F-1-4-A (“February 14 Anonymous”)

I am the knock on your window
I am the fierce desert storm
I am the rustle in the leaves
I am the kindling in the brush

I am the ache in your chest
I am the scrabbling at the door
I am the dying of the light
I am the Phoenix – some day

– from “Days of dreams” by Kayode Oluyinka

I was standing at the cards stand in the Stop Centre supermarket and gift shop in Victoria Island. I had my hand on one of the cards. I was wondering what I was doing. I knew what I had in mind. But still where would it end?

“That’s a nice card.”

There was an older woman standing next to me. Her diction and the elegant air she had about her spoke of sophistication.

I forced a smile. “Thank you ma.”

“Forgive my inquisitiveness. I should really learn to mind my own business. But are you planning to send that to some lucky young lady?”

To lie or not to lie.

“Well. Actually no. I did send one last year. But I won’t be sending any this time.”

“Oh. So why are you buying it?”

“It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have come here at all.” I said.

“It was nice meeting you ma.” I made to leave.

“I am sorry if I said something wrong.” she said.

“No ma. You didn’t.”

“Alright then. Can you help me pick out one?”

“OK ma.”

“What do you think of this one?” she says holding one up.

I examined the card. Read the inscription inside. My mind wasn’t really taking anything in. But I went ahead and said it was a lovely card.

“Thank you.” she replied.

“You are welcome ma.”

“I should be leaving .” I said.

“Why don’t you see me to the till.” She leaned towards me conspiratorially and whispered, “Won’t it be hilarious if they thought we are together?” she said laughing.

I smiled and she led the way. No harm in humoring her for another minute or two.

She paid for the card, stuck it in her bag and hooked her arm through mine and made for the door. The thought crossed my mind that anyone that sees us would probably assume she was my aunt.

She led the way towards her car. A monster of a thing with a driver behind the wheel.

“You are such a nice young man.” I held the door open as she got in the back.

“So if you are not buying nor sending a card, should I assume you are spending this evening alone?”

Ok. Now. This was bordering on the ridiculous. Was she hitting on me?

She burst out laughing. “Young man. I am not hitting on you. If that’s what you are thinking.”

I was embarrassed and laughed as well to cover it up. “Probably” I said.

“In that case, I would like to invite you to a meeting.”

I was about to throw up some excuse, but before I could come up with a suitable one, she continued.

“I can’t promise you would enjoy it. But I can tell you it’s an experience you would not want to miss.”

“And I promise there’s no hanky panky involved. Come formally dressed.” She had a sense of humour.

“What’s the meeting about?” I asked.

“What’s today about?” she responded.

“Does this meeting have any name or subject?”


“Excuse me?”

“February 14 Anonymous. You will be my guest.”

I really should find that excuse. “What’s that? People addicted to February 14?” I said half joking.

“You could say that.” She said. She didn’t look like she was joking. In fact for a quick second, there was a flitting expression on her face that I couldn’t quite place. Still I hesitated.

“Be a sport. You can leave any time. And Lekki is not that far away is it.”

I weighed my options again. I had planned to go see a movie at the Genesis Deluxe Cinema by myself. Then indulge in some Bunny Ice Cream L”sin” afterwards and hit the Shawn Tee’s insanity exercise video with a vengeance tomorrow morning as a penance for my planned self-indulgence.

“OK.” I said. “Thanks for the invite. Let me have the address please.”

She scribbled it on the back of a complimentary card. “Here it is. And that’s my card.” I glanced at the text in front. The name was vaguely familiar. “Do you have one of yours on you?” she asked.

I took out my wallet and fished out one.

“Gotcha!” She said laughing. “if I don’t see you by 15 minutes to 8, I am going to start calling.”

“I will be there.” I said smiling. “That was neatly done.” I was referring to the way she got my phone number.

I closed the door and waved. “See you later ma.”

I stood there watching until the car pulled out into the street, then made my way to my own car.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I knocked on the gate of the house at the address she had given me earlier. I had waited in my car for about 20 minutes. I was expecting some traffic but the road had been free and I had arrived early. I was casually dressed but added a jacket in case it was more formal than I expected. I had a bottle of some wine in my hands. I don’t know why I decided to bring it. I was watching too many western movies I guess.

A gentleman opened the door for me and bowed a little.

“I am here for the meeting.” I said.

It was enough. Because he ushered me in straight away into what was probably the biggest seating room I have seen in a private house. There were less than 20 people in the room. I noticed immediately I was probably the youngest and also one of only 4 men in the room. There was a long narrow table set to one side laden with food. My stomach grumbled a little at the sight of all that food. It reminded me that I hadn’t eaten anything that day. My host called out my name and waved vigorously at me. I made for the empty seat beside her.

”I am so glad you came. I wasn’t so sure you would turn up.” She said beaming me at me.

“Have a seat” she said patting the seat beside hers.

She leaned over after I sat down. “Just so you know, you have to introduce yourself. You start by stating your name. Then saying that you are an addict. That’s just to make it fun. Then if possible, a few sentences about why you are here today, and not out with some young lady.”

That started my heart fluttering a little. I didn’t quite care for public speaking and the supposed subject made it even worse.

“Relax. Just think of it like taking an injection. It will be over before you know it.” she smiled and patted my hand.

What have I got myself into?

“Do you want something to drink? We are about to start.”

“No. Thank you.” my stomach was in a knot.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

An elegant lady seated across the room got up and tapped a spoon lightly against a glass cup in her other hand.

“Thank you all for showing up. If you look round, you might notice that there’s been some attrition right? We are fewer than we were this time last year. But I can see at least one new face.”

“This is of course the annual meeting of the February 14 Anonymous. But as you know, we communicate throughout the year and even meet from time to time in town, at various functions and so on.”

“Mrs Douglas sends her regrets. She had to fly out to England on short notice.”

“As is usual practice, we shall introduce ourselves. Starting from Yemi as she has told me the gentleman seated to her left is her guest.”

“Good evening all” said Yemi (I hadn’t seen a ring so wasn’t sure if she was Ms or Mrs).

“It’s so nice to see all of you again. My name is Yemi and I am an addict. As I always do, I have a card in my hands here.”

The lady continued. “Yemi has graciously agreed. Finally! To tell us her story today. So we will go round with the introductions first.”

Yemi (I keep thinking it is wrong to think of her as Yemi when she’s much older than me) squeezed my hand at that, I took a look at her face and noticed her smile was a little forced.

The room was silent. I looked round. They all had this expectant look on their faces and a kindly smile.

“Good evening all. My name is Tola. I am addict.”

“Welcome Tola” Echoed everyone in the room.

I must have been overwhelmed at some level because I surprised myself when I continued.

“I have spent all my valentine days alone except for the past two. I would give an arm and a leg to repeat the very last one.  But here I am. I am happy to be in this company though. And thanks Yemi for inviting me.”

Another round of “Welcome Tola”

“Welcome Tola”. Said the lady who I assume was in charge and I suspect was our host.

“We don’t call today Valentine’s day for reasons that will become clear later. We just refer to it as February 14. Just one of our little quirks” she said smiling.

The introductions continued around the circle of seats. It was obvious they all knew one another and I was the only new face in the room.

“As Tola is new, I will just give a brief introduction to who we are and what we are about. To start with, just so we are clear, we are not a cult” there was general laughter in the room.

“We are just a group of people whose life changed dramatically on February 14. We seek release in sharing. We do not force people to tell their stories until they are well and truly ready to do so. We understand some things are so personal, it may never even be shared. But we also understand the release that comes from sharing such stories in a non-judgemental setting such as this.” She said looking around the room.

“And not all stories are negative. We had a couple who met on February 14 and have been happily married for decades for example. We had a gentleman who was born on the same day and who just preferred to be here than anywhere else once he knew about us. Yes. It does seem majority of the stories are negative. I guess that’s life. But we encourage “members” (if I may use the word) to move on. To move past whatever it is. That in part accounts for the small size of the group. We are about one of the few groups that actively tries to get rid of our members if that makes sense” she said laughing.

“But life is about living while we are still alive. Not hiding. Of course, we do not chase away people who choose to stay either.”

“Frankly. We have been waiting several years for Yemi to tell us her story. I am not sure why the change in heart but I suspect that may have something to do with you. But no matter we are ready for it.”

There was a low murmur of accent in the room. And bobbing of heads as well.

“Members are free to speak at any time. They just need to indicate by raising up their hands.”

“Oh. And contrary to what most first-time visitors assume, I am not the boss, head or anything of the sort. We are all equals. I just coordinate the meetings.”

“Yemi. Thank you very much. You have the floor.”

She started off a little hesitantly. I guess now that it was time, it wasn’t easy for her.

“Hi. My name is Yemi. I am an addict.”

“Welcome Yemi” the room chorused.

She delved into it without any preambles.

“I have been attending this yearly meetings from almost the beginning.”

“I got married relatively early even by the standards of the time. But things quickly went awry. It wasn’t one thing. It was a combination of several things. Some avoidable, others not so much. I quickly found myself single with a 2-year old boy in tow when I finally called it quits with the marriage.

Life wasn’t fun any longer. It was a lot of responsibility. Hindsight is 20-20. I am not sure anything we did could have saved the marriage, but we could definitely have tried harder.”

That’s when I moved back to the country. I felt I was a disappointment to my parents. They had been together forever and had this easy-going marriage. You rarely heard a raised voice in my house growing up. They were like best friends. I learnt of course later that they had just learnt to do their quarrelling behind closed doors when no one was around.

I moved back into my parents’ house while trying to get back on my feet in crazy Lagos. I could say with certainty that I hadn’t missed the fast and furious Lagos life when it comes to business or work. Or the crazy traffic! I tried as best as I could. I was close to tears several times, but it did get easier with time. Or maybe I just got used to it.

I put in the time and worked hard. I think I worked so hard to ensure I had no time to dwell on the other things going on in my life. My parents helped with Tade (that’s my son’s name) at the time. I guess I was lonelier after I sent Tola back to his dad so he could attend the school we had already planned for him before we split up.

And friends kept pestering me to go out. Meet people. Have fun.

I just couldn’t find the drive or the inclination to do so.

This went on for a few years. My parents’ only comment from time to time was that I should take all the time I need, but that there’s life out there outside the office.

Then out of the blues one sunny Harmattan morning, Kayode came bursting into my life.

Funny, I still remember everything that happened on that day. I was standing by the window looking out at the slowly moving vehicles on the street below, when there was a knock on the door.

My assistant opened the door with a gentleman hot on her tail. He introduced himself and said he required my services urgently and wasn’t about to deal with the “help”.
I told him I didn’t appreciate his attitude and he retorted that with the amount of business he was about to bring my way, I should be least concerned about his attitude. I could use the distraction so I offered him a seat.

He just seemed to rub me the wrong way from the get go. I just sat there watching him. At some point I admitted to myself that not only was he quite good looking, he also had a nice voice. He was definitely confident bordering on being annoying in his choice of words sometimes.
By the time he was done, I had a good idea of what he wanted done. I saw him to the door.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We worked closely together with teams from both his office and mine over the next couple of months. He was still annoying from time to time. But on the whole he was quite pleasant. He would call at odd hours of the day and night whenever anything crosses his mind. Despite working a hefty penalty for changes into the contract, he kept making changes to the campaign. Most were positive but I disagreed with a few. Sometimes we went at it for hours and didn’t always come to a compromise. Sometimes he would force his position through and sometimes I stood my ground and refused to budge.
There were working lunches and dinners. Some of these ended up being just the two of us.
Little by little we talked more and more about non-business related matters. I told him over time about my marriage and my little boy and he told me about growing up as an only child and following his dad all over the world as he took up appointments in various postings. He’s never been married.
The first time he asked me out I found an excuse not to go.
But I relented the second time. It wasn’t long before we started going out regularly. He was easy to be with. I didn’t know there were so many clubs and places to hang out in Lagos. He seemed to know where it was “happening” at any given time.
I had been to his place and he to mine several times. Of course we had made out on those times. He hadn’t attempted to do anything more or maybe he sensed I wasn’t ready.
We had made trips to all the beaches at one time or another. We were spending more and more time together.  I started looking forward to both his work visits and the unofficial ones as well. I think we sort of slid into dating without actually having to sit down and discuss it.
Still, I was a little apprehensive for some reason as February came around with all the commercial adverts you are bombarded with everywhere you go and look. I find I wanted so badly for him to be my valentine.”
She laughed.
“I had to keep chiding myself not to behave like a little love-struck girl. After all, I am a grown woman with a little boy in tow.”
He finally asked me out a couple of days before and of course I said yes.
I paid a little more attention to my dressing and make up than usual that morning. I was restless all morning at work. I didn’t get any work done because my mind was everywhere but.
I still remember the exact time it happened. He called me at 11:57am and asked me to look out the window. I got up and went to open the window. There he was on the other side of the street. Grinning up at me with a huge bouquet of flowers in his hand. He definitely knew how to make an entrance.
Then it all went to hell and took me along with it.
It all happened as if in slow motion. Excuse the cliché. But I have thought of it a million times since then and it seemed I could have stopped it.
You see. A car came speeding down the bend in the road. He didn’t even see it. But looking down from above, it came into the periphery of my field of vision just at the last moment. Even as I screamed I watched him get tossed into the air. He was still looking up at me. I can’t forget the expression on his face in that last moment. It went from the grin to what looked like a cross between shock and surprise.
I dashed out the office, down the stairs and into the street. He was there. And there was blood everywhere. I held him and screamed for help. People were just milling around and shouting. They had dragged the other driver out of the car but he appeared too shocked to do anything but sit on the hot Tarmac.
My driver brought the car around and with his help I got him into the back-seat. He was already limp and I guess somewhere deep inside me I knew he was already dead. But we  still went through the motion and got him to the GoldenCross hospital just a couple of streets away. He was put on a stretcher and rushed into the theater but the doctor pronounced him dead almost straight away.
How long I sat there I couldn’t say. Someone had called his father I guess because he was suddenly there beside me talking to the doctor. I had only met him once before. Our eyes met but there was no recognition in his. He left shortly after. I was too out of it to even get up to go after him. I found out later he held me responsible for his son’s death. Not so much in words as in action.  I was hurt but I could understand his feelings much much later.
The next couple of months went by in a blur. I was home most of the time. I just stayed in the house with all the curtains drawn and the lights off. My assistant was a blessing in that dark hour. She came regularly like clockwork. Got me to take my bath. Brought a hairdresser a couple of times. Literally forced me to eat once a day. I can’t even remember what it was I ate. My parents tried to get me to move back in with them but I refused.

I tried reaching out to his dad but all my attempts were rebuffed. I did manage to go for his burial. His casket was closed. But I had managed to see him once at the mortuary. I thought I had done my crying and breakdown before that day but still it took all my strength and the support of my assistant not to fall to pieces again.
Some uncle of his had contacted me once before the burial. He said the family won’t stop me from attending his burial but they would appreciate it if I kept it low key as they don’t want any distractions. So I arrived early but did not sit with his immediate family. I was in a black suit skirt. Most attendees where in dark clothing as well.

It was a quiet and brief affair.

I have never had any contact with his dad since then. I have gone to visit his grave every year on February 14. I miss him even now. It’s strange. This is someone I knew for less than a year.  It’s better now. Even his face has faded a little in my memory despite having his framed portrait by my bedside. I don’t believe in destiny but I have come to believe that once in a lifetime it’s possible to meet someone that’s “it” for you. If you are lucky, you get to spend a lifetime together. And sometimes in a case such as mine, that lifetime is a year.
I have dated a few times since then of course, but none lasted any length of time. I am sure I didn’t give it any of them any real attention though.
So after Bola over there invited me 5 years ago to this meeting. Well. I have been here every year with you lovely people.”
“Thank you for allowing me to share my story”
“Thank you Yemi. Can we all go give her a hug now”. Said Yinka.
I waited until they were all done. Then with a smile on my face, I stood up and gave her a bear hug that lasted for a full minute.
“We should probably have a break now. Please don’t be shy. There’s food on the side table over there. Let’s mingle and chat while we partake of the delicacies provided by our lovely host for today, Wura. Thanks again Wura.”
“Thanks Wura.” We all chorused as we got up.
The rest of the evening was spent hanging around in continuously shifting small groups getting to know one another or in the case of the older members, catching up.
* * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

She invited me to dinner and we ended up at 355 (the club). It was mostly drinks though as we had eaten after the meeting.

“Tola, you know it would help if you talk about your story. You are too young to get stuck in the past.”

“Besides I like a good story. OK. I agree. I am just inquisitive!” She laughed.

It might have been all the drinks. Like it was that night a year ago. I was tipsy. I had said too much. Which didn’t help either. Or it might have been the lyrics of the song playing at that moment in the background: “… Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone; Only darkness everyday; Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone; … ; I know, I know, I know, …“. Or maybe I just needed to talk:

“My name is Tola. I am an addict.”

“Welcome Tola” she said with all seriousness.

“Do you want to share your story with me tonight?” she said.

I nodded.

“Please start whenever you are ready.” She said.

“There was this girl I met a couple of years ago. If the world were mine, I would have laid it at her feet. …”

“Wait! Wait!” She said, holding up her hand. “I know I am not supposed to interrupt but could you leave out the writer’s bullsh*t?”

“OK. What I meant was that if I had all the money in the word, I would …”

“Which obviously you don’t. Did you meet this girl on February 14?” She asked.

“No. But …”

“Did she die on February 14?”

“No. She’s still alive.”

“Did you lose your you-know-what on February 14?”

“No. As I was …”

“So why is this story relevant today?”

“Ma’am, are you going to let me tell the story?!” I said in as respectful a tone I could muster given that I was feeling exasperated.

“Sorry. I sometimes get that way. Please go on.” She said.

“Where was I? Yes, I remember. There was this girl …”

We were still there well past the witching hour.
* * * *  * * * ** * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

NB: *Tola* claims the F.1.4.A. is real: though one needs an invite by an existing “member”.

Of phones, screens and cables

Of phones, screens and cables

I should dare to call myself a writer (if I don’t, who is going to :-). I can then follow it up by saying I haven’t really posted anything in a while due to “writer’s block.” There, I said it. That makes me a writer! After all, you have to be one to get a “writer’s block” init? 🙂
And since it appears the “block” persists, I will now “regale” you with my phone-scapade for lack of anything more original.

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

Dropped my phone less than a month ago I think. Landed face down on a hard floor. The screen shattered in exactly the same pattern as the fake (I didn’t know at the time) screen protector on its face.
Used it like that for a couple of weeks.
Then searched on the Internet and came up with this long list of authorized retailers. Started calling them one by one. Most said they don’t fix broken phones, just retail new stuff. One of them suggested I needed to go to the iStore at Ikeja shopping mall to get it fixed. I finally got to one that claimed to be an certified Apple technician. I engaged him on WhatsApp. Engaged him on WhatsApp. “I will do it for N11,000 in about 35minutes.”
But his shop is at the Computer Village in Ikeja. Hmmn. I left it at that for the time being.

Maybe a week or so later, I wandered into the shop of an authorized Apple retailer at a big shopping mall at this end of the Island.
“We fix it but it will cost N30,000; If you drop it now, it should be ready in about 3 hours; It carries a 1-year warranty, but not if you break it o!”
(So what’s does the 1-year warranty cover? If it stops working or something like that I think he said. Smart Apple. Very smart. How many screens just stop working?)

Aside from the exorbitant price, I didn’t have that time on my hands. So I told him I would give it some additional thought and I might show up the next day. Besides, they didn’t have the USB charging cable anyway (I wanted to buy it either. I seem to remember he said it cost N6,500 apiece – daylight robbery!).

But then I thought, let’s do this thing properly. Don’t be penny wise pound foolish for once. But since I was going to probably get to the Ikeja shopping mall anyway, I would risk it and see if the fix might be cheaper from Apple themselves – also I would get to pick up the original cables.

Today, I got to the Apple store around 9:25AM. They were having a staff meeting. The security at the door told me they don’t open till 10AM. I should be able to enter at 10AM prompt. I wandered around then came back and stood in the hallway. I had my Bluetooth headset on. The staff at the “Ruff ‘n Tumble” children’s wears opposite the Apple store were setting things out for the day. One of their colleagues came in and started talking about how “Her friend in Lekki called her and told her there were lots of gun shots on the Saturday. That she just laid low.”
Soon, I heard one of them say something about the suspicious man standing out in the corridor.
I smiled, caught the eye of the one I thought had brought up the issue and indicated I was waiting for the Apple Store to open. I then took off my Bluetooth headset as well.
Apple opened probably around 10:05AM. Was the first customer through the door. Well, one of the security welcomed me by saying so. I asked if there was any special prices associated with that: “Either a special handshake or you get to add extra N10,000 to the cost of whatever you buy today.” Very funny 🙂
“Oh. We don’t do repairs. But if you had bought the phone here, we would have replaced it for you if it was under warranty.”
Well, all those conditions wouldn’t have helped me anyway. I have had the phone for about 14 months so it wouldn’t have been covered by the 1-year warranty even if I had bought it at that store.
Well, do you have the USB cable?
“No we don’t, check back next week.”

Time to go back and “localize” this fix. I had to call all three numbers I had for the certified Apple technician before getting through to him.

“Where is your shop again?” He told me and said he would send it by SMS as well.

I got the SMS, then somehow made up my mind that the Post Office (the closest landmark he suggested) was in a different place and promptly got lost trying to find the street. But I finally did.

He handles all things Apple (6S, iPads, etc) and sells original components and accessories too. I believe he changed the screen in under 30minutes. I ended up buying a couple of iPhone 5S cables and a third-party case (that’s what happens if you do a good job. You get more business and a free advert sometimes :-).
The first 3 photos are of the broken screen (had to take a photograph of a shiny screen) and the fourth picture is my spanking new screen.
iphone1 iphone2 iphone3 iphone4

An aside, you might notice that (at least for me) all the cables don’t seem to last (both original and fakes). One weekend I actually took a blade to a couple of fakes, joined the functional connector half of one to the functional USB/PC half of the second and got it to work! Not my fault entirely, couldn’t get an original from the “authorized” outlets and the fake stopped working on a Friday night.

I got the one below in Ibadan for N350 (sells for N500 in Lagos! Thieves! Lol) It stopped working after 1 day! But from experience I had noticed if you randomly bend it in some ways, you might “fix” it (so once I got it bent in a way that made it work, I just “taped” it permanently. Good as new! Of course I got an original cable today. I am going to give the original cable the same “treatment.” Wrap both ends in paper tape (I think if you establish some rigidity such that the cable can’t bend at the neck just before the connectors – the cables should last longer). The only downside I can think of is that the tape tends to pick  up dirt rather quickly – from the environment and handling – so expect it become dirty pretty soon – your mileage may vary.

(NOTE: don’t bend yours unless it’s broken already – partial contact 🙂

The attendant at the store I mentioned above actually told me: “You are not supposed to move the cables around. Just plug it in one socket and leave it there.

Huh? Say what?!

Don’t go out tonight

Don’t go out tonight

You have to realize that I was bored out of my mind and at the same time there was a lot on my mind I would rather not think about. I am impulsive. I am a loner. Maybe that’s why I gravitate towards two extremes – either I over think issues and fail to act at the appropriate time, or I act impulsively. In either case, the outcome is not always pleasant for any of the parties involved. I guess people with friends can bounce ideas off them before doing something that may turn out foolish. Me, I just worry at it forever or not at all before acting.

I had had my car for just over a year when it happened. I didn’t realize the freedom I was missing until I got the car. I could head out at any hour of the day or night without thinking of how I was going to get back to the house. I was mobile. I was free. But outside of work there was always the question of what to do with that freedom. That night I had a lot on my mind I would rather not think about. I got my keys and jumped in the car. It was already past 11PM at night. I had no idea where I was going except a vague idea of crossing the third mainland bridge. I had the Garmin, so I wasn’t too bothered about where I ended up. All I needed to do at any point was ask it to take me home.

I still can’t remember where I ended up or how I got there. But suddenly I was in an area of Lagos that looked like one of those high-crime slum areas I had seen on TV. I was a little apprehensive, but though the streets were cluttered with refuse and broken-down cars, and some of the people hanging out by the roadside and in the doorways of some of the houses looked decidedly unfriendly, there were no attempts to stop me. So I drove on slowly.

The street I was driving on was long and winding, but I could vaguely see it open onto another street at the end. But suddenly there was a whoosh and almost immediately, I felt the car list to one side and the sound of my flapping flat tyre. I debated whether to stop or drive on at the danger of destroying the wheel, but decided to stop since the area was reasonably lighted. I pulled over a little to the side, switched off the engine and got out to examine the flat tyre. The tyre was completely flat, and there was something sticking out from it which I tried to dislodge with my foot. No luck. I bent down and put on the camera light on my mobile phone to get a closer look. I almost immediately realized that the small contraption was not some random wood and nail piece I had run over: it was purposefully made to damage a car’s tyre. I straightened up and had just got into the car when out of nowhere eight burly youths had my car surrounded. The ones I could see properly looked mean and had an assorted array of weapons in their hands. I was tempted to try and make a run for it, but there was at least a couple of pistols in the mix.

My goal at that point was to get out of there unarmed. I didn’t care too much about losing the car. It was covered by insurance. And I was Ok with losing my wristwatch and the small amount of cash I had in my pockets which I was desperately hoping would satisfy them. I smiled a little and called out a greeting. They weren’t having any of it. Probably the biggest fellow in the group with bloodshot eyes, just calmly asked me to step out of the car. I was hesitant to do so because the group didn’t look like they were particularly interested in just dispossessing me of my belongings. I suspect it was the way the cutlasses and axes were held that made me suspicious.

But there was no alternative to getting out of the car. The windows were almost completely up, and for some futile reason, I had locked the car immediately I made it into the driver’s seat. I was about to unlock the door and get down when there was a scream from behind the car. I couldn’t quite make out the source but the commotion was definitely coming from right behind the car. A gun went off and there was a flash of light in the darkness. Several more screams and suddenly it appeared I was the only one in the vicinity. I was confused.

But there were obviously at least two people at the back of the car.

“Pick up the knife.”
“Please sir.”
“Pick up the knife or you die anyway.”

There was some hesitation.


Then a brief scuffle. A small scream and all was quiet again.

There was a streak on the passenger side window which looked like blood. I was contemplating it when there was a knock on the driver’s side window. I nearly jumped out of my skin. There was a face at the window. Younger than I was, and from his looks definitely in the wrong place same as I was. I looked around again and he was obviously the only one around so I wound down the glass.

“Today’s work is done. Can you give me a lift out of here.”


I couldn’t help myself. I unlocked the car, and as he made his way round to the passenger’s seat, I opened my door and looked towards the back of the car. I could see two bodies, and also a pair of feet poking out from behind the car. No movement. I assume they were dead.

I quietly closed the door again and looked at my companion.

“We should go.”

Good idea. I started the car and moved off with the flat wheel making a continuous grinding noise. He seemed to know the area because after a few instructions from him to make certain turns, we were soon out of the built-up area and approaching some sort of expressway. It was obvious the tyre needed to be changed if I was to drive at any reasonable speed. I asked if it was OK to pull over and replace the wheel. He agreed.

I changed the tyre as quickly as possible and we were soon back on the move. Since he didn’t say anything more, I punched “home” on the Garmin and I was soon back across the bridge in familiar territory. I asked where he was going and he said Lekki. We went through the Lekki tollgate at about 2AM and I soon drove past the Lekki phase I entrance. At some point after phase II on a more or less empty stretch of road, he asked me to drop him off. I pulled over and he got out. That was when he apologized for the blood on my seat which I hadn’t noticed until then. He appeared to disappear into the darkness.

I drove off and found the next roundabout and made a U-turn and headed back towards the Island. I looked out into the darkness as I passed the spot where I dropped him off but there was no sign of life. I made it back home. Despite being bone-tired, I still found the strength to clean the passenger seat. He must have been bleeding quite heavily because of the sheer amount of blood on the seat and the foot-carpet. I got most of it out. And emptied a few buckets of water over the body of the car.

After that I crawled into bed and slept like the dead. I woke up around 12 noon in the afternoon. For a couple of minutes, I wasn’t sure where I was. Then recollection came but it all felt like a dream. I got up slowly and went to look out the window at the car. Sure enough, I could see the telltale brownish (oxidized) stains were still visible on the car. It still felt quite unreal and I suddenly became so tired I crawled back into bed. I gravitated between sleep and awareness for the next couple of hours. Finally, I got up and went out to the car. I went slowly round it and then checked the passenger side. I had done a reasonable job of cleaning the blood but looking closely enough showed I missed some spots especially along  the threads.

I didn’t give him my number or my name.

I got a call from an unknown number the following day. Immediately he spoke, I knew it was him. 

“Hello. Who is this?” I had to ask.
“We met early in the morning yesterday.” That was putting it lightly.
“I am calling to thank you. I hope you were able to get the stain out of the seat. Apologies.”

I did get all the stains out. But not the vision of those dead bodies on the ground. Yes, they might have killed me, but that fact didn’t make it any easier. Those young men were dead.

“Thank you. I did.”
“Good to know.”

End of phone call.

But not the last I would hear of him. If anything, that was the beginning.

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

If you had asked, I would say we were friends, though it was a strange friendship to say the least.

Generally because of the support nature of my previous job, I am accustomed to coming awake fully at the first ring of the phone, and not be grumpy at the person on the other end of the line. The fact that he calls randomly out of the blues is how I learnt most of what I know about him. He may call and launch midway into some topic as if we had been discussing it before.

“Hope you don’t mind my calling.”
“I was thinking about my wife.”
“Ok”. He needed no prompting when he wanted to talk.
“She died painfully you know.”
“Can you believe until then, I had never even killed a single person despite the many years I spent in the military.”

I know from past snippets that he was in the military in the US. Then the patriotism bug had bitten him. He had resigned his commission, taken his foreigner wife and returned “home.”

“She bled to death while begging me to help her.”

I had pieced together a story slightly similar to mine. It appears they had gone on a midnight jaunt in the wrong part of town and had been attacked. He was able to fend off the attackers, but then found they had already stabbed his wife several times.

“And there was nothing I could do.”

Silence from both ends for about 3 minutes.

“No problem.”
“Good night.”
“Good night.”

And that was that.

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

I was of course concerned about him, so during another call, I asked.

“Have you thought of settling down again.” (even my own questions have started to sound like comments)
“A few times.”
“But not yet.”
“You know I have done that once. That was completely spontaneous. I met a woman. I fell for her. Chased her. She fell for me. Got married. Settled down. And yet here I am.”
“Let me throw the question back at you.” Time for some answers from me.
“I am something of a loner. The reason is of course complicated.”
“I can talk up a storm with almost any lady. Even if we have only just met. That is, as long as I am not attracted to her.”
“If there is even the slightest attraction, I get tongue-tied. Everything I intend to say, I start replaying it in my head instead of saying it.”
“And that is bad. Not talking. I just basically clamp up.”
“How do I expect a lady to know I am interested if I talk about everything else but the real thing?”
“Just hanging around and hoping something happens. Pathetic I know.”
“And it gets worse. Because attempts to keep in contact or then do something positive becomes to all intent and purposes like stalking.”

Looks like I have got some sort of shrink. Maybe I am the same to him.

“You need to sort this out.”
“True. I just don’t know how.” Implicit question: does he?
“I don’t know either. But you need to sort it out.”
“And what do you feel about marriage?”
“I am not in any hurry. Certain people in the family are of course apprehensive. But for me, if it happens, great. If it doesn’t, well, it doesn’t. I have long ago dropped the idea of a deadline. I have been around all sorts of couples. Yeah. They are hopefully happy. I feel for the women though. It seems men who don’t cheat – and continuously for that matter – are the exception and not the rule. This is not the itch. This is just the “I can do it and get away with it” attitude. Young guys with reasonably beautiful wives. I guess what makes the women fall for them in the first place, and not for guys such as myself – even though we try too hard – is what makes the same guys carry on as if they are still single – the wives are hopefully content and happy in their ignorance of what is really going on. Of course, I am probably a little jealous of these guys. But only to the extent that I want only one beautiful girl to fall for me – and I can’t seem to manage that one single thing.”

“I guess it comes easy to you.”
“I never really thought about it along those lines. I am a one-woman man myself. But I guess most men who play the field say that to the women – since that’s what they want to hear. But I should say yes, it’s kinda  easy for me when I was interested.”
“Anyone in mind in particular”. I was hoping he wouldn’t ask.
“Nope. There was one. But it was one-sided as usual. Since I played dumb, there was no way she would have known. And while I fell heads over heels, as I kept a straight face and didn’t say anything, there was of course no chance of reciprocity until I had crossed the bridge where suspicion turns to discomfort.”
“And she was perfect. Almost literally. Which made it harder to let go.”
“The strange thing is that was the first good thing to happen to me in donkey years”
“And you messed it up.” I must have repeated that to him a dozen times now so he knew to finish it for me.

“Yeah. I messed it up.”
“Have you prayed about it.” I don’t find it strange any longer that he sometimes asks these questions. He is actually religious despite what he does regularly.
“Yes. I have.”
“So continue to do so, if it’s right, it will happen.”
“I am. It’s just that it is the only thing on my mind day and night. And if I hadn’t done anything negative, I would have easily accepted the fact that if it’s right it will happen.” 

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

I took to putting my itinerary on my blog. For some reason, I knew he was a regular visitor. Probably from some of the almost undetectable references he sometimes makes when we talk. I didn’t know when he would call and ask me to come and get him, so when I was going to be particularly busy or out of Lagos, I would craft some entry on my blog and work that into the narrative, and sure enough, I have never received his call on any of those days.

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

“Where are you?” Strange. Usually, his first line is completely different.
“At Bubbles.”
“Where is that?”
“Challenge in Ibadan.”
“It’s a club.”
“Just chilling.” That was a question.
“Yes. Actually someone suggested it may be a cure for what ails me.”
“Which is.”
“I have been thinking about the lady continuously for over 2 months. It’s not getting any easier.”
“Some smart ass suggested what I needed was a visual overload of women. So here I am.” 
“There you are. Is it helping.”
“Unfortunately no. Plenty of ladies in various state of undress. The only thing that strikes me is that they are not the lady. I was about to leave.”

And so I left.

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

“The day’s work is done.”
“Can you come and get me.”
“Where are you.”
At least I know Yaba.

“Which area.”
“Just pull over once you get off the bridge. I will find you.”
Sure enough, there was a tap on the window about 5 minutes after I got there. I had taken to putting a plastic cover on the seat whenever I am going for him. The blood is easier to get rid of that way. 

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

I became a sort of sidekick. From time to time I would get the call. “Today’s job is finished. Can you come and get me.” That only meant one thing – he was injured. I have to accept that I was living precariously through him. I was of course concerned that he may get seriously wounded or get killed, but there was the thrill I experienced whenever I had to venture out sometime in the early hours to go get him from some out-of-the-way, back-of-nowhere place. I also learnt never to ask questions: I really didn’t want to know about the body count. I already felt like an accomplice in some gory unholy play.

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

He is on the line.
“I work for the government.”
“Which one.”
“The state government.”
“Doing what you do.”
“Doing what I do.”
“The government is determined to clean up the state, you know.”
“How long have we known each other – 4, 5 months.”
“How many of those incidents have you seen in the papers.” So I am sure he knew I have taken to buying papers looking for reports with possible links to his nightly outings. I thought I had just been missing the reports, but it now struck me that it was strange that hardly any of those nights made the papers. The few times there were references to some of the happenings, it usually sounded confused –  usually from people such as myself who appear to have been miraculously delivered from dangerous situations. Could he be telling the truth?

“I do free-lance. It is not because of the money.”
“Yes.” They say payback is a bitch. I guess he is on a revenge mission because of his dead wife.
“It was indeed for revenge when I started.” He caught me.
“But not anymore. Now it is something that needs to be done and I am doing it.” 

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

The last call I got from him came like any of the others.
“I am going back.”
“Yes. There is a woman. I am going with her.”
“Thank you.”
“You are welcome.” I will surely miss those random night trips. But good for him. If he is going back to the US with a wife (I found he was a stick in the mud prude such as myself so I am sure he has either married the lady or is going to) then he will put all the dangerous stuff behind him and settle down once again. I am still on my own.

And just before he signed off, “I have a friend.”

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

I had about settled into my new routine without his calls, when about 6 months later I got a post-card from a city in the US. For some reason, I didn’t even think of him as I opened the letter. I don’t think I have ever received a postcard before. The message on the card was simple, but it was obvious who it came from.

“There is a lot to do here. Pray.” The message was clear, he was back in action. And the “pray” was for me and my “issue.”

That same day, the phone ringing woke me up in the middle of the night. I turned on the bedside lamp, and took the call.

“Today’s work is done. Can you come and get me.”

It wasn’t him.
I got my car keys.