Dust Bin

Ekene stood at Dust Bin Bus Stop waiting for a keke. He wasn’t used to taking keke to anywhere, it was usually a bus for him, but this one was different, nay, special. He was going on a date in UNEC. UNEC, the campus where they mint beautiful girls, as his friend Emma put it. After weeks of stalking her on Facebook and bugging her on Whatsapp, Precious agreed to see him. She didn’t actually agree; she just didn’t refuse. She said she was hungry and he offered to come and take her to an eatery. She said nothing. “Hello, should I come? Please say yes.”

“If you wish,” she said. He dashed into the bathroom. A warm bath and splashes of his precious perfume later, he was ready for the date of the year.

The kekes that sped past him were occupied with passengers. He didn’t want buses and he had counted more than three buses going to Independence Layout. They would waste his time. UNEC would take less than ten minutes on a keke; he would be lucky to make it in thirty minutes on a drop and pick bus. So he waited.

He brought out his handkerchief to wipe the beads of sweat beginning to form on his forehead. The time was quarter past four pm and the sun was still at its irritating best. It’s time I got my own car, he thought for the one hundred and sixty-seven time this month.

A car stopped just before. A grey sienna that had seen glorious days, still a car. He wouldn’t be proud to drive this to UNEC, still a car. A car is a car; a car is always better than waiting for keke in this dispassionate Enugu sun. A man came out of the car. First, Ekene noticed a heap of hair. Uncombed hair, massive beards and wayward moustache. The man came towards him. He smelt like an unwashed jersey.

“You will die tomorrow,” the man said, turned, got into his car and drove away.

Ekene closed his mouth that the man’s words had opened; the man’s car was now at All Saints Round About. He heaved a sigh of despair. What does he mean? A keke came to a stop before him. A fat man came down and walked past him. The man smelled like rotten onions. Fewer and fewer people now take their bath in this town, he thought. “Chere,” he said to the keke driver.

‘Ebe?”

“UNEC.”

“300 naira.”

He hopped in. No energy to bargain. The keke smelt like a distant rubbish dumb but he paid no mind to that. He would die tomorrow, someone had said to him. How? What does that mean? He tried to push the thought out of his mind but like a bad smell, he couldn’t force the thought away by merely wishing it away and ignoring it. It was there, towering over his thoughts like the giant shadow of a midget. He no longer felt like seeing anyone today. He ached for his toilet seat.

The keke stopped at the gate of University of Nigeria Enugu Campus and he waited for three-quarters of an hour for his date. On a normal day, he would have been impatient and harass her with calls and messages. Today, he just stood by the playing field just inside the school, occasionally pacing like a husband whose wife was in a labour in an old Nollywood movie. I shouldn’t be agitated by the empty words of a stranger, he kept telling himself and failing to listen.

“Hello.”

He turned and beheld Precious. She was pretty in knee-length jean knickers under a sleeveless shirt that revealed a chunk of flesh and accentuated figures.

“Beautiful,” he said.

“You look sick,” she said.

He tried to smile but succeeded in grimacing. He began to give her a reassuring nod but she had resumed walking. He stepped in by her side.

They went to Ntachi-Osa in New Haven. He ate eba and ora soup while she abused eba and bitter leaf soup with a spoon. Halfway into his meal, he began to relax a little and relegate the words of the foolish stranger to the back of his mind. Her present was precious; it overshadowed evil thoughts. Suddenly, she said: “I had a bad dream this morning. I lost a friend and I was crying. It was so painful.”

Ekene’s hand froze mid-air, near his mouth. “A friend.”

“Yes. I don’t know the person. It was your call that woke me up and it made me thought of you.”

“Thought of me? How?”

“Maybe you were the one who died in my dream.”

Ekene returned his hand and eba to the plate and pushed the plate away. A cold chill crept down his spine. He rose to his feet and walked to the tap. As he began washing his hands, he saw a coffin in his subconscious mind. Perhaps they are right? Perhaps, I will die.

On a bus home, Ekene sent a Whatsapp message to Emma. “Nna, everybody just the talk say I go die.”

“Guy, that thing the fear me,” Emma replied immediately. “I just the perceive say person go die soon.”

First, a stranger, then, a crush, now, his nigger!

He alighted at Dust Bin with foamy legs and a heavy heart. How can this be, his death, at the mid-morning of his life? The suddenness of the news, the cruelty of its confirmations and the surreal atmosphere it had wangled around him made him ill. Without thinking, he stepped on the road. He didn’t see the speeding petrol tanker until it was just a few seconds to knocking him down.

“Not yet,” he shouted.

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Ambushed

First, she forgot her earrings. They were a small orb-shaped ornaments the size of giant beans. She didn’t have to remove them. But Nosa was on the eighteen-yard box and goal was on target so he didn’t mind when she said wait and reached for her earring. It was the next morning that he noticed the earrings on his reading table, beside his laptop. He called and teased her. “So, I am that good?”

“Yes o. In fact, it wasn’t just my earrings I forgot; I forgot my name and had to check Facebook.”

They laughed.

Next, she forgot her singlet. “Wash it for me o,” she said when he called her the next morning. He didn’t. It smelt like her and it was a smell that reminded him of the hilarity of her presence and the warmth of soft breasts on hard chest.

After this, she left her shoes, her skirt, her blouse and handbag at the same time. She washed the clothes in the morning before she left. She wore his shirt and trousers and slippers home. She said she wanted to walk light. She didn’t take her clothes, shoes and handbag the next time she came. In fact, she left her jacket.

Nosa didn’t mind. These things were an assurance that she was his today and on the morrow. Again, he relished the ecstasy of hiding them from his other babes. He was twenty-five with a half-decent job, bright prospects and happy to be winning in this game that had bruised him so much in the campus and during NYSC.

Nosa became a little worried when one day he counted two blouses, one jacket, one pair of trousers, two skirts, two pairs of shoes and the earrings. He was worried because they are too much to hide effectively. The biggest priority in the cheating game is to make sure your main bae doesn’t catch you; a distant second is to make sure side runs don’t catch the main one. Side babes are replaceable, he concluded.

Nosa became worrier when she brought a small travelling bag for the holiday and left without its contents. It was a Thursday and Friday Holidaying fun plus a Weekend that she called jara. But looking at her gown, blouses, shorts, singlets, bra and other underwear when she left, he felt dizzy; the muscles in his stomach felt loose. He didn’t feel like going to work as the prospect of becoming an unmarried married man weighed heavily on his shoulders. He would have to talk to her. Tonight.

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Tonight, she came and gave him an unforgettable thrashing. He didn’t forget his name like she did. But he forgot to tell her to gather her things and take them with her; he promised to be stern. But now he lay down like a sated cat, weak, his bones felt like ice blocks and he just wished they wouldn’t melt.

One day, she said: “My roommate is so annoying. I will just go to work from here for a week.” A statement of fact, not a permission. She stayed for over one month. He wasn’t so comfortable but he kept quiet. She was useful. She took care of his most demanding chores, cooking and organizing and cleaning his two rooms. And the early morning matches calmed his nerves and giddied his brain.

The day she said I missed my period, nearly all her most important wears were in his place and he knew she had won. He felt ambushed. He was however not mad at her; he saw her coming with a quiver and he provided her with the arrows. Now, there were so many arrows on his body and he was bleeding with the opening gambit of unprepared marriage and fatherhood.

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