She always said it was the light that drew her. I gazed at my face in the mirror and my reflection stared back at me; brown skin, brown hair, brown eyes. No light. Windows, that’s what she called the eyes. The pain in my chest kept swelling and I feared it would completely consume my heart.
Our eyes had met when she walked by that fateful day. She paused midway, turned and stared again. I raised my left eyebrow and she gazed back, unwavering; she turned and walked away.
A fly flew into my view and landed on my upper lip; my hand reached to hit it, but it flew away before I could reach it. I felt the urge to pee and stood up, shuffled through the mass of bodies that occupied the tiny room and made it to the toilet. The toilet was really a blue bucket with flies hovering over it and maggots slithering around its rim. When I had finished, I walked, rather scrambled back to my place. We all had our place, our space.
An officer came and hit his stick against the metal rods that kept us from the outside world, rods that held us captive. Beside him was the lady who had walked by earlier. She pointed at me and the officer nodded, then they both walked away.
“Oga, you know am ni?”; one of the inmates asked.
“Never seen her in my life.”; I replied as my back made contact with the cold bare floor. The coolness spread and I sighed with an emotion akin to contentment.
The irritating sound of the officer’s rod against the metal bar sounded again, arousing me from my sleep. What again? I wondered.
“Gbade.”; he called out, as his eyes roved our faces. They settled on me and he jerked his head. “Come with me.”
I stood up, holding my trouser to keep it from falling and walked towards the open gates. He looked at me, shook his head, turned and walked down the corridor. I followed.
We got to the counter where he gave me my sneakers, belt, jeans and T-Shirt. My eyes widened in surprise.
“She paid for you bail.”
I followed his eyes, which rested on the same lady who kept haunting me.
“Sign here, here and here.”; he said pointing at several dotted lines.
I signed them hastily, dressed and soon, I was out.
The sun, that orange ball in the sky, shone down, bathing the earth in its warmth and light. Little children laughed and played, a lady wearing a flowing ankara print gown had her hands linked as she chatted non-stop with a man in beautifully embroidered, sky blue damask. His face held a content smile. A butterful flew across and landed on a red flower of a bush. I looked up again at the beautiful blue sky as birds flew by.
It all looked so beautiful, my eyes moistened. Six agonising months away from it all.
“Do you have a place to stay?” A lithe musical voice asked, breaking into my thoughts.
I turned to look at the lady.
“Thank you soo much for paying for my bail. ..but why? “; I asked
She smiled, “I saw the light in your eyes.”
Weird, I thought, probably the reflection of light from the fluorescent tubes.
“Thanks again.” I wanted to hug her, but the stench, mine, assaulting my nostrils made me rethink it. “Do have a lovely day.”
I began to walk away, I felt the urge to look back, I did and saw her still standing there.
“Do you have a place to stay.”; she asked again.
“Uhh…as a matter of fact, I haven’t thought about that. I would probably stay with a friend.”
“Okay.”; She said reaching for her pocket, from which she brought out a white card, she held it out to me.
I took it tentatively, smiled and walked away. I needed something to calm me down, so I headed to the same place that led me to where I just came from, like a dog to its vomit, a fly to the flame.
I was a regular customer, so I got a free stick of hemp. The guys patted my back and welcomed me back
She followed me and I found it annoying, was that the cost of my freedom? More bondage. I didn’t see her till I pulled a swig from the lighted stick, as though she was waiting to see if I would actually take it. Her mouth was twisted in a frown making it look really small.
“That’s not good for you, you know?”
I looked up at her, irritation marring my features “and what’s it to you?”
“Well, I would like you to live a long sane life.”
People were beginning to look our way, why did she even follow me, it was not a safe place to be. I threw the stick to the floor and stood up; holding her hand, I led her out of the place.
“What do you want from me?”
“Nothing at all, I just want the light in your eyes to fill your entire being “; she said staring into my eyes. Beneath that gaze, I felt uncovered. She broke the gaze and continued
“I have a free boy’s quater you could use, you would need to stay as far away from this place as possible, if you want to break free.”
I folded my hands and stared at her incredulously.
“And what makes you think I’m in some sort of bondage.”
She sighed. “You’re not, we’re condenmed to be free, its not soo much about that, but the cost of that which we assume is freedom.”
I raised a brow
“Soren Kierkargard, a philosopher.”; she continued.
Confusion clearly clouded my eyes and she waved her hand.
“Its nothing, just a muse, so what say you about the BQ?”
I really did not have a place to stay, my parents had disowned me long ago, when they found out I had dropped out of school and taken to drugs. I had hopped from one friend’s place to the other. It really wouldn’t hurt.
“Great! so you could stay there a year without pay, but from the second year, I’ll begin to charge you. That’s if you choose to remain.”
I did not think I would be staying as long as a year anyway.
She drove me to the place, it was not a bad place, infact it was really good, with tiled floors and plastered ceilings. Different paintings hung on the wall, giving it an aesthetic feel. Several sculpted statues were placed at various point in the house. I walked towards a painting of a lady reaching to help a crying little boy. The little boy was a leper, his tear filled eyes held a glint of hope.
“This is so beautiful.”; I said trailing a finger down the textured canvas.
“Thank you, took a whole two months of my life to complete that.”
She was cleaning dust off the furniture with a rag.
“Here, let me help you with that.”; I said collecting the rag. So you paint huh?”
“Guilty as charged.”
She raised her hand, wriggling her fingers to show paint stained fingers. They looked beautiful, and it seemed strange that her paint stained fingers appealed to me.
“So what do you enjoy doing.”; she asked, pulling out two cans of coke, from the fridge. She handed one over to me, opened hers and took a long swig.
Smoking. I laughed inwardly.
“I like listening to music and I ocassionally tie and dye clothes.”
“Interesting, how did you end up in the cell.”
I swallowed. She apparently didn’t think she was walking on thin ice there.
I opened my drink and it gave a fizzy sound. “I went to smoke, police rounded us up.”
“Straight to the point.” She took another swig. ” I’m sure you’re probably wondering what sort of weirdo I am, just bailing strangers out eh?”
She cocked at head looking at me mischievously
“Yea! Most definitely.”
We stared at each other for a moment
“My brother ran mad when he was 21, he had been taking hard drugs since he was 17 and no one suspected a thing. Then the depression started, long and unending. Eventually he ran mad, stark, raving mad.”
“Where’s he now?”
“He’s at the Yaba psychaitric hospital, she said looking up at me.
I ran my right hand down my left arm. “So is that why you bailed me?”
“Yes, you could say so. This is my first time of doing this. I hope to keep doing it…” she looked into my eyes “…stop you, them, before its too late.”
“Aren’t you scared I could be a psychopath.”
“I don’t just pick anyone, I look at the eyes, people say its the window into the soul.”
She was the philosophical artsy type, she was strange and well…weird. Those were features however that endeared her to me. Her name was Feyi.
I stayed there and ocassionally snuck out to smoke; she had dropped about a N100,000 with me.
“Till you find your feet.”; she had said, dropping the bundle of notes on the dining table.
I had also bought some clothes and groceries with the money.
On sunday morning, she knocked on my door. I half opened it and peered at her.
“Good morning Feyi.”
“Hey Gbade, I’m going to church and was wondering if you’d like to come along.”
Church, it had been a long while I had been there.
“Urm…sure, lemme just get dressed.”
I opened the door and she walked in and sat on the couch. I went in and put on a shirt and trouser, ran a comb through my hair and moisturised my face.
She was flipping through her phone when I returned to the parlour. I switched off the light and all electrical appliances. We both stepped outside and I locked the door.
We drove to church in her silver coloured Toyota matrix
“Today is ours,
condemned to be free,
free to keep breathing
Free to believe.”
The music player crooned as cool air was blasted from the air
“Condemned to be free? What does it mean?”
She smiled wryly.
“Free to make our choices, even though we don’t always know the right choice, we eventually have to bear their consequences. That’s why we need the guidance of a Higher Being.”
We arrived at church on time. We prayed, sang praises and the word came. On our way back home we stopped at an eatery.
“So, what do you intend to do?”; she asked.
I stared at her blankly, swallowed and ran my hand through my hair.
“Uhmm, I’m not exactly sure yet.”
She looked at me for a long time.
“You said you liked to tie and dye, you could do that, you know?” She twisted the cap of her plastic water bottle.
“Probably.”; I replied shrugging my shoulders, as I poked at the chicken lap on my plate with a fork.
The next day I opened my door to her, holding a pile of white clothes in her hand. Her hair was tousled and her face held a sheepish smile. She was dressed in a grey coloured jalabia. I smiled in return and pushed open the door. She walked past me and dropped the materials on the center rug.
“The dyes are in my car, come help me get them.”
I shook my head and walked to the car with her. She seemed to have a lot of money to blow. Where was she working? Who were her parents and how could she just trust me? I didn’t even trust me.
We dumped the tins of bright coloured dyes beside the materials.
“Je ka bere.”; she said rubbing her hands with glee
She looked round “yes, or are you busy?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Good, and we can’t work without music.”; she said, as she pulled out her phone from her pocket and pushed some buttons. Soon a lady’s soft voice filled the room.
We spent the rest of the day tying and dying clothes. She oohed and ahhed over my works and explained how I had so much talent. I splashed some dye on her face when she said that and she splashed some back at me. Soon it was a dye fight of some sort. We ended up in fits of laughter on the floor.
I looked around at the parlour covered in dye
“Mhen, I would have to do some mad cleaning.”
She looked around “you could just let it dry, its not soo bad, there’s an artistic feel to it all.”
“Artistic feel? I’d show you artistic feel.”
I splashed more paint on her and the fight continued. Afterwards we went outside to dry the clothes. From there she left for her house.
I caught myself smiling everytime I remembered that day. I later learnt she had an Art shop and was quite a famous artist. Well known. I was never really interested in art, so I didn’t know her till then. She took some of tie and dyes to her shop to sell them.
One day she dropped a bundle of money on the table.
My eyes grew huge.
“From the sales of your tie and dyes.”; she said, smiling.
“Seriously? Wow! That’s amazing.”; I replied half screaming.
She smiled sweetly at me.
“You really did good with it.”
When she left, I contemplated going to celebrate at the joint, I had not actually indulged since we started the tie and dye business. However, I kept seeing her smiling face. As I pulled on a shirt, it appeared, as I put on my shoes, it appeared.
“I just want you to live a long sane life….” I kept hearing over and over again. But my mind cried out, soon it became a physical desire as my whole body began to tremble in desire. Then, I made my decision…