Tonight, as usual, there is no light, so U see by the light of your Infinix note 4 facing down on the table and shining up. U bring down the remaining garri from the shelf and it pours from the holes in the bag like sand. The rats again! U scowl round the dark corners of the room, as though so doing U will find the culprit rat. U are so tired, so freaking tired!
It had been another day at the rally. Spread out in a cocktail of the good, the bad, and the ugly. People brimmed the stadium. Bodies jammed into one another and hot breathe passed from one dirty nostril to another. U had one fist in the air, broom in the other and the sun on Ur back. It was hot very hot that even the sachet water U managed to buy turned warm in Ur hand and U were confused whether to quarrel the boy in dirty blue shorts and torn brown shirt for selling warm water or blame the sun for being wicked. That water was all U had taken all day-all U would take.
At least U could have managed an umbrella over Ur head in that ravaging sun. But yesterday, just yesterday, while at the Usual lounge being sponsored by Puzzle, the order flew in that you should burn all the umbrella at the store. The order was not to discard but to burn. You had gone ahead: U, Dada, and Chuka to the vigilante house along college road, where all the umbrellas were kept, bundled them up and set them ablaze as the order commanded. As they burned U had calculated in Ur head how much you could have made from retailing those burning umbrellas and concluded “Puzzle no dey think well”
He don see money na” Dada had replied to your hushed complaint. But an order was an order. All the time Puzzle was on and off the Phone getting instructions and giving out instructions. After, he ordered that someone start a song in favour of the broom party. Dada tried but could not remember any such song. U could not. All the songs you knew were for the Umbrella party and the Governor. Chuka who was videotaping the procedure all the time had started a song which said that the broom party and the senator “bu member nezie! It is a common song, one needed only to change names. You sang and danced round the fire in drunken frenzy.
After Puzzle said the video was for social media and made all of you stand before Chuka’s Camera to profess your undying love and support for the broom party and the senator claiming that the Youths of the State have had enough of the Umbrella that exposes one to harsh economic, political and social weather. All the time Puzzle had that all knowing smile at the corner of his mouth.
When the video was done and the brooms now a little hill of ashes, you had proceeded to the market in Puzzle’s car to select brooms, for the rally.
You pick the broom where you droped it when you came in. The sugar cubes by the edge of the table are covered with ants, those brown brown ants, moving in two parallel lines to and from the sugar. U want to hit and kill the ants with the broom, however on a second thought U feel they will scatter if U do that, so U move to the drawer, U get a dirty rag and drag it sleepily across the table, disrupting the lines and the ants still scatter in all direction. U pick the sugar cubes and shake off the ants still clinging, and throw the cubes inside the cup. U move to the window to shake the ants off the rag and a pole away U notice a human shadow move behind the whistling pine tree. U strain your eyes through the darkness to make out the figure. U could not so U quickly lock the window and drop the rag like an afterthought at the foot of the table. U remember the warning. “They are not happy with us Puzzle had said with his all knowing smile dancing at the corner of his mouth. So be careful.
So be careful was the exact words Ugom had thrown at you when she warned that U should not attend the rally. U had promised but U had gone ahead to break the promise. U went in a bus; one bus for all of you, and it was not like U sat in properly in the bus-U hung on the door with UC, Kobo and Dada and two times, two good times U slipped and almost fell. It was puzzle that brought the bus, and plastered it with posters. He also gave you guys some money, “MONEY DIRECT FROM THE SENATOR” he had said and his words had sounded in capital letters in Ur ears. Yesterday it was the governor and Umbrella party; today it is the senator and broom. You guys were jubilant. Who cares?
U pour the garri and it does not even full the red plate. U tear the sachet water with Ur teeth and pour. U are leaving it to swell. U drop the sugar cubes into the plate, and U dont even have strength to stir, Ur hand is as heavy as a newly cut branch, untouched by the light of the sun, so you allow the sugar to dissolve on its own. U are tired, very tired so freaking tired.
On your way back after the rally Dada had said that they gave puzzle a Ghana -most –go bag, but he had gone first to his house with a KEKE before coming out with a nylon from which he had given you one thousand naira each.
U remember how you had accepted it with brimming joy, all of you standing and hailing him,
“He is the man that makes things happen.
He is the man that knows how to speak; that knows where to go.
O bu member nezie!” and U feel stupid.
U want to lie down and think it out. True true U want to be like Puzzle. He seem to have mastered this biz. He has already “made it” only from the party activities. U want to be the one speaking to people, U want to be the one getting the money…
U hear a rat jump on the table but cant even chase it. U are getting even more tired, and feeling sleepy. U just hope it will not pour Ur garri. U are slipping, slipping into sleep.
Tonight U will dream, in that dream U will be Puzzle, getting the money from the governor. The man looked ugly and distant and wore a frown. He kept appearing and disappearing with the Ghana-must-go, like he didn’t mean to give U the money, when it finally seems like he is letting the bag go U will open Ur eyes to behold Ugoms menacing face.
U smell like shit,” is her good morning as she drags U by your big toe, and U try to wriggle free. The end of the bed sheet rumples with each movement.
U feign to be deeply asleep, and U wondered if a commissioner’s assistant has nothing better to do so early in the morning. However one thing u are sleepily sure of is that she is mad at U. She should be-Ur smell, the garri and the broom rally. She could kill U.
U swear under Ur breath, like U have done for the greater part of the past 4yrs. Sometimes U wish to go back to that day you borrowed her note and un-borrow it and save Ur self. Some other times U bless that day. Everyone in Po-Science department then knew your story; the love birds that lived together, came to class together, sat together, and read together. They knew Ur story: how U were shouted at in the middle of the whole school, for hugging another girl too tight, or for laughing too hard at another girls joke. They knew U were a puppet, but didn’t know why. They could not have seen the tiny string pulling U. She was an RMP (Rich Man Pikin) with lots of connections, which U could well make humongous use of one day.
Ugom shoves the bowl of insect-infested garri in Ur face. U turn and turn on the bed, still pretending to be oblivious of whats happening.
I have got an appointment for U with the Governor She says moving close to the window, sure that U heard her.
U will meet him over the weekend at his village house
U blink twice, trying to free Ur tangled eyelids. U are not sure again what to imagine, her silhouetting body wiggling to the window or her sweet words.
She unlocks the window and draws the curtain so that the golden morning sun hit the sky blue wall of Ur room. U stare through the window as the sun bathe U in warm golden rays and already U are imagining how U would meet the Governor-U are going to smile hard at him as Puzzle do, bend all the way to Ur waist, carry his hands in Urs like a sacred offering and smile hard again; U wont forget to put sir at the end of Ur sentences.
Perhaps today isnt that bad day after all!
She picks the broom from where its lying on the floor and starts sweeping the place and the memory of Chuka ‘s video floods Ur mind and U sadly pray that it disappears like the dust motes in the sun golden beam.
Author: Hilary Ike
Photo credit: shutterstock