Tuesday 20 August 2019

A Home Away from Home

For my NYSC, my PPA was a school - Community Secondary School - in a remote town called Mbeke-Ishieke in Ebonyi state. When I reported there the first time, a day after I left the NYSC camp at Afikpo, I didn't quite believe that people lived in the vicinity of the school. As the okada man who brought me turned from the bad road and joined the bridle path which led to the school gates, all I could see from my vantage point on the pillion seat were an expanse of cassava farms, goats with triangular wooden crisscrosses hanging on their necks, a stretch of rice fields, an expanse of uncultivated land, no houses or huts, no humans.

But I didn't feel quite downtrodden. I knew I was going to stay, maybe I even wanted to stay. I stayed, for close to a year, and discovered the most hospitable community of human beings. After my service, I never wanted to leave. Now, miles away from Mbeke, I often miss the place, the people, the students, the well-read principal, Mr Dominic Ezeh. One day, I'm sure, I'll visit Mbeke-Ishieke.

Friday 16 June 2017

Acting Man

When she said, ‘Saa, so you have a sister who attended St Patrick’s,’ you knew instinctively she’d always – for days or weeks even – wanted to say it, only the opportunity never presented itself, only you never presented her with the opportunity. You’re a guy who doesn’t feel the burden of ‘acting man’ to a girl, to girls. Or maybe you feel it, sometimes, but you don’t ever let it give you a cricked neck, you hurl it down just as the first throbs of a crick begin.
Now, you were here because you had to be, because Oge needed help with getting typed the exam question papers. That’s why the opportunity presented itself.
            ‘Which of my sisters?’
            ‘How many sisters do you have? Do you have more than one? Do you have more than one who attended St Patrick’s? Your sister, Afma naa.’
            ‘So you know Afma!’
            ‘Haa, Afma was my classmate.’
            ‘Oh! So you’re a small girl, and I’ve been thinking you’re my senior.’
            ‘Saa, no oo! I’m not your senior oo!’
            What followed was a tale, by you, of Afma’s academic progress since St Patrick’s, all of which she, by her responses, appeared to know already.
            ‘Who told you I was her brother?’
            ‘Master Ud’erika.’
            After school, you found her and her colleague – they are student teachers on teaching practice – standing by the roadside, apparently waiting for a commercial transport to board.
            ‘Do you think any vehicle is ever going to pass this way?’ you said. ‘Better begin to trek.’ They laughed and you passed by, walking along by the roadside and looking over your shoulder now and again to see if there was any approaching transport.
When you eventually waved a bus to a stop, you boarded to find her beaming face. ‘Where, then, is Aunty?’
‘She’s alighted.’
The bus reached her stop and she moved to pay the driver, but you asked her to forget it, you’d pay for her.
‘Saa, thank you,’ she said and alighted.
The next day, you went again to help Oge. When it was about time to go, she asked you to please wait so you could go together.
‘You know,’ you said, ‘I don’t like waiting till school is over. You’d board a keke and a student would board, too, the same keke, and expect you to pay her or his fare.’ Everyone tilted their heads back in laughter. ‘But let me get ready downstairs,’ you continued, ‘clean up myself and get my books.’
So you went together – waited for transport and eventually boarded – all the while chatting about management’s subtle manipulation. She got to her stop and alighted and, without the least care to pay the driver, was already waddling away when you called out, ‘You’ve not paid the driver oo!’ She turned, and you thought her ever-smiling face was flushed with embarrassment.
Meanwhile you said to the driver, ‘Or Driver do you wish to leave her?’
She walked up just in time to the passenger side window to hear the driver’s reply. ‘No oo! I thought you were going to pay for her. I heard your conversation, it was deep. You know, this is we men’s plight, a man and a woman would board a bus and the man would be expected to pay.’
She rummaged around in her handbag, saying, ‘Driver sorry oo. Please don’t be annoyed.’ She glanced at you – the embarrassment now gave the smile a sheepish edge – when she’d paid, before turning to leave.
To the driver, evidently one of the majority of men who foment the plight he bitterly complained about, you just said, weakly, ‘You should have asked her for her fare, or at least asked me if it was on me, before assuming.’ Action truly would have spoken louder than words, for the first thing that occurred to you was to let her go, with the fare, and make the driver pay dearly for his rashness. But you didn’t want her to leave with the notion that she got her own way, perhaps for the umpteenth time, with a guy, certainly not with you. Deep down, though, you knew there was a slight chance that, like her apology to the driver might have suggested, her sheepish glance regardless, she forgot. And you have left that chance open.

Ichi, 02 – 04/12/2016

Sunday 3 July 2016


Hello reader, seems like I’ve made some mathematical ‘discovery’. Here:
     Assume any number x. The square of x is equal to the product of the difference between x and 1 and the sum of x and 1, all plus 1.
                 x^2=(x-1)(X+1)+1      for all x
See, this is actually easy because the terms in brackets will actually multiply out to become a difference of two squares, viz.: , which when you add 1 to simplifies to . But I never saw it this way, until I began to prepare for my exams on Control Engineering and was multiplying numbers like 7 and 9 and was getting 64( ) as the answer. I quickly checked for other numbers and the ‘theory’ still stood tall, so I ‘propounded’ it above.
Of course ‘mathematicians’ must have known this long ago, but I didn’t know. (I’m not a mathematician anyway.) Or I knew but didn’t understand, whatever that means. But I’m happy I discovered this myself and didn’t read it anywhere, and I admire my observance. Thank you for reading.

Nsukka, 02/07/16.

Saturday 14 May 2016

Nsukka, 11/05/16

Mon is not the name of a day. Mon is the name of a human being. Perhaps because of a poor academic background or because it took him very long to attend university – he seems older than majority of his mates – he asks the ‘stupidest’ questions in class, wringing out the coyest of smiles from the most mature of lecturers (of course the reactions of the immature ones is beneath the scope of this story) – ‘the only stupid question is the unasked one’. Even amid the derisive hailing from some mates – ‘Mon! Mon Mon! Gupta!’ - and the direct ‘masking down’ from other mates – ‘Confused boy! Mon confused boy! This man sit down!’ – he remains unfazed and will repeat himself as many times as the lecturer is patient to hear him out. And he will still stand to ask his questions in other lectures – today, tomorrow, next semester, next three sessions.

Saturday 28 November 2015

For Nma, without whom I may never have written this . . .

Nsukka, 27 – 28/11/2015

From the earliest part of my life I can remember till now, I’ve occasionally, almost daily, ‘suffered’ depression. Heaps of heavy wet dune on my heart; my head, thoughts, some stirred murky water; my lips heavy and clumsy, don’t impulsively fall apart again to utter some human sound; my deep husky voice strained (Celine – we became friends when I was around twenty – is the one who made me aware my voice betrays my depression: This one your voice is this way, has depression come?, she always guessed right.); countenance like shit splashed on a wall (people always wondered, by scanning my visage, whether I was fine).

For a greater part of my childhood days, almost daily, my heart dimmed with the dimming of days. My limbs lethargic, I would sulk and prefer to lounge away at the black-brown railings of the balcony of our floor at Onitsha, watching the street, missing my mum, hoping for her arrival from her shop at Affar Street, sometimes thinking morbidly some reckless driver had knocked her down. People’s near presence, voices, their prying whether I was well, their attempts to begin a conversation, irritated me at those moments and I easily took offence. It didn’t matter if these people were my dear siblings.

I felt something akin to these bouts of burdened hearts when, for instance, I broke a glass pane or a light bulb while we, my brothers and I, played football, against my father’s and other adults’ instructions, in the wide passage of the floor. I would sulk, my heart heavy, till my father or one of the adults found out in the evening. My heart bled, too, the day Brother Amechi caught us smoking just rolled lighted paper, no intoxicant inside, in the wide passage and said he’d report us to our father.

But especially of note, because the bleeding now lasted for days for the very first time, was an incidence that happened when I was almost ten. I was seven or eight when Ngozi (she lived on the first floor with her family), who should be a year or two older, and I discovered the bliss of toying with each other’s sex organs, humping with our clothes on. Even at such an early age, she turned wet down there when I touch her, I swear. Under the steps, along the steps, upstairs at our floor, downstairs inside their bedroom on Saturdays when she was busy with house chores, anytime and anywhere where we both found ourselves alone. Two months or less before I clocked ten, we had to open up to our instructor at the Catechism class for Holy Communion during the retreat. The retreat was held differently for the boys and the girls. We had only to admit yes, we’d touched some girl (or boy), judging by the question the instructor put to the boys. But somehow I and Ngozi were singled out before the whole class a few days after the girls’ retreat, which held last. I didn’t know whatever happened, perhaps she divulged more, perhaps the instructor had pressed on because she was one of the prefects. It became known to all the prefects and instructors and, of course, all those that had anything to do with them I enjoyed some dirty thing with her, and the depression, for the first time, lasted for days.

But perhaps we all feel these acute worry over some incidence, perhaps my reaction to these incidences can’t be called depression at all. But my brothers seemed perfectly calm after the smoking and football incidences, Ngozi seemed calm too after the singling out. Perhaps they thought I was calm, too.


When, at fifteen or sixteen, I discovered the word ‘depression’ on the pages of Tim LaHaye’s Why You Act the Way You Do, I immediately knew I’d eventually found a name for this lifelong inexplicable emotional turmoil. LaHaye helped me somehow, in that at least he gave me a name for that hitherto confoundment, made me begin to understand to some extent why I’m that way, made some attempts at proffering some solution to it, which worked, still works, even if a bit.

Around that time I began to visit my friend, Kene, anytime I felt depressed (not LaHaye’s prescription, just my own way of – I’m ashamed to admit it – running away from myself). My therapy worked for the time I spent with Kene, but the depression always returned with a more forceful freshness as soon as we parted ways each time. I still look out for some special friends to spend time with when I’m depressed, but staying alone in hope for it to pass, assuring myself that it’d pass, that it’s only a matter of time before it passes, and striving – because I prefer to, and mostly do, laze away whenever I’m bombarded by such bouts – to carry on with my normal routine always prove more efficacious.

Writing, though, seems most efficacious; it has proved a never-failing therapy for the very few times, as now, I have tried it.

My depression, like I’ve said, are sometimes caused, sometimes not. From experience, it seems the caused ones take longer to peter out. Perhaps what I suffer, especially when it’s caused, isn’t even depression, perhaps true depression is uncaused. Or perhaps mine isn’t the kind of acute cases that need series of therapies with some trained psychoanalyst, doesn’t need some anti-depressant. But I believe I need no medical help, believe medical help – or any therapy whatever – can’t put a stop to it for good. I believe it’s just what I have to live with all my life, like my stammering and my impairment with the sounds /l/ and /r/.  Perhaps what I even suffer isn’t depression at all, acute or not, but let’s just tentatively call it so, at least till we’ve found an apter name.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Ichi, 12 – 15/10/2015

‘Didn’t know the love has gotten that strong,’ your phone beeps, an incoming WhatsApp message from Edu. ‘Your relationship status update on facebook. Thumbs up.’ You told him about Kay last December, when the relationship was barely two months old.

You send him a laugh emoticon; it’s indeed funny, the ‘thumbs up’, albeit you’re at a loss what he’s congratulating you for: the love that ‘has gotten that strong’ or the status you updated. Whichever, you don’t consider it a feat. You think instead it’s luck, sheer luck, you’ve dated Kay for over a year now. And the ‘In a relationship with Kay since 27 September, 2014’ status had been there until a day – less than a day – ago when you had to change it to ‘Single’ because Morgana, Kay’s elder sister, disapproved of the relationship and you had to break up briefly, very briefly, with Kay. Now everything has been resolved, somewhat, and you thought it wise to restore the former status.

‘It’s over a year now naa.’ Once you’ve sent him that, you have this inkling that it’s perhaps your ‘boldness’ at going public with the relationship that he congratulated you for. For you know how many a man (and girls too: Cindy often tell you how she wouldn’t show her guy how she love him lest it give him an advantage over her. You’ve heard some girls too lie about not dating their boyfriends, at the guys’ back of course.) think a man’s greatest tragedy is showing his girl more love than she shows him; how many a man think their love for their girls should be baits that make the girls keep begging for more.

Of course you can’t see you’ve done anything bold. You love a girl, fb asks you if you do, you say yes. Finish!

Didn’t even know
I’m really growing tired of relationships’

‘I sometimes get tired, too. If ever I break up with her, then it’s over. But I love her.’

‘Of course you do J No guy broadcasts to the world his love for a girl who doesn’t love her
You know I’ve gone deep with Ruby and due to that reason I gave up on so many other girls
I mean more beautiful and understanding girls’

You know Ruby, an uncertain – what with her heavy cosmetic titivation – chocolate-complexioned beauty. ‘Yet it didn’t work with her after all your sacrifices?’

‘No regrets tho
We still together just that am tired of the whole shit
Have come to realize that we’re not really an item’

‘Not an item?’ You miss the idiom.

Always having cash issues’

His illumination doesn’t help, but you let it be. Laugh emoticon.

‘It sounds funny right?’

It’s really the tone of his lamentations you find funny. ‘She requests money from you?’ You never imagined Ruby would extort guys. You hold her in high esteem; her openness with matters about sex and her unwanted pregnancy whenever you chat with her on fb cast her as a very considerate and mature girl.

Most girls do
And she happens to be one of them’

However truthful her comment that ‘most girls do’, you’re pissed off by it; it’s as though he’s excusing his foolishness by the comment. ‘Nawa oo.
That’s one of my tests of a girl’s love for me.
If you often request from me, you don’t love me.’

But you know as a guy you must assist your girl with little stuff’

‘And the girl should assist me with little stuff, too.’ Shit, you didn’t see he used ‘must’! ‘See, I think really it’s we guys who let girls extort us by thinking we ALONE should assist them financially.’


You think your text is clear as clear can be. ‘I think financial assistance should be mutual.’


‘And in any relationship I’m a party I make my position clear: that giving and taking should be mutual.
Indeed I don’t even “chyke” a girl at first if I found out she has that disposition that only the guy should give and only the girl receive.
It’s injustice to me.’

‘Men I’m just tired’

‘Tiredness won’t solve a thing, bro.’

‘Don’t worry sha am not letting it happen again’

But you’re already worked up by this case, like you always are by every such case, of girls’ heartlessness, guys’ stupidity. ‘It’s for YOU to put a stop to all those nonsense.
Even for a seemingly unimportant matter as calls, I insist the girl call me too. I can’t be the only one calling. It’s absolutely unfair and unacceptable to me.’

‘Really gonna do that’

‘You have to.’

‘Just that you know it ain’t as easy as it’s said’

‘It isn’t easy because all along you’ve been the one giving her. It would seem odd waking up someday and telling her you want giving to now be mutual.’

‘Not even abt giving’

‘That’s why I always define my stance ab initio. But fuck the oddity, you have to tell her.’

‘I mean letting go’

You’re surprised he’s admitted it now; some years back when Morgana – yes, she’s your ex! – broke your heart he’d told how easily you could forget her. ‘Oh, that!
Yeah, but you can.’

‘Cos I can’t stop giving and expect everything to be normal btw us still
I know
Am trying to actually’

‘Explain your newfound enlightenment to her. If she can’t cope with it then find another girl.
And be sure to sure to make your position clear to the new girl from day 1.’

‘I have a couple of girls already just that even with them being around
It’s still like my heart is stuck with her

‘See, you’ll lose many girls with this newfound enlightenment, but certainly those girls are “losable”. Any girl who sees relationships as means to amass wealth from guys is “losable”, should be done away with.
So you’ll lose many girls, but the few you’ll have around you’d be glad you have them.’

‘She’s actually the only problem when it comes to cash’

‘Women rant about feminism and how men marginalize them, but they won’t agree there’s any way whatever they marginalize men.
This, and many more, is one such way.’

‘To her and her types all she can ever offer in a relationship is sex’

‘About being hard to leave her, I’ll give you the formula I used on Morgana and hope it works for you.’

‘Ok ready to get it’

‘You know about the issue of sex, I don’t think a girl is actually offering me anything by letting me do her. At least I don’t think she’s the ONLY one offering something when we fuck. I offer her something, too. Sex is a mutual act, bro. Sexual pleasure, too, is mutual. It’s not as though I’m the only one enjoying the fuck.
OK now the formula:’


‘First minimize communication with her.’

‘Am already on that
But she calls’

‘If, for instance, you used to call her daily, you could cut down to calling her once in two or three days, depending on how far your emotions could carry you.’


‘Like how often does she call?’

‘I mean like if she doesn’t hear from me’

‘OK. It doesn’t matter, still keep at what you’re aiming at – cutting down communication with her. You could give her one or other excuse when she asks why you don’t call as often as you used to.’


‘Then when you think your emotions could carry it, extend the gap in communication to like calling her once in 4 days or once in a week. And so on. Just keep increasing the bridge in communication whenever you feel your feelings could extend the bridge.’


‘You don’t have to force anything, just go at the pace of your emotions.’


‘With time you’d find you could spend months without hearing from her and you’d feel perfectly normal.’

‘Yap definitely’

‘And all the while keep reassuring yourself that YOU own yourself. That the bad feelings would still pass, that it certainly wouldn’t last forever. That it would pass and you would feel fine again.’


‘For an analogy: identify yourself with the sky and see the bad feelings as the clouds just sailing pass through you, the sky. They, the clouds, would certainly pass and leave a clear, bright sky in their aftermath.’


‘If you believe in God, you could pray too. That s/he should take away the bad feelings for you.’

‘Ok thanks a bunch’

‘It might take time, just don’t rush it. Go at your emotions’ pace.
Alright. My pleasure.’

‘Kk Bro
Thank you’

‘Udo di. Go out there and be happy, nwanne. Nobody deserves to make you feel bad. J

Sunday 4 October 2015


See, this gaunt-legged guy is a fool.

Well that’s your opinion. And maybe you’re been unfair to him because you’re the one telling the story, his story.

Well of course it’s my opinion. Did you expect me to voice your – or anybody else’s – opinion before. And, yes, I’m the storyteller. If you’re not comfortable with that then tell your own story and call me a fool and be unfair to me and I wouldn’t care a bit. And do you know which story of me he’s telling now. And this is my story, too.

So like I said he’s a fool, yes! The kind of fool who moves to a new town without bathroom slippers (not as though he had in his former residential town, anyway. Well you can’t be sure.) and hopes other housemates would have so he could borrow; who always is sure he’s going to borrow – not just slippers now – and people would always lend him.

He’s not a fool, then; his likes abound.

Now does their abundance detract from their foolishness?

He actually was here before me – a day before me, like I gathered. I should have known what a fool he is, he has this friendly pretensions typical of his species of fools. Because he has to borrow, he has to be pretentiously friendly, see? One of the earlier beds once told him, in my hearing, that Manager and Madam had been asking after him.

Wide-eyed amazement. Of all the guys that came for the same thing all of you here now, save him, came for during his time, he’s the only one they asked after. Surely, this our gaunt-legged fool must be a good guy.

Well you’ve not learned, then, to distinguish, like Manager and Madam, between sociability, sometimes a mutant of pretentious friendliness, and being good.

So you see, he was not supposed to be here with the rest of us, really. All, but him, paid for this accommodation.

Thanks to his begging and borrowing prowess, then?

When I just came, wary of strangers and being the dweeb I am, Frye’s Symbolism in the Bible on my phone was my only companion. But our fool with his affected courtesies made ‘passes’ at me. So I opened my heart, though ajar. And he began to borrow: ‘Are you going to buy akara today? Please help me buy. Nzube, abeg I fit get 100 (atimes 50, 200) naira from you? Thanks. Your pure water remain? Abeg gi’ me. Abeg you get detergent? I wan use your vero board. I go just cut small. Make I collect small lead. You get cutter? . . .’

At first he paid back – of course only the money – promptly. Then he began to preach how good a guy he was and how he didn’t remind his debtors their debts and how he ‘doesn’t love money, but uses money.’

I replied: ‘Ah, I remind my debtors oo! People are bad and just feign forgetfulness when they want to eat your money. And, yes, I love money.’

He continued: ‘Haa! As I dey see you, you no go fit help pesin. Like me now, I dey give people, people wey I no even know, money. 5k, 30k.’

‘Well let it be I no fit help pesin. You don’t even know me.’ I wonder now why it didn’t occur to me to ask him whether I wasn’t helping him lending him whenever he asked.

‘And you can take bike every morning to buy akara. Take bike to banks, too. You can do it, it’s just for you to tell your mind you can and the money would come. You can’t be trekking that distance.’

‘Guy forget motivational talks. If you live above your means hunger go kill you. I can’t afford to enter okada every day, not now.’ And this is a fool who severally I caught red-handed ‘trekking’ to one or other bank, who can’t even afford to change his one pair of stinking, discoloured undies, can’t afford to buy a towel, borrows a mirror. . . . You see these species of fools, eh, they can embellish their vacuous, foolish insides with words.

He waited to be reminded to pay back when he borrowed, after that exchange. And of course I never tired of reminding him. Perhaps all those talks was a scheme to silence me so he could eat my money. Have I told you that this fool never bought any item for general use in this house? Not a broom, not a brush for the toilet. And he’s never been moved to refill the water tank. Rather, you’d see him early in the morning, when the tank tap now drools drizzle, scampering to fetch the last drops from the tank.


So, once upon a time, Manager complained to me how the BEDC people just came for electricity bill, three thousand naira; how we all had laptops to charge but never contributed a part of the monthly electricity bill since we came. He sounded really pained and was going to take an action if we didn’t lend some relieving head to his spine-splitting burden this time. He did say, too, he had talked to our fool about a previous bill, perhaps the past month’s, but he didn’t do anything about it, at least Manager saw no effect. So I promised him I was going to talk to the others about the bill.

I met this fool personally about the bill; his reply was reluctant, muted mumbles. I met M, too; he said yes, we would pay, we would pay, we would contribute half the money and give Manager. I was counting on him, M, to talk to the other guys about the bill, which he did. For two days later A came to give me 900, being for three. I added my 300 and waited patiently for Fool to be back and give me his. He came back and I told him everyone else had paid, it was just his left before I took the money to Manager.

‘Ah, you didn’t tell me when you’d be collecting it. I no hol’ money for hand now.’

I was still wondering whatever he meant by not telling him when I would be collecting the money – formal announcement?! – when he took me unawares: ‘Bring am. I go explain to Manager, ask am say make him pay for me, I go give am later.’

So I gave him the 1200 naira, unthinking. When he left I began to wonder what I had done, letting this fool take advantage of me, us all, again. I should have made sure he paid his 300 naira.

‘I don settle am,’ he jolted me out of my self-hate and regret, back from seeing Manager.

‘OK,’ I mumbled. I was sure he must have told Manager the one-two was our bill, never mentioning he didn’t pay. I must make sure I tell Manager we were to give him one-five, that this fool didn’t pay. I must scrounge this money from him, no matter what. I won’t let him fool us again, never.

But by next morning the smouldering embers of my self-hate had already been doused by the midnight dew. It was the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations so Manager didn’t go to work. So many times did I hear him answer calls, wishing his callers ‘Happy Salah’, and so many times did I want to go and meet him, but decided otherwise.

Four days later, he, Manager, saw me at the tank fetching water to brush my teeth.

Nnaa –’ he’s a fellow Igbo – ‘Messi got injured yesterday.’ And a fellow Barcelona fan. ‘Six to seven weeks. Let’s call it two months.’

Nnaa ee! But we’ll keep winning matches, only not with high number of goals again.’

‘Yes, we won yesterday. And Messi got injured in the ninth minute.’

‘Yes. It’s just for the others, Suarez and Neymar, to live up to expectations now.’

‘No, Suarez will do well. He scored the two goals yesterday naa.’


‘Nnaa, I saw your effort oo.’

I mustn’t let this opportunity slip by. ‘Yes, I told them. We were supposed to give you one-five, but Fool said he had no 300 handy, that’s why he was the one who brought you the money, so he could explain to you. I actually collected the money.’

‘He’s still with the money, I didn’t take it. He just told me that was you guys’ part of the bill, but I asked him to keep it for next month’s, that already I’ve settled those BEDC people. I might eat the money if I kept it. As we already have one thousand-something, we’ll only have to make it up next month.’

‘Yes, yes.’ I hesitated, stunned. ‘But he should have reported back to me. I’m the one who gave him the money.’

‘Well you don’t know his situation. Maybe he’s using it for his upkeep, till next month.’

‘Yes, yes.’ I have no talk with you.

I went towards the wall where I always brushed my teeth, marvelling at Fool’s incredible capabilities. I brushed my teeth and stomped to where he washed his clothes.

‘Fool, Manager was telling me you are still with the one thousand two hundred naira.’

He removed the headphones he had on. ‘Did he explain to you why?’

‘Yes, and that’s not enough reason for you to keep the money. I gave you the money. At least you should have told me before deciding to keep it.’

See, never mind my seamless flow now, I actually stumbled my way through those bumpy words, leapfrogging each bump with ‘eem’, an acute stammerer that I am.

‘See, I met Manager –’

‘I don’t want to hear that. I told you, Manager already told me everything. I collected that money from those guys. If anything happens now, they’d say I ate their money. You’re giving me that money!’

‘Go! I’ll give you!’

I left. ‘Good. That’s what I wanted to hear.’ I blew at the strings of my brush, hopeful that maybe having got him vexed, he’d just badge into the room after washing and rudely fling some one-two at me.

He came into the room moments later. ‘See, when you want to talk to peo–’

I was already calm. ‘Foooll, I don’t want to hear any of that. Can I have the money?’

But he still boiled. ‘I don’t have it now!’

‘So when are you giving me?’

‘When I have it!’

I was disappointed; his fury couldn’t even incite him to fling the money rudely at me. And I knew how miserable the guy was.

‘This is not the way to talk to people. You should have asked me what transpired between me and Manager, not shouting as if I ate your one-two. What is one-two?’

‘Actually, you should have told me what transpired. It’s not as though you didn’t meet me in the room that night when you came back. And I didn’t say you ate the one-two. All I’m after is my reputation, I don’t want to be called a thief in this town.’ But it was really my 300 naira I was after.

‘I don’t care about your reputation! You should know how to talk to people.’

Now I’d never seen him infuriated, so I wanted to apologize and tell him it was because I stammered, that was why it seemed I bawled at him. But, no! I wasn’t going to let him hold on still to the money by appeasing him. ‘My friend, admit you made a mistake by keeping the money.’

‘The point is not whether or not I made a mistake. The point is how you went about it.’

‘Nzube, Fool, what is it?’ Manager called from the window.

I reiterated to Manager what I already told him: how I was the one who collected the money, and how Fool didn’t pay and so had no right to keep the money. And how the rest would say I ate their money if they found out I didn’t pay and yet didn’t refund their money.

Meantime Fool was going to fetch water from the tank and was railing his explanation to Manager: whether they didn’t agree he should keep the money till next month, how come he told me what they discussed? How I was insinuating he wanted to eat the money, how one-two is paltry change to him.

Manager told him he only meant to commend my effort at getting us to pay. ‘Okee, it’s OK, it’s OK,’ he said to me in Igbo.

‘Of course I don’t have any problem with him. You can see he’s the one shouting. I’m very calm here.’ It was really a surprise to me, my calmness. I’m usually excited after I exchanged words with someone.

So what if he doesn’t pay you?

Eem . . . I’ve considered that, but I’ve not decided what to do. School will be resuming soon, so my days in this town are numbered. Maybe I’ll take his headphones – they’re precious to him – while leaving, he usually doesn’t go to Office with them. Or I’ll target where he keeps his money and take one-two. I doubt if I can find that amount, though; the guy is a wretched fool. But if it’s just 300 I find, I’ll take that and text the rest later that Fool has their 900 naira. Whatever I take, I must make sure I text him later so he know I was the one and why. But I’m not sure I’ll touch his money or belongings. I just hope he pays me. I may tell Engineer and these guys so they mount pressure on him.

And I really think he wanted to eat the money. Maybe he hoped Manager wouldn’t tell me he had the money so he could ask us to contribute again next month. And I’m marvelled at him now. I’m marvelled at how people do good just because of fear, not because they want to, have to; at how people can easily steal and commit other crimes when they’re sure they won’t be found out.

Yes, how we do good from fear.

And I sure have to be more careful with my money. This fool can steal my money. I just hope I get this one-two back. I’ll tell you when I do.

Auchi, 27 – 30/09/205