Adaku’s Pillow

Adaku coughed all night.

“Did you sleep a wink?” Her father asked her after their morning devotion around a table that is older than all the children in the family. “I bought this table in 1991,” Adaku’s father would say with pride. Today, there was fear in his voice as he asked the question.

“I slept a wink or two,” Adaku said; “just that.”

“You will take medicine after breakfast,” her mother said. “And I will seize your phone. Too much pressing pressing of phone is the cause all this.”

But Adaku wasn’t listening. She was thinking about Lagos. After NYSC shut down their camp and asked them to go home, she didn’t. Home was Port Harcourt but she boarded a bus from the gate of Okada Camp to Lagos to see Clinton her Instagram crush and music producer.

“Uche, sweep this place then boil water for your sister. She will take the medicine with hot tea.”

Adaku wasn’t listening to her father, she was in a bus heading to Ibadan to see Bayo her Twitter crush and Social Media influencer.

Adaku’s younger brother Uche left the room. Adaku’s mother left her seat to sit where Uche left, by Adaku’s side. She put a loving palm on Adaku’s cheek. “Your temperature is high o,” she said. “Do you have a headache?”

Adaku didn’t hear her. She was on a bus heading to Enugu to see Lizzy her woman crush and cake maker. She had planned to spend one night in Enugu but ended up spending three, under three different roofs. There was Ebuka with six-packs and there was skinny Pius with small shiny teeth and big dimples.

“Enugu,” she whispered with remembered joy.

“What about Enugu?” her parents asked.

“My head feels like I am climbing the top of a hill.” Enugu means the top of a hill.

“Let’s call Doctor Ossy,” the mother said.

“Let her take the medicine with hot tea first,” the father said.

“I want to lie down.” Adaku lied down with her head on her father’s laps and her feet on her mother’s. She had a dream where she was eating bread by the roadside. A mad man snatched the bread from her hand and ran off. A Keke rider stopped his tricycle and beckoned her to get in so they could chase the man. But it wasn’t a Keke, it was a canoe; it wasn’t on a tarmac road, it was in the middle of the River Niger. Someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned just as the person pushed her into the river.

Her yelp woke her up.

“Nnem, ogini?”

“It must be a nightmare,” her mother said. “Why am I not surprised when she is lying on your bony laps? Adannem, come to a real bed.” As the mother led the daughter to her room, the father rushed to his room to get his pillow.

Somewhere in the corner of the room, COVID-19 was looking at Adaku and grinning.

The Blind Also Cry

In January 2015, Emmanuel said this is my year. I am getting married this year. 2015 came and passed, he didn’t get married. When 2015 closed its last page and turned a fresh leave for 2016, he wrote a note which he pinned on his bedside, “I am getting married this year”.

There were 52 Saturdays in 2016. Every single one of them came and expired, Emmanuel didn’t get married.

On the first Sunday in 2017, the pastor preached about violent seeds that open doors. Emmanuel sowed two months of his salary to the Lord. He went home and wrote, “I am getting married this 2017.” Emmanuel was 33 years old.

Now, Emmanuel had a girlfriend he had been dating since 2014 but she was not the kind of woman he would like to get married to. She was a pretty woman who possessed weight were most men want their women to have weight, and she was a great cook. But he never saw her as his wife. There was this thing about her he couldn’t just place a finger on, but it was there, strongly, keeping him away from proposing to her. Her name was Favour and she was 28 years old.

“We need to see my people,” Favour would say.

“Not now, baby. Not now.”

Emmanuel was searching for a wife elsewhere. In 2015, he met Uju at Polo Park. He was coming out of First Bank and heading to his car when he saw her, standing in a small queue before the ATM. He stopped and his heart began to hammer on his chess. She was a slim, comely woman with innocent eyes and lips that promised heaven.

He took a step forward. He said hi.

She looked at him. Her eyes narrowed. “Hi.”

“My name is Emmanuel, you look familiar.”

Uju had heard this line a score of times; she smiled. You can do better bro.

He mistook her smile as encouragement and he relaxed a little. “I am a fashion designer but today I want to be your driver. I can take you home when you are done.”

He didn’t take her home. He took her inside and shopped for her in Shoprite. It was February and God was answering his prayer. We should get married by August, he thought. By the time he saw Uju’s wedding IV as her WhatsApp DP, he had invested his soul in the relationship. He wept.

In 2016, he met Amara. He met her at a traditional marriage he attended in Agbani. She was one of the aso ebi girls, a small piece of chocolate awesomeness, he later wrote about her in his diary. When he had the chance to speak to her, he said, “I am not here to joke. I want to make you my wife.”

She laughed, revealing a beautiful dentition. “My bride price is a million naira o.”

He laughed. “Chicken change.”

It turned out that Amara was a student at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and possessed the taste of a celebrity. He bought her a washing machine, a microwave, an Apple tablet, an LG plasma TV, a fridge, countless designer wears and shoes, paid for her apartment in New Haven which was a big deal in 2015 (and today). She wasn’t joking when she said her bride price was a million naira. What he didn’t know was that she was the one, not her Umunna, who would collect the dowry.

One day in July 2016, Emmanuel lied to Favour his main babe who was not a marriage material that he had a business in Aba that would keep her there the whole weekend. He planned to spend the weekend with his side chick who was the wife material.

He caught Amara in bed with another man. Not really a man, a boy of 22 or 23, an ugly piece of shit of a boy. But that his woman was cheating on him with a boy ten years younger than him and two or three years younger than Amara, an Efulefu, wasn’t the most painful part: The fact that was moaning with joy which she never did when they made love broke his heart.

Emmanuel rushed to the TV, unhooked it from the wall and snatched it on the wall. He grabbed the microwave and smashed it on the wall. He grabbed the fridge, then stopped. He may not be able to carry the fridge or destroying it wasn’t the best punishment, we will never know. He went to her socket area, unplugged her tablet and took it away, her sim card and all.

No, he couldn’t go home. He was in Aba for a business, remember. He went to a hotel. It was in the hotel that he took his time to calculate everything he had spent on the female dog. 834,000 naira and he wept.

After his violent seed offering, Emmanuel became wiser. No more spending on women. In March 2017, he met Lola, a youth corps member at a bus stop in Zik Avenue. He was going to board a keke to his home in Trans Ekulu, his car being on sabbatical, when he saw the beads of sweat on the lady’s forehead and felt compassion for her. “Corper, where are you going to?”

“Holy Ghost.”

“Hop in.”

On their first date, they drank Fanta and Sprite with average-tasting meat pie at the mall. Emmanuel was proud of his stance, no more spending on a woman. It took him five months of dating Lola to discover that she was not a serious human being. You have to be a serious human being before you become a serious lover, he wrote on Facebook. They would have dates and Lola would not answer his calls and end up missing the date. When he finally got to speak to her she would say she forgot about the date and her phone was on silent.

He usually saw her in the company of young men.

“This is Tayo, my cousin. His mother is my father’s second cousin.”

“Meet Jide. His father is my mother’s uncle.”

“This is John, he is my father’s godson and like my twin brother.”

“It is like all Yoruba people are related to each other,” Emmanuel complained to his friend, Levi.

“Yes, they all came from Oduduwa—”

“Shut up.”

Unrequited love will eventually die. It is like trying to start a generator without the plug. Only one thing is certain: you will give up. It is a matter of when. Emmanuel gave up.

In September 2017, Emmanuel drove Favour, his girlfriend to the mall.

“You are going to shop for me?” she asked.

“Wait and see.”

On the space around the sit-out, the Cold Stone ice cream spot, and the elevator, Emmanuel stopped walking. He fetched something from his pocket, turned to Favour, and went down on one knee; he said: “Baby, I have been a fool these past three years. But I am here, a prodigal lover asking, would you be kind enough to be my wife.”

Favour screamed, “Oh baby!”

His hands were shaking when he slipped the ring in her finger. She hugged him and he buried his head in her bosom and wept.

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