This is a story of a young ex-lover from Edo state who desperately wangled her way into Tripoli, the capital city of Libya in 2007 for greener pastures.
This was in March of 2007 when Libyans had not got mad with their autocratic leader, Gadaffi despite his long stay in power, reasons being that, the despotism of the leader didn’t hamper citizens chances to enjoy basic necessities of life that were still readily available and within reach to them. And pairing their standard of living with that of neighbouring countries, especially with the black nations of the continent, Libya could be adjudged to be faring on the high side economically. The fairytale-news that people who came back from Libya brought home while spending holidays in Nigeria, is what spurred Oserere’s family to yield to her perennial pressure to be sponsored abroad as it was the trend in nearly every family in Benin city at the time.
Passing through the mind-gnawing dessert of Chad Republic and then unto the unending whistling wind of the dessert of Niger, two countries bordering Libya closer to Nigeria, Oserere’s pulse remained undaunted but rather lit with a sort of hope that there was glory, fame and wealth at the end of the peregrination. Hope in a place where she could earn money courtesy of her hustling of any kind and come back home loaded to the brim, ready for some ostentatious spending, settling members of the family and the rest of the cash would then be buried into personal life investment, the kind she could fall back on at any point in time. That was her reasoning on that eve while aboard a jalopy station-wagon car of a colour nondescript to a discerning eye because of the corrosive effect of wild wind that beats against it as it jerks almost on daily basis crossing illegal immigrants through porous boarders of African countries. Her arrival in Tripoli was long awaited. At the corner they called Bust-Stop as the wagon pulled to a halt, someone was already there to welcome her to a new abode.
Surprisingly, the new house was not that different from her family house in Benin City. More so, the two-room apartment was crowded; 6 ladies and 2 Men all sharing things in harmony like the apostles of old. The room she was ushered into smelled of an unknown substance to her. It was also damp and dingy like a hole occupied by an animal capable of staying on land and in water. A snake more like it. The walls were slippery, as if purposely smeared with muddy waters to say the least. At 12AM, the rooms were still alive with gist, voices humming from different directions and then, occasional outburst of laughter would rend the air. There was brotherliness. Whatever affected anyone became the responsibility of all. They would fight together for common good. But at this time of the day while jokes and banters of the old ‘inmates’ filled the room Oserere sat down on a wooden stool aloof in the room. Her left hand bore the weight of her light head, she looked through the miniature window with her sharp eyes penetrating the curtain-underlay. She saw the outside vaguely, quiet and abandoned. The streets greeted by luminous light so bright that, as she imagined, even sleepless ants could be spotted going about their business of carrying dead insects on the head to be finally dumped into a barn for immediate or future references. Her head laden with the plague of poverty that drove her out of her country, she mused over the possibility of an imminent breakthrough, of a life glorious in no distant time, coming back to gain the admiration of folks because of the success story that would spread upon her arrival.
As she sat down lost in her world in the apartment, she heard a loud bang on the entrance door. In an instant, all the noise ceased and behold, the fragile door gave way to the well-laced TimberLand boot, splitting the down part of the door into five shreds to give a quirky view of the legs of the assailants to those squawking by the entrance. After few seconds, there was panic in the house! Run here and there. It was in this pandemonium the armed gang ordered a calm. ‘Shut up, you bloody Nigerians. If you make any silly move, I splash your brains on the walls.’ The voice of one of the bandits, obviously the ring leader yelled. On hearing this, Oserere’s blood leaped into her hitherto pensive but clear and glistening eyes. They became bloodshot and her heart jumpy. She had the paltry sum of ten thousand Nigerian currency she planned to change into Dinar which could sustain her for some days before hustling jells. She must not let this go for any reason if she ever wanted her dream of making it in life come to pass. A lady any man would admire besides her facial appeal with her body well attended irresistibly by eye-popping curvatures, Oserere got nerves as well.
Her panic saw an escape route in the miniature, unprotected window that stared at her in her moment of apprehension. Not the fears harassing her mind could tie her butt further to the stool that had become her thinking cap. The decision came and she grabbed it instinctively without delays. She peered through the window and it was safe.
On the street, feeling that the coast was clear, she tried to calm her jangled nerves by sauntering instead of the compulsion to run for a final cover. The darkness in a nearby car garage caught her attention. She veered towards it not knowing that someone was in her trail. The pitiless Libyan got to her, without dithering, shot her through the head!
What happened to me instantly upon hearing the news of your death in a far away land was a sudden replay of the most memorable periods we shared together, including those experiences we would regret over and over again yet, incapable of doing anything about since life itself is irreversible.
I mean, what the heck was wrong with the Libyan robbers who snuffed life out of a soul as gentle, lovable with a whiff of audacity like yours?
The first replay was the scene of that beautiful evening when, on having our first tryst under an airy Peer -Tree, the one lush with green leaves in front of Monday’s compound. There, we sat glued to each other and were afterwards joined up by Monday and later on by that troublesome Gink; the Urhobo Dude. We had sat down arms-in- arms, nose-to-nose, lips-to-lips; in sitting experimentations. Believe you me, we were both good at playing this game they call love and you resorted to leaning on my shoulders at one point and then, turned round and fell on my laps with the back of your head, your visage up to mine and those limpid eyes of yours wore the cloak of memorable glory, we were lost in youthful dreams and pleasant promises. All I said I would do for you upon your acceptance; some were humanly impossible but, to lend me your undeniable support, you acquiesced to all that came out from my trembling lips; the foolish and funny and we laughed that kind of laughter that could awaken a dead soul. We were basking in the rivers of joy until the interruptions.
Monday; a childhood friend joined up first. His arrival wasn’t considered interruptive because he was in the loop of how our steaming love had evolved. Being that sometimes he had played the part of my emissary, his presence still permitted us to neck. Baffling! One question he kept asking was how on earth I summoned the courage to approach you in the first place and I promised to explain to him later. That I never did till today , 15 years down the lane of an ever fast moving time that ever finds itself in the archive of history.
My silvery Touch-light was rightfully placed a league away from my legs that bore your head on their sturdy laps while we looked on face-to-face in the endless chatting. I kept my hands busy stroking your hair that was neatly made that same evening. Indeed, Oserere, life was sweetest on this eve; my first point of call at the time the sad news came to plunder my tender heart.
Gink had been lurking around like a ghoul, what became obvious upon his final arrival. His plan was evil; he came to pour sand into our sugary Garri with his odd attitude only fit for a barbarian. As a lagosian who had barely come to town, I found his bizarre manners and foul-mouth repulsive and to ask, what wouldn’t a handsome town-boy do, what wouldn’t a lion do to ward off a hyena howling in a contagious bad- breath at his adorable female lover in his moment of reverie with her? This was where Gink got it wrong. In the usual perception of the village boys that town guys are like Agric fowls, when I moved in to intervene after you dashed up from my laps like a lightening to seize him by the throat, he surged, charging towards me with the delusion I was a sucker. This left me with no other option than to prove him wrong. I showed him the stuff I was made of.
Can you remember how he barged into our privacy that night? Hmmm! He interrupted the streaming conversation that had absorbed Monday, he did this shamelessly like one possessed with the spirit of Marijuana. Not minding Monday’s presence or mine, he came in unannounced, straight to you:
“ dis foolish gel, nor be you be dis for my own area so?
Na for where you fit run go na?
I don catch you now, oya come here!”
He stretched his grubby hands and literally snatched you away! As if I were a kind of a Phantom, he didn’t show any sign that a guy of my kind was the one whose sturdy laps your head was rested. You stood up immediately on feeling the weird tug at your hitherto relaxed arms. I was dazed as if a live wire was passed through my anus! Shocked to utter a word at first. When I regained consciousness, his nasty soul was to be expelled to hell where he came from or wherever befitted any irritant he represented at the period. Hot blood of anger ramped into my head, quickly; I reached out for my lonely Touch-light within grip. The many horns that sprouted on his forehead afterwards attested to the level of rage I visited him with. He slumped, wailing that I had slaughtered him! He then, on regaining strength, ran home as I learnt was the style then to use weapons and charms fighting in villages. It was my first time to be involved in such a love brawl. I had to go to whatever length to offer you protection, Oserere. I didn’t see any reason stopping me from deforming Gink’s face for you to feel safe and have a relative peace of mind whenever you are in my presence. It was a compulsory and testing time. I guess I was able to stand up to the daunting challenge.
When Gink’s scenario finished playing, almost immediately, another moment worthy of remembrance between you and me walked up to my mind. This was in the evening of a well sunlit Wednesday that welcomed the dusk with colour of the sun chafed by the darkened roving clouds as if to say; go to roost, it our turn to reign! The wind of November was also noticeable as it rustled mango leaves that littered the rugged streets of Ikpoba Hill. In this dust laden wind that resurrected every dead leaf on the street, came your ebony face. As beautiful as ever and those your eyes did not by any means reflect the lashes suffered from this wicked wind.
You met me sitting down on a bench outside like a village champ. Your prediction I was at home at the time baffled me! Sitting down by me was your delectable self. What was I to do than battle restlessly with the temptation of leading you by the nose right atop the well-prepared bed of my highhanded uncle? I did succeed in putting my wild imagination to subjection even when we had both missed each other for quite a long time. Some chaps could dub this ‘weakness’. Oserere, you knew I wasn’t near such abominable christening. At least, antecedents with you would boldly extricate me from the smear of such jibe. Recounting history such as ours could be an appetizing incident but, not now when the free route of it is intercepted with the pains of tears now streaming down my bloodshot eyes.
On same bench, I told you about my G.C.E exam. How it went on that day, of how cheating was the guilt of all, of how supposed exam invigilators used this means as an avenue to accumulate the wealth that had eluded their many generations. I told you the country is terrible but, I was poised to make a big difference by abstaining from all evil practices of the day such as the one I was confronted with. How far is this dream now that many waters have passed under the bridge? The answer to this leaves some rumbles underneath my stomach. You are not here for me to tell. My sincere conscience is what bears me witness. This was in 2001. It didn’t occur to me that it would be the last time I was to set my eyes on you. No foreboding.
Sometimes I wonder how life would be like if humans were equipped by the Maker with prescient features, where someone could easily forecast the events of tomorrow with a mere look of the eyes or by a dint of thorough logic. I just reason, things would be easier thus or perhaps humans would be able to realize when and how to draw the line between situations, when and how to invest money, fall in love or not to etc. Do you think the competition would have been stiffer as well considering this ability, that the traffic of success would be one way, that everyone breathing would wedge in to have a smell of its fresh air? How ever this might sound, our inability to determine future events heightens the risk of life and instills unnecessary fears into the hearts to the point of deterring us from trying out issues ordinarily we would thrive in, at first attempt. We have learnt to hesitate when we ought not to because of the fear of uncertainty. If I knew it was going to be the last time together with you on that day, I would strive to ingratiate the desire I fought tooth and nail to bring under subjection; I would further reach out for whatever requirement to win you longevity that the joyous, nascent voyage we were relishing would be sustained.