They were walking to her house…
She wasn’t strikingly beautiful but she was pretty in an understated way. You had to know her to appreciate her. Or at least that was how he figured it. She was about his height which made her a tall-ish specimen and she wasn’t skinny. “Hello Perfection,” thought Okro
Skinny was not Okro’s definition of sexy. No. His experiences made him form the opinion that skinny women obsessed about their figure and were too concerned about what they ate and didn’t eat. He didn’t need that type of fussiness in his life.
At her door, she put one palm on the handle and turned to face him. He was standing barely a foot away with his hands behind his back wearing his favourite tee shirt, new jeans and a childish grin. Words somehow didn’t seem necessary at this point. She looked around as if to check that no one was watching – somehow Okro figured she didn’t care either way – and then took a tentative step toward him. He met her halfway, encircling her with his arms as he did so. She interlocked her delicate fingers at the back of his neck.
Then they kissed…
Oh shoot, he thought. The countless onions in the suya they had shared was coming back to haunt them in the worst possible way. Or at least back to haunt him. It was a weird vibe he was getting off her lips and breath. He began to wonder whether she’d had beans earlier in the day. Or eggs. Or both.
He tried to avoid being the one to pull out of the kiss. A task made all the more difficult by the fact that he was somehow unable to hold his breath long enough. Bleeping cigarettes must have snuffed the air out of his lungs. Was today World Repercussion Day or something?
She finally pulled out but obviously something was wrong, thought Okro. Because she had a look of content in her eyes. Oh wait, was it content or longing? Content meant she had enjoyed that awful kiss: bad. Longing meant she wanted another: worse.
She let out air and Okro thought his face would melt from the sheer heat of it. And the stench. Dear oh dear. His desire to get laid must have deadened his nostrils for a bit, he thought. She’d better have the genius of Ghandhi in the sack or he would do everything even super-humanly possible to ensure that the National Assembly passed a law banning onions at all suya joints. He suddenly became very uncomfortable, shifting slightly in her embrace. Then she closed her eyes and leaned in again. So what he saw was longing. Dear God, he thought, this would be a fabulous time to visit vengeance upon me for my sins: kill me. Kill me now. Then again, he figured this was as malicious as the heavens could get. From warm to uncomfortably hot, the heat from her mouth seemed to amplify as she got closer. And she had her mouth half open. How could he escape? Their lips were almost touching now…
He opened his eyes and the first thing he observed was the sweat he was covered with. He had to blink spuriously and dab lightly with his hand to get the sting out of his eye because some sweat had trickled in. The second thing he observed was that he needed to pee really badly. As he got up from the bed, he silently cursed the architect of the building who put a toilet and bathroom to serve two bedrooms making him have to walk to the corridor to do his business. And why was it soo hot, anyway? He opened the door.
The third thing he observed was the fire.
Vicious flames licked the apartment like a giant kid going at a tiny lollipop. It appeared the living room had been completely consumed. He couldn’t be sure about the master bedroom but the flames had entered the corridor and were now grubbing their way toward his room. The toilet was out of the question now. He could barely make out an opening where the door once was. He suddenly realized he was getting mildly scalded. He scampered back into the bedroom, panicking. All at once he tried to think many thoughts: how did the fire start? How could he put it out? Who could help? Was there an escape route?
He was suddenly thankful that his uncle had taken his family to the village for some chieftaincy thingy. That meant all Okro had to worry about was himself. At the same time, he became concerned; even scared. What would his uncle say when he returned to meet his house in whatever state it would be when this was over. No chance of getting water now since the toilet and bathroom had been turned into brick toast.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the flames tearing at the door. They made short work of it. Barging into the room like an overbearing trespasser. Okro figured ‘panic mode’ would be of no help right now even though he was so close to freaking out. He slid the window open cursing as he saw the burglary proof fittings his overly paranoid uncle had deemed fit to install at every door and window. Great. Now what? He couldn’t grasp why the compound wasn’t fenced while the owner thought it necessary to place burglary proof fittings everywhere.
If he didn’t figure a way out, his obituary wouldn’t say he died following a ‘brief illness’ or a ‘ghastly motor accident’. He figured it would say: ‘John Okro. Home cooked.’
He resented himself for thinking humorously at a time like this. “Nice going, dude.” He muttered to himself as he looked around for another option. He jumped on the bed as the rug was being eaten beneath him. He figured the bed would ignite momentarily. Was this how it would end? “I’ve not even gotten the chance to shag Serena Williams,” he whimpered. Then he saw it.
The 1 horse-power A/C unit had been making an awful noise lately so his host had called the repair man to have a look at it. The verdict had been ugly. It appeared there were a lot of faults. So much that Okro couldn’t be bothered to take stock of what precisely those faults were. Bottom line, the A/C dude got his uncle’s blessing to take it away. To avoid mosquitoes, his uncle’s wife had used an old calendar and masking tape to cover the hole left at the bottom corner of the room. And today, that would be his escape route.
He raced off the bed, tearing off the calendar and putting his legs through in one swift movement. In his haste, he forgot that he was climbing down a two-storey building. With his body facing outward, he let himself go and in the same moment realized he was going to plunge into the hard concrete ground. His breath caught in his throat and all his ultra sharp reflexes kicked in as he somehow managed to turn 180 degrees in mid-air barely catching the same frame he’d just jumped out of with one hand. His breath quickened considerably as the realization of what could have happened hit him full blast. He steadied himself by bringing his other hand up to hold the frame as well. His breath was now coming in sharp bursts. He flexed his neck muscles before looking downwards. He began to contemplate his next move. Should he jump down all the same or look for a ledge? He scanned for a ledge below.
He saw a window but it was shut and the available space… well there was none left. He wouldn’t be able to cling. His eyes kept roving, searching out a solution. Suddenly, he began to feel the heat on his fingers. “Oh no, the fire!” he thought.
Inside, the flames crackled with pleasure almost like it was belching after a sumptuous meal of bed-post. It had guzzled up the mattress and its frame and was now beginning to roast the walls. Thus, the heat Okro now felt. He began to really panic now. He didn’t want his fingers scalded; he couldn’t just jump down; he couldn’t…
Okro stopped in his thoughts – for he was suddenly hearing voices…
They were clear and muffled all at once. One moment it seemed like there were people yelling, the next they seemed to be whispering. The sounds were coming from the front side of the compound while he hung out the back. He couldn’t at once tell how many voices he was hearing; how many people were speaking. They seemed to be arguing and conspiring all at once. The voices abruptly subsided. Okro stiffened from where he hung, holding his breath as the fear of the unknown began to seep in.