Tope rolls to his left on the bed and swings his hand into the puddle of water. His eyes immediately shoot open like a morphine induced prize racehorse and he scrambles to a position where his knuckles and knees are on his flat foam. Tope gives off a hiss worthy of a Sound D-Box trophy (his sister always told him he hissed like an ashawo). The rain has flooded his one bedroom apartment once again. He looks up, not at the heavens in search of answers to the inaudible questions he is asking, but at the source of this inland fracas which he afore time thought he had sufficiently dealt with.
Tope surveys his environment using every sensory organ save his eyes (of course NEPA has taken light) and he involuntarily shudders at the pitiful state he is in. He shillyshallies his head in the direction of his old CD rack which is deftly balanced on his bible (sorry pastor!) and he harks back pronto to the catch phrase of a Fela’s song – Water, e no get enemy. “Damn you rain. You are ruining the classics for me!”
Tope is upbeat though, despite waking up to a thunderstorm within a teacup. One would expect that he would get upset at nature’s decisions, but not today. Today is the day Tope would finally get to put Tinu on her back. He is 27 years old. Today is a special day for Tope. He whistles merrily as he uses his dust bin parker to bail the water from his room into a special hole that leads to the outside compound which he covers up with thick rolled up newspaper when not in use for fear that native rats would use it as a rite of passage to lay claim to his property as theirs, one never could reason meritoriously with those rodents. He walks to the small white paint bucket he uses to relieve himself once he has locked up his house for the night (you do not want to open your door for any reason at night for security was non-existent in his area) and picks it up. Underneath the pail is a plastic contraption which looks like it was customized to give the bucket balance. From within this contraption, Tope pulls out his phone (only those who are willing to look like fools are truly secure – Tope Abimbola, 2014).
Tope smiles, the time is 8:19am.
Tope is ready to go out within the hour, his hair well oiled, teeth extra pasted. He takes several selfies of himself in order to admire his appearance. He looks good – he knows it and would definitely flaunt it. His well starched and ironed short sleeve, hand embroidered, ash colored old Damask looks GQ on him. He slips his feet into the sandals his good friend sold to him. He knows he got it at a rip-off price but his excuse was he was trying to help the seller – who was his classmate back in school – to stand on his feet.
Tope knows this is the best day for him ever. He knows nothing will go wrong.
Then Murphy’s Law sets in. Murphy’s Law is a saying or quip which typically states that – Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
“Good morning Tope. How was your night?”
“You are going out?”
Tope rolls his eyes. Nigerians are PhD holders in Stating The Obvious. He sarcastically wonders how she guessed he was going out when he is locking his door burglary all dressed up to the nines. “Yes ma” he answers politely.
“Heeya. Go come e hear.”
“Yes ma” Tope leaves his compound.
Tope stands at the bus stop. He is not shocked to see several commuters waiting for vehicles to transport them to their destinations. He is constantly amazed at the energy level of Lagos state, it seems like Lagosians bustle so fast that they watch Superman’s flight in slow motion. At last a bus arrives that has just enough seats to accommodate a laid back man who has no desire to push and shove.
Tope sits in the bus. “Abeg make una hold una change oo. I no get change oo” The bus conductor chants the universal war song of all commercial bus workers. The ineffectiveness of this refrain is lost to all bus conductors. Passengers perpetually defy them and bring high denominations to pay for a fare of low denomination. This constantly causes a ruckus between passengers and bus conductor yet, with no hope of this feud ever evaporating, the bus conductor still ensures he educates his passengers in a loud coarse and largely irritating voice.
Tope dips his hand into his back pocket as the bus conductor asks him for his money. His wallet is not in there. He moves his left hand to feel his left buttock for his wallet, same result. A little panic creeps into Tope’s heart as he now, with more speed, reaches into his left and then his right pant pockets. “Shiet! I forgot my wallet! And I have no money on me! Shiet.” One of Tope’s major traits is his pessimism, even in the face of bright yellow roses – but not today. Tope feels so high and expectant, he knows he would weather any storm. Today.
Tope rehearses his plea in his mind. He is just about nearly done when the conductor roughly demands his money from him. Tope decides that his key strategy would be to (1) speak good English and (2) make his imploration a high literary English construct – this way, he figures, he would be seen as a respectable man. He looks the conductor in the eyes and says “Oga please I do not possess any paper coinage on my person at this moment in time. I unhabitually disremembered my wallet in my place of abode. Believe me when I attest that this is unbecoming of me and discriminatory amnesia is not a virtue I particularly extol. Please do let me get to my destination despite this palpable neutron in our electron” Tope exhales as he knows he has dispelled a lot of oomph. He now only has to wait for the bus conductor’s positive reply. The bus conductor stares at Tope for a few seconds, mouth ajar, and then suddenly bursts with rage.
“Na your mama you dey curse so! Your marle left nyansh! See this craze man enter my bus no carry money con dey talk big big grammar for hia. In short na God go punish you. For this tin way you talk so, you no go die better death. Come on get down from my bus. Driver owa oo” (Translation: it’s your mother you are cursing. Her left buttock is hideous. Look at this crazy fellow who enters my bus without any fare and then he is feeling proud and speaking contemporary English never before heard. God will deal with you. Simply because of what you said, you will not die a good death. Get down off my bus. Driver stop the vehicle). The bus conductor was livid.
Tope could not utter a word in defense against the verbal abuse rained on him. For some inexplicable reason(s) he did not phantom the possibility that the bus conductor would be less than awed by his rhetoric. Quickly, without thinking of the implications, Tope changes tactics, “Bros abeg no ves. Na mistake I swear. I forget my…”
“Shut up jor” a passenger ventured “You did not plead since, you used big big English to confuse the conductor. It’s people like you that are spoiling Nigeria. You say government is bad yet you are worse. Stupid man. Olosi” Another specific trait of Nigerians is this: everybody on the streets is a politician and has better ideas than everybody in power.
Shouts of get down, foolish man, idiot, son-that-spoils-his-mother’s-name, even new zero-day invectives such as baskalifool and baskaliwag are heard in the bus as Tope is forced to get down along the road with no money on him.
Tope treks down. He is determined to get to his destination – time of arrival is not of grave importance, activity(ies) after arrival – now that is worth thinking of. The sun is shining a little too brightly but he bears it because his mind is stayed on his girlfriend, the love of his life, the lust of this day. Poor guys do not end up with supermodel hot chicks, he is aware of this sore fact yet here he is with a Marilyn Munroelike Lady to call his own. He tells all who are willing to listen that she was the one to chyke him into being into a relationship with her. She had called him up to tell him he was cute and she found him sexy. Her words caused his eyes to rain tears on his face. Rain. Rain. The sky suddenly darkens and the rains come down heavily with such ferocity that within ten seconds, poor Tope is soaked to his draws.
Tope ran at top speed. Six minutes running under thick rain can put out the fire on any sexual aspirations a man possesses. But not Tope. Not today 1st October. He runs with all his might, chest hurting. Unfortunately for him though, a poor athletic form in school did not let him understand the difference between running in sneakers and running in open toe sandals. In a split second of a million occurrences, Tope’s sandal lace cut, his ankle twists and he is sent hurtling forward to bruise his knee and lay sprawling on the wet ground.
But for being a man, Tope would have burst into tears.
Tope is limping in agony along the express way, under the dense downpour – thinking only of the joy that is to come. He could feel his ankle swelling. He has no money to climb the 100 naira okada needed to take him to his girlfriend’s house, not even to buy an umbrella – of which the necessity is long gone. Suddenly, he sees a hospital, Haven’s Place. Hobbling, he gets into the hospital and sits on a bench beside some other people, assuming they were also patients waiting their turn. The chill of the air conditioning got to him instantly and he shivered incessantly. Yet, his joy remained.
“U.S. has recorded its first Ebola patient” says one nurse to another
“Yes it has. Let’s see how they handle it” comes the reply
“I’m sure they will handle it more effectively using a differe…” she stops in mid-sentence. Her colleague looks at her frowning. She stares at her and then follows the direction of her colleague’s eyes. She freezes. There, sitting on a bench all by himself (Tope had not noticed that the other seat occupants had stood up and left his side in a hurry), is a slim man shaking involuntarily. Shaking like it is a symptom to an ailment so deadly it is a taboo to admit a live visitation. Shaking like he is an Ebola patient.
The nurses panic and walk briskly to get help and protection.
Tope finally gets the attention he needs at the hospital. Time is of essence to him. As a result he fails to notice the people wearing the white overalls with plastic face screens strategically positioning themselves around him. His excitement of the future blinds him to the absurdity of the questions he is providing answers to. And then, in grand finale style, Tope arches his shoulders and raises his head and does the unthinkable – he lets out a sneeze. Three white overall wearing men tackle him like professional American footballers. He is bundled roughly and taken into a room where the door is locked behind him and his three tacklers.
“What! What is going on? Why is the hospital treating me like a criminal? Tope laments “Open this door right now you imbeciles. I have a date”
“You are a suspect of the Ebola virus”
“You stupid fools, you are delaying…wait, what?” Tope looks like he has been shot “Eb…Ebola? Me? Waka” he palms his outstretched arm towards the men as he mouths the last word. “Come on let me out of this place. I am telling you that I only came in here to check my sprained ankle. What absurdity is all this!”
“I’m sorry Mr. Abimbola but we have to detain you until at least the head doctor arrives. He is the only one who can determine what happens from here on out” there was a certain finality in their tone that knocked the wind out of Tope’s sail.
Several minutes of wailing, cussing and shouting passed and then he slumps on a chair in the room and asks “When is this head doctor fellow expected to come?”
The doctor did not arrive until 4:00pm
Tope wakes from his sleep at the sound of the door opening. A man clad in similar apparel to the three men who tackled him steps into the room. It takes him only three minutes of questioning and a temperature read to declare Tope is not an Ebola patient.
Tope walks out the hospital after a free medical checkup, a spray of deep heat and bandage around his ankle. He threatened to sue the hospital and the doctor pleaded with him that he did not have a lot of competent staff as a result of low finances, if he sued that would be the end of the hospital.
Well, pissed as he was, Tope’s joy was still not quenched. Sex is an insatiable propellant.
Tope reaches his destination on weary feet. He straightens his top as he uses the knocker on the door. A few moments later the door opens and his beautiful girlfriend stands at the doorway with a quizzical look on her oval shaped face.
“Where have you been Tope? You look disheveled. I have been very worried. I couldn’t even reach your phone.”
“It’s a long story Tinu. I’ll gist you of everything in a bit.”
“OK. Let’s go and greet my parents and their guest in the big parlor. I was just about to go do that.”
Tinu leads Tope by the hand as they walk into the presence of the Gbadamosis.
“Is this Tinu?” a deep baritone voice asks immediately she came into view.
“Yes sir” Tinu replies bending her knees a fraction
“My daughter has grown up to be a fine woman. Praise the Lord. What a beautiful damsel you are. I pray your spirit shines as brightly as your face.”
“Tinu, you remember Pastor Akande?” her father asks
“Yes I do daddy.” She replies with a smile. She then nudges Tope forward and says “this is Tope, my boyfriend”
Pastor Akande surveys every bit of Tope from his hair to the very veins on his feet and then takes particular interest in his facial features. After several uncomfortable seconds he asks with all impunity “Do you two have sex regularly?”
The question throws Tope off balance. He stammers a reply “Erm…we do not have sex regularly. Sorry I mean we do not have sex…we have never had sex. We can not…no…we will not have sex.”
“Good. Because everything is created by God. Sex is good. It’s pleasurable. But you see every manufacturer makes products for specific purposes to be used under certain conditions and God made sex for specific purposes and to be used under certain conditions – marriage. Do not abuse it young ones. Flee from every appearance of evil. Run away from anything that will lead you to sin gravely. Is that clear”
“Yes sir.” They chorused
Tope had waited for this moment for days now. His anticipation began the day Tinu had whispered in his ears “My station is a bit arid, I am giving you the key to come park your Pullman in it.”
After spending time with the parents and the pastor, they were finally left on their own, to their whims and caprices. As Tope opened his mouth to spit the sex inducing speech he had been practicing for a week plus, he heard the most damning words he had ever heard in his life, which would plague him for the rest of his life.
“I am sorry, Tope but we can not have sex.”
Tope watches Tinu march back to her house in silence. She had walked him to the bus stop.
“Shiet! That pastor ruined my day! Are pastors not to give hope? Shiet Shiet Shiet! No nuki for me. Shiet!”
He flags down a bike rider (Tinu loaded him with enough cash to fund a national uprising) as he thinks of the exact website to pour out his pent up thirst through.
Tope finally reaches his house. Traffic jam had elongated his travel time. He hated this day, hated Lagos, hated the fact he did not have a car, hated his house, hated hated hated that pastor that had to give the exact anti-sex talk that would ruin his potential sexcapade and best of all hated his life. He fidgeted with his keys and proceeded to open his burglary. As he twisted the key in the padlock, he felt a presence come close to him. ‘At this time of the night’ he thought. Tope turned to look at the person and instead received a dirty slap to his face.
“OPEN THE DOOR NOW”
Tope has received three more slaps in rapid succession. The two thieves stand in his room and shout roughly at him. It is not long though, that they determine he really does not have money worth taking on him.
“O BOY” says one thief to the other “WE NO FIT WASTE TIME COME HERE NA. WE SUPPOSE GET SOMETHING FOR OUR WAHALA”
They look at Tope cowering at the corner of the room, his head covered by his hands.
“HOW YOU SEE AM? MAKE WE ENJOY SMALL NA”
“I DEY YOUR SIDE GBAMGBA. AT LEAST IF MONEY NO DEY OTHER THINGS SUPPOSE FOLLOW NA”
Tope was following their conversation intently. It made him queasy in a way that was strange to him. If no money then they would gain in other ways? What ways? He refused to think of what he was thinking of.
“YOU GO DO AM FIRST?”
“NO NO, NA YOU NA. NA YOU SABI CLEAR GROUND. YOU KNOW SAY I LIKE AM WHEN THE UKWU DON SOFT LIKE BROKOTO”
“Ah!” screams Tope. He suddenly figures out what they are saying. They want to rape him. “Abeg, brotherlies, abeg – I fit dey drop money for una account for the rest of my life! Please don’t rape me. Please I beg of you. Please” he stops talking for just enough seconds to see one of the men unbuckling his belt.
Tope begins to cry.
“WETIN DEY SMELL?”
“O BOY, BE LIKE SAY THIS BOBO DON TEAR NYANSH OO! HE DON SHIT FOR BODY!”
“WHICH KIN RUBBISH! WHERE I GO KON PUT MY KINI?”
Tope receives three more slaps of enormous intensity as he is saved by his shit.
Tope lays his head on his bed. This was not how he imagined his day. He thought he would be smiling sheepishly at this point – instead he is singing praises and speaking in tongues that confused even angels. This was his breakthrough day?
“Hell no! I will get Tinu another time!”
Sex is an insatiable propellant.