Christmas Gift For Nkechi

Read last year’s Christmas Story here

25th December, 2016, Enugu, harmattan is blowing a reluctant wind and somewhere a young lady is nursing a heartbreak. Let’s call her Nkechi. That is not her real name. She lives and it is not my intention to uncover her real identity and cause her embarrassment. I will not describe her in detail either except to say she is a little above average height, slender and possess enormous eyes that nearly spoilt her pear-shaped, chocolate beauty. She is twenty-seven, lives alone except from time to time when one of her relations visits her; she manages her hair saloon and earns nearly a lot, at least enough to support a staff of two and to eat whatever she wants to eat, wear whatever she wants to wear and travel to wherever she wants to travel.

In October, she fell in love. The boy is called Ifeanyi. That is his real name (he may come and jump on my back if he is unhappy with his name mentioned here; or sue; or drink water pia). He is one of those Enugu fine boys who do nothing for a living; who live off some rich relation or rich girlfriend or sugar mommy or sustained by gambling and other petty swindling; boys whose CVs contain a fine face, an Indonesian prison record/a British deportation stamp and a sweet voice. Plus a big cassava to say the truth (whatever that means). (Cough. Excuse me.)

Of all the men in Enugu, it was Ifeanyi that Nkechi chose to fall in love with. The signs were clear, although he is everything she wants in a man, tall, cute and sweet voice, he does everything she hates in a man: he gambles, smokes, drinks, swears and hates church. ‘Pastors are only interested in your offering and seeds. They can’t get me.’

Nkechi forgave him all these.  ‘He is just frustrated with life,’ she told herself. ‘He would change.’ She didn’t believe herself but she she hung on to the faulty see-saw of a relationship with a conviction that wouldn’t convince a six-year old. He didn’t change. Rather, he was changing her. Nkechi is one of those girls who having tasted the forbidden fruit, turn around to denounce it and term herself ‘secondary virgin’. No more sex till marriage. But she broke her two-year old secondary virginity for Ifeanyi. To make a bad situation messier, Ifeanyi has no room of his own so he takes her to the hotel a place she abhors, she paid the bills and he refers to love-making as fuck.

‘What a sweet fuck.’

‘Love-making; please stop calling it that.’

‘I hear you. Nice fuck sha.’

She would sigh. He would change. He didn’t. He shattered her heart instead. On the 14th of December, she arrived the hotel room she had paid for only to find it locked. After banging at the door for a quarter of an hour, Ifeanyi, naked safe for boxers opened the door. Behind him was a woman naked with mammalian glands the size of a pillow. ‘Oh my God, Ify why?’

‘You came late na. I was waiting for you since 7pm. This is after nine.’

She was crushed. He shut the door on her face. He snapped off the light. She heard the girl laugh and she died.

It was miracle that saw Nkechi make it out of the hotel in Presidential Road, get a keke to convey her to her apartment in Asata without breaking a leg or neck. But she wept a pool of tears. Her cousin who thought she went for a vigil at the church didn’t understand. Did fire gut the church? She wouldn’t talk to her cousin nor touch her phone. Ifeanyi called her twice before sending her this message: ‘Cheap gal like you. You are not even sweet you smelly motherfucker.’ Nkechi died again.

While in the university, Nkechi became friends with this fellow, Paul. She met him in their second year and they have remained tight friends till this moment. He has everything she would want in a guy; he is respectful, humble, considerate and doting. He is equally good-looking and industrious. ‘Honestly you have all that I need in a man but I can’t date you, some people must be your friend.’

‘Don’t flatter yourself; you are too ugly for me,’ he would say. And she would laugh and slap him on his chest. In the university, Nkechi suffered two heartbreaks and in each case, Paul was her refuge, she called him the boyfriend of the boyfriendless and he usually helped her back to herself, with plenty laughter and doting.

Three days after the tsunami, when Nkechi found herself,  she picked herself up, picked up her phone and called Paul. When he answered and she heard his excited voice, she began to cry. ‘I will kill him,’ he vowed. ‘I swear.’ Of course he didn’t mean it but he sounded so convincing she felt better.

Paul lives in Onitsha. He, like Nkechi, couldn’t secure a job with his fancy degree; he manages his own business, making a little lot selling ladies shoes in Ochanja Market. He promised to come and spend Christmas with Nkechi, and swore that by the time he was through with her she wouldn’t remember the name Ifeanyi again. She believed him.

9am Christmas Day, Nkechi was waiting for her heart-healer Paul. She stood in front of a book shop, trying not to look back hence she got tempted by a Templar or a Brian Tracy. She kept dialing Paul’s number but he wasn’t answering it. He had told her he was on his way more than two hours ago. But she wasn’t worry. If Paul says he would do something, he would do it–d

Someone hugged her from the back, almost knocking her fancy phone from her. ‘Pau-uul!’ She squawked with joy. He lifted her off the ground. ‘Oh, drop me, drop me, you naughty big head.’ He did but only after swinging her round three times, so that when he did drop her she was so dizzy he had to support her.

‘You evil!’ She hit him. He laughed.

One minute in Enugu and he was already making Ifeanyi sound like a cry from a distant clan. They boarded a keke. ‘I am not going home yet,’ she said.

‘I am taking you to you to a gift shop. The gift I will get you will blow your mind off.’

‘Can’t wait!’

Paul took Nkechi to Shop Husband. It is in Enugu, that is all you need to know about it. It is most likely to be abused, so I will keep its localtion secret. Only women with special needs are allowed entrance into the shop. Like Nkechi. The shop is actually a mall of six storeys. The tagline ‘You are a step away from your better half’ leaves little room for doubt as to what they sell here.

‘You will get the man of your dream here,’ Paul told her. ‘It is costly, but I will pay.’ Nkechi didn’t fully understand but she believed her best friend.

At the reception, Nkechi and Paul met the kind and beautiful sales woman in her middle age. ‘We want to buy one,’ he told her.

‘She already has you,’ the woman said.

‘She said I am not handsome enough.’

‘He is too short,’ Nkechi said. They laughed. Her heart was pounding, pounding, pounding. Her forehead was beginning to gather beads of sweat.

‘This is the door,’ the woman pointed. ‘There are six floors. In each floor are husbands for sale. Make your choice from any floor. If you choose your man from any of the floor, pick up the phone and call me by just pressing the green button. Don’t be too choosy. If you are not satisfied with the husband in offer at any floor, move to the next floor but know that you are not allowed to return to any floor. The door shuts permanently. Once you leave a floor you have rejected the husband materials there forever. Understood?’

Nkechi nodded. ‘Good luck.’

She turned to Paul who kissed her on the cheek. Nkechi stepped up the staircase and began to climb, her head soft like mutton with anticipation. At the end of the stairs was a bold inscription on a board, beside the telephone.

‘The men here have jobs, they don’t smoke nor drink nor swear.’

Wow, better than that loser Ifeanyi. But Nkechi didn’t settle for this. She decided to see what the next floor has.

Second floor: ‘These men have jobs, don’t swear nor smoke nor drink. They are very good-looking and tall.’

Hmmm. These ones here completely butcher Ifeanyi. The prick. But better men lie ahead. I will check. She climbed the next floor.

Next floor: ‘The men here are tall and handsome, have jobs, are kind, don’t smoke, drink nor swear. They are funny like crazy.’

‘Wow. Like seriously? This is too much.’ She nearly settled for this floor, she already picked up the phone but on a wiser thought, she dropped the phone and decided to climb another floor. Why settle for the third floor when you have three more floors?

On the fourth floor, this inscription met her: ‘The men here are God-fearing. They are very rich, funny, love kids, cook for their women and extremely good in bed. They are super handsome.’

Oh Jireh, this is the bomb! But she was sure the next floor had better men to offer. Up she went. On the fifth floor, she read: ‘The men here are romantic, funny, love kids, are generous, are very handsome, very rich, famous, hardworking, funny, kind, love cooking, great cooks and powerfully excellent in bed.’

Nkechi knew this was the best. What could possibly rank higher than this? She couldn’t fathom. All the right adjectives are here. But this is the Shop for husbands. This floor had already blown her mind, but trust the last floor to blow her heart of heart. She ran to the last floor. She stopped shocked when she read the inscription:

‘You are the 8,789, 679th woman to come to this place and leave empty-handed. There are no men here, just a proof of the insatiable beings you people are. Have yourself a merry Christmas. Olodo.’

Her world turned sharply, jolting her. Her legs became plastic, her nostril narrowed. Someone began laughing in the background, a voice full of ridicule and scorn. And he sounded so much like Ifeanyi.

Nkechi finally died.

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A Day in the Life of Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle

This is a story of a regular guy in Enugu. No, his real name is not Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle, of course. But I chose to name him after the timeless WAEC candidate just to hide his real identity. The guy is a hot-tempered punk, an ex-boxer and he knows the route I take to and fro work. See, if I can’t be handsomer let me at least remain as ugly as I am, with my face in one piece. So, let him remain Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle.

Ciroma woke up last Thursday sick of life. He has employment, something his former colleagues in the university and relations tell him he should be grateful for. But they don’t know the cost of living in Enugu, feeding, paying rent and bills of his one-room self-contained apartment, taking care of his car, sending money home etc. He is usually broke before the end of the month; he has plans for business that would compliment his income but is yet to save for it, in fact, he saves nothing. To cut cost, he has stopped driving his car to work, and has given up breakfast entirely and has cut his phone calls by three-quarter (now if you flash him he would flash you back two times (no shame, thank you!)). Still he sometimes wakes up, thinking the worst of himself. Last Thursday was one of such.

Like most extremely economic white-collar people in Enugu, Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle lives in Abakpa Nike and works in New Independence Layout. His apartment is located in the last floor of a three-storey block that had seen better days. But that is not the reason he hates this compound; he hates here because there are too much families for comfort. Too many wrapper-tying housewives and thousands of wailing dirty children. Adekunle wouldn’t have minded except that this battalion of children poise serious threat to his car. He had to handpick one of them, the dirtiest, biggest, angriest urchin, and pay him 100 naira per week to guard his car from mutilation while he, Chukwuma, is away at work. The other day, the little greedy bastard said something about a raise!

There was no electric power when Chukwuma woke up, which meant he couldn’t warm water for tea nor iron his best shirt. He had to settle for his third best shirt. But he was moderately happy that the lack of power had saved him breakfast. It is part of the austerity measure, skipping stinking breakfast. So he left for work. He walked down the stairs with extreme care to avoid falling over the wet stairs made so by his neigbours fetching water. Sometimes he was sure the idiots throw half of their buckets of water on the floor just so as to irritate him.

At the end of the stairs, Ciroma remembered to his dismay that he left his wallet in his room. He began to rush back upstairs, slipping twice and only held himself from falling by clutching the mucus-infested rail. Twice, too, he had to refrain from throwing some brainless child out of the case for being too slow to make way for the charging bull. He cursed them. By the time he returned to his room and back to the ground, he was out of breath. He is unfit, he knows, and has failed to maintain a fitness routine, shameful. But today wasn’t the time to mourn his fitness shortcoming. He—he stopped short. On top of his Toyoto was a raffia tray of onions!

‘What the fu…! Who put this nonsense on my car?’

No answer. Boiling, he made for the tray and grabbed it. The smell of half-putriding onions hit him like a blow in the nose. ‘Leave my onions for me!’ The voice struck him like an electric heater. He turned and looked at the woman, she wasn’t more than twenty-seven or eight but she must have given birth to thirteen kids, by the look of her skinny, bleached skin which reminded him of guga that people use to fetch water from wells in the north. She was wearing a dirty Chelsea jersey over her husband’s oversized jeans trousers.

‘My car is not a roof for drying rubbish.’

‘It is you that is rubbish. It is you. What do you call a car, this useless, stupid anakilija? You are not ashamed. Car owner indeed. Oya, drive your car make we see! Nonsense.’

‘Look at this woman o, so you cuss me for abusing my car…?’

‘Why won’t I curse you? Because of your useless car you abuse my onion. Idiot, bastard like you. Gimme my onion.’ She snatched the tray from him that he had been holding like a birthday cake. ‘Nonsense bastard. Why don’t you marry and raise your family and feed them with imported onions. Ashawo fucker like you. One minute one. Hopeless pretender. Asshole!’

Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle was tongue-tied. Imagine this useless woman that is below his standard by age, education, economy, common sense etc, abusing the hell out of him because an idiot put a ring in her fourth finger? Because  she is married and raising a football team she cannot feed, she now has immunity against the backhand slap that cures everything from malaria to diarrhoea of the mouth. The idiot husband could hear this, plus the ass neigbours, but they wouldn’t stop her, restrain the mad cow until he beat then they would come out and open their toilets and scream ‘you beat a married woman!’

Chukwuma let it pass and began to leave but the mad dog still had a few more round of ammunition to throw. ‘Bastard. Look at his k-legs. Bad luck is your portion forever. It will never be well with your generation…’

So much poison from one hole. By the time Adekunle got to the bus-stop, he was shaking with suppressed rage. The bus stop was unduly crowded with students, market women, business people and evil forces. He stood a mile from the stinking crowd and nursed his shattered ego. Buses for Old Park, New Layout, Emene continually came and went. Let them go, he reasoned, and break their necks, he wished.

But he had to get to work, someday, so when a New Independence bus came to a stop right in front of him, he had no choice, but no sooner had he stepped into the bus that a the dirty crowd rushed to board the bus. He hopped in and settled down and wouldn’t have cared one way if they all broke their ugly waists. But someone stepped on his shoe and he hit the leg a quick slap. A girl cried out.

‘You are wicked…’

‘You stepped on my fucking shoe!’

‘And so what?’ The girl, a tiny creature of twenty or so, got down. She was wearing a small skirt that could have been sown from a handkerchief. She would have been beautiful but for her large mouth. ‘You are a bastard,’ she roared. He would have got down and beaten daylight out of her but two passengers and the conductor were between him and the insult-venting machine. She fired. ‘Look at him, dirty pig. Animal of the lowest order. Origin of bursted condom. Your mother is a prostitute, your father is an armed robber and you a terrorists.’ Etc. She said many unprintable things, and Ciroma had no earphones to cover his ears, nor a knife to cut off his ears, anything to stop the flood. The useless driver refused to drive off, waiting for one passenger to complete the gang, and Ciroma kept being butchered. By the time the driver drove away, Ciroma felt and smelt like shit. This life!

It was a robotic CC Adekunle who got down from the bus in the bus stop. He crossed the road and made for the plaza housing his lousy company. The uniformed gate man was late in lifting the rope to swing the barrier pole up for him to pass. In a normal day the man, middle-age, hungry and greying, would leave the pole swung up at this time or lift it two good seconds before he approached. But today he moved in snail motion to the barrier, keeping Ciroma waiting. In truth, Ciroma could have lifted the barrrier himself and pass but he if he bothered he would no longer be a second class lower graduate of University of Benin. ‘My frien’ hurry up.’ Ciroma hissed.

‘Can’t you lift ordinary pole up.’ The man shot.

‘Why should I do your fucking job for you? If I were in my car will you expect me to get down raise the pole?’ He passed.

‘My friend carry your bad luck de go.’

‘It’s your father who has bad luck not me.’

‘Hehe. But I thank God I have a father. You nko? You are a bastard. Your mother is a village toilet and you are from a village toilet. Idiot, useless nonsensical. E shall never be well with you. Disease will kill you. Armed robbers will cripple you. Boko Haram will kidnap you and burn you alive in your car. Bastard, bombastic element… Come and fight me na. Bagger!’

And Adekunle was tempted to fight him, but even an angry Adekunle knows you can’t fight in your office. He would be fired and then his enemies will rejoice. But he would curse as much as he can.

‘Purrrr-purrrr!’ A car honked. Chukwuma stepped away as the car came in. Then he began very deflated and sapped of any energy to fight. He just turned and began to walk to his office. Three people have called him bastard this morning, perhaps it was time to have a long conversation with his mother. ‘Come and fight na,’ the gateman called. ‘Useless scallywag. Lucifer!’

I must stop here. This is only a morning in the life of Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle and this is supposed to be about a full day. Yes, but I cannot go beyond this; I cannot talk about the whole day, because if I do Chukwuma will know I am referring to him, and, remember, he has hot temper and knows the route I take to and fro work. If I cannot become handsomer, let me, at least, remain as ugly as I am. I insist. Provoking a hot-tempered ex-boxer is not my idea of literature.

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