The day began in earnest and the boughs of trees danced quietly and bowed carefully to the sweet movement of the morning breeze. Human activities were growing at a snail pace. Spiders were in a world of their own, hanging about on the warm hands of the beautiful bushes. Their fine nets of thin threads spanned far and near, waiting for fortune to smile on their bravery. A fulfilled day will emerge after minutes of assault against wandering insects.
On the other hand, swallows dropped from the trees like stones to snatch a bit of breakfast from the quiet morning. Few legs were already on the street and were descending like wreckage on the face of the old earth. Buildings begging for renovation littered the outside world.
I was on leave and content that Yomi came at the right time. So I lit up the house with my music player that had seen better days. Dancers know only a good song can put them in the mood. When we were in school, Yomi was very selective and only danced to songs that left him nodding his head like a couple of terrified lizards! After we consumed the bottles of soft drink that I offered, I decided to return to the kitchen to prepare a befitting meal for the morning. I had barely made two or more steps away from the table when Yomi dropped on the chair and began to snore very hard. I looked back and was surprised that the man drinking a while ago had dozed off. I smiled and moved away.
A local meal was on the way. I was waiting patiently for the soup on fire when the door behind opened. Yomi walked into the kitchen and stretched. “Taiwo, do you have a spade or shovel? I want to clean up your apartment,” he said, yawning.
I grinned as if I was under the influence of liquor. “No need for shovel or spade. I use the broom,” I replied politely.
“Okay,” he replied shortly. Before I could blink, he had gone back to the sitting room.
When I was through, I walked slowly into the sitting room to invite my guest for breakfast. But I was surprised he was snoring hard again. Then I tapped him as tenderly as I could. He gently opened one eye; he glanced up at me and grumbled: “Oh God! You just hindered me. I was about receiving a gift from a dwarf angel. Opportunities like this do not present themselves often in life. They come like the wind blown rain.” He wagged his head as if he was terribly devastated and sat up. “What can I do for you?” he asked with a frown.
“Sorry, I did not intend to create any problem. I just came to inform you that breakfast is ready. Please join me.” I turned and moved to the dinning table. As I took my seat, he walked majestically to the table and sat at the other end. We ate in deep silence like hunters in a game of life. Each morsel was big and there was nothing like it. I did not expect anything less. Since our tradition forbade us to talk while eating, we were quiet like militias in the wood. After swallowing some morsels, I heard a faint knock on the door: “Who are you?” I cleared my throat, raised my head and demanded.
“Good morning, Uncle.” A teenager at the door replied.
Yomi had no business with this; the meal had taken the better of him as I washed my hands and hurried to the door. “Oh Bisi, It’s you. How are you?” I asked with a smile.
“I am fine, Uncle Taiwo. Please, can you help me pluck a ripe mango fruit on that tree?” she smiled like a half-witted fellow, pointing at the tree in the middle of the compound.
I shifted weight to one, rubbed my hands gleefully together and replied, “That’s no big deal. Why are we neighbours?” She was my landlady’s child. Who knows what would befall me if I decided to turn down her request?
She led me to what would have marked my exit from this ever-changing world. It was not difficult to climb the old mango tree as I anticipated. But as I went up like an old jaguar tracking a meal in a cold night, I lost my balance and fell to the ground. The little girl was dreadfully frightened as the fruit dropped and rolled to the foot of the tree. When she rushed to my side, I smiled as if I had fallen with style. “Oh, Bisi you thought I injured myself?” We exchanged glance.
She nodded. “Yes, you fell as if you were hunted down like a dog.”
“Bisi, you are right,” I admitted, rose to my feet, picked up the fruit and handed it to her. Immediately I got up, the poor soul almost knocked me over with a hug!
As soon as the child was gone, and I was back to my place, Yomi was crying bitterly like a goldsmith that mistakenly crushed his thumb with the anvil. “Yomi, what is the problem?” I asked and sat by his side, my hand on his shoulder.
Yomi shoved me aside. Before I could blink, he fell on the floor and began to cry out loud. Stamping his feet about, he yelled, “Oh! I regret! I regret! I have ruined my life!”
While he messed my world, I stood over him, “Yomi, what is the problem? Talk to me!”
He paused. Glanced up at me and muttered, “I have infection!”
Not quite clear, I swallowed hard and probed, “What is the devil against you?”
But there was no answer. The poor soul had the luxury of crying and almost brought down the house. Not ready to share the burden he could not disclose, I picked a seat in the extreme.
Suddenly, he paused and rose to his feet. Wiping his face with the back of his hand, he approached me: “Taiwo, we were good friends in the past, but I doubt if you can help me now.” Our eyes met as he blinked almost a million times.
“Yomi, we measure friendship by its contributions to victories. I cannot forget how your parents helped me when life dealt me a miserable blow!”
He pondered over my words. There was something strange, but I could not put a finger on it. Then he looked carefully about to be sure that no eye was watching, he cleared his throat and revealed: “Taiwo, I have AIDS!”
“AIDS?” I gasped and could not help the quiver in my voice after the revelation. “Well, disease is not the end of life.”
There was silence shortly as I pondered deeply over the possibilities of becoming miserable like him. Two wicked decisions stood before me like a troll: First, to rain blows on him and the other, to quietly ask him to walk out of my house. But not to ruin our friendship, I masked my disappointment with a smile. I was yet to take a stand when he broke the silence. “Taiwo, help me!”
I remember that I spent over four years in his father’s house. His father took me in when my parents and six other children were killed in a horrible inferno that gulped my father’s house. I would have also been a casualty if I had not stayed back in school to do my homework with Yomi. I mourned their death and was hospitalized, spending over a month on the sickbed. However, Yomi and his family were there for me. He was more than a friend, and we were like ravens feasting in a field of grains. Will it be nice to turn my back on him?
I glanced at Yomi as he awaited my response and said, “My hands are tied!” I knew he was disappointed as I fought gallantly to avoid eye contact. Before he could utter any word, my feet had carried me to the room and slammed the door behind me. Weariness weighed me down as I climbed the bed and settled under the soothing weight of the cover.
Few hours later, I walked into the sitting room and seated regally on the chair as if I had no business with my friend. It was a deliberate attempt to avoid what would make me share in his misfortune. My attitude reminds me of a self-righted fellow who laments the miserable consequence of being born of great things, and wished he had been placed in the middle of the two extremes—between the mean and the great, which is the just standard of true felicity. Grinding hard as a judge to pronounce judgment against a criminal, I threw out a question: “A while ago, you said you have contracted AIDS. How did the devil get into you?”
As tears gathered in his eyes, Yomi lowered his head and began to sob gently. “Taiwo, it’s a long story. I have ruined myself. I have lost it!” he lamented and burst into tears.
As I tried to console him, he raised his languishing face, “Taiwo, help me out of this mess.”
I gave a discouraged sigh. “Yomi, there are better things that we can discuss. Besides, I am not a doctor!” My response was brief as I straightened my chin and faced the ceiling.