She’s in the hospital,” her voice shivers, “It has started again.”
Oh! This woman would cause me a heart attack. I could feel my blood reducing pressure, from 99 degree boiling point. Mama has been suffering from depression since the demise of her lovely husband. And she would try to console herself with alcohol, especially a dry gin. Three years ago, a doctor diagnosed that depression and anxiety had made Mama develop a high blood pressure, and her consumption of alcohol was even aggravating the symptom. Two months ago, I still visited her in the hospital over this sickness. And she told me she was looking forward to see my fiancee. But Adeola refused to go with me. Mama wanted to ensure that her grandchild was coming soon. Now she’s been taken to the hospital again.
“Mummy, please, take it easy. Are you with her now?”
“No, I just rushed home to pick up some things. Her condition is so critical this time and….”
“Critical?” I voice out in shock.
“Yes. The doctor diagnosed she has taken a hard drink. Her heart is under a severe condition.”
“Oh my God! But I thought Mama abstained from this thing long time ago! So…how much is the doctor billing, Mummy?”
“It’s fifty thousand naira.”
I can hear my voice boom so loud the walls are almost vibrating. Thank goodness. The doors are shut. I’m alone in the department.
“I have only N7, 000,” she says, “she would not be given a proper treatment until we pay up to N25, 000.”
“I…I don’t have more than….”
I’m stuck, my voice heavy like a rock, and it costs me a hard breath lifting words from my throat. Mama’s sickness has been draining me. This is where I spend a larger part of my salary. I really need to preserve her life however I can.
“I don’t have more than eight thousand naira.”
“Eight thousand?” Her voice strains in alarm.
“Yes, Ma. My salary is not even up to the total bill. You know it’s my first year at my place of work. I need to rally round if I could borrow from friends.”
“Please do that. May God help you…I’m also on the run, if I could get more money.”
“Thank you so much for your care, Ma. You shall live long for your children….” I continue to pray like a pastor in spirit.
When I later drop the phone I feel wetness on my palms and forehead, despite the perfect air conditioner. My body is shivering as if drown in iced water. She wouldn’t have bothered me with the bill if her husband had not abandoned her since travelling to the US ten years back. And her five children have to live on the N50, 000 salary earned from her teaching job.
Now, I’m almost seeing a trace of smoke in the air, like my head is on fire. I can’t think straight. I wonder where to get such money. Which friend would ever lend me? Most of my friends live on salary allowance, except for my old school friends who are into fraud. I met one of them some time ago. Before granting my request he said: “Any company worker na high class slave….upon all your big, big grade for school, I no expect say na you go need common 30k, the money wey me I dey use buy cigarette.”
During closing hour, around 7.pm, I can’t still find a way out. I walk out of my department in a cloud of confusion. I have asked my colleagues if any of them could help, all they could offer was sympathies and moonlight tales.
Right now, my pipe is burning under my trousers, hot like a funnel. So I increase my pace as I walk towards the restroom. Along the white-painted hallway, the fluorescents are sparkling over the white tiles. My liquid is almost losing resistance with each pace. My black shoes are giving loud echoes, knocking rapidly in my head like sledge hammer.
To my greatest surprise, the four rooms are occupied. So I begin to match up and down like a soldier, slapping at the wall in each second.
A minute past. No one is coming out. Until I bang the door open?
I hurry out, cautiously looking around like a daylight thief.
I hastily make my way to the ladies. The four closets are vacant. It’s not a big deal. I have caught a lady in our domain before.
Done. I sigh. Glory be to God.
I walk out to adjust my shirt at the wall mirror. While doing this, I’m washing my hands in the basin, twisting on the stainless tap.
Koh-kah, koh-kah, koh-kah….. high heels resounding in the hallway.
I hurriedly lock the tap to escape.
Too late. I stumble upon Sandra and one other lady.
“Oh my goodness… what the heck are you doing in here?”
That is Sandra smiling from the doorway. She seems to have added more flesh to her slim, but shapely fair figure. I don’t think she’s ever facing the kind of war I was fighting earlier on. Otherwise, she wouldn’t dare the patience to interrogate me.
I don’t want to say a word, so I step forward to walk past. She is standing in my way. Her friend is ogling at me with pouted lips, leaving for the restroom. They don’t really mean their waste-downloading business.
I glare at Sandra, my eyes hard like mid-day sun. Yet she wouldn’t step aside. Her pawpaw breasts firmly packed in a pink blouse, pointing at my chest level. What nonsense are you performing when my mother is an inch away from her grave?
“Please, out of my way!” I say in a firm voice. I have distanced myself from her for a week. She has called my phone tirelessly, I wouldn’t pick up.
She is yet proving stubborn, probably trying to seize this opportunity to flirt with me.
I push her slightly aside, stepping out to the narrow passage.
“Yinka, please wait.” she whimpers like a child in pain.
I wave her off, walking away.
“I can settle your mother’s hospital bill. Everything.”
The statement lingers in my head, like leaves in the breeze. Playing and replaying in my mind. My feet become sinking stones. Not moving.
I turn to her.
“Are you serious about that? How did you get to know in the first place?” I ask in a voice so gentle I would have denied I’m directing those words to her. Perhaps, she still has enough from what Mr. Frances has showered on her.
“Anyway,” she crosses her arms, leaning against the wall, her eyes roaming on my face, “I heard from a person I can’t mention. I know you’ve not been yourself since morning. So I had to trace you down here when I saw you pass, since here is private.” She pouts her lips, rolling eyeballs.
“Really?” I lay my right hand on the wall, just above her weave-on, “so, how do I get it?” I begin to feel stupid with each word I utter, but the only sanity is lying on my mother’s survival.
“Not so easy,” she drawls, a naughty smile on her face, her finger pokes at my nose, but I grab it. Yet she continues in a whisper, “You have to give it to me tonight, baby. You are the strongest man I’ve ever come across…I’m dying by each passing moment, for this.” Her left hand is pointing beneath my belt, her body writhing on the wall, snake-like.
Then I push the finger away. “If you want to help, just do. I have no time for this nonsense, gar’rit?” My voice is still low, but hard as granite.
Just then she lays her right palm on my chest. And before I could yank it off she coos to my ear, “I will give you the money right here.” The statement freezes my hand. Now her both palms are rubbing and caressing my chest, “I miss this too….everything about you is large, baby.”
My blood is cold at her touch. I feel nothing. Rather, my ears are alerted for the slightest sound of any approaching feet so I could get rid of her filthy hands. I don’t mind her flirtatious moves, as long as it would be the only sacrifice I must perform to get the money. I keep staring at her like a dummy, wishing I could bury three slaps on her cheeks.
At last, her hands are off there. She sighs like one that just fulfilled all her dreams. “You can follow me downstairs, so we get it at the ATM.”
“That’s so nice of you, baby.” I voice softy, following behind her. I feel a little relieved. Thank you Jesus!
We eventually arrive at the WEMA bank ATM across the highway. In between her right hand hangs a red handbag. I’m standing beside her, watching her fingers on the bottons. I’m having a black folder by my armpit. After getting the money, all I have to do is get a bus at the nearby junction
As she clicks the digits, my heart clicks in accordance: 5….0….0….0… (Finger halts on the last digit)
“But, baby,” she smiles, turning to me, “You know what…You need to satisfy me tonight, else don’t expect this.”
“How do you mean?” I try to control my voice “You’re expecting me to do something with you in a state of distress. How do I perform with passion?”
I wish my trick could work on her. Have I ever performed with passion on her before? All I do is just a lustful exercise.
With this I-don’t-care expression on her face, she rests her palm on her hip. “I don’t mind. Give me what I want. Period!”
I glance around, checking if there is anyone. An old man and a lady are passing by. The avenue is busy with horns and blares of yellow buses and motorcycles.
I bow my head and sigh. Her two-bedroom flat is not far from here. She is no longer a worker in the company, but a disguised whore. Her apartment was actually secured by Mr. Frances. She exposed that to me during one of my visits.
And I never want to associate with this babe again. My mother’s life is worth a sacrifice. Isn’t?
The moment I ask the driver to start the engine, my eyes stray across the road only to find the secretary and Mathew again! They’re right beside the ATM. He wants to get her some money, I guess. His head is lowered before her. They must be waiting for the loading machine.
Is this the lady Mathew is going to marry? She can’t even stand a half of my beauty!
“Baba, please halt the engine!” I almost yell at the driver.
I can feel hotness from within, like my blood is on fire. Even though, my spines are wobbling with painful cold.
Now, his head is up. He stares at her face, uttering the words I wish I could hear. He is probably asking how much she needs.
These passing cars wouldn’t let me see well. I wave my hand, as if to use some magic to sweep all the passing vehicles away.
Motor headlamps and streetlights are glowing on their figures, casting tall shadows.
She is talking to him, his head falls again. What is he thinking about?
What sort of rubbish is this? I curse under my breath. A luxurious bus is parking along the ATM house, obstructing my view.
I ask the man if he could help me call Mathew at the ATM.
They might have left before my car undergoes a U-turn. Otherwise, I would rather park beside them. There is a slight traffic on this lane.
“Baba, wait first.” I say to the man, who is already opening the door. “I think I have his contact.” I rummage through my bag, bringing out my phone.
Good. I’ve seen the contact I copied from his credential.
I dial the number in haste. Three times. Switched off.
Then I plead with the man to get him. He leaves immediately.
Frances will be back tomorrow. This is the right time to tell Mathew about my fake engagement. Perhaps he will regard me in a different way. And if otherwise, I will just entice him. I can’t wait to have him in my world. I wish to establish for him a personal business, which would set a pace for other necessities. All in all, my problem lies on my parents. How would I survive the hatred that is born into a taboo? How do I tell my parents I have been fooling them, and now I’m falling in love with our ancestral enemy?
I heave a distressful sigh. Then look across the road. The man should have reached there by now. The luxurious bus is no longer there. The ATM house is vacant. But the adjoining road in front of it is crowded. People are jostling, pushing, jumping, craning necks and tiptoeing, looking at something in the middle.
Is there any accident? I can see neither the driver nor Mathew. All I can see is a circle of crowd.