Uju and Joe
“A man has less conscience when in love than in any other condition.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860), German philosopher.
My name is Uche Abdullahi, I know you wonder why the combination? My mother is a native of Igbo extraction while my father is of Hausa. I would describe myself as a perfect gentleman and a devoted Christian. I am tall, good looking and intelligent.
I gained admission into the university several years ago. Liberation from my parents and the joy of studying had come and my dreams came true at that time. I was astonished by what I saw. It was a different environment; there were lots of stress and struggles starting from the registration process to the rest of the process (if you know what I mean?). I also noticed that in the university, you don’t have to look for trouble, it will always find you. The conditions of the hostels were bad so I decided to stay up gate.
Up gate the name of a piace of land very close to the school gate. It had a market, restaurants, pubs and numerous houses which were privately owned and rented out to students. My room was a cubicle painted with blue and furnished with a rug, a table, a chair and a mattress. As a gifted artist, I decided to draw the picture of Thor on my wall to adorn my room.
I came to the school environment with numerous attires but was advised not to wear certain colors, as I was told that those who were linked with those attires counted it as impersonation and dealt mercilessly with those found guilty of this charge. I also learnt to avoid beautiful ladies because they always lead to trouble especially those nicknamed “high tension wires” due to the fact that a mean individual linked with any of the dirty groups may have an interest in the girl. All these and others make up the unwritten laws which guided our activities within the university environs.
One morning I woke up as usual, said my prayers, took my bath and went straight for lectures. We were having Mathematics. On this particular day, I was privileged to get a seat unlike other days when I would have to receive lectures standing owing to the fact that the student population was far more than what the classroom could accommodate. The lecture was long and boring as Mr. Isacca, a wrinkle faced man with a coarse voice waffled continuously. In a low gentle voice I was asked for a spare pen and I turned and looked, behold a lady. She had an attractive aura around her, I searched my pockets wondering if I had any but I didn’t, so I shook my head and she understood what it meant and nodded in return. An impulse came over me, it was so strong that I began to ask everyone within my reach for a spare pen and as fate would have it, I found one which I offered her. I watched her write in her notebook, which was far more interesting than listening to Mr. Isacca.
After the lecture, she returned the pen to me and I took it to its owner. We had a friendly chat, requested for her name, “Kemi,” she replied. “Oh what a unique name you’ve got and where do you live?” I quizzed. She also lived ‘Up gate’, but in a different hostel so we decided to stroll out together. We had reached the junction where we should have gone our separate ways, but she pleaded I accompanied her to a nearby shop so she could pick some items. On getting there a tall boy with a scar on his head walked towards me, tapped me on the shoulder, I turned towards him and he whispered “My chairman wants you to bring this lady to him” pointing to a nearby bar filled with seven dopy looking individuals. I looked at the dude, smiled as if he was talking trash and told him to pass the message to Kemi himself. He walked towards her and spoke to her, then she went into a rage, raining curses on him and walked away swiftly.
I was still trying to come to terms with the scene when he turned towards me and ordered me to go to the bar. I glanced at the bar and would have resisted but the sight of several hands signalling me to come there sent a chill down my spine. I walked towards them in fear, finally having my first encounter with the gang members. They threatened me, claimed to have been insulted because of me. I explained to them but they wouldn’t listen all they wanted was a crate of beer. I laughed and tried to become aggressive and one dude arose from his seat, took a deep puff from his cigarette blew the smoke all over me and attempted to burn my cheek with it so I began to plead. He left me after I handed over to him the sum of three hundred naira which was all I had. But before I left he said to me, “I admire your courage, come closer to me and I will make you like me”. I nodded and walked away swiftly because I couldn’t imagine myself being anything like him.
I got to my room and joy filled my heart because it was neat and welcoming – a place of peace indeed. I took off my clothes, for some minutes laid on my bed reminiscing over all that happened. I flipped through the pages of my notebooks and my Mathematics textbook. It was known by all that Mr. Isacca sets his exam questions from the examples written in class, so all I needed to pass was to make sure I had a steady hand on them. I worked on a couple of them and when tired, I picked up my T-shirt and jeans leaving the house for lunch after which I came back and had my siesta.
For several months, I had managed to live my life with little or no stress, avoiding problems as much as I could while finding ways to solve the few I had gotten into. I made few friends till one morning; I woke up with my head pounding seriously with a heavy headache. My memory clouded and it flashed back.
Yesterday was a crazy day! I was woken by the sound of thunderous knocks on my door. I jumped up in panic and screamed, “Who goes there?” And a little voice replied in panic, “It’s your guy Joe, please open.” I opened the door and he rushed in sweating and shivering looking scared to death but behind that fear I could see anger blazing through his eyes and lust for vengeance.
Joe wasn’t any ordinary guy; he was tall, huge with a mean serene face and a tint of handsomeness. It was obvious that his participation in bravado activities caused his face to look rugged. His skin was light brown with prominent scars left by knives, broken bottles, grass blades and other cuts by crude implements. He had this carriage which could be described as a mixture of style and pure military masculinity. He looked and said to me, “My brother! My friend! I just escaped death. I went to see my girlfriend, and unknown to me, an ambush had been set for me in front of her room. I could see nothing but pure darkness, and from this darkness emerged a figure I couldn’t make out but the bulge in his pocket made me realize he was armed to his teeth. I paused for a second, didn’t think of my next move and in real time I took to my heels. Instantly several gunshots were fired as I was chased. I got far enough and like a monkey I hid myself on top of a tree. They looked for me like addicts who were looking for cocaine but it was in vain. They all left but one looked up and said to me “Come down my friend I know you are there today is your lucky day.” I jumped down not knowing he never saw me initially but was pulling a fast one. He looked at me eye ball to eye ball and in fear he shot and tried to escape. Thank God it was a Dane gun that needed to be loaded after each shot. Like a demon I grabbed a dead tree branch I found lying around and smashed his nose. He let out a sound that seemed like a squeal but I wasn’t satisfied. I pounded his face till it appeared like nylon bag of tomatoes ran over by train. I could see he was in misery so I decided to put an end to it forgetting that the sound of his gun would have attracted his men. I pulled my little pen knife and went for his neck but was interrupted by the sounds of footsteps, again I was in motion. My legs were tired but fear and the will to live kept me going till I got to your door.”
As Joe concluded his ordeal, I looked at him and asked if he was sure that nobody traced him. He looked at me in a weird manner which meant I insulted him, but replied, “Sure.” For hours I preached to Joe condemning his membership of the gang because it was wrong and against the will of God. He told me that God judges based on what we believe and he believes he is a Warrior therefore when he dies he would dwell in that great place called Valhalla, the place where all great warriors go. Then he brought out his phone and requested for a charger, his battery was completely flat. After a while, his phone came on and several messages rushed in. His fellow Warriors had been looking for him so he sprang up and left. I felt a relief but not too long he came back with his girlfriend and I noticed his shirt was torn with bruises on his back. His men had drilled him for endangering his life, going into the enemy’s territory after they had sent him several distressed messages. He pleaded with me to allow his girlfriend stay in my room till it got dark. I accepted and he left.
His girlfriend, Uju, was a tall fair beautiful girl. She had these eyes that made me wonder if she was a girl or Venus, my favorite Greek goddess. She looked innocent and her voice soft but deep and sounded like that of Tony Braxton. Everything about her was drop dead sexy and I could feel a little tension in my loins as I looked at her but Joe wasn’t the kind of guy you would want to mess with, so I quickly extricate every evil thought from my mind.
Uju looked at me and her lips moved but not a word came out or was I too busy focusing on them?” There was a similarity between them and those of Angelina Jolie. “What did you say?, I asked. She replied, “Thanks.” Not waiting for a response she continued. “Yesterday was terrible, three boys bust into my room with guns to do heaven knows what, but luckily for me one of them was my brother. He shook his head in disappointment and left. I could see about fifty or more hiding in the dark, I was gripped with fear so I tried to call Joe but his number never went through, afterwards I heard a gunshot and footsteps of people running.
Then tears dripped down her cheeks, “I was so terrified,” she continued, “Scared to death that Joe would be killed, I rushed out of my room thinking I would see my brother but the whole place was like a Ghost town, I went back into my room and seconds later I could hear them coming back and assuming their position. The next thing, I heard a gunshot and they all ran out again. This time they came back with my brother with his face totally disfigured and they began to administer the first aid treatment in my room.”
She paused for a while and held me close, my shirt absorbed all her tears and my hand patted her back then she continued, “In the morning we took him to the hospital and when I was taking my leave, Joe called me on the phone but I didn’t know what to do. How could he do such a thing to my brother? Finally I answered the call and he told me to meet him somewhere. I wanted to talk but he said, “No time for that now. He never listens to me I just wonder what I am doing with him.” All that kept coming out of my mouth was, “Uju take it easy okay!” She looked me straight in the eye, not just an ordinary look and said “Do you want me? Well if you don’t mind, I want you”. It was a tough decision but her looks broke my defenses and I made the first move, a kiss. We both kissed with our eyes opened. It was weird, a mixture of pleasure, fear and extreme paranoid. I could swear it was worth the risk.
The next day which was a Sunday, I went visiting some friends and we began to talk about the fracas. I was told it all started when a member of a gang called the “Assassin” mistakenly stepped on a rival’s foot and without hesitation, the rival gave him a slap which led to a mini combat. The Assassin pulled out his knife and stabbed the rival who was a member of the Warrior gang, blood spilled and the Warrior echoed out their rescue word while the Assassin did the same. Instantly a group of Assassins and Warriors arrived the scene, nobody waited for an explanation as bottles were smashed and gunshots were fired leaving many with wounds of various degrees as they all took to their heels in various directions. We all laughed thanking God we didn`t belong to any gang because they remained in hidden places as they moved in groups with the fear of being shot dead.
Joe began to have problems with Uju after then, they lived like cat-and-mouse. Uju began to flood my phone with text messages, one of which I could remember was, “My sweet charming you, don’t know what to say but the truth must be told. You are not just good with listening alone but also in making a woman smile. My body begs for a feel of your touch even if it would cost me my head.” I got scared especially with the words “cost my head,” because everything that happened that day was nothing but fun. I didn’t have a gun and wasn’t ready to act Troy with Joe who wasn’t scared of death. I deleted the message and asked myself why I tasted the ‘forbidden fruit.’ Then I laughed and said to myself with pride, “Once you go, you can’t go back.”