By James Ogunjimi
Kunle whistled loudly as he got dressed to go to the airport. He was a happy man. He can now safely put behind all the queer looks and sympathetic glances that had characterised his marriage to Deborah. He was a father; though not a child born by Deborah, still that news, rather than unsettle him had lifted his spirit.
He had met Deborah at a Guarantee Trust Bank trainee program. She was this quiet young lady whose smile had held him spellbound and changed his life forever. Two weeks after meeting her, he took her to meet his parents. After the kind of life he led as an undergraduate, they were more than eager to accept anyone that would make him ‘settle down’. Despite Deborah’s tribe and the repulsion his parents held for them, his parents had accepted her into the family. Even his sisters who had high standards and who had a habit of thoroughly scrutinising his ‘flings’ in the past, had fawned over her.
The two families had met and a date had been fixed. Exactly three months after he met Debby, they had gotten married at a Baptist Church, even though Debby’s parents attended a white garment church. After his marriage to Deborah, they had agreed to wait for a year before they start having children. After the one year, they had started ‘trying’ to have children but nothing was happening. Sometimes, Debby would vomit in the morning and he would smile and nod only for nothing to happen.
Three years on, they had started getting queer looks. They had gone for tests and the doctor had said there was nothing wrong. They had visited specialists and they had pronounced them medically fit. Then Deborah’s parents had gone to their woli to make their marital challenge a prayer request. Woli had allayed their fears and anxiety and had promised to ‘go’ on a 7-day dry fasting and prayer for them. After one week, Woli had called Debby’s parents and told them that her husband, Adekunle was the one with the ‘fault’.
When they told him, he had showed them the medical reports from about eight specialist hospitals declaring both of them fit. They had shut him up and told him that Master Jesus was more knowledgeable and qualified than any earthly specialist. They asked him to follow their woli to a river where woli would wash his manhood with holy water and Jerusalem soap, after which at their next ‘try’, it would result in triplets; he had refused. Since then, word had spread round that Brother Kunle could not ‘do’. Her parents had seen him as the obstacle between them and having grandchildren.
Two years later, he had just returned from work when his phone rang. He looked at the number; it was a foreign number. He answered the call, a female voice spoke from the other side.
“Kunle, good afternoon.”
“Afternoon.” He replied. He paused, then asked, “Who is this please?”
The person at the other side laughed. “That is just like you, Kunle. Use, dump, and forget, right? We were together for how long, and you can’t even remember my voice again? It is so like you.”
The name came like a flash; he remembered her then. Only one person talked like that, only one person laughed like she did, only one person knew him the way she did; the memories came flooding. They had a minor argument, the kind that was settled in the evening with relunctant apologies and playful slaps, followed by hot lovemaking. But for some reason, she had left and never looked back. He had waited for her to come running back into his arms; it never happened. She had changed her phone and changed her house. He had tried to reach her but it was all efforts in futility. And then, just like that, she was on the phone, talking to him. He didn’t know what to think, didn’t know what to say.
Then, “Ibk, how are you? What a pleasant surprise!” He said, finally.
She laughed again, “Adekunle, I am fine. How is life?”
He smiled and replied, “We thank God. But I’m sure you didn’t just call to ask how I’m feeling. Cut to the chase, what’s going on?”
She sighed. “See, don’t take what I want to tell you the wrong way o. It’s informative; it’s not supposed to put any pressure on you or make you feel obligated to take any step.”
He had become interested. “Ibk, will you say what you have to say and stop the drama!”
“Patience has never been your strong virtue, has it? Ok, you remember the last night before our big fight?” He said yes and she continued. “You remember we made love that night?” He replied in the affirmative again. “We didn’t use protection that night, remember? I was supposed to get pills the next day but amidst all the anger over our fight, I forgot.” She paused.
Kunle was hooked now and was angry that she stopped, “Yeeees, go on nah. What now happened?”
She shot back, “Don’t raise your voice at me mister; I was trying to catch my breath. You better behave or I’ll end this call.”
He apologised, “I’m sorry, please go on.”
She continued, “The result is that I gave birth to a boy; your son. He is five now and I just thought you should know. I don’t expect anything from you or want you to do anything about it, I just want you to know…..”
He wasn’t listening again; all he heard was “a boy, your son”, and it kept on ringing in his head.
He listened again, she was still talking, “I don’t expect you to take any responsiblity or accept to be his father, but I just……”
He interrupted her, “What?!. No, no, no, I totally want to be responsible. I am his father? Then let me be just that.”
She had been surprised at his quick response, “Wait, what of your wife? Won’t she feel ‘somehow’?”
He had fired back, “Leave that to me; the story is a very long and complicated one. Just let my son come and visit for maybe a week. Please.”
They had argued back and forth, but she had agreed to let the boy visit. She would take him to the airport and he would be at the airport in Nigeria to welcome him.
Today was that day; his son, an evidence of his real self, a proof to his detractors that he wasn’t impotent, was coming; his flight would arrive by 6pm.
But he had to take care of some ‘business’ first, at the airport too. An old acquaintance, Frank had called him that morning that he had to ‘hit’ someone. As an undergraduate in OAU, he had belonged to the Black Axe Confraternity. On one occassion, members of the Eiye Confraternity had gone to Frank’s house to look for him; he wasn’t around. They had ‘dropped’ his fiance to send him a strong message. Frank had discovered that the name of the person that led the ‘squad’ to his house was Wese, and had vowed that no matter how long it took, he would take away Wese’s loved one too.
Frank had gotten news that Wese’s son was coming to Nigeria to see some relative, he really couldn’t remember the relative and didn’t care; and had called Kunle to inform him so that he could ‘drop’ him. Although Kunle had left that kind of life behind and didn’t like the idea of killing a child, he couldn’t say ‘No’ to Frank because on so many occassions, he had owed his life to Frank. That morning, Frank had called to inform him that the boy’s flight would arrive by 2pm, and that a taxi had been arranged to pick him. Kunle was to go as the cab driver, pick the boy, drive him to a bush, and kill him there.
He was happy that since his own son’s flight was 6pm, he would have enough time to handle the business and be on time for his son’s arrival.
When he got to the airport, he saw a driver waiting beside a cab with a cardboard that read “Kunle”. He smiled and thought to himself about the irony of him, a Kunle having to kill another Kunle today. He greeted the man, gave him N5000 naira and told him that he was Kunle’s father and he would pick his son himself. The man had collected the money, thanked him and left immediately.
Kunle then held the cardboard and waited. Finally, a short and stocky boy came out and was looking around like someone lost. He wore a Chelsea fc jersey top and a black jean. He saw the name on Kunle’s cardboard and walked towards him. He said “Hi” and asked him why it was a jeep and not a cab that was picking him up. The boy talked too fast and there was something about him, those eyes, they reminded him of someone; maybe it’s his mother’s, or maybe it’s one of the numerous flings he kept back then.
He smiled and explained to the boy that a special taxi service was in town that used jeeps for comfortability of their clients. The boy had nodded and said “oh-kay”.
They had been on the road for about 10 minutes when he veered off the road into a bush. The boy asked where he was going, but he only scowled at him and drove on. The boy started screaming at him to stop, he slapped him and told him to shut up. Then he stopped. He ordered the boy to get down, he refused. Kunle went to his side of the car, opened the door and dragged him down.
As he brought out the gun, the boy’s eyes grew wide. He begged him with tears flowing freely. He looked at him, those eyes again; they reminded him of someone. His phone rang, it had been ringing since but he decided not to pick. He ended the call. He cocked the gun and shot the boy, first on the leg, the second bullet went into his stomach, as the boy clutched at his stomach, he shot the third bullet into his chest, and the boy became still. He was dead. He moved closer, pushed him with his leg to confirm if he was dead. He got into the car, reversed and drove off.
As he drove on, he picked up his phone to see who had been calling him since morning. He saw that he had 40 missed calls and 8 messages. He checked, 37 of the missed calls were from a foreign number. That should be Ibukun, he thought. He was about to call back when the number called again.
He picked, “Hello.”
The person was shouting, “Kunle, how difficult can it be to pick your call? I have been calling you since morning.”
He apologised. “Ibk, I am very sorry. I have been very busy.”
“Very busy? You should have told me that from the beginning. I didn’t beg you to let him visit nah. Anyway, have you picked him up?”
“Picked who up? I thought you said he would arrive by 6pm, it’s not yet six o’clock nah.”
She had shouted, “Ah! Didn’t you read the messages I sent you?”
He parked his car. “Ibk, let me call you back, please.”
He remembered that he had asked for ‘gists’ about her, her family and son last night. She had obviously sent the gists but he forgot to read them.
He opened the first message, that one was sent this morning. It read: “Gud morin Kunle. Been calling u since, bt u ar not picking. His flight has bin changed o. He wil nt b arriving by 6, it wil now b 2pm. Pls be there early o.”
What!!! He read the other messages about her family. She had moved to the US after their breakup. After a year there, she had met a drug dealer who claimed he had turned a new leaf. Her son was a year old then and he had warmed up to him. They had gotten married but he didn’t want kids. People had assumed her son was his’. Her husband’s name was Wasiu; fondly called:
She had explained in one of the texts that unlike him that supported Arsenal fc, his son loves Chelsea fc so much and would be wearing their jersey for his visit to Nigeria. She had written in the last message that while his son was ‘fat’ like him, he had her height and she named him after him:
His hands were shaking; by the time he read the last message, the phone dropped. Ibukun was calling, he just switched off the phone and drove at a high speed to the place where he killed the boy. When he got there, some ants were crawling there already. He moved close to the boy, turned his face up and shook him. He saw it then, the eyes; he had his eyes. He shook the boy, but he was long gone.
He got into the car, drove like a possessed man. The tears flowed freely. His son, his last salvation, he had killed him with his own hands. He couldn’t face his wife, neither could he face Ibukun.
As he neared the express road, he didn’t look at the road, two trailers were coming, one was trying to overtake the other; he rammed his car into them. As life seeped out of him, he remembered a quote he once read: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”