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. “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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.