When the Devil Says Yes…

Trans Ekulu is my dream area in Enugu. Long before I first stepped foot on it, the name held a special fancy for me. Trans Ekulu has the kind of sound that revealed a glimpse of excellence and rang a bell of promise, the same way names like United States, Linda Ikeji, Things Fall Apart, Bluetooth, and others intrigued me long before I know enough about them. When I finally saw Trans Ekulu it was fair, with well-tarred roads, impressive high gated walls, light traffic and the occasional overdue rubbish point that ESWAMA refused to pack until a big shot complained. Trans Ekulu is fine but New Haven, Independence Layout and sections of GRA seem more beautiful, but I don’t care, none of them sounds like Trans Ekulu. Trans Ekulu. Sigh.

My richest friend lives in Trans Ekulu. My rich friend, I should say because all most of my friends are either broke or lying about their true financial status. A couple of months back, I decided to do something about the theory that says that you are as reach as your five closest friends and, to my dismay, I discovered my top five friends were financially anonymous. My rich friend wasn’t in my first five, he wasn’t even in my age grade, he should be at least eight years older than I (who cares?). I promoted him. He is a nice chap, generous with a decent sense of humour. But he is a marathon drinker and crazy about women. If I am to count all his girlfriends, I will run out of fingers and toes. He loves them and spent a lot on them. The other day, he told me how he bought a gown of thirty-five thousand naira for a girl he met a week before. I died a little.

This is by the way. I usually see this rich friend (let’s call him Richard) once a month and we chat three or four times a month. We are not so close, yet so close. Last Sunday, I went to Trans Ekulu to see my friend. Richard was at home, seated in his spacious sitting and dull. Usually, he was alert and ready to crack a joke or dissolve into a mass of laughter when I cracked one. Today, he barely smiled when he welcomed me.

“What is wrong?” I said to him.

He hissed and said nothing.

“Did she break your heart?” I picked up his copy of Secrets of a Millionaire Mind.

“No girl fit break my heart.’ He said.

I sat down on the sofa, this sofa and the entire furniture cost him a fortune. Everything in this apartment actually cost a fortune. CNN was on. Trump, Russia, whatever. I opened the book; my friend was picking his nose. I made a mental note not to shake his hand. Perhaps, chop knuckle. “Something is bothering you,” I said. “You want to tell me now or when we go out?”

‘I no dey go out today o,” he said.

“Why?”

“No be everyday persin dey comot na.”

“Yes,” but I didn’t agree. I crossed my legs and concentrated on the book. He would tell me at his own time. The trick for getting gist is to not pursue gist. You probably know this; great gossips know this. Masking your curiosity and dismissing the significance of the gist would reduce the guardedness of the person over the secretive or embarrassment imports in the story. If you leave your bait long enough in the water, the fish will get hooked.

“One girl called me this morning,” he said. It is always a girl, I knew. I kept quiet. Richard only spoke good English when he had something serious to say. He hissed.

“What did you even cook?” I said. Richard never cooked. I know this very well but talking about food will make him talk about going out—or why we can’t go out today.

“Nna, this girl called me,” he said in Igbo, “and said that she dreamed that I died in an accident with my car.”

I closed the book. Though he spoke in Igbo which meant what he said was very serious, I couldn’t resist making light of the statement. “She has malaria?”

He almost smiled. He relaxed, somewhat. “Nna, the something surprised me o.”

“Who is she to you?”

“Na one girl way we been de run thing but she later enter church come talk say she no dey do.”

Silence. CNN Sport. “You watch Chelsea match yesterday?” He said no. “Hazard score one powerful goal,” I lied. He hmmed. I rose to my feet and walked to my fan socket. “So you are not going out today because a girl dreamed that you died?”

“Her dream usually comes through,” he said in Igbo. “See, these things are real. The devil de fight me but I don win am.” He returned to Igbo: “Now that the scheme of the devil is revealed he is powerless. She say make I no drive my motor today. And na the right thing be that.”

“So, how are you going to do for food? I can cook for you, you know?”

He laughed. “You sabi cook?”

“I paid my school fees with cookery.” I haven’t cooked anything besides noodles and tea this month.

“People go purge tire.”

“Thank God she didn’t say you will die of purging.”

He chuckled, rather uneasily. “Guy, this thing dey serious o.”

“Why didn’t you pray then?”

“I pray na.”

“You don’t believe in your prayers? Are you doubting your prayers or the power of God?”

“Person suppose dey careful. She talk say make I no drive that car today.”

“Tomorrow nko.”

“Ehen,” he said, “tomorrow, I go drive.”

I suppressed a snort. “Do you believe that evil witches have power?” he said yes. “Do you believe that witches have calendar? Do they have Monday and weekend and January and August and ten o’clock and 9.30am?”

“Witches no dey use time na.”

“Then why can’t you go out today. If witches wan mess you up, they go mess you up any time. These people don’t sleep. God, too, doesn’t sleep and you believe in God. Today is Sunday, why should God protect you on Monday but won’t do that today? Is God on holiday today?”

He didn’t utter a word. I said nothing. He must be the next speaker. Let him say something, let him open his mouth and give me words with which to hang him. He spoke: “Guy, warning na warning.”

“The warning of the devil supersedes the protection of God?”

“You no go understand?” he said in resignation. But I understood all well. He believed in the power of God, he believed that the power of God is above that of the devil and that God can protect him, but he wasn’t sure. He knew his ways are not as pure as he would want, so he was afraid. He had left openings, now, he was afraid the devil might attack him through his leakages and destroy him. I nearly smiled.

“If the devil wants to kill you, he won’t go and ask your ex-girlfriend for permission. He would strike immediately. The fact that he asks for permission means he can’t do nothing. And if he can do something, he will whether you go out or not.” I paused. He said nothing, I continued: “As I am, no one can kill me. If I die today, I just died. Nobody fit. If you don’t have faith, key into mine. Let’s go eat jor. See, as you dey dull. Come jore make we go eat, make sun beat you small. Na wah to you.”

“Nna, na true you dey talk o.” But he didn’t look convinced.

There is Monday or Tuesday in the land of the dead o. if somebody wan kill you, him go kill you. Any day. But God no go gree. If you remain here, you are saying that you don’t believe in the power of God. Personally, no body fit tell me where to go and where not to go. In fact, we must drive this car today, we must. We have to prove the devil a liar. If you don’t go out today, tomorrow somebody will come and say you died in your bed, so you have to start sleeping on the mat. E no make sense. At all.”

He stamped to his feet. Na so bro. “Wetin sef. Make I go bath. Why person go just dey curfew. I be prisoner. Nothing dey happen!”

“Stay there they fear.” I switched to Igbo: “But guy, you no get liver.” (I said “guy” and “liver” in English. What is “guy” and “liver” in your language?).

“No be say, I dey fear just that snake wey only you see fit be python o.”

“This one no be snake,” I said; “na ordinary stick. And even if na snake I go use am tire my trouser. Arrant nonsense.”

Richard ran to the bathroom. I picked up the remote and changed to African Magic. The only magic I believe in is the one I see on TV.

“But eh,” my friend said from the bathroom. “If we go out, we no go drink o. We go just eat, chill small and come back.”

That one na lie, I said but not aloud. No need to argue with. We would drink if we had to. In fact, I must drink when we go out just to prove to him that I don’t take orders from the devil or conform in fear of the devil. I cannot be intimidated.

Pass me the bottle.

 

shege-mavrodi

The image here is that of Sergey Mavrodi the founder of MMM. I am not saying that he is the devil, but considering what MMM did to us people, he is not that far.

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The August Lover

Last August, I published The August Meeting; the August before, it was The August Proposal. Now, this.

*

The rain fell on the roof with steel, impatience and rage. For three hours the rain fell with torrents of urgency and a whiff of destruction. It was Saturday; Yvonne should be sleeping like she normally did during weekend rainfalls. But it wasn’t a normal Saturday for her, it was still less than a week since Nosa sent her that cruel break-up text. Her sleep was full of breakups, heartbreak and Nosa. So she chose to remain awake and sleep only when she had to.

She had her nose on a burglary railing on the window watching as the water bashed the roofs, houses and the earth, covered the street with thick brown water, watching as the water level continued its ambitious rise.

The rain, like everything she came across or happened to her these days, reminded her of Nosa. No matter how hard and ambitious the rain fell, it would stop, and the earth would get rid of the water within hours. That was what it felt like loving a dog like Nosa. Yes, he was a dog, must be a dog, only a dog could send you this breakup message: “See, I never loved you. I tried my best but you are not just the one for me. I feel wasted having spent this past one and half year with you. Good luck.” It took Yvonne two days of tears and starvation and torture and nightmares to make sense of this. She had now come to terms with the message but

It took Yvonne two days of tears and starvation and torture and nightmares to make sense of this. She had now come to terms with the message but her ego was still in shreds: like a broken mirror, you cannot possibly gather the whole pieces and patch them back to shape; you might try but the scars remain, forever.

Yvonne left the window and walked the short passage, past the curtain into her room. The room was in semi-darkness but her legs, already used to the room, found their way. She sat down on the bed. The bed reminded her of Nosa; he had been on this bed with her, by her, under her, on top of her, inside her. She stood up. She reached for her phone on the fridge. This, too, reminded her of Nosa; she had spoken to him with this phone, teased him, laughed with him, shouted at him, texted him, cursed him; loved him. She dropped the phone and walked back to the window to watch the rain.

This time, the rain fell from her eyes as well. She bit her lips and fought the rain from within but it was futile; it was like trying to stop a falling tree by wedging its shadow. She was so consumed with the tears that she didn’t hear the knock on the door. She only became conscious of her environment when she heard the door opening. She quickly damped her eyes with the sleeves of her gown and made a sharp work of arranging her dishevelled braids. It must be one of her close neighbours, Uju or Joyce, checking on her. She was grateful it was dark and they wouldn’t tell she had been crying. She entered the room.

The first thing she noticed was that the visitor wasn’t Joyce or Uju, wasn’t even someone she knew. Second was his height and the feeling of dominance and masculinity around him. Now she wished there was enough light to look, to study and to explore the hunk of flesh before her. Then he spoke and his voice vibrated in the room and hung on the air. It was a bold, musical, baritone that soothed the heart and knocked the knees. “It’s raining heavily and I thought I could come shelter here for a while,” he said. She said nothing. “Silence, consent?” he added.

Welcome, she made to say but the lump in her throat. She stealthily cleared her throat. “Sit down.” She turned away, walked rather briskly to through the passage to the kitchen. She came back to the room with a battery lamp that she placed on the fridge. He was still standing. She looked at his face. V-shaped, fair, soft lips, arresting eyes, thin sideboards and rich beards. She looked away, shy. She sat on the bed. “I’m Yvonne.”

“You are beautiful.”

Thank you, but she failed to say it aloud. Electricity on spine.

“I’m Barry,” he said.

“Nice name.” She stole a look at his lips, those lips. Shivers.

“It’s not actually my name. It’s short for barrister.”

“You’re a lawyer?” She was impressed. She looked at his chest, what the tight polo he was wearing did to his chest did a lot to her stomach.

“I’m not a lawyer. I left the university in my third year.”

“You’re a soldier then.”

He smiled. Amber white teeth. “Why should I be a soldier?”

“You have been standing there for ever.”

He chuckled. Music. “You are a beautiful liar.”

Electricity on spine. Butterflies in the stomach. “What’s your real name?” she said.

“Call me Barry.”

“Why did you leave the university.”

“I didn’t leave. I was taken away.”

“How? By whom?”

“A car hit me.”

Needle in the heart. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay, it was a long time ago.”

“How old are you?” She knew. He was twenty-nine or thirty, three or four years older than she.

“You know my age.” He winked. “You have beer?” he shifted his gaze to the fridge.

“Erm… No… Er… My boyfriend–ex-boyfriend–drank the last one.” Trembling voice.

“You are single then?”

She said a happy yes.

“Shame. He doesn’t know what he’s lost.”

“He’s a fool.” She rose to her feet. “Let me serve you Fayrouz.” She opened the fridge. Weakness in the knees. Fire in the stomach.

“Don’t worry. The weather is too cold for that.” He placed a warm palm on her wrist, as though to affirm the point. Tiny flood of current ran through her body.

“Why don’t you sit down?” She pointed to the only chair in the room. He led her to the bed and they sat down. The feel of his body cured a large amount of her heartache.

The rain hammered on the roof. Her heart hammered on her chest.

“Where were you heading to before the rain began?”

“The Mortuary.”

To do what? But she didn’t ask out. She was just grateful to have him here. Her bra straps were burning her shoulders.

Silence in the room, storm outside.

“As teenagers, we used to tag this kind of rain ‘weather for two’,” she said.

“As adults?”

“We place our head on his lap,” and she placed her head on his lap. He placed that warm palm on her neck and she sighed with excitement, then he caressed down her collar and up the mould of her breast, and she died a little.

Yvonne always said that everyone has a human machine in them, separated from them but a part of them. This machine takes over when there are important jobs needed to be done but the body is lacking in requisite energy; the spare body takes over the job while the body was subconsciously detached, do the jobs and let the normal body take the glory. Yvonne believed this, but she never really experienced it, before today.

Today, Barry’s touch, like the tap of a switch started the madness. Her body got crushed by sensations and pleasure, gave way and her machine body took over. It was her second body which tore off her clothes and attacked him and got entangled in a match of passion, sweat and joy. Her real body just lay back and suck the orgasmic delight.

Rain fell on the earth. Hurricane happened on the bed.

“You are sent from heaven,” she said after the insane pleasure and she was now in possession of her body.

“I was passing by, saw your outrageous beauty and I couldn’t resist having you.” He was dressing up.

“Why don’t you stay some more.” Her voice shook with untamed desire.

“It’s no longer raining. I need to get home.”

“You said you were going to the mortuary.”

“I live there.”

Yvonne was confused. “You work in a mortuary?”

He said nothing, wearing his jeans and polo silently. Done dressing, he said: “I live there. It’s my home.”

She searched his face. He was teasing. Was he?

“How can you, a barrister, work in a mortuary?” She just couldn’t bring herself to say he lived there.

“I am not a barrister,” he said. “I was hit with a car in my third year.”

“Why didn’t you continue when you left the hospital?”

“I didn’t leave the hospital. I died.”

The walls began to close in on her; her world took a sharp twist 180 degrees towards nowhere. She fought to repossess her voice. “You ar-are a-a d-dead person?”

He smiled, blew her a kiss, turned and walked through the door without opening it, just past through it as though the door was a transparent nothingness. He was gone from her, for good. An emptiness filled her, consumed her and mocked her. She was out of herself, floating in her emptiness, shock and disbelief. Then reality hit her and she fell on its mat of rude consciousness. She began to scream.

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