10am. There is this curious habit I was afflicted with at the university. When we were broke we used to go out and stand beside someone then his wallet would fly from his pocket and enter our pocket. Just like that. It is magical realism. Some people call it pick-pocket but what do people know?—it is an ordinary transfer, foreign exchange.
You remember that abandoned bread/tea I ate/drank in Jennifer’s room? That was what I was still carrying more than twenty-four hours later. And you know that Jennifer is a card-carrying witch and her tea-bread was like Lucifer’s gift—he gives you shoes then take your bow-legs or gives you head-warmer then take your coconut head. So Senior Witch Jennifer gave me three sips of tea last morning and now I was STARVING.
The stop-watch of my starvation was ticking dangerously to my grave and I had to do something. So I dusted my old habit—and decided to take it out where the sun could shine on it.
Today was Sunday but I wasn’t going to church. I was going uptown. I know you would be saying ‘is this guy not a boy of God?’ Yes, yes, I am, I am. But you don’t know anything, foreign exchange is not an iniquity, it’s a play. Isn’t it interesting for somebody’s wallet to jump from his pocket into yours? And if you ain’t lucky it will be your wallet jumping into somebody’s pocket. You see, so don’t think I don’t have conscience, I have plenty con sciences and if my con science doesn’t condemn me, who are you? So I play… on Sunday—why not?
I put on my lesser faded jeans, and threw my ages-hence tee shirt on my carcass. I locked my door, no I jammed it. What was I locking it for? What was there to steal? Everything that could be of value to my neighbours was worthless to me and the only thing I value, my books, was worthless to my neighbours. Who could steal my books? It is easier to find a mosquito brushing his teeth than catch Mama Bege or Chicken Thief Jamaica or notorious B.I.G or deadwood Martins reading.If you want to hide something from these people, put it inside a book. An understatement. If you want to hide them, put them inside a book, they will never find themselves. These people see every paper as potential tissue paper. They would sooner use your certificate to tie akara or agidi than read it. Banza!
So I jammed my door. No one was in the compound except B.I.G shaving the bush between his upper thick lip and his wide nostrils. This guy is always shaving something or the other. One day he would shave off his brain. And when I see the damned thing lying about I would pick it up and throw it into the rubbish bin. Good riddance.
I grumbled to him. He grumbled back. I left.
11.38am. I stood beside the junction where four busy roads meet. The place is a bedlam of activities and craziness, even on a Sunday. The way vehicles were speeding, you would think that there was an announcement on radio that the world would fold up tomorrow and people were in violent haste to tie-up their thousand loosed-ends before going to hell. And you need to see the people who sell bread, the way they are breaking Usain Bolt’s record in pursuit of customers inside speeding cars (the Olympic Committee should see this). But some people are wicked o. they would stop their car, buy bread but rather than pay, they would step on the accelerator and let the Usain Bolt bread-sellers pursue their car moving at 120km/hour. It is war.
I stood by the road watching this theatre of absurd.
‘You dey craze, you be thief…’
I turned sideways to see two hefty men beating one thin man. The poor thin was crying and bleeding through the nose but the two heartlesses wouldn’t stop beating him. People were just passing by as though it were lizards fighting. But I wouldn’t allow this. I am a human being. I rushed to separate them but one of the elephants gave me one shove and I landed my leg inside a black gutter. What nonsense! I stepped out of the gutter to challenge the man but discovered I had his wallet in my hand. How did this happen? Perhaps, it was my magical foreign exchange. Perhaps that was his penalty for pushing me into the gutter.
A respectful distance away, I unzipped the wallet and counted a dirty mixture of two hundred and one hundred naira notes which amounted to 3,200 naira. Chewing gum change.There was also a driver’s licence, a permanent voter’s card and a toothpick in the wallet. One mind told me to throw everything into the gutter, but as a boy of God I decided to return the wallet, minus the cash.
1.30pm. I entered a barbing saloon. A barber’s shop you will say but barbing saloon was what they wrote on their sign board. Handsome Haircut Barbing Saloon. How was it my business that some people never use their English head? They called it a barbing saloon, so be it. So I entered the barbing saloon and it was a pretentious barbing saloon. There was the silent hum of air conditioning, rich sofas about and executive chair for the barbee. A plasma TV set stood overhead like a hawk ready to pounce.
The barber was the most handsome man I have seen this month. He was tall and possessed a face that resembled a toll gate. And his mouth was so long, like fishing hook.It is the kind of mouth you would never miss. A lucky chap. He could sit in his shop and stretch his mouth and kiss his wife in London, walahi. Intercontinental kiss.
And his eyes, computer eyes. They were the kind of eyes that were not in peace and harmony; while this eye was looking left the other one was looking south-south. As the guy was cutting my hair one eye was on my head and the other was watching AIT. Lucky chap. If you hire this guy to guard your house, you got to pay him double. This eye would be guarding against armed robbers and the other guarding against kidnapers. Double-edged eyes.
Then I saw the price-list, Adult haircut—1500 naira,and I had a mini heart attack. If I survive this, I swear, I will start keeping dada.
3.15pm. As soon as I stepped into the restaurant, I realised I had made a mistake. The restaurant was pure VIP. The drapes in the windows, the flowers, the dim light, the silence all smelt naira. The tiled floor was so polished that I was sorry walking on it. The room was half-filed with diners who were looking at me like I was trespassing their father’s bedroom, so I quickly sat down on the nearest chair and hung my legs on air. I lifted the menu, pure suicide. The only thing I could really afford here was toothpick and I had over a thousand naira with me. If I ordered to my satisfaction I would certainly do their dishes to pay off. I sighed.
‘What can we offer you?’ a well-suited waiter asked me.
I looked at his fixed smile. ‘Not now, I am waiting for someone.’
He looked at my shabby clothing. ‘Someone special I guess.’
‘Yes, I am actually waiting for Genevieve.’
He smirked, nodded and left.
I looked at the menu. Liver sauce—700 naira, salad—800 naira, rice… I looked away. They should have just taken guns and go rob the highway.
I really wanted to leave, but the shame that would escort me out of this place wouldn’t let me stand up. I shut my eye, to think of a way out. It was then that I saw Genevieve. She was standing at the door in all her beauty and elegance, looking at me adoringly. I looked back, no one behind me. It was really me she was looking at! I rose to my feet. She opened her arms. I rushed into the warmest and softest hug of the year.
‘I love you so much,’ she said,‘and I miss you like crazy.’
I thought I was dreaming. I held her face in my hands and she closed her eyes. Her lips were inviting. Slowly I began to move my lips towards hers—
‘Hey, wake up!’
I opened my eyes. So it was all a dream. ‘We want to close,’ the waiter told me. It was indeed pitch dark outside.
Something sparked inside me. ‘Why didn’t you give me three minutes extra time? Why did you wake up me now?!’
I lifted a chair and hurled. He dodged. I lifted another. He ran. I pursued. ‘Do you know what you interrupted?’ We were knocking chairs and tables out of the way as we ran. I hurled another chair, it missed him. I lifted up another.For snatching Genevieve from me he must pay with his life.
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