turned around and came standing by my door. Reluctantly, I got off, held out the door so that she slipped in, closed it, and turned around.

“I rubbed my sweaty palms gently, moved the lever from P to D, and took off slowly.”

I rubbed my sweaty palms gently, moved the lever from P to D, and took off slowly. I sure was a better driver than I started, but it called for strict observation of the rules I made. They were to guide my path all my days here. No one of them should break, not now, and not anytime all my days here.

We paused by a pharmacy, got some drugs, and headed to a bookstore following her direction. She picked quite a few books for herself and bought me two others—The Vulture is a Patient Bird by James Hardly Chase and The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. She asked for a reasonably large size cardstock paper and demanded I decide the color she would pick. You should already know I would opt for white and, I did.

“This time, she drove to a Bolè shop; she bought the choicest of what they had and some smoked fish.”

This time, she drove to a Bolè shop; she bought the choicest of what they had and some smoked fish. We went home and feasted on them, gisting and laughing the rest of the day like two naughty teenagers, in my apartment. “Iykay…what did you say you studied?” She queried as I approached the dining table with the cardstock paper in her hand

The look on my face demanded an explanation as to why she asked. “Tell me, nahplease, she said softly. I almost let out a shout out of shock. “Did you just say please!” I echoed in disbelief. Iyabo giggled mischievously, throwing her head backward. I told her—Architecture. Then she made me promise not to peep at whatever she was going to write. She took a pen marker and started writing on the cardboard-paper, while I stared away into space through the window, cracking under suspense.

“Iyabo giggled mischievously, throwing her head backward.”

“You hope to practice, right?”

“Practice what I read; you mean? Yes, of course, I’m dying to.”

“Where would you like to work, have you any company in mind?”

“Yeah…I fancy Wilsberg West Africa Limited, Coastline Construction Limited, Rock Base Multisource Limited, and a few more others on the island here, but these two especially,” I answered.

“I never doubted you about knowing what you want; I only want you to be a little more pragmatic about getting it,” she kindly espoused. 

“Tomorrow, you will go there and get yourself a job wielding this placard,” she said sternly. Then she picked up the cardstock, unveiled a write-up: “a graduate of architecture, with CGPA 4.97, please give me a job!” At the bottom, she added my phone number and then email. 

She excused herself to grab some sleep. I was so shocked, too shocked to utter a word.

“I, Ikenna, aren’t doing enough to secure employment?” “How more pragmatic could one have gotten?” 

“I have never known myself to be lazy, unresolved, or complacent.” 

“How could she…?”

“By the way, did I ever mention job and job-related worries to her?”

“But then, I think she has a point; I should have heeded her brother’s advice and ditched this idea of working for anyone and fixing something for myself.” Pondering to myself.

That night was the longest I ever saw. I neither closed my eyes, nor did I even need to. I analyzed my ways in their minutest fibers. In the end, I didn’t just agree with Iyabo that I hadn’t been practical in my bid to secure employment; I also accepted I was going to get my desired job the next day, her way.

I was set and ready to do this her way.

At about 7:15 am, a brand of Iyabo’s knock was at the front door downstairs. I hurried down, knotting my tie along as I galloped down the staircase. I was set and ready to do this her way. I opened the door, and there she was, dressed up too. 

“We must get going now if we hope not to be in the gridlock all day.

“We?” I asked in disbelief.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode XII on Oaekpost.

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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode X

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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I didn’t feel any better at Nathan’s—the things I had hoped might help me get the depressing thoughts off my mind didn’t happen at all. The supposed “big leap didn’t appear the best leap to me,” therefore, I had to leave much later the same day. The journey to Branamah Island did not yield all that I had anticipated from the onset. Upon getting home, I went upstairs and reclined to rest.

“She opened the door and sighted me in those pants; she heaped herself in a mound at a corner and reinforced the laughter.”

Did I tell you that there have been flashes and more flashes of thought of Iyabo, and they have become even more frequent? Moreover, the feelings they evoked had been endearing the few seconds I entertained them. Yes, that’s correct! Maybe I am falling for Iyabo; who knows? 

“Did I tell you that there have been flashes and more flashes of thought of Iyabo, and they have become even more frequent?” Iyabo on my mind.

I was enjoying the reverie when suddenly, a bang hit the front door in three successive knocks. I paid no ear to it; I didn’t want anything that would threaten my chill mood—it held peace and quietness; so, did it offer solace from all the pains and troubles of the real world. So, naturally, I hated whoever it was, knocking, the same way I hated facing reality again. I just wanted to be left alone.

Grudgingly, I pulled off a layer of fluffy blankets that I used in covering my body as the knock persisted, with the bangs getting attention beyond my apartment. I walked to the wardrobe to get something decent to cover my bare upper body. I threw the double wooden doors ajar and cast a glance through the cloths. I gazed steadily on, in apparent confusion about what to pick. At this point, whoever was at the door had been spirited and resumed knocking with a fresh determination. 

Knocking on the door. 

Luckily, my eye caught an overflowing Agbada dress isolated at an extreme corner of the wardrobe; without a second thought, I got into it. I adjusted it this way and that way to make sure I was fully covered. I then hurried downstairs just in time, before the persistent knocker would hack down Mr. Ajayi’s door, which was undoubtedly a given in a matter of few minutes.

I turned the locks leftwards until it made a double click sound before I grabbed the handle to pull the door towards myself, then attempted peering. Kpiiim! My head collided with Iyabo’s forehead and each one of us fell backward. However, I managed to contain mine to just a stagger, but hers was different. She fell backward—butt first across the two short rungs, rolled on her back on the bare earth.

“As a gentleman, I panned away my face instantly so as not to see her accidental indecent exposure, as her long legs were now made bare…” 

As a gentleman, I panned away my face instantly so as not to see her accidental indecent exposure, as her long legs were now made bare, due to the fall, as she was still in her flowing silk nightwear. She had attempted being her usual naughty self, but this time, it boomeranged with a painful bang. She let out a scream, clenched her forehead, and grunted as she writhed in agony. I felt dizzy, but it died down at the sight of her writhing in pains I had inflicted. Instantly, beads of sweat sprouted all over my face. 

Suddenly, a strange feeling of genuine concern and care sprouted me to action. I defied my own pain and the short headache I was feeling. Her wellbeing after this accident superseded mine. I fled the short steps she had fallen across to the ground, sat very close beside her, and exerted some pressure on the point of contact on her forehead.

“I defied my own pain and the short headache I was feeling.”

I had said I’m sorry ten thousand times in the first two minutes. Strangely, the throat didn’t or couldn’t prevent me from doing so. Sitting so close to Iyabo and helping her nurse, her pain had galvanized a reaction that defied the taming the Agbada offered. She sensed it first, paused grunting suddenly, and funnily rolled her eyeballs amidst squeezed brow. She then gave out a peal of weird high-pitched laughter. It didn’t occur that I had been too close for comfort and held her so close all along. I snapped my hand away as if she suddenly became a hot metal, scooting away from her unceremoniously, and fled upstairs crestfallen at the workings of chemistry, physiology, and biology. 

She got up and came after me, cackling throatily like an excited hen, to my room. Hurriedly, I got into tighter jeans trousers and tried to sit calmly and play with my phone. She opened the door and sighted me in those pants; she heaped herself in a mound at a corner and reinforced the laughter. I hadn’t learned to relate with her in a more relaxed atmosphere and less embarrassing situations, how much more now. I didn’t know how else to handle this; I wished I could vanish into the air—Poof!

“…I wished I could vanish into the air—Poof!”

A drop of hot sweat made inroad from my head through my cheek towards my neck; I tamed it with the back of my hand just as quickly as it cascaded. I summoned all the composure I could and remained as calm as I could until she recovered.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode XI on Oaekpost.

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Near and Dear – Episode VIII

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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“...It was a call from Ayo—he wanted to inquire after Iyabo, his sister,...” Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photography.

It was about 7:30 pm when my cell phone boozed and woke me. It was a call from Ayo—he wanted to inquire after Iyabo, his sister, and remind me that it was my responsibility to help her settle in since their mum was not around. “You and I know that to help Iyabo settle in isn’t a thing to be worried about—how to stay alive should be my utmost concern right now.” I could tell you would want to bet an arm that the events of the day didn’t only kill off our interest in the game and its eventual outcome; but also made the both of us worn out. How wrong you would be! For me, yes. For Iyabo, I will let you be an emergency member of the jury.

“She didn’t wait to be met by the door as other times; she took liberty in hand and just walked in like the Queen of the palace.”

Could you have imagined that about twenty minutes after talking to Ayo, there came a knock on the door, which took after the manner of Iyabo’s knocking? That left me with a sad-happy feeling. Happy was what I had started feeling in secret whenever I replayed a portion of the day’s events unfolding. Sad, I also felt, for the same sake. Just a few seconds after she knocked, she didn’t wait to be met by the door as other times. She took liberty in hand and just walked in like the Queen of the palace.

“Did you check the outcome of the game?” she interrogated.

“Did you check the outcome of the game?” she interrogated. “No, I didn’t,” I replied curtly and with difficulty amidst squinted eyes. “Would anyone in my condition fancy such frivolity?” I asked no one else but myself introspectively. A million other questions flooded my mind as she turned and left without another word. “Iyabo sure does have a TV set in her room—a better one. Another in the big living room that branched out into all those other seven rooms. So, “Why here, why me?”

“Didn’t she say she was going to rest? Why here now?” I continued to ponder within myself. It’s almost like there is an Iyabo lodestone in this building that keeps her coming back repeatedly. “Is she my penalty for some unknown past offenses against the gods?” Still wondering. “Could any lady be this passionate about something such mundane as football?” Or is there something elusive in the picture that I am not perceiving? The questions filed out unabated in their numbers.

“The questions filed out unabated in their numbers.”

It had been forty-five minutes since she left and went back to the main house. I tried to force something down my stomach—one of the efforts I had to make to stay alive, but it was Herculean at best. I did my very best with chowing down the much that I could, but I gave up ever too quickly. It took some pains to push through a glass of milk I used in transporting my prescription medications in between gnashed teeth and squinted eyes and went upstairs to rest.

Flashes of happenings earlier today wrestled away sleep from my eyes. I tried but failed in deciding what way to deal with this enigma—Iyabo—which had begun to replace my real worry. Then, finally, my cell phone beeped. Lethargically I grabbed it, and it was Ayo again. “Nwoke m afa?” (My friend, how are you?) He asked. He has successfully copied how I addressed him during casual talks. And I also did borrow his lines to balance the book. “Ogbeni…I no know how I dey” (My guy, I am not sure how I am doing at the moment). I replied, as audibly as the discomfort in my throat could permit, borrowing his lines again.

“Lethargically, I grabbed it, and it was Ayo again. “Nwoke m afa?” (My friend, how are you?) He asked.”

He noticed I spoke with difficulty and inquired what the issues were. I insisted I was good. Ayo gave up after many failed attempts to dissect my heart for its most pressing content. He then accused me of getting unnecessarily anxious again and advised that I knock it off. “Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I have finally met someone!” His excitement was glaringly unconcealed. “Oh yeah… that’s great news, Ayo!” I replied, flat. Now he was sure something was wrong with me. That could not have been all I should say after he had finally met a girl.

I had exhausted the syllabus for wooing the ladies, teaching and instigating him to try out a relationship while he was around; he blatantly refused, insisting it wasn’t the time. Now that death has killed as instructed, the least expected of me was to be happy for him and then do well to show it. I sincerely wished I could be happier for him. I honestly was happy for him, but my vocal track didn’t allow more luxury than it did already. “Vocal track? Who talks help? I wish I could manage to eat with it; I won’t even bother speaking to anyone for the next thirteen months,” I exaggeratedly assured myself.

“Now that death has killed as instructed, the least expected of me was to be happy for him and then do well to show it.”

“Oh, God! What is even happening to my life?” I pondered. “Isn’t this the fourth month after my last interview? Could I have believed it if anyone had told me the day I received that certificate; that it wasn’t a visa to my freedom? Freedom from heartache, from poverty, from squalor and embarrassments.” I had dreamt of how I would take the world by storm immediately after graduating. Now, it’s been over three years since after graduation; and well over three months since my last interview. Why can’t my life be like Ayo’s, or at least move forward?” I questioned myself.

“If for any reason I’m stripped of all the abundance that I enjoy from this family, a beggar on the street would certainly be way better than I am.” If Misery had company, I was its best friend now. “God, how on earth did I miss out on the chances I had back in school to learn a craft or two in tow with my college degree? At least, I could have been using such handiwork to make ends meet until I can secure a white-collar job with my college degree? Please, God, show me your mercy and help me.” I let out a mustard-seed-faith-of-a-prayer at best.

“I let out a mustard-seed-faith-of-a-prayer at best.”

My mood immediately oscillated from prayer to extreme sadness. How hard it is to keep the faith—especially when you are full of hopes and expectations. I felt so much like a reed tossed about by the raging seas of circumstance. Life is not always as it seems. I sought for the few things I liked about the events of earlier today that I could brood on instead, but they were no longer there; few traces I found had gone sour! I was exasperated, lonely, lost.

Ayo and his family have been the God I could see with my eyes. They have bestowed me with enormous kindness that I have wondered how life would have turned out without him. Do you know that apart from his laptop and documents, Ayo didn’t make personal the things belonging to him until he left for the United States? It shocked me beyond imagination when he left behind everything he owned for me. In my opinion, that is a true typification of brotherhood exemplified via our friendship. The truth is that “Life is indeed better with friends.”

“It shocked me beyond imagination when he left behind everything he owned for me. But, in my opinion, that is a true typification of brotherhood exemplified via our friendship. The truth is that “Life is indeed better with friends.”

I inherited his fashionable wardrobe. Honestly, he picked no clothes, save for the one he wore on the plane. I turned a vicarious car owner for the same reason he left the other things—my comfort. At my disposal was a comfortable lodging—big enough to house two families, all to my singular-self. Ayo…!”

“I let out a mustard-seed-faith-of-a-prayer at best.”

The one that puts biscuits to it all is a handsome monthly allowance in hard currency that never failed to arrive. “Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, mmadu bukwanu chi ibe ya o…” (The savior one knows most times is a human o). My mind yielded more thoughts and a few more. Finally, sleep deserted me the same way luck appeared to have.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode IX on Oaekpost.

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Near and Dear – Episode VII

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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She walked down to the foot of the gatekeeper’s house and appealed to Mr. Zach to slide open the gate. She then turned and marshaled me, “go wait for me by the Wrangler,” and I proceeded to the car to wait while she disappeared into the house one more time. “Hmmm, that’s all you know how to do, Commander-In-Chief! Can I say Alpha Female or what?” I murmured.

“She turned, went around the car to the driver’s seat, and we fled, cruising fast past the city streets.” 

She stared straight at my face, making sure I connected. She then smiled dubiously but quickly twisted her lips inwards to screen it, shook her head, and jumped into the wheel in a tomboy fashion. Like an overwhelmed teenager, I turned around and joined her in the car. However, instead of joining her in the vehicle’s front by sitting on the passenger’s side, I decided to sit at the back. All her endeavors to dissuade me from sitting there failed.

“…I decided to sit at the back. All her endeavors to dissuade me from sitting there failed.”

“Hey! Comm’n what happened to the front seat?” She queried casually. “Nothing really, I am just flowing with the impulse, kindly grant that I sit here,” I pleaded as nicely as I could muster the courage to do. “Okay, if that would help you feel better,” she responded and shrugged, baring both palms. “I won’t allow you to add heart failure to the imbroglio the day had already offered, to exacerbate an already complicated day,” I fumed under my breath. I heaved a sigh of relief when she didn’t press further. However, the distance did not in any way reduce the tension I have had to harbor all day. I still felt her presence all over me and was going to run out of breath each time she took her eyes off the road momentarily to peer into the rear mirror.

She engaged the gear-moving the lever from P to D, blared the horn twice in quick succession, then rolled the car slowly towards the gate. Once outside, she took off spontaneously at top speed-making the engine groan heartily. I scrambled for the seat belt with one hand, fought with the other to maintain my balance as inertia surged me close to rolling on the floor of the SUV. She let out a giggle, lifted the shade off her face, and mounted it loosely over her head. I looked up into the mirror, where our eyes locked momentarily. She dispassionately apologized for her failed plan to throw me off and then fled. On a different day—that I have no injury to nurse—I should relish the expertise she handled the steering wheel.

“My instinct had told me it was to the pharmacy, and it had been correct.”

I didn’t know where we were going, but I did not dare to ask. My instinct had told me it was to the pharmacy, and it had been correct. She drove in and chose a spot on the parking lot. She alighted and commanded, more than instructed, “Stay put in the car; I will be back before you know it.” She adjusted her beret further left and dabbed a hand over her hair. She walked briskly into the shop, pulling on the handle of the glass door towards herself, and disappeared into the store.

She looked infectiously beautiful, her grouchy attitude regardless. Glancing in her direction as she walked away, I could only say from my perspective that her physique is a wonderland at best. The elegance of her masterpiece frame flowed with her catwalk gait. “She has enormous energy—and I like it,” I caught myself muttering. I tried to fight the thought but lost flat, as I could only end up remembering how her pinched lips looked so inviting while she tried to hide a smile earlier. Moments later, she returned with two packs; one of which was drugs’, then a second, which contained all manner of goodies and ’a get-well soon’ card.

Get Well Soon Card.

Before getting to the car, I had been phubbing on my phone. I glanced up just when she emerged from the store, and I could not go back to going through my phone. Sometimes I wonder at the psychology of our make-up as men. It is often natural for men to experience triggers when they see the opposite gender that appeals to them. Hence, would the notion be correct that Iyabo appealed to me that I was always stealing glances at her whenever I could or when shyness permits? Am I falling for her? If not for the tinted car windows, my admiration would have been arrested by her charming gaze. Instead, as I watched, each step she took plunged me into an imaginative spiral. Snapback to sane reality, Iykay, snapback.

I loved the feelings of admiration surfing up, although I could not say the same about the thought that birthed it. At this juncture, I will attribute its source to the primordial instinct of the psychology of being created a man—I am only human, being human at best. “The Ajayi’s are not in your league. Internal police warned. She opened the door to the seat where I sat, handed in all the items to me, brought a card out from one of the bags in my hand, opened it, then recited what the inscription it held, ‘get well soon, Iykay,’ she added softly.

“She turned, went around the car to the driver’s seat, and we fled, cruising fast past the city streets.” 

She turned, went around the car to the driver’s seat, and we fled, cruising fast past the city streets. I was grateful, not just for the gifts alone, but especially for not being required to get down from the car nor made to stand up for any reason. I was happy where I was, relishing the gifts, and appreciating Iyabo in my mind for what she did, who she was, and the elegance she exuded. 

As she drove, she looked fixedly into my face during her glances at me via the rearview mirror. Her face was expressionless at best. We drove home in silence. Who even had the strength, no, the courage, for a conversation after all? Finally, I got down, forced a thank you through the wounds, and headed to the bedroom upstairs.

As she drove, she looked fixedly into my face during her quick glances at me via the rearview mirror.

I had barely sat down when a soft knock on the door announced someone was coming. I begrudgingly descended to attend to it. It was Iyabo. In her usual manner, she brushed past me by the passage as usual. She assumed my favorite spot, cross-legged, and leaned back on the couch. The living room temporarily scented nicely after the perfume she was wearing. I drew in a long air to fill my lungs to the brim as I trailed.

“Had anything to eat today?” She asked. “Yes, your Highness,” I responded. Her eyeballs bulged in a shock. Then, a beautiful smile parted her lips to unveil a perfect dentition. I was even more surprised at myself and wandered where that gut had been borrowed. “Okay…,” she said slowly. “Take the drugs, after which you go get some rest; I’m off to my room. I need to rest too”.

“Oh, I thought you were a robot. I muttered as she was leaving the room.

…to be continued.

Watch out for “Near and Dear – Episode VIII” on Oaekpost.

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Near and Dear – Episode VI

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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Laboriously, I stood, my head waved in a manner the flag would to the influence of rushing wind. Forty stars queued and exited in a rush one after another from my eyes like a military phalanx singing, “Oh, the grand old Duke of York; He had ten thousand men; He marched them up to the top of the hill; And he marched them down again.” Each one that left took a measure of my strength with it. I was drained-sapped. I contacted the marbled wall with arms hinged at their elbows and inclined my head on it for a moment. I felt depleted and sick as I cleaned myself up. 

“Omg! But I covered my tracks well. Or rather, I believed she was too engrossed to notice.” Oh well, I guess I was wrong with my assumptions.”

I walked up to the sink. Looked at my flushed and sweaty face in the mirror. I looked like I had taken a couple of knock-out punches from the great Iron Mike Tyson. I then subjected my hands to a stringent ablution with the sink’s scented hand soap and water. I did my best to freshen the air with the Febreze air fresher on the windowsill—like that would help any to eliminate the nefarious odor of the biological and chemical waste products. I even wondered if I was a human being or a science experiment. 

“I then subjected my hands to a stringent ablution with the sink’s scented hand soap and water.”

I wobbled out, locked the door behind me, and took the keys. That was to forestall any entrant until the place became usable again. There is no saying what would happen to anyone who entered into that restroom after what I did in there should I have left it open. As far as Ikenna Obi Okonkwo is concerned, that edict to keep that lavatory room closed has been signed, sealed, and delivered. I wouldn’t want to have a suffocation emergency on my hand. That would also be the shaming for the history books. 

I mouthed a prayer that she should not have any need to use the lavatory—unless she would be willing to go to the one upstairs. I got back to the living room feeling a bit relieved, but far from recovering, still drained of confidence. “What in the world got into me to ingest all that I did that triggered the nasty biological reaction in me?” I pondered. It was just five minutes before the teams would go for break time and perhaps a possible three added minutes, making it eight.

“I mouthed a prayer that she should not have any need to use the lavatory…”

Since I was not sure the “witch” would be leaving after the whistle for the break, I quickly seized the eight minutes to psyche myself up for possible eventualities— the interrogations that may ensue. Although I was sure, she was too engrossed to notice my absence from the room while I was gone for a bit.

The referee blew the whistle for the half-time break, and for the first time since she came in, she took her gaze off the TV. She then went forward and killed off whatever remained of me with a stern and wooden “What’s wrong with you?” Looking at me intently with no expression, I could reckon.

“The referee blew the whistle for the half-time break…”

“Omg! But I covered my tracks well. Or rather, I believed she was too engrossed to notice.” Oh well, I guess I was wrong with my assumptions. “I, I… I am alright now,” I stuttered. My tone was quivery, shaking as a reed tossed about the many waves of the sea. “Hey, relax, I know that feeling,” to say the least. Now, that was somewhat comforting. More so, I didn’t think Iyabo had it in her to lend her sympathy, although her face was still expressionless at most.

Then came a tap on the door—I searched her face for a possible lead to knowing if she was expecting anyone. She connected but looked away as soon as she did. With a great effort, I made to stand and attend to the door. Iyabo suggested I should not bother. She got talking into the phone as soon as the last word directed at me escaped her lips. I regretted trying to get up because falling was undoubtedly a given at this point. I became grateful she didn’t allow me to.

“The door is open!”

“The door is open!” She howled. A middle-aged man whom I was very sure I never met anywhere walked in, carrying a side bag. The beads of sweat had matured into a free-flowing river, running down my body and made the T-shirt I wore glue tightly to my skin. I attempted to predict who the man might be after I ran a sustained glance at him. It was pretty tricky and elusive. I gave up. I was too battered to try again, both bodily and emotionally.

Iyabo stood, walked to the passage to warmly welcome him. Just like she did while speaking with Mr. Zach the day she arrived home. She bowed, touching her toes in obeisance amidst elaborate smiles and other sundry pleasantries. A “Welcome Sir” that capped the exchange was all I could pick from a handful of other things she ranted in the language of the West.

“Iyabo stood, walked to the passage to warmly welcome him.”

“Ikenna, this is Dr. Tobi Makinde, our family physician,” glancing in my direction, vacuous at best. “Sir, this is Ikenna—my friend,” she said with nonchalance as she quickly looked in the direction of Dr. Makinde. “My friend…?” Did I hear her refer to me as a friend? Did she even cast a reckless glance at me to know how I was taking the impact of that shock “my friend?” No! “This girl is crazy,” I concluded, pondering in quick successions to myself like bullets screaming as they launch out the nozzles of an AK-47.

“Nice to meet you, Ikenna,” expressed Dr. Makinde as he extended an arm which I took perfunctorily and tilted my head in reciprocation of his gesture. But it was instead, too fast that it appeared more like a nod than a bow. Dr. Makinde’s production of the name Ikenna was, at its best, a travesty. He made it sound more like a bastardized version— ‘íkènna,’ which would mean ‘father’s buttocks,’ rather than ‘íkénna,’ meaning God’s strength, its actual meaning in the language of the naming.

“Nice to meet you, Ikenna,” expressed Dr. Makinde as he extended an arm which I took perfunctorily and tilted my head in reciprocation of his gesture.”

In a short while of getting acquainted with her, I have never heard Iyabo call the full name—Ikenna like she just did. “What happened to the ‘Iyk’ she called me…why the sudden formality?” I questioned myself. “He ingested a cup of boiled water, sir,” she accentuated in English, well-polished pointing at me, then switched and ranted the rest of their conversation in the language of her people. I would guess she must be telling the doctor that she does not know what got into him to have done such.

The physician, who was still standing, nodded intermittently to assure her of his understanding of my condition. When she finished, the man painstakingly laid his bag on the center table, unzipped it, and took out a few medical tools. He swung into action. He ran a check on my pulse, listened to the heartbeats, viewed the color of my eyeballs and that of the palms and fingernails, then got on with prescriptions after he exhausted a host of routine questions and viewing of the gullet. He finished with some instructions, “drink that twice daily and take the tablets I wrote down as prescribed. You will be fine in a few days.” He took his leave.

“He finished with some instructions, “drink that twice daily and take the tablets I wrote down as prescribed. You will be fine in a few days.”

By ‘that’ he said, he had referred to a marine-blue color gelatinous liquid, believed to have the potency to soothe the burnt larynx. Dr. Makinde obviously came prepared with the correct prescription in place. It seems like Iyabo had given him the load down of what happened before he even arrived. Iyabo walked him to the door, returned, took the prescription, flashed a glance at the carelessly inscribed note, motioned me to stand with a flickered index finger, and headed to the door.

I obeyed, felt very stupid but followed her anyway. “What’s it with this girl, so bossy,” I shrugged disdainfully. As I stepped out of the apartment, I stared at her as she walked into the main house. If anyone were looking at me as I looked, with my hands folded and my right hand on my chin, they would say I was checking her out as she walked. I headed to the corner where I sun-dried my clothes. I picked and quickly got into a shirt I had left behind on the line earlier because it had not dried properly.

“A few moments soon, she would reappear, dressed in a pair of black jogging shorts and a sky blue sweatshirt…”

“If anyone were looking at me as I looked, with my hands folded and my right hand on my chin, they would say I was checking her out as she walked.”

A few moments soon, she would reappear, dressed in a pair of black jogging shorts and a sky blue sweatshirt with a bold shiny inscription ‘Paris’ blazoned on the back of her sweatshirt. Her navel slightly showed—she looked like an absolute doll. Beautiful would be an understatement. The write-up on her back blended in with the color of her shoes, which was itself, of a light black background. Then, a white beret cap shifted towards her right hand, a night-black Gucci glasses, and she was done.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode VII on Oaekpost.

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Near and Dear – Episode V

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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When I returned, I was two minutes behind the kickoff, although; the scoreline was expectedly an “eyeglasses.” I settled into one of the couches and descended on a sleeve of crunchy Sour Cream and Onion flavored Pringles set on the side stool—this flavor is so far my favorite, followed by Cheesy Cheese, and then the Hot and Spicy one. Neither of the team was my favorite. My darling Barcelona had had a date with Lacrona the previous day and won.

“But I honestly liked what I saw, just that I forced myself into containing it within the realm of imagination.”

However, because I was fanatic and particularly passionate about the round leather game generally, I could view any team play when convenient. Fifteen minutes into the game, Sevilla had been a goal up. The build-up to scoring the goal was particularly heart-warming—a great team effort. I clapped so loudly along as the winning team celebrated.

After the resultant cacophony died down and the ball was back in play, I felt I heard a soft tap on the door, almost inaudible. I paused my chewing, tuned down the volume on the plasma TV on the wall to listen intently to be sure it wasn’t my mind.

“Lo, an angel, dressed in a Manchester Uniteds’ red jersey…”

In a moment, the knock came again, as soft as the first time. I waltzed to the door, opened it. Lo, an angel dressed in a Manchester Uniteds’ red jersey and a pair of white-loose three-quarters, stood by the doorstep. She hilariously contoured her face, feigning anger. I couldn’t help but let out a cameo of laughter which I followed up with an apology immediately.

The tail part of the “I am sorry” was still unvoiced when she shoved me away with her arm as she brushed through the passage and headed for a seat. “I have been knocking since daybreak,” she exaggerated.

I was at a loss about how I should respond to that. Although it wasn’t the hundredth time, I was facing such a situation where I had unexpected calls to action to handle the attention of a sweet-faced unfamiliar dotty lady. Just that the sacredness around this one didn’t allow my reactions to being spontaneous, she was a rich kid—she was my best friend’s younger and only sibling. Her dad, her mum—all these were weighty inhibitions, just in case, I dared to like what I saw in the end.

“Fear! This is nothing but a mindset that needs to be unloaded from one’s system.”

But I honestly liked what I saw, just that I forced myself into containing it within the realm of imagination. Consequently, it quickly gave way to a different kind of emotion—Fear! This is nothing but a mindset that needs to be unloaded from one’s system. The fear was not necessarily trepidation descended and overwhelmed me instantly.

I took unassured steps through the passage, back into the living room, and towards the spot where I sat earlier before I left to attend to the door. But she had usurped me. She was sitting right at the owner’s seat—the best spot for the best view. If she noticed that I walked in, she didn’t show it as she had glued her face to the screen.

She sat, folding two spotless legs applesauce. She placed an arm on her lap, then busied the other, transiting between my precious Pringles’ sleeve and her mouth. “What an impetus,” I fumed under my breath. I nervously turned right, took to another but lesser vantage corner, and collapsed my baffled self on a couch.

“She sat, folding two spotless legs applesauce. She placed an arm on her lap, then busied the other, transiting between my precious Pringles’ sleeve and her mouth.

I knew she would come downstairs sometime; she promised to do so, and she very well did. What I didn’t expect was that it would be that soon and into my apartment, to say the very least. A thousand questions were on my mind, but an ounce of courage wasn’t there to voice the first of them all.

My head felt light, my legs heavy, and my mouth dry. Beads of sweat sprouted on my brow while my palms went sweaty. The three-horse power gigantic air conditioner erected at a corner of the living room did little to assuage my predicament. The room became very stuffy.

My confidence was getting compromised with time until it got eroded like never before or after. “Is this a part of me I never knew?” I have never felt a presence this intimidating. I never cracked before a lady, never! “Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, this is not you,” I scolded myself inaudibly. I tried to stay calm but could hardly breathe.

“I could feel my heart colliding against the walls of my rib cage as it thumped loudly.”

I could feel my heart colliding against the walls of my rib cage as it thumped loudly. It bothered me that she might hear the sound. I didn’t want to aid her in profiling me as either crude, servile, or intimidated. However, the more I tried to be calm, the more I slipped in. Now the thumping was interfering with my breathing. It had become irregular. I was choking.

I walked to the water dispenser across the living room for some cold water. “That should surely help.” I opened the compartment that held cups and brought out an enamel cup. Turned in water. I then returned to my spot as calmly as I could muster.

I reposed so much faith in the cup to mitigate my condition. So I tilted my head backward and emptied a half cup of boiled water right into my throat in the manner you would take a shot of dry gin then died! It felt as though a furnace had ignited to its full flame in my gullet. My body felt as if set ablaze. “Did I just ingest a cup of acid?” Perhaps it felt worse. My stomach was on fire as it churned and bubbled with a loud growling noise.

“My body felt as if set ablaze. “Did I just ingest a cup of acid?” Perhaps it felt worse. My stomach was on fire as it churned and bubbled with a loud growling noise.”

I couldn’t scream even though I needed it and attempted to do so. Erratically, I took off with what I believed was my top-most speed, as though a carnivore was on my trail. I headed for the bathroom two rooms away from the living room. I was not sure what exactly I had run in there to do. I tried to vomit, but the track was so much on fire for such, I gave up. The room opposite was the kitchen. I zoomed in, looking for nothing in particular.

I took a bottle of red oil, hurriedly opened, and halved it into myself. However, that didn’t do the magic I had hoped for to my utmost dismay. My hand groped over a container of salt held at the kitchen unit. I lifted it before I could think, made to open it. “For what?” A thought questioned as I abandoned it as hurriedly as I took it. My eyes caught a container of mayonnaise. Yes, that would do the trick, I thought. I dashed for it, uncorked, and dipped my entire five fingers into it. Whatever came out with them ended up in my stomach. That credited my instincts for its choice this time, momentarily though. I followed it up with a glass of water. This time, I was sure it was cold water.

“Today, I became the Picasso of the WC as I painted the bowl. The smell that followed would make hydrogen sulfide a relief you rather smell than what came out of me that day.”

In an instance, I felt an excruciating discomfort in my tummy—a flash of moments—I got an unpleasant result close to my pants. I dashed to the toilet—thank heavens, the door unlocked. If not, I would have been churning the dookie butter all over myself. The time it took me to unbutton my shorts felt like an eternity. I ripped off the zipper…viiiiiiam! Praarrrr prrrraaaaahhh! Was the blow-mud-noise that followed—the succession of a hot peppery shit that splattered on and around the WC. Today, I became the Picasso of the WC as I painted the bowl. The smell that followed would make hydrogen sulfide a relief you rather smell than what came out of me that day.

The Pringles, hot water, red palm oil, and mayonnaise led to the deadly explosive diarrhea and chemical reaction worth remembering. I was grateful she did not come after me. I would have cared less anyway, was I not dying after all? I grunted and whimpered the much the corroded larynx could permit; while I emptied the poison I fed my bowel into the pit with an explosive relish of diarrhea.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode VI on Oaekpost.

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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode IV

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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My name is Ikenna Obi. Close friends call me Iyke, for short. I am the first of the either living offspring of Obi Okonkwo of Agbaja in the Eastern region. My mother was a local primary school teacher, popularly known as ‘onye nne,’ meaning ‘the mother,’ in the language of its naming, Igbo. She was dubbed onye nne for her exceptional attention and tenderness towards the pupils during her active years in service when she taught in the community primary school.

“I got admitted and left for the famous University of Nigeria Nsukka, where I studied Architecture and graduated tops two years ago.”

One would see her every morning at the assembly ground panning left and right, to and fro the lines, either wielding tissue paper to tidy the noses of the children that never ceased to drip of catarrh. Adjusting their uniform and or just dabbing their tiny shoulders and gifting free smiles. It was a sight to behold, electric as it was outstanding.

And my father…not so much was known to me about him. One of the few things I knew about him, besides that he died when I was four then—and my sister Nneka, four months shy of being two—was that he was a businessman. He was a stockfish merchant. He had traded in and made so much money from stockfish during the Nigerian Civil war. He was the first to own a brick house roofed with the iron sheet in the entire village and the surrounding clans.

“He was a stockfish merchant. He had traded in and made so much money from stockfish during the Nigerian Civil war.”

Growing up was fun. Although it was intermittently sandwiched with a few moments of sorrow, especially the few times I posed mother some questions about my father. Outside that, our lives were relatively laid-back since the burden was light. Mother sacrificed much during turbulent times that we passed through then—we did not make a shipwreck of our quick walk through our primary and secondary school days.

I got admitted and left for the famous University of Nigeria Nsukka, where I studied Architecture and graduated tops two years ago. I did my compulsory one-year national youth service—an initiative the government aimed to involve graduands in the process of nation-building and development, in the Tudunwada axis of Madura State, where I worked with the Ministry of Works and Housing.

A thrilling twelve months in the North gave way to a tour across the Western region of Nigeria. This was indeed necessary because it was easier for one to collide with a decent opportunity capable of earning one a living there. Relocating wasn’t too hard, to be quite honest. Ayotomiwa had made formidable arrangements that made the whole process easy.

Lagos, Nigeria Colorful Vector Map. The hub of the Nigerian West. White streets, railways, and water. Bright colored landmark shapes. Art print pattern.

I had met Ayo at the orientation camp in Zaria—a temporary camp for graduates. It was a three-week Bootcamp of sorts. Here, the government passed youths through rigorous training meant to prepare them with survival skills. After which, they are dispatched to every nook and cranny of the country. They are disbanded to contribute to nation-building and development in their various fields of training. We took to each other and have remained friends ever after.

Ayo, a rich young handsome ebony lad from Agun, grew up in a very conducive neighborhood on the rich-concentrated Island of Kudash. However, there was no trace of those grouchy attributes of the rich kids found in him. Not arrogance, for he was down to earth as they come—the personality that attracted me to him in the first place. Not laziness—he was dogged and diligent, then cheerful and soft-spoken.

Coincidentally, Ayo had just one sister like myself—one of the few places where we shared some resemblance. The others were: sharing the same birthday, being avid lovers of the color white, and potential politicians in the making. After serving in the Youth Corps, I immediately moved into his family house on Plot 10B Amazing Grace Way, Salt Lake Island, Lagos.

Salt Lake Island, Lagos, Nigeria.

Ayo showed me into a—three-bedroom mini duplex—wrongly tagged “boys quarters,” for it was such only in its naming. Like the main building, the boys-quarters was vastly equipped with building facilities of the best quality and modern home appliances. In some parts of the country, these so-called “boys’ quarters” could pass for many people’s primary homes. Please talk about the class and standards of it all. It sure was remarkable.

The structure stood adjacent to the elegant seven-bedroom duplex-mansion, which the family occupied. The house spoke of opulence that left all to the imagination of the observers. To the left and opposite my apartment was another two-bedroom mini-duplex which served as the gatekeeper’s home. It was a sprawling estate of worth and importance.

“She stole the quickest glance I ever saw at me and headed in the direction of Mr. Zach, where she politely bowed in greeting.”

Shortly after I came to the West, Ayo, in his bid to have a “superior certificate,” left for the UK, where he reunited with his father. His mother, Bimbo Ajayi, was an easy-going gentle lady in her fifties. Her simplicity didn’t in any way get in the way of her debonair but classy comportment. She carried herself with utmost grace, elegance, and panache. She was an Island-based businesswoman, a dealer in lace materials. 

Upon my arrival, she was home and welcomed me warmly. “Now I know where Ayo’s good looks and gentle spirit stemmed,” I said to myself as she left after mutual introductions. She had the lead house help start making lunch for myself and Ayo while Ayo took me to my residence on the property. I felt very much at home after the very kind and warm welcome. 

“If not France today, it would be Turkey. Then, tomorrow Spain or Italy, the next day, Switzerland or Dubai. Ayo’s mum was a globetrotting businesswoman indeed.”

However, one seldom saw her as she was always on the move. If not France today, it would be Turkey. Then, tomorrow Spain or Italy, the next day, Switzerland or Dubai. Ayo’s mum was a globetrotting businesswoman indeed. Therefore, practically, the house of the Ajayi’s belonged more to people who were not consanguineously related to them—the gardeners, the cooks, the security detail, cleaners, friends like myself, and so on, than the owners and their families.

It was about 5:20 PM this Saturday. The sun had yielded its scorching potency to a beauty that radiated from the yellowness its fading strength had birthed. The flowers and trees had a common testimony of the presence of air as they swerve involuntarily. The air was chilly, soothingly caressing my bare arms and legs.

I had come out from the house and was by a corner of the compound—the back of my apartment, gathering my sunned beddings. After which, I was to view a soccer game that would cap my weekend that would kick off in just a few minutes. Suddenly, a blast of car horn rented through my mind, which harbored no thought of note at the particular time. I have heard that honking the car horn in countries like the United States is only used in emergency times or when people are alerting a careless driver of putting others’ lives in danger. Oh well, in Nigeria, it’s the culture and norm to honk, honk, and beep, beep, all the time.

“Yeeeh…Queen Iyabo is back o o o!” … “She stole the quickest glance I ever saw at me and headed in the direction of Mr. Zach, where she politely bowed in greeting.”

Mr. Zach was handy to attend to his duty. He peeped from his room upstairs and exclaimed, “Yeeeh…Queen Iyabo is back o o o!” And immediately hurriedly down the stair and slid the metal gate to a corner, and an airport taxi drove into the compound. The raving engine died, and a majestic glister of a girl who didn’t look anything older than twenty emerged, beaming shyly. She stole the quickest glance I ever saw at me and headed in the direction of Mr. Zach, where she politely bowed in greeting.

Questions and counter questions issued on the two’s well-being took a few more moments than I would—such a delicately polished beauty should have the patience for, to say the very least. When it finally ended, she turned, walked towards the car, paused at its already lifted trunk, and exhumed two big boxes and a backpack. She smartly entered the latter onto her back and dragged the suitcases on both hands towards the family house about twenty meters or sixty-something feet from where the car had parked. 

““Oh… It’s you…my brother told me loads about you already…so glad to meet you in the flesh,” with a sweet and coy voice to go with her welcome and intrigue.”

“Hello, may I…?” I offered to help with the suitcases. She turned and dinked me a ‘good evening, sir,’ with an expression that asked the question, “Do I know you?” “Oh! Forgive my manners; I’m Iyke, Ayo…,” midsentence, she cut me off, saying, “Oh… It’s you…my brother told me loads about you already…so glad to meet you in the flesh,” with a sweet and coy voice to go with her welcome and intrigue. She enthused, letting go of the luggage on either hand, but didn’t stop moving. I dragged the bags up the stairs and lined them in front of the door where she stopped and then made to leave.

“That was very kind of you Iyke, thank you so very much,” she said heartily, all masked in a beautiful smile.

She extended a hand, thanked me rather too profusely, and promised to come downstairs after she had rested. “That was very kind of you Iyke, thank you so very much,” she said heartily, all masked in a beautiful smile. I loved the softness of her palm, the warmth she exuded, and the scent of the perfume she wore was out of this world heavenly. Although I was a bit disappointed, she never said her name by way of introduction to me, even though I already knew she was Iyabo.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode V on Oaekpost.

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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode III

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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Hardly did I contain the smile when suddenly, a question, or should I say instruction, that was as weird as it was shocking, was dished to me. “Young man, would you please remove your tie?” I wasn’t very sure I heard him right; therefore, I quickly ran a search through the few faces my eyes could catch in a split of seconds; for some confirmation. I had hoped for some clue, such that through their facial expression, I could be sure what I heard was what I heard.

“I love your honesty.” A lady who appeared to have simper permanently pasted on her face chipped in from the left.

But that did not happen as everyone wore a poker face, making it difficult for me to read any kind of facial expression from them. There was no time to absorb the effect of the disappointment; therefore, I politely requested for the question repeated, no, the instruction repeated. Thankfully, it was, and this time, I was sure about what I heard. However, in the process of events unfolding, I noticed something else, too.

“This surely was the same man who made an impression on me on his way here earlier this morning,” I reasoned within myself. I did as he instructed.

As they observed my corporate garb from head to toe.

“Please, knot it again and hang it back,” I obeyed, as instructed.

“Take a step back so I can have a better view of your feet, a man on his left instructed.

“Hmmm…what the hell of an interview,” I said under my breath. However, I did as asked, anyway.

“I am sure I noticed you loitering around the gate earlier this morning; why did you not come in and take a seat while you waited?” The first man fired, more than asked. “Oh…he noticed me too?” The hall suddenly became unbearably hot. I could feel an isolated line of hot sweat traveling freely down my back from the shoulder region, to my waist.

“I judged it could be seen as desperation on my part, sir,” I answered honestly, in a very delightful intonation and as confidently as I could.

“Does that say you are not desperate to have the job?” he followed up.

“Yes, sir. I certainly want to be productive through employment. I have also longed for the opportunity so I could be, but I am sure I am not desperate, sir. I answered confidently, making sure my face didn’t give me in.

“I love your honesty.” A lady who appeared to have simper permanently pasted on her face chipped in from the left.

“Thank you, ma’am I returned, bowing slightly.

“God… please help me”, I muttered inaudibly. Beads of sweat that sprouted on the tip of my nose were beginning to merge and crawl down to my upper lip area. You could literally notice a nervous intensity building on my face.

Beads of sweat that sprouted on the tip of my nose were beginning to merge and crawl down to my upper lip area.

“Shouldn’t I have been honest as I was wrongly perceived to be and tell them that I’m desperate for the job?” I questioned myself.

I didn’t recover from the effect of this one too when I heard:

“Take off your shoes and pull up your trousers, just a bit,” another man by the head of the panel’s right side said. I obeyed.

“Move back a bit” Do I have a choice? I obeyed.

The rest of the panel that flanked me peered across the large brown table onto my feet. “No worries, the stockings have no holes; besides, aren’t my feet beautifully shoed in a good pair of Italian craft?” I boasted under my breath.

“Thanks, mister Ikenna…that would be all; we will get mail across to you.” Said the man heading the panel. He quickly glanced at the papers at his front to recall my surname, which he affixed to my name. He did so in a way that interpreted the ‘Obi’ to mean ’a settlement,’ rather than the ‘heart.’ I didn’t particularly care. All that would be of interest to me was how that would birth me a ‘Congratulations and Welcome to…’ I stood up, walked up to the panel, shook each of their hands firmly, thanked the team, and walked away. I was relieved that it was now over but confused about the process’s uniqueness.

I stood up, walked up to the panel, shook each of their hands firmly, thanked the team, and walked away.

It was 1:28 pm by the time I left the hall, walked through the waiting room, into hundreds of worrying eyes of those who were waiting. I saw so many questions on their faces and wished I could tell them what to expect. But I wasn’t even sure of what to expect as an outcome of my exercise. I left the building musing on the interview as I walked straight to the spot where I parked and headed home. “I have attended hundreds of interviews, and I haven’t been subjected to this kind,” I thought to myself. “Nothing was asked about my training and, or experience, not in the very basic. Would they not want to know why I wanted to work with them?” I kept questioning myself. “Didn’t anyone of them remember the tricky question, ‘how much would you want to earn if the company decides it’s you?’ What then was I awake all night getting ready?” I guess they were more concerned about appearance rather than the traditional interview drills. “It was quite an unconventional interview,” I must say.

Anyway, my garb was fantastic and should suffice—a pair of Gianfranco black Italian shoes and a nicely cut double-slit navy blue Santander suit, on a white shirt and wine tie. They have the potency of doing the magic,”—that’s if they were not alluding to be typical Nigerians, so to say. Real Nigerian employers would have offered the slot to relatives and yet organize interviews for formalities—and this looked likely, judging by the entire interviewing process. That was where my mind went to. However, there is no need to put the cart before the horse. All I can do is hope, pray, and keep my fingers crossed that something positive pans out from it. I should allow the whole process to play out instead of tearing my sanity apart from the myriad of assumptions making a constant incursion on my mind like a raging tsunami.

All I can do is hope, pray, and keep my fingers crossed that something positive pans out from it.

Upon getting home, I took off my suit jacket and loosened the tie. I flipped the suit jacket inside out, hung it on a hanger dangling on the line at the back of my apartment for some fresh breeze. I then climbed the short steps unto the corridor where I pulled off my shoes, abandoned them there for the same reason I hung the jacket, then walked in.

I went upstairs and sprawled spread-eagle, facing the fancifully designed POP-ceiling; dialed Ayo’s number and narrated all that happened today; just as I have done the seventy-eight other times since he went overseas. He sure had a good laugh and made jokes about the whole interview process I had just narrated to him. He did all that to help me ease the tension of it all.

Life is what we create for ourselves.

“Quit further interviews; consider setting up something for yourself.” He advised on a final note.

“Ayo, I won’t blame you. Aren’t you so lucky that you will never have to go for an interview in this life?”

“Iyke, someone told me that “Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.” I believe that all will pan out well, just stay optimistic, bro.”

“Life isn’t just fair,” I caught myself saying thoughtfully after I hung up the call but musing over what Ayo just told me.

“First-class honor in this country isn’t worth more than that piece of paper that spelled it.”

“First-class honor in this country isn’t worth more than that piece of paper that spelled it,” I concluded sadly.

I managed to shake off some depressing thoughts, entered the kitchen to fix my first decent meal in two days. Boiled yam tomatoes and egg sauce was favored, and I got busy. I ate like a recently freed prisoner, after which I turned off and slept for the rest of the day.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode IV on Oaekpost.

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Fiction

Near and Dear – Episode II

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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Meanwhile, I thought to myself to hang around and wait, roll down the seat and grab a quick nap. Or, better still, relax in a particular popular eatery on the other side of the road and pass the time in the company of my mobile phone and all the entertainment it offers. I also thought of reading a book…doing just anything to while away the time. However, there was another option, but I judged it would be perceived of me as being desperate.

“They were dressed to impress, effusing a touch of class that made first-time guests to Ipsone wonder in admiration.”

I favored waiting in the restaurant. Therefore, I parked my car and walked casually past a couple of blocks further down Markson Eze street, which terminated into the famous MTN road, where the restaurant was, upon taking a left turn.

To my chagrins, the eatery’s doors were uncharacteristically locked—an inscription hanging loosely on the handle, which dangled this way and that way in sympathy to the chilly early January morning breeze— “Sorry, we are closed,” warned me off.

“Sorry, we are closed,” warned me off.

Adjacent to the magnificent ten-story edifice—Ipsone Consultant Limited—the interview rendezvous point was an expanded open space serving as the company’s parking lot. Meaning that it was easy for me to see both the gate and parking of the company clearly from the spot I stood momentarily to task my head for the next move since other options had appeared obsolete.

I could see workers’ exotic cars in their hundreds, gliding into the parking lot. A few moments later, their owners would emerge, handing their car keys to the company valet men, who gave them a token for the easy retrieval of their cars later in the day. The valets were all dressed in black suits, clinically clean white shirts, a black tie, and were all adorned with white silk gloves. They were dressed to impress, effusing a touch of class that made first-time guests to Ipsone wonder in admiration. They all wore a smile on their faces—they were having a field day doing their jobs. The valets now proceeded with moving the vehicles into the apportioned slots.

Happy Ipsone worker arriving to work and handing her car keys to the valet.

While their cars were being aligned adequately according to a uniform parking pattern, the preponderance of the owners stood at a safe distance, either buttoning down or tucking in shirts, knotting ties, or getting into their suit jackets.

The owners’ preponderance was clearly evident, while their cars were being aligned adequately according to a uniform parking pattern. They stood at a safe distance, either buttoning down or tucking in shirts, knotting ties, or getting into their suit jackets. Some of the ladies took the last gaze in their make-up mirrors. Some glossed their lips with their lipsticks, elegantly dressed for the day’s work in view. 

Welcome in, Ms. Stephanie, and good morning, bawoni? We will take it from here—we’ll take good care of your car while you are at work. 

Soon, they would take delivery of their keys. Others, clutching a couple of files and/or food packs from the men in uniform, bowed politely and faded off sight in the opposite direction of their bosses. As I stood and gazed, much of me was gone to the parking lot where I imagined a man in uniform parking my car while I got busy with my dressing too, getting ready for work.

I prayed—in a deep breath, “Dear God, please, it is this time.” Over a hundred meters or three hundred and twenty-eight feet from the park where I had gotten to, an air ladened with a delightful fragrance greeted my nose as a worker approached my direction. He walked past, another followed, oozed of a different yet appealing smell. This continued at regular intervals until that bunch all walked past and went into the Ipsone premises.

Ipsone worker leaving work.

Then came this man, who had an iPad clawed to his left hand which he swung mildly and rhythmically with the pace of his steps, which appeared he carefully took with grace; and car keys tenaciously ringed around the index finger of the same left hand.

His right hand held up his shimmering black jacket across his shoulders, an ear pod fastened onto his left ear, and he hummed a soft tone every step he took. I stole a glance at the watch on my wrist, and it was only 7:05 AM.

“Really, the unfolding of the day has literally been inhibited by some forces,” I concluded.

On an impulse, I decided to stroll down the street, hoping that that would help channel my mind away from disappointments, especially that of the refusal of the time to tick away to 8 AM. Like one who had the weight of the world on his shoulders, I dragged myself lazily through the street downwards. It was not long before I became grateful I did—I found a host of activities that helped distract me.

“What is art if you don’t document and mirror society….so this art is now a throwback because of govt regulations on bikes.” — Chamberlin Ukenedo; Art Credit: Chamberlin Ukenedo.

The commercial motorcycle riders had, in their usual manner, filed out. They all costumed themselves into looking like something in the neighborhood of masquerades from the East in their hooded sweaters and head warmers. They catcalled and beckoned on anyone who peered from other less boisterous streets in an attempt to woo their patronage. “Oga mi, you dey go?” They yelled.

Most of them had their headlights turned on, and their indicators blinked, which ostensibly constituted a pretty sight in a way. You could visibly see the thick mist escaping their mouth and nostrils when they spoke and or exhaled. It was cold. It was always cold here from December down to March and occasionally in the mornings and evenings because the Atlantic Ocean hedges the city.

A view of the Tarkwa Bay Beach/Eko Atlantic from the shoreline.

The local tea shops had lined up their benches on the walkway, so also were their patronizers lined-up, waiting in expectation for their purchase. Each one anticipated the next cup as it got handed to them by the restauranteur’s attendant, a relish for their morning breakfast to help wash down their agege bread. It was only 7:12 AM, and I presumed the need for a cup of tea was more of heat generation and warmth than hunger. At the thought of hunger, my intestines churned, and I remembered I hadn’t eaten the night before.

I sauntered to the spot and ran my eyes through those seated. I was trying to gauge and decide my following action. There were still a few people who were waiting to get a copious shot of their morning tea. I guess those who crave a cup of morning tea or a cup of Joe go across borders. In the United States, its people lining up for their lattes, blonde, medium, or dark roasts at Starbucks. For us, it’s the local tea shops in action. I glanced at my watch and tried to map out how long I would be willing to wait to get served before I would hurry back to the interview, whether I got served or not.

Street tea barrister at work. 

The tea seller, I could tell, had exhausted the syllabus for skills anyone could employ in tea making. The speed with which he opened the tin, dish out an equal volume as the previous, the mixing—which particularly baffled me—were all done with seasoned dexterity. The local African barrister could give Starbucks barristers a run for their money if the comparison were apples to apples.

At a point, the entire liquid was entirely out of the two cups in either of his expanded hand. The tea made a parabolic arc in space between the two cups. It was like watching a circus performer in action, yet not a drop of tea missed its way away from the second cup held almost at his knee while the other, above his head. Talk about the power of dexterity hewn to perfection by the power of repetition raised to the power five. 

A cup of tea ready to go.

I got served, eventually. As I sat sipping the hot tea, a thought came to me, and I doodled it on a piece of paper that I had in the inner pocket of my suit— “You only fail when you stop trying.” That was my motivational nugget of the day. I had paid three hundred and fifty naira for the supposed breakfast, which I had to abandon halfway, and I believe you understand why. No… It was not yet time for the interview. The tea was rather more Lipton than tea, and the taste was too lemony for healthy consumption. 

But do not take this for a complaint; it may be just the adrenaline in me speaking as the interview time drew closer. After all, it was almost 7:45 AM, and I had just about a five-minute walk to hurry back to the Ipsone. Brisk was my walk back to Ipsone; I think the tea did its bit in warming up my blood in the chilly morn. 

Brisk was my walk back to Ipsone; I think the tea did its bit in warming up my blood in the chilly morn.

At the interview hall, the sitting arrangement allowed an interviewee to stand in a decently long but narrow space of about twenty to thirty meters (i.e., about sixty-six to almost hundred feet), with a panel seated across the table along its length. I tapped on the door softly, three times in a gapped succession, opened it in response to a lone booming voice from the other side.

“You only fail when you stop trying.”

I walked in as confidently as I could and bellowed greetings. It wasn’t reciprocated… not by one person, but by all of them in a funny unison that was certainly awkward for the setting. It forced a giggle off me, which I, however, managed to trim to a short, broad smile.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode III on Oaekpost.

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