He peered into the sachet through the lacerated edge. Sucking at it vigorously, he drained the last drop. The 35cl sachet of water did nothing for him. His throat was parched as the Sahara. He had walked all day, yet nothing. He looked down at his dust covered shoes and shook his head.
I’m poor, poor as a church rat.
He crumpled up the polythene sachet and threw it in the rusted recycle bin. He wondered what percentage of whatever goes into the bin ever made the said process. He at least tried to keep the city clean. One good thing if God was counting.
The sun was high up now, glowing in all its fury. Sweat glistened on his near bald head, he wiped his entire head and face with his faded handkerchief. Turning the corner into the dirt road that led to his dingy apartment, he spotted the Boli (roasted plantain) seller in her usual spot under the mango tree, fanning the flames that created the local delicacy. He redirected his steps taking a longer route home. No use spending the hot afternoon explaining the inexplicable. He had no seventy naira to pay for his last purchase and that was that.
He shook his head. He was a laughable pity
The day was barely over. What to do now? He thought of paying Linda a visit. The fair skinned slim Linda, his long term girlfriend of four months. He thought better of it.
Her mother will be home now. She hated his guts and he knew why. He was poor. It’s sad but Linda’s mother; a big madam who sold Voil and taffeta laces in Alade market does not want a pauper for a son in law. He always ended up defending his poverty every time he had the grave misfortune of encountering her.
He reached for his phone and dialed her number, waiting for the customary African Queen ring back tune, all he got was, ‘you have insufficient balance……’ He shut it off immediately, disgusted. He hissed and kicked his leg forward hitting his big toe in the process.
Damn! I need a job!
He decided to go home, no point expending his energy walking aimlessly. The door lock gave him hassles as usual. He butted it with his shoulder a few times before it gave way, creaking noisily. He dropped his ‘my clear bag’ containing his CVs and pre-typed application letters on the mattress lying on the bare floor.
He’d learned the pre-typed application thing from a fellow job seeker. All you had to do was fill in the blank spaces for an emergency submission. Semper Paratus!
He opened his pot hoping for something to eat. The first one contained a little stew left over from the weekend. He found some garri in his shelf. He mixed it with the stew and set it on the floor. He removed his shirt and sat on the floor, cursing the heat. He was about to take his first handful when he heard a soft knock on the door. He hid the pot and wiped his hands on a faded napkin.
He could hear Linda’s voice greeting someone as he approached the door. He swung it open and looked into her smiling eyes. She walked past him and sat on the mattress, stretching her legs in front of her.
“Na wa for you, you couldn’t call me”
“My love I was going to, but you know how it is.”
“No problem sha”
“That’s my girl”, he said smiling. He sat beside her and retrieved his pot of garried stew.
“Wetin you dey chop?” she stretched her neck to look into the pot.
“Chicken peri-peri” he winked.
“For where? Daniel this is serious o, garri and stew. This one go do you so?” she laid on the bed laughing incredulously.
“Laugh at me. Go ahead and laugh. When I become the GMD of NNPC now, you’ll see.” He took no offence. Linda was his pal. They were friends and lovers, she knew him well.
“Come on. I trust you Danny and I believe in you” she said, her face taking on a serious look, “you’ll do fine. We’ll do fine” she rubbed her palm up and down his arm, looking lovingly into his eyes.
They shared a moment of tenderness as he drew her close. He felt his heart hammer in his chest as she looked deep into his eyes. He felt she could see into his soul, but he wasn’t sure what she was going to find. He blinked and pulled away.
“Come, let’s eat”
“Ok now” she said excitedly. She didn’t seem to notice his change in demeanor.
He ate in silence while she chatted away. She talked about her day. All she did and whom she did it with. She was such a sweet simple girl, ready to bare her soul. He prayed he wouldn’t disappoint her.
His head snapped up when she mentioned her final year project, she said something about being tired of her supervisors demands.
“Did he tell you exactly what he wanted?”
“Well, he did but he doesn’t seem satisfied with anything I come up with. I chose two topics earlier on family law and Copyright, but he wanted me to do Oil & Gas”
She sighed, exasperated.
Her feelings seemed to rise and fall. A minute ago she was excited about his garri and stew, now she’s all worried and looking beautiful as ever. He loved her for it.
“No wahala. I have lots of oil and gas texts. Let’s go over it, shall we?”
He searched his rickety shelf for the relevant texts. “So what exactly is the topic?”
They spent about half an hour talking law issues. He had graduated with a first class in Law. This was his passion.
They were almost rounding off a lover’s law session when they heard a loud knock on the door. Daniel started with anger, wondering who was launching such a vicious attack on his door. The door shook as the hinges almost gave way.
“Danieli! Danieli! Open the door fa!”
Daniel bit his fore finger, looking around the one room apartment for where to hide.
“What is it?” Linda hissed
“My landlord. It’s him” he whispered.
“And so? Is it not that long headed man that keeps ogling me every time I come here? What does he want, rent?” she said, her nose flaring in anger
“Ssh! He’ll hear you. You know about my three months rent, don’t you?”
“So what do you want to do? Hide? Where? Where now?”
He looked around searching frantically; he had evaded the man for month now, coming in at odd hours just to avoid this.
Linda tapped her feet, her hands on her hips, waiting for him to do something. He just shook his head pitifully. She gave up.
“I’ll see him”
She swung open the door just as Daniel darted to the corner behind it. He could see the landlord through the slit in the door. He truly had a long head…..