Leaving is hard

Leaving is hard (9/15/2017 – 1PM)

It is said that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Well, I tried. The lemonade was just too sharp to drink daily. So, finally I decided to “check out.” Can’t be that difficult, right? I read all sorts of stories on the internet and that shit is happening all the time – teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s after which it seems people sort of accept their fate and get on with the hassle of living. Well, it isn’t. Maybe I was just grossly incompetent, just plain unlucky, or at some subconscious level I wasn’t really ready to go.

I did my research. Ok, truth be told, I just watched a bunch of documentaries. I made a list of possible options and the old car exhaust method seems to be the most painless way to go. Just sit back and relax, and let odorless carbon monoxide do the trick. I didn’t have much of any affairs to set in order which suited me fine. I wrote a brief “suicide note” and snail mailed it to the only person I knew wouldn’t bother to open the mail until I was gone. Checked the listing for vacancies and found a warehouse that looked like it would be suitable from the pictures online. I wasn’t going to leave anything to chance, so I fired up Google Earth as well, and it appears the pictures posted by the estate firm didn’t even do it justice – it looked even more decrepit, abandoned and weed-grown from above (damn estate agents using old pictures!)

I read somewhere that the best time to die was either Friday afternoon right after the work day ends or on Monday mornings: Friday evening people can’t wait to get on home or hit the pubs, and Monday morning they are too busy trying to get to work early or still recovering from the weekend hangover: either way, they can’t see you for their own issues. Which is how you want it when you want to commit a permanent crime against your own person.

I pulled up to the warehouse in my old jalopy and drove straight through the excuse for a double door that wouldn’t even keep a horse out (and horses are known for following the rules, right?). the only thing I had with me was a family-size KFC bucket and a 2-litre bottle of Coca Cola: I intend to die happy. Besides, whoever heard of the dead dying of diabetes? I ate half of the bucket and washed it down generously with the coke. I guess I should have bought a non-carbonated drink instead for all the burps the coke was inducing in me.

Time to get down to business. The key is not to hesitate. I plugged the hose to the exhaust pipe of the car, went back with the other end and stuck it through a little gap in the window, then tape everything up nicely. I started the car, reclined the seat and closed my eyes. Anytime now … who says this stuff has no smell …. as long as it gets the job done …. my shut eyes were burning and I started to cough … I intend to wait this thing out …. finally I checked my wristwatch and noticed it’s been close to an hour. It wasn’t supposed to take this long. I couldn’t cope with it any longer and opened the door. Turns out my old jalopy wasn’t exactly airtight and I could have punished myself in there for a month of Sundays and all I would have had was a nasty headache and possibly bronchitis.

I was disappointed of course but I still had my list. I returned home and the fact that no police or anyone for that matter had showed up looking for me means I was right about the fellow I sent the letter to. The only letter he opens with any sort of regularity is the ones containing his disability checks.

I spent the next few days investigating option two. Again, to tell the truth, after a few YouTube videos about how to tie a noose, I sort of got carried away watching the season 7 episodes of GOT. I was disappointed by the ending. I knew season 8 would be the final season by I am not sticking around for 2 years to discover who finally gets to sit on the iron throne. No way. I took a trip to Walmart and bought a good length of a thick strong woven synthetic rope they had. Another detour to KFC and I was set with another family bucket and this time non-fizzy ginger ale from the gas station. It only cost $1.29 for a 2-litre bottle. Maybe the warehouse was jinxed, this time I searched for a nice house that was for lease in the suburbs. I timed my arrival to ensure the dads have gone to work and the mums are probably doing laundry or visiting. I parked a few blocks away and made the last few meters on foot. With my face cap and bag slung over my shoulder, I could pass for some courier guy. I was in luck as the keys to the front door were under the “welcome” doormat. It was nice and dark inside. Half a bucket of chicken and a liter of ginger ale later, I was ready to go. A quick look at a straight-to-the-point video on YouTube on how to tie a noose securely again and I was ready to make my own copy. It seems the cable I bought was too “fat.” After battling with it for what seemed like an eternity, I threw it down in disgust. I watched the video again and looked at the comments under it. That’s when I found that there was a suggestion as to the optimal diameter for a rope to make the sort of noose in the video. Aaaarrrgh! OK. Not too bad. I can still make it to Walmart, exchange the rope for something thinner and be back in time before the husbands’ lunches are ready.

I am not sure where I got the idea that the “real Walmart people” only come out after midnight. Seems they made a special exception that day to torpedo my plans. All the queues were packed and half of them dressed as if they had just escaped from some nearby loonie-bin. By the time it got to my turn, the day was far gone but I was going to try anyway. That’s when I learnt that the rope in my hand had been paid for by someone and should not have been on the shelf. I was on the way back when I had to stop at an intersection for the lights to go green. A fellow called to me from the sidewalk asking if I had any loose change. From his looks, I suspect he was a druggie, but where I am going I don’t need any cash. He came over and I gave him some notes then on a hunch asked if he knew where I could get some ropes? Without missing a beat, he said it was my lucky day and I should drive round the corner to some construction work going on. Big mistake. I didn’t even make it out of the car before I had a gun shoved in my face by a second guy that appeared out of nowhere. Long and short of it was that I was parted with my car and wallet. The fellow was nice enough to leave me a $20 bill for my cab ride home. He wanted to give me a smaller bill because he thinks wherever I was going wasn’t far and a $10 should get me there. Fortunately, he couldn’t find one.

The escapade had taken it out of me. I flagged down a cab and had to go into my apartment to get the balance of $6.24 because the ride ended up costing $26.24 – freaking mugger!

No more ropes. And I needed a break and some distraction. I went looking for the chap I had sent the letter to. He’s always welcoming as long has you have a pack or two of something cold in your hands. He was watching Netflix. I pulled up a tattered seat and sat next to him. Just on the table behind me was my letter. He hadn’t opened it. I picked it up and slipped it into my pocket.

I told him in passing that I had attempted to “off” myself. He chuckled and went on watching the TV. I don’t think he quite registered what I said I had done. Stayed there watching the TV amidst some light banter till late in the evening then went back home.

I was ruing my fate by the roadside when I noticed this bird that kept making short dashes into the road from the curb and back to the curb. It was obviously hurt cause one wing sort of hung to the ground. Then a police car came flying past with sirens howling and made a road kill of the bird. I stood there and looked at the mess on the road: minced meat. I couldn’t believe it. That bird had probably had enough of this world, and it got to leave without even trying! I was clenching my fists and grinding my teeth in anger when the idea came to me. It was a real eureka moment. All that was missing was the lit light-bulb hovering over my head. I was going to commit suicide by cop. But I have to get a gun to do it right. I will go to the seedier side of town and purchase one. Either I get mugged and stabbed to death (though from all the movies I have seen, that shit ain’t quick and painless) or I get the gun and go out in a blaze of glory full of holes by the men in blue.

When they say a place is the underbelly of the city, I didn’t realize it literally meant the smell of weed, vomit, feces (and more I couldn’t identify) all rolled into one. It’s amazing that I have lived in the city for as long as I have and have never had cause to visit this area of town. It’s one of those areas you just naturally learn to avoid in the cause of time. But yet, that night found me wandering around the darkly lit streets. My plan was to go from club to club, by a drink, cozy up to one or two people and stylishly drop the fact that I was looking to purchase a gun. Nothing but hostile looks in the first four or five bars and I was getting tipsy. I looked back on my trip to the next bar and realized I had picked up some real “hostiles.” My mind told me to run but my legs went two steps forward, one step back and half a step sideways. As I was about to topple over, strong arms grabbed me from either side and I heard a voice say “You are the prick looking to buy a gun yeah?” All I could do was nod because I could feel something struggling to break free if I so much as opened my mouth. “Well, it’s your lucky day. We have just the thing you need. Untraceable, yeah?” I nodded again. “With a box of bullets to get the job done.” I shook my head, I didn’t actually intend to shoot anyone. Next thing I was dragged into an alley and frisked from head to toe. I was being held down and struggled feebly because the alcohol was messing with my coordination. “Hold still!” one of them shouted and when I still continued to try to resist, I felt the impact of a set of knuckles connect with my face. I did not see stars: I saw a bright light for a second or two, or three. I laid still for what seemed like forever. When I finally decided to move, I could only see out of one eye. The other was swollen shut. A toy gun (I didn’t realize it until I picked it up and felt how light it was) was on the street next to me. All I got was a black eye, and a toy gun for my troubles.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The gun was on my work table right beside my laptop for several days. I was staring out the window one of those nights when the moonlight glanced off it. To my now back to fully functional eyes, it looked black, shiny and real enough. I decided it was still worth a try especially if it was in the dark. Now to find a situation where there would be enough cops to ensure I don’t end up partially paralyzed or brain dead – I need to be real dead as in DOA-dead. I knew a local bar where on certain nights cops gather after work and there’s always a few out in the parking lots smoking at any point in time. I was going to go there and make their day. I knew I had to make it so unexpected so their instinct kicks in and they unload their weapons without hesitation. I whipped out the gun as a I walked towards them in the partially-lit parking lot and pressed the trigger for the fun of it. The gun burst into all sorts of multicolored flashing light and some baby-sounding voice saying “I am an officer of the law. Surrender now!” followed by that ice cream truck music. I was sniffing shoe dust in a matter of seconds with my hands behind my back and my chest to the floor. As I was dragged up to my feet, all I could think of was the fact that I couldn’t even get killed by cops and I am black and I had a gun. That damn bird!

I was at the station in a few minutes with the evidence of my intended crime on the counter across from me.  One of the officers picked up the gun and turned it over a few times. Then chuckled and pointed to something embossed on the gun. The inscription read “cop friendly” – what the hell does that mean?!!!

I was thrown in jail while I guess they were trying to decide if I was sane or not. Seems I must have been talking in my sleep and let the cat out of the bag because the next thing was me being hauled to some psychiatric hospital for an evaluation. Long and short of it was instead of prison, I was remanded in the hospital for observation and treatment. An unknown benefactor of the hospital picked up the tab.

Two months later, after telling the doctors what they wanted to hear, I am let out the front doors of the hospital into a bright day that made it seem all was right with the world and Kim-should-be-certified in North Korea is not trying hard to nuke us all while starving his countrymen, and 121 people are not going to commit suicide back here at home within the next 24hours (that is one person every 13 minutes) and there are no famines, hurricanes, and wildfires trying to make believers of all of us that the end times are actually here.

The sun was shining brightly, and the temperature was just about right. A light breeze blew through the trees and there was a flowery scent in the air that was refreshing. Then the pigeon shat on my head. I looked up at it looking down at me and just like that I decided I wasn’t going anywhere just yet – not until I returned the favor to this specific pigeon I couldn’t tell apart from the thousands in the city. I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

But some things just can’t be explained.

– – – – – – – – – –  The End  – – – – – – – ( 9/15/2017 3:12PM)  – – – – – – – – – – – –

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: +1-800-273-8255

(Available 24 hours everyday)

Chapter One: Son of Sam

Chapter One: Son of Sam

I sat there in the class looking at first-class Detective Chris Adenuga. Most people say he’s a son of a bitch. But I get the feeling it’s just an act he put on for the world.

“I have as much hope of turning you rejects into detectives as the devil has of turning stone to bread” said Detective Chris Adenuga.
The room was completely silent. All eyes were on him.
“There are too many warm bodies in this room by far.” he continued. “On a good day when I am feeling the spirit move me,
this room will lose a third of its content by the end of this course. On a bad day, that would be half. By God, I have never seen such a bunch of wannabes playing at cops and robbers!”
There were thirty of us in the room. I wondered if I would be part of the 20 still present at the end of the day.
He was walking around at this point. He came to a stop in front of Officer Makinwa who was one of the most quiet cops I have ever met.
He took a look at his name plate: “Makinwa is it? I wonder why you look as if you have got my boots shoved up your ass? I have looked down to be certain and they are still firmly on my feet.”
Makinwa kept looking straight ahead. He didn’t say a word.
“If my utterances have offended your religious sensibilities and is causing you to frown in righteous indignation, you have my permission to walk out of this room right now. But if you do choose to stay, I promise you that at some point in the future, you will indeed have my boot stuck up your ass and the look on your face will be one of pain!”
No response. He continued moving around the room.
“Now, take a look at the murder scenario in your exercise booklet. The story is that someone or some persons killed someone. You should tell me who killed the victim out of the host of characters in the story.”
“Now don’t expect a pat on the back for solving it. In fact my 5 year old son took 10 minutes to figure it out. Did I give him a part on the back? No, I told him pats on the back are reserved for 5-minuters. And don’t go expecting a pat on the head either. We are not raising puppies here. If you want a pat, go for a massage. Hell! Go to one that offers a happy ending. Maybe when next you show up in this room, your synapses will be firing properly. Get to it!”

The story was just 2 pages long. There were 5 characters excluding the victim. I read it quickly. For such a short story, there had to be something obvious that would give the criminal away. How much plot can you fit into 2 pages if the murderer is one of 5 people in the story. On the second read I nailed it. One of the characters was lying about his whereabouts during the murder. It had to be him. The simple reason being that it’s almost impossible to hide another one in such a short story.
I didn’t realise I was smiling to myself until he came and stood in front of me.
“Officer Michael Adewole”
“Yes sir”
“Have you served in the military before Officer?”
“No sir” the question was confusing.
“So why all the sirs?”
I had no response.
“So. I see that you were smiling like the Cheshire cat. By my time, you started smiling around the 4-minute mark. So I will give it to you that you decided on the answer you think is correct about then right?”
“Yes … sir.”
“Don’t be a blushing bride. Give it to me.”
“It’s the doctor.”
“What do we have here. Someone with functional brain cells? I wouldn’t have thought it to look at you.”
“But yes, you are absolutely 100% f**king correct. It is the doctor.”
“How did you happen on him if you would be so kind to educate us.”
I gave him the reason.
“Not bad for a fresh-faced cop like you. But we shall see how you handle more complicated scenarios as the class progresses, shan’t we?”
I nodded slightly.
He started to walk away, pursed, then turned around.
“What book do you have there, Officer?”
I had the book under the class booklet, so I handed it over to him.
“I thought as much.”

“Do you think we should make the class read it?” he asked me.
That was trouble I didn’t want. Being responsible for additional workload on my classmates.
“Why are you making a sound as if you are the Son of Sam’s latest victim? eerrrrawh? What’s that?
“You know he was a throat slasher among other things?” You sounded as if your throat was been slashed just now.
I know I needed to say something otherwise he might not stop: “I think may be we can let the class decide?” I ventured.
“Do you think this is a democracy Mr Adewole? Because you call me Mr and I call you Mr? Everything is dandy and we are all colleagues?”
“No. By Jove no way! This is an animal farm and I tell you this pig is more equal than all you sorry mutherf**kers! Why do you think it is that I am the only one in this room with the liberty – yes – the liberty – to saunter around?”
He turned to the class and said: “We shall all be joining Mr Adewole on his quest to know all there is to know about the killer known as the Son of Sam.”
“Class. Kindly acquaint yourselves with a copy each of the book before the end of the week.”

I could feel the hostility in the room. But as I did not intentionally add to their workload, I was just going to let it wash over me and ignore them.

“Class dismissed.”

As the class emptied and everyone headed out the door, he suddenly said: “Son of Sam, see me after lunch.”

A great way to start the next phase of my career I thought not. Why not a nickname such as “Dirty Harry” for example. It had to be something as notorious as “Son of Sam.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* Harry Callahan – known as “Dirty Harry” is a cop character portrayed by famous actor Clint Eastwood in a thriller movie series.

Oblivion

Oblivion

I went to bed with an ache in my back. You haunted my dreams. I woke up trying to decide whether I was daydreaming or truly dreamt of you.

No exercise for me this morning. I will lump it together with tomorrows. The room is in shambles. I have to fix it, but not this morning. I grabbed the barbing kit, put a N1000 note in my pocket and went out to the next street to the tree under which my barber plies his trade.

There was a MOPOL (mobile policeman) on the seat. He was having his head shaved while having a lively conversation with the barber. He got up once done and started to walk away.

The barber asks for payment.

“I paid you last time” the MOPOL replied.

The barber called after him “419 MOPOL.”

We all smiled.

I sat down and told the barber that I was trying to grow my beard. So not to shave it off but he could “shape” it.

The MOPOL walked by again, and said he was going to the next street. The barber commented that the exercise was good for him, and added when he was out of earshot that the MOPOL needed the exercise, or how does he explain his sizable potbelly (which the policeman needed to lose).

Once done, I handed him the N1,000 naira note. His fee is N200. I told him to add the balance to the other “thing” (a side “venture”). He knows what I am talking about. I had given him N2,000 several weeks ago. He said he still had N1,200. The N800 should put it back at N2,000. No pain no gain.

Work was work. I should go (to the church) for (the weekly) fellowship, but various things were going on, and I watched 6PM come and go. Inertia. I couldn’t get up to go. Excuses. A colleague mentioned that Oblivion (the film) was out. I checked the Genesis Deluxe Cinema’s website and found that the last showing was for 8:50PM. I decided to go see the film. I left the office at 8:10PM only to find a gridlock on the road. It didn’t look like I would make it to the cinema before the film started, and I hate to miss the opening sequence of any film. I would try. I got to the cinema about 5 minutes late. Parked my car in a vacant lot between two jeeps and went in.

Paid and walked into the cinema hall. Fortunately, they were still showing previews of other films.

I walked up the aisle and found that a choice seat almost where I would have chosen even if I had come in earlier was still available. An Indian couple sat at the edge of the row, and several girls sat towards the other half so the seat almost dead center was free.

I sat down to enjoy the 2-hour film. The Indian couple talked from time to time. Not too much. It was nice (for them) not to be alone. It seems a lifetime ago when I was sitting in that same cinema (maybe even the same hall) next to you. I was glad I was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt because I could feel your arm against mine. I didn’t move it, and neither did you. The feeling was delightful. I could have sat there till the Sun went down, and the moon came up. But that was a lifetime ago. The wheels of time move quickly.

Tom Cruise delivered as usual.

It is 11:15PM and I was the last person out of the hall.

There were suddenly lots of young people coming up the stairs unto the top floor. Strange for that time of night. I walked past them and out into the night. I see a “Department of Medicine, LASU” bus. Maybe the throng just arriving were students. They looked young enough.

I walked towards my car. I passed a man leaning against his car. He said something to me that though I heard did not register at the time “That car has hit your car.”

My car was in view and there was a Toyota Corolla next to it. It was too close for comfort. In fact, it looked as if it was physically resting against mine on the driver’s side (of my car).

I was a little alarmed. I could see into the car and it looked as if the driver had his head on the steering wheel. I walked up to the car and tapped the boot. The car came alive and the driver reversed a little and drove sideways and stopped a couple of feet away. The driver came down. A young chap about my height (or maybe slightly taller). He looked at the front of his car.

I looked at my car and there was almost no damage. There was a small scratch on the side of the bumper that could have been made by something as small as a screwdriver.

Then he came round, tried to smile and apologized. He asked about my car and I told him there was almost no damage. He stretched out his hand and I shook it. I found the situation odd, so I asked him if he was drunk. He shook his head (difficult to tell if that was a yes or no). I noticed there was a girl in the passenger seat with her head in her hands. I asked if she was OK. She raised her head and looked in my direction. The chap opened the door and held the girls hand. I guess she was OK but probably embarrassed. She was really pretty.

The chap went back to look at the front of his car. He seemed to have run into the wall more than he had run into my car. He staggered a little. It was obvious he was more than a little drunk. He realized it and he was obviously embarrassed.

I asked if the girl could drive. He said no. I said I don’t think he should drive. He said he is not driving right now. I told him I think he should chill a little. Maybe get a drink of water.

He apologized again, shaking my hand. The other fellow that had spoken to me while I was approaching my car had walked up to us. He inquired if the damage wasn’t too much and the chap responded that he had run more into the wall than into my car. The other fellow went away.

The chap went back to sit in the driver’s seat. He leaned over to the girl with his arm either around her or on the back of her seat. Not sure what he was saying.

I drove off, then reversed again. I wanted a look at his license plate. If we meet again, I wanted to remember. His plate number read “EPE 4xx AL” (I am leaving out the 2 middle digits – replaced by the “xx”).

Hopefully, he would stay there for quite a while: Oblivion was just a wrong turn or decision away (for him and maybe for the girl also).

I am on my way home.

Another day.

Just like the rest.

Alone.

Hopefully to oblivion.

FRIDAY

FRIDAY

Yesterday was my birthday. I had assumed it would just be as uneventful as the 37 others before it. Boy, was I wrong.
It started out just like every other day I can remember. I made it to work just shy of the boss docking my pay, but I still got the evil look from him anyway. It was as if by coming in one minute before 8, I had deprived him of the satisfaction he would have derived from telling me that I might as well go back home since I was not going to get paid for the day – not that I could take him up on the offer – I had bills to pay and no response yet from the several companies I had sent unsolicited job applications to.
No one at work knew it was my birthday – except maybe the boss – but I knew my secret was safe with him – the skinflint wasn’t going to risk having to give me a present or buy the office lunch by announcing it was my birthday.
I can’t really remember exactly what I did before lunch, but I had made up my mind to treat myself to a reasonable lunch. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it, the only thing that would have made it special was to share the lunch with a special someone. The person I had in mind would have joined me for lunch only in her nightmare and my daydream: I guess there was a better chance of being hit by a flying boat on the second floor of my office building.
But time passed and the alarm on my laptop announced it was lunchtime, so I got up and headed for the eatery down the street.
It was relatively quiet for a Friday, but I guessed it was maybe related to the fact that the Muslim brethren were probably still at the mosques. I took a corner seat at a table and hoped no one else would join me. I looked at the menu, called a waitress over and ordered the most expensive dish on it despite the fact that I only knew what was in it after I had asked the waitress: the name of the dish was in French.
I must have been right because shortly afterwards, the place started to fill up. I soon had a companion on my corner table. Two strangers on the table. I wondered why he hadn’t sat at any of the other vacant tables in the place. Now I was wedged against the wall and I was no longer “feeling” it. I couldn’t very well ask him to move, so I resigned myself and went on eating my food. At least he was quiet and didn’t trying to make conversation – that was something to be thankful for.

The food wasn’t bad. The sudden “company” I could have done without. We were soon joined by a third person who sat opposite the first.
They both ordered lunch and while I ate slowly, they waited for their food.
I didn’t pay them much attention until the keening sound started. I looked up to find the first fellow doing what could only be described as playing with his food. He was using his fork to drag the individual bean seeds in his food gradually from the center of the plate all the way to the edge. The sound the fork made on the plate was quite disconcerting. But who was I to complain? If I wanted first class service, I shouldn’t be hanging around in economy. Maybe the guy wasn’t hungry or had a lot on his mind. He was reasonably well dressed: shirt, trousers and a tie.
Anyway, it was more interesting to watch the face of the fellow seated across from him. He had stopped eating. And the swiftly changing expression on his face hinted at a more serious struggle going on within – I think he was trying to control himself and not say anything. Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore. Dropping his fork on the plate, “What are you doing?” he asked.
The other fellow stopped dragging a bean seed midway to the edge of the plate. Instead, he tapped the bean repeatedly with the prongs of the fork, but he didn’t say anything.
“What are you doing?” The question was repeated.
“Mind your own business.”
“Crazy idiot.”
Even now I still doubt whether I actually saw what happened next, because it was so fast, I wonder if it isn’t the fact that I was subsequently involved that maybe makes me think I actually saw it happen. “It” was the quickness, with which the fellow with the fork sprang up and stabbed down with the fork on the palm of the other guy, but he didn’t stop there (and the next action I definitely witnessed.)
The fork was out of the palm and in flight once again as the scream filled the room. This time it went into the side of the neck. As the blood spurted out, he sat back down again and resumed moving the bean one by one to the edge of his plate. The red on his plate was now much brighter than the red from the palm oil that the beans floated in originally. The other fellow made a tinny sound and sliding sideways, disappeared under the table.
It was obvious I needed to get out of there immediately, but the fellow had me hemmed in, and I was hesitant to ask him to excuse me unless I was ready for a “fork fight”.
I needn’t have bothered because the decision was taken out of my hand in a couple of minutes. As the place emptied out into the street, a couple of mobile policemen came in.

“Halt. No one goes out. Stay where you are or we shoot.”
Apart from two or three waiters and waitresses, there were only about five customers left in the place: I think twice that number must have made it out before the policemen came in.

One of the policemen men prodded the man on the floor with the muzzle of his rifle: “This one is dead O.”
The other one looked around at all of us in the place: “If you have blood on you, you are coming with us.”
I checked my cloth and was glad to notice no visible blood stains.
Someone asked, “Why officer?”
“Because you have evidence on you.”
“Can’t we just give you the cloth and go”
“Are you joking? You can’t just go away with the evidence now. and if you step out of that door without your clothes, you have doubled your offence. That is indecent exposure and disturbing the peace.”
“But you have been told who is responsible already. And you can see he is not even denying it.”
“How can we be sure you are not co-conspirators? You have to assist us with our investigation.”
“Ok. Stop wasting our time. If you know you are involved or have the victim’s blood on you, move to my left. If you do not have blood on you move to my right. Welcome to your father’s kingdom. If you work here and don’t have blood on you join those on my right. If you are the manager here, join those on my left.”
“Mr. Criminal. Drop the fork and stand up.”
The man next to me finally dropped the fork and getting up, slowly joined the little group on the policeman’s left. Finally, I was able to leave the table. I gingerly stepped over what pool of blood I could see on the floor, and made for the policeman’s right and hopefully to freedom and back to work: I don’t think I have ever been that happy at the thought of going to sit behind my office desk.
“Gentleman. Where are you going?” The policeman directed his question at me.
“Respect yourself O. Is that not blood on your trousers? Join your friends on my left.”
I protested that the blood must have come from my brushing against the table as I got up.
“OK. You are trying to teach me my job now eh? So you were even sitting beside the main criminal? Just three of you? You are either a victim or a criminal. Since you are not stabbed, you are a criminal. Abeg, don’t waste my time, join your friends.”
There were now about seven of us on his left and four people on his right.
“The innocent shall not be punished unjustly. My friends, you are free to go.”
The four he addressed hot footed it out of the place in less than a minute.
“The ambulance is coming. Once it gets here, we will all leave in our vehicle.”
Soon, we were all aboard the police vehicle – a Toyota Hilux with a covered back. The “main” criminal was asked to get in first, followed by the rest of us who were “guilty by location”, lastly the policemen, who sat at the outer edge: I got the impression the policemen were trying to stay as far away from him as possible. As we pulled away, I noticed two paramedics exit the restaurant with the other man on a stretcher: I had assumed there would be a sheet over him, but there was none.
The trip to the station was hot and despite the station being only a couple of streets away, it took the better part on an hour under the relentless midday Sun and the gridlocked motor traffic.
We were matched at a rather quick pace into the station. We were soon “processed” in. One by one, we answered a few questions by the constable behind the desk, turned out our pockets, belt, shoes, declared our possessions and signed a sheet stating so.  The DPO emerged from some back office at about this time, took one look at us and commented “So these are the ones eh?” And with that, he receded back to his office.
The captain or whatever his rank was who was in charge continued to harangue us.
“That is my boss. You can see he knew already that you were coming. He is the alpha and omega in this station. And he has ordered us to give you the VIP treatment. If you don’t like how we treat you, you can say so at any time. We will then upgrade you to the very VIP “V.V.I.P.” category. Very few people complain when we put them in that category. But in case we have goats among you, there is even one additional category after that one, it is by invitation only: we invite you there when we see by your action that you are deserving very special treatment.”
“Gentlemen, follow me.”
We passed through one side of the counter to where the holding cells were situated.
One man asked if he could get his one phone call (our phones were collected at the restaurant).
“Ha ha ha. Free phone call. I am sure you have DSTV in your house. Is it Crime and Investigation you watch? You want to teach me my job? I think we should upgrade you pronto.”
“Constable!” Shouting to the officer behind the desk.
“Sir! Yes Sir!” Came the disembodied response.
“Do we still have space in the Very VIP lounge?”
“No Sir. Maybe later this evening. One prisoner has asked to be downgraded. He is waiting for his people to come and fulfill all righteousness.”
“You be lucky man O your highness. Please remind me in the evening to revisit your case.” He said to the man who had requested the phone call.
We were all perspiring, but the “phone call” man was shedding it in buckets. He was visibly shaking.
We soon came to one of the cells which appeared empty. The policeman opened it, and was about to ask us to file in when he peaked inside – there was apparently someone in there.
“You, come out here!” The policeman shouted.
A diminutive looking man came out slowly. One could immediately see why it was easy to miss him – he was a certain shade of “dark” that blended with the darkness in the far corner of the cell where he had been sitting. He was the kind of fellow you wouldn’t want as a foe on a dark moonless night.
“Constable! What is this man still doing here?!” The policeman bellowed.
“We never see his people O! E be like say dey don default O!”
“Oga move to one side! Abi you wan remain there? Wetin your crime again?”
“I steal sir.”
“Wetin you steal?”
“Goat sir.”
“Ordinary goat. How long you don dey here?”
“Three months sir.”
“E be like say the witches in your hometown follow you come Lagos? You wan make we pack you ordinary thief with these murder suspects abi? Na there them come finally finish you be that O!”
“Gerrrout and stand over there.”
“You still dey wait for invitation?” He was addressing us. So we went into the cell.
“Make yourself at home. The constable will invite you one by one for a one to one meeting very soon. So we know how to handle your case.” with that he locked the door behind him and was gone.
The trouble I was in became more obvious. No one would be looking for me. And I couldn’t think of anyone to call even if I had the chance. Maybe my boss – maybe not. I suspect he will courier my sack letter to the policestation under the guise that company policy does not allow for convicts on the payroll.
After about an hour, the constable shouted a name. 

No one answered. I guess no one could make out the name he called out properly or we all just missed it because we were preoccupied with our thoughts. He yelled the name again. This time someone answered. Then we heard his shoes beat a pattern to the cell door.

“Who be dat? You wan make I use megaphone call una?”

Which was ridiculous. It wasn’t as if we could leave the cell and stroll down to the frontdesk when he called. He needed to come and let out the person, so why shout the name and demand an answer first before showing up.

The hapless fellow was let out of the cell, while a few of the other inmates started begging and talking in unison – asking to be allowed to at least call someone.

“Order!” He shouted.

“One by one na so we go shave una heads. U don see fish wey dey in a hurry to swim inside peppersoup before?”

About 20minutes later, the constable returned with the fellow. The look on his face wasn’t too encouraging. It appeared none of the people he called could make it down to the station: either they were far away, didn’t want police trouble or had no money. It looked as if he would be spending at least one night there.

I wasn’t in a much better situation myself. In the meantime, I found I was somehow the one seated closest to the gentleman who landed all of us in our present situation. The other 5 guys were obviously clustered together away from the two of us. I was wondering how I came to be in the wrong group when the constable bellowed another name again. This time the response was immediate and the fellow was standing at the cell door by the time the constable showed up. Another disappearing act for about 20minutes. There was a noticeable difference in the fellow’s demeanor when he returned. His uncle was sending someone to come and bail him out in about an hour.

This went on until it was my turn. I followed the constable to the front desk.

He repeated my name for confirmation and I obliged.

“What was your purpose at the crime scene.”

“I went there to eat.”

“To eat?” He sounded incredulous.

“Do you always go there to eat?”

“No. In fact it is my birthday. I was giving myself a treat.”

“Your birthday? You don’t say.”

“You should have told us that since now. We would have given you special treatment.”
Going by the way they used the word when we got to the station, even if I had remembered it was my birthday, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it then.

“Hmmn.”

“How we go celebrate am now?” he asked me.

He picked up the list describing my personal effects and scanned it quickly with his eyes.

“Oga, there is enough money here to throw a small party o. Make I call my second make he arrange something? I can’t leave this desk but he is outside and I know say he is willing and able.”

If he thought the little amount in my purse was a goldstrike, then I am much more well off than I gave myself credit for. Buying them lunch couldn’t hurt either. I gave him the go ahead. He handed me back my purse, I fished out some notes, and handed him back both the cash and the purse. He took a second to change the amount recorded on my sheet (downwards).

“Oga. It may help to extend your goodwill to the DPO too O.”

I guess the DPO deserved “special” treatment above and beyond his subordinates. Another exchange of purse and money again and we were good.

“Thank you. You will remember today for good. Many happy returns of the day sir.”

The day had taken a decidedly sad turn several hours earlier: did he even understand the meaning of those words – in my present condition?

I mumbled an unenthusiastic “Amen.”

“Constable Mabawonwi!”

There was a small commotion outside and another policeman rushed in.

He stood to attention.

“Sir! Yes Sir!”
“My Lord. Here I am. Send me!”

One could see he was just fooling around pretending the first policeman was his superior.

“Can you imagine. It is my oga’s birthday today and he has decided to bless us abundantly according to his riches in glory.”

More well wishes from the second policeman after which he was dispatched to go and get the food and some drinks.

“Hmmn. Back to the issue at hand. How we go do am now? You go get someone to come and bail you? If you want, we can follow you to the ATM, then you can come back and we release you on self-recognition. As I see you so, I dey sure you are an upstanding citizen.”

The beginning of an idea. Maybe I won’t spend the night in that cell after all.

I asked him about the bail amount and he gave me what he said was a discounted figure due to my special status. Under other conditions, I would have wondered if I was at the police station or a comedy house.

I knew the amount in my bank account to the nearest Naira give or take a kobo or two. Unfortunately, it was several thousands short of the bail amount.

I told him I was short of money.

“How we go do am now? I don try for you O.”

I racked my brain for several minutes. Thinking where I may have money outside my bank account. Finally I remembered a debt owed me by a former colleague who had been promising to pay for a long time but always defaulted when the time agreed comes round. I had given up all hope and mentally written off the money as a bad loan several months back. But with nowhere else to turn, I thought I would give it a try.

I explained the situation to the constable and asked if I may use my phone.

He handed it over.

I scrolled through my contact list and pressed dial on his number.

“Hello Dele. Long time. How now.” I was surprised I got through to him. He had stopped taking my calls some time ago.

“My Oga. How is it going?”

“So so. I need your help. I am at the police station.”

I was embarrassed to even say so. I had never had any troubles with the police in all my 38 years and now in one fell sweep I have a criminal record and have seen the inside of a police cell.

“Wetin you dey do there? You don change your career?”

“No.” The joke wasn’t lost on me, but I was not in a position to find it funny.

“I am in a small trouble. Can you please bring the money you owe me to the station by the office. I need it to settle my bail.”

Brief silence. Then it sounded as if someone was raking the phone over a rough surface, followed by “Hello. The line is breaking up. Hello I can’t hear you. Let me call you back.”

Silence.

“Just joking O. In fact I have the money now. Give me about 3 hours. I will be there with you.”

“Thanks Dele. God will bless you.”

“You too bro. I know you don vex long time ago. I didn’t have the money which is why I stopped taking your calls. But maybe it’s God that withheld the money for a day like this eh? See you soon.”

That was a miracle if indeed miracles happen.

I repeated the good news to the constable. He became even friendlier.

“Oga, if not for say the area commander don start to dey make surprise visit, I for ask you to perch here with me for my office O, but how I go explain say criminal dey mann frontdesk if he shows up? When your others dey inside cell? No vex O, but na so e be. But as soon as your friend shows up, you don free be dat O.”

With that, it was back to the cell for me.

I was the last person he took out of the cell. The only other person who hadn’t paid a visit to the frontdesk was the man that had wielded the fork.

And after expecting the constable to call him for about 30 minutes, I assumed they weren’t going to offer him the bail option – after all his victim was dead.

I waited for my friend to show up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lagos

LAGOS

The sign says “Welcome to Lagos” and it is interesting to read it upside down.

I know it is time. But it’s OK because I am thinking about you. I am not sad. Well maybe a little. My life is not flashing before my eyes, but I am thinking of a lot of things. I am happy you forgave my sudden journey into unreasonableness. You truly did, or didn’t you? And it was good that it wasn’t due to another woman. That would never happen.

There is always being one of the 144,000 to look forward to: but maybe not, can’t remember if it’s strictly Israelites only.

“Welcome to Lagos”. I have always wondered why don’t the sign tell the truth? I guess that’s not good for business. That in Lagos, you will be robbed and robbed again. That you may never leave? That all you earn you may lose and more?

“Lagos” I am reading it backwards. I can read it as “So Gal” – “So Gal, will you think of me from time to time? When there is a lull in your busy schedule?” I think you will – even if only because I am gone.

I can hear the sirens and I can see some feet in the distance. Looks like they are coming this way. They need not bother. I will be gone long before they get here. I know. I hope I am actually writing this and not just gibberish. I can’t see too clearly to tell, so if it is not all legible, please forgive me for the very last time. I should see you sometime, but that won’t be true: I won’t be around.

I should have told you I was in pain that day. But I sucked it all up, took the pills, smiled, laughed, and even managed to tell a couple of jokes when all the time I felt like the devil was up my behind with a blowtorch and a demon horde out of hell. I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t thinking straight for several days afterwards. That is an excuse – but it is the best I could come up with for my behavior – because even now I can’t explain why I acted the way I did.

I can see the Police describing it as a single car accident. I let my thoughts wander too far off the road. I didn’t see the plank of wood on the road until it was too late. Everything after that is a blur. But thankfully my diary was within hands reach when the car finally stopped moving. I know I am broken beyond repair because I can see certain body parts that are not supposed to be visible. I should round this up now because the pen is slipping out of my hand and I can barely control it.

I don’t see the white light – maybe it only appears at the last moment in which case I won’t be able to write about it.

Say me well to everyone. Be good.

(Editor’s note: The rest wasn’t legible partly because of the blood smear, but there may have been the word “mum” in it)

NOTE: this was written several months ago.

Bless our table

Bless our table

“This bag is too small. Is this all you have?” (Policeman at baggage check-in)

“Yes.” (me)

“There is nothing in here. Oga, you don’t want me to have my breakfast?”  (Policeman)

“Maybe that’s why I didn’t put anything there.” (me smiling)

“Oga, if you have you will give, if you don’t have nobody will force you.”  (Policeman)

“But bless our table, it is the first of November.”  (Policeman)

“You are already blessed.” (Policeman)

“You too sir.”

I moved the bag to the next table. Policeman continues to talk.

The couple of ladies there (one in customs uniform) made no attempt to move at all. Just continued watching me expectantly. But they agreed with the police man by saying practically the same thing, “Bless our table; begining of a new month; etc.”

I just smiled.

Finally, they decided I should go on. But you could see they weren’t happy.

After dropping off the bag, made my way towards the depature lounge.

“Happy new month sir.” (The officer at the choke point)

“Same to you.” (me)

“Good morning  … eh .. Mr. Itayemi. How are we going to celebrate the new month. There is a lot of blessings in this month o.” Hands back my passport and I moved on.

“Ha ha, let’s celebrate the new month now.”

I didn’t stop or look back. 

At the immigration desk (where passport is stamped) before the scanners.

“Where are you going?” (officer)

“Cameroon.” (me)

As I walked away, “Happy New month sir.” (officer)

I smiled. (me)