On a sunny afternoon at Maryland, Ikeja, next to a restaurant’s entrance door, a writer sat, hunched over his laptop computer, waiting for his order. He had placed his diary and pen on the table.
It wasn’t uncommon to see few cordial people and white-collar jobs older log on to their laptop computers outdoor to process few things. But it was, in the case of a writer.
The world doesn’t recognize writers. They see them as weirdoes, spending a lifetime in solitude for the sake of communication.
Seemingly perplexed, he stared at the blank word processor screen in horror. It sent white, sharp rays into his eyes and punctured his vision. He had no idea whatsoever and started blaming himself for logging on to it—and even bringing it out from its case. Perhaps he should have left it at home and come out light and then go home to write. Or he himself should have stayed at home and watch DSTV all day.
But money doesn’t grow out of idleness.
Ah, he even had a disease more badly than idleness—depression. And because of that, he had to get little amusement to stir himself up.
At 24, Robert Cole had had his BA in English and he knew he was in the easiest career he could afford to be—his passion, but the foundation of that believe was still shaking.
He kept staring still, hoping and an idea will appear from the blue. He was a story writer with few novels under his belt. They had brought him the small fortune he had because of his aggressive marketing and bullheadedness against the traditional publishing method. He used to enjoy writing when the idea kept flowing. He didn’t need to contemplate for words for long before they made their way from his brain through the keyboard and on to the screen. He hadn’t learned touch typing but he could still type as fast as he could.
But he faced the darkest hour of one of his valley days. He had hit a snag. Words are suppose to come naturally, but fiction, with an exhausted idea bank is like being stranded in a desert—the fellow will die in wants and need of everything. In spite of his boredom, he has to think of an idea, bring out conflicts in it and start writing. This wasn’t like a magazine article, as he viewed it, that you could spin out from interview and pictures in minutes. As he thought about his mystery, the waitress approached.
He received his order of fried rice and fish, spiced with some vegetables. He didn’t have the appetite but he knew he just had to eat for strength. He asked the waitress to prepare his bills at once and she made for the counter cabinet.
The restaurant hall was wide enough and different people scattered about, sitting in twos or threes. He was the only one sitting alone. He sat in the right corner of the door and faced the left corner. The door was opposite the counter but they were a great width apart. On the counter was a billing machine with its own automatic desk drawer. You record the payer’s bill and the machine will open to deposit the bill and give out balance. At the back of the counter, different foods lay on trays and bowls and from the inside of the transparent window of the inner room behind the counter, one could see snacks and drinks stored in fridges to cool them.
Rob ate on in silence, the laptop still in his lap and he was careful to not drop any ounce of grain on his diary. He moved his chair forward a little and he was closer to his table than anyone else in the hall. The computer had slept but he didn’t close the lid. Who knows, idea might spring up even while eating. He glanced around the room and saw surprises and puzzlement on people’s faces. Was it because he ate while the laptop was still on his lap? he thought. If that was it, they should go to hell. He wasn’t there for a date or something personally official.
By the time the waitress came back, he had ate what he deemed fit he could manage to eat and had surrendered the tray. The waitress carried the tray at once and almost brushed past him but stopped abruptly. By now, Rob had awakened the system and was staring at it again.
“Are you a journalist?” she asked. Her voice was firm, low and solemn. She didn’t want to appear nosy or infuriate anyone this blessed afternoon.
“No,” he answered, not looking at her.
“I thought you were.” She said, a little disappointed. “I would have given you leads about what’s cooking here.” She laughed moderately and nobody in the hall seemed to notice a waitress at work chatting with a customer. Rob laughed too. “But since you’re not, who are you?”
Rob jerked his head backwards. That was nosy.
“I’m sorry if I’ve been troublesome but wouldn’t you want to answer?”
“Of course, I will. I am a writer. A creative writer.”
She didn’t want to ask anything further but that was surprising enough to invoke another question. “What kind of writing do you write among the ‘creatives’?”
Rob accepted this acquaintance. “Fictive prose, if you understand. Fiction.” He wanted to clarify by adding that he meant those hundred-naira novels under Oshodi Bridge. By that, an average Nigerian would understand. But their familiarity hadn’t gone that far. He didn’t know her beyond the restaurant and her uniform.
She squinted at his computer and gazed at him. “But—“ She remembered she didn’t want to be troublesome but how could she leave this writer to his fate. He knew those writers. They used to be weirdos and they do buck traditions and conventions. She continued after she had sought out the appropriate word. “But you aren’t writing anything yet. I thought as you are a writer, then you should be processing you works if you logged on to your system.”
He planted his head in his hand and raised them up again. What consigns this one with trouble with the letter T? “You are not a writer. You won’t understand.”
“I am and I can.”
“I don’t understand you. Are you a writer?” He hoped she’d be. He had long been looking around, poking into writing websites and discussions on the internet but couldn’t find a writer to align with.
She held the light tray on her left palm and held out her right finger for a gesture. “One of a kind.” Then, she walked away.
Oh, what a shit that was, he thought. It was like taking a spoonful of a chill Coke or Pepsi to him. Everybody knows there isn’t satisfaction in that. What good is taking a drop of water in a scorching sun? Isn’t it kind of a joke? That the situation looked like it was controlled. Robert imagined the mental beverage being seized by an old man, he being a kid and the old man warning, “Little boy, careful! Sugar’s bad.” Whatever! The hell with even diabetes. How he would fight mercilessly for it like he was surrounded by an army of predators. How he would like an endless supply of that juice.
Now that she walked away deliberately, was she angry? Or was she afraid here comes an incompetent, unserious writer? Because she was a writer too. Anyhow she may feel, he hoped she’d get back and befriend him. That defiance in her eyes, her posture, her composure, the assurance in her speech. He’d like to pick them all like a brain.
With abject feeling of failure for the day, he shut down his system, packed his things and moved to the counter to pay up his bill.
The lady at the desk wore no familiarity. Her gaze was pure and her words were business-like. “Yes sir.” She collected Robert’s bill and punctured a hole through its top to indicate he’s paid. The machine flanked open and the lady shuffled through the pack of bills. “We don’t have 200 naira change.”
Robert thanked his chi that something tied him down. The lady fumbled with the scattered notes again in the desk to be sure and swore in disappointment. “I’m coming,” she said and walked to another section of counter to borrow the tiny little paper that a guy in shirt and trousers with expensive shoes, watch and even PC, couldn’t but wait to collect.
Robert would have left the restaurant like he did other times but he hanged on, hoping that waitress would show up.
She did. “Have it, sir.”
He savored the moment to speak with her, get to know her and even have her contact. There were no other payers at the counter. “What did you say about being a kind of writer or so..?”
She looked at him as if angry, surprised and expectant at the same time. “Yes, I’m a closet writer. And once you do the job, you’re a writer. Period.”
Wow, yes. She was right. You can only be a writer when you write regularly. Rob knew someone was close behind him as the figure’s shadow dimmed the light coming through from the door. Rob quickly straightened as if he was ready to go. Then, an idea struck him. “Here’s my card.” Then, he pushed it on the cabinet toward her. She ignored it.
Rob knew he wouldn’t want to waste other queuer’s time but he dreaded for what they thought about his giving his card to a waitress and being ignored. Right. Before. Their. Eyes.
Rob turned toward the door, disappointed and his heart reeling. Instead of looking at his path, he was lost in thought and careened out toward where he sat before. People in the hall thought he needed another bump of meal again. But a bumpy sound was heard as Rob hit his head against the iron door frame and staggered back.
Everyone looked toward his direction immediately. Even the waiters and the customers. The waitress gaped at him but quickly closed her mouth before the excitement of the minute faded away and before the customers looked at her again.
Rob crouched a few inches before the door with his hand tightly held against his forehead. The on-lookers felt sorry for him but no one knew what had caused it except the waitress. She didn’t mind him and tended to the customers as they came in their multitudes to pay up their bills. Several customers which had been in the room since Rob was there passed him by. From outside, the security guard opened the door a crack, looked at Rob, opened the door wider and entered.
“What are you thinking about, man!” the security shouted. “I’ve always known men like you to be puffed up but empty like a balloon,” he added, causing everybody to chuckle of course except the waitress.
The guard opened the door wide for him so that he wouldn’t have trouble with opening the strong door. Robert crouched still, pressing tight on his forehead and later managed to crawl out to escape the shame, though he had shut his eyes tight. The security man went to him outside and touched him on his shoulder. “Man, if you die here, nobody will mind. The economy in naija is too bad for that.” He just left the scene without a word. The security man chuckled loud. And indeed, several pretty ladies he saw in the restaurant were out already and they shared in the amusement, some chuckling with the security, some wearing the widest grin he ever saw.
In the car, Robert felt stupid. How could have pulled that stunt for someone he knew was smart, especially a woman. And she was a writer too, aware of her feelings, aware of her thoughts and the stunts everybody tends to pull at themselves. By his thought, she’d probably tear off the thing and flung it in the air on her way home. Or worse, she could jest about him with her co-workers.
Except on the internet, this was the only writer he had met at random. All he had met were either an antagonist to his career or those who just want to make fun of him.
“So, what will you be doing next?” his aunt had asked after he wrote WAEC.
“I want to write and change the world.”
She laughed heartily in Robert’s presence for the first time, her giant teeth like that of a dragon scaring him. “What do you say you want to be again?” She then mimicked him, talking as if she had no teeth. “I want to write and change the world.” She casted a terrible glance at him. “You’d better think!”
Robert had almost cried.
Another was with a teacher who understood his career. “You’d be a lot lonelier. Almost getting dumb.” At first, that scared him but he has got over its effects.
Occasionally, people gave him comments like: “Have a nice time being a starving amateur”; “Great, men! Would you like to write a primary-four English textbook? I’d like to cut little expenses on my daughter”; “You?! You’re not capable. You don’t have enough vocabulary.”
He had gotten over those numerous ones too but the little moments of depression embedded in him was the actual problem of the hour. There was no one to talk to, converse with or ask for advice. Those on the web are world away—they mightn’t recognize his plight.
Along the busy Ikorodu Road, Rob edged out of the restaurant’s parking lot and headed toward Yaba. The restaurant was located on the other side of the Maryland bridge. As he whirled on, he saw the bird’s-eye of the traffic racing past under the giant bridge. He saw MTN’s advertisement board. When he accelerated the hiill-like bridge and reached the roundabout, the traffic stopped him for people going toward Ikeja and Allen Avenue and the Muritala Muhammed Airport.
Rob was smart in his driving. Although he wasn’t driving a jeep, he was a speed monster. He planned to buy a jeep soon, when Amazon would’ve paid his monthly earning on his books to his account. He’d race on the express with jeeps, trucks, van, and even speed past his stop to preserve his speed monster dignity.
Once he had raced with another speed monster on the express and the battle seemed tight and nobody would win. Rob sped past his stop and fortunately, there was no traffic jam. He raced until he got to Ojuelegba where he saw he had won with utmost invisible trophy. He then turned back and head home. The driver he had raced with saw him not long after and he could still recognize him. The driver gave him a salute for the past winning and he reciprocated it for his not quitting.
As the shade of memory flooded him, he smiled. But he decided he wouldn’t engage in any race today.
When he got to Idi-iroko bustop, he switched to the express lane. It used to be much faster and hardly with traffic jams. He hadn’t got to Anthony, when suddenly sirens and horns were blazing, drivers were yelling. It took sometime before he realized he was the cause, the center of attention. His car had rolled beside the BRT lane and he was hearing an hoof-hoof sound. The BRT lane hadn’t been damaged because though the lane divider was little-heighted, they were strong and made of concrete. He had left the car to careen left and right, and drifted to wonderland. He was on about 200km/h.He stopped the car in time before it could collide with a Range Rover. His little horse had sustained few bruises.
“Get your old iron out of here before we throw it out of the lane, fool!” a driver yelled at him. He ignited the car again and pushed past several vehicles that were being sidetracked for his sake. He didn’t even apologize, knowing he had jammed no one and spoilt nothing. And no vehicle had had any bruise for his sake. This was the second time he had had an accident, although the second wasn’t.
He had to concentrate now and get home to sleep off the day’s insult. The day had taken care of itself. Never had he felt like this before, but he hoped—maybe knew—that the occurrence was a step to another.
When the waitress got home that night, she was weary and unhappy. She had seen the writer turned back in disappointment and knocked his head on the door frame because of her. She felt guilty because she knew he wasn’t interested in her body, her love. All he wanted was someone to relate the weird journey to. She had wanted to cry at the scene when the customers had looked at Rob, but she had quickly dismissed the thought. She would have plenty time to cry it out. She’d have to contact him by all means. Had she given him her card—she winced at that word because she had none—she’d have waited for him to contact. But the ball was in her court now.
Katherine Philip lived at the populated part of Anthony Village. It was a 45-minutes walk from Maryland to her house. She and her parents lived in their own house—a three bedroom flat on a half plot of land.
At 19, she had already finished secondary school for over two years and was employed at the restaurant 6 months ago. People do remark about her fast education, but all that had nosedived. All the younger ones she left in JS3 would be writing WAEC this same year and some would gain admission into the university before her.
When she entered the compound, the dogs were barking and she didn’t even mind them. Being in a cage had incapacitated them and that gave her more breathing space, given her current mood. Apart from today, when she comes from work, it was an usual routine for her to visit the two dogs they had at their cage, release them for a while and feed them on the leftovers she brought from the restaurant. She ignored them today and apparently the dogs were in the danger of losing the day’s care and food because she had brought them nothing.
When she entered the parlor, she glanced first at the clock—8pm, she sank on the chair. Her mom, who’d known her daughter to be with the dogs immediately she came back from work, was surprised to see her sit helplessly, her head against the cushion and gazing at the ceiling.
“What is it, Kate? You don’t look good. Moreover, you don’t act like this after you come from work. What’s happening?” Her mom sat beside her.
Kate sighed deeply. It was all she could do to buy time to think about an appropriate answer that won’t spill the ice. “Mommy, there’s nothing. I’m just tired,” she said calmly, thinking about what her mother will ask next.
“No,” she said and shook her head. “No. You’re hiding something, Kate.” Her words were that of concern and magical investigation. Deep in her heart, she couldn’t stand Katherine being worried. Her eyes began to water gradually like a leaking tap with a hole the size of needle.
Kate sat up when she saw her eyes. “Don’t start that again, mom.”
“I will start. I will start. Since you’re also starting.” She wiped her eyes with a finger and inhaled her absent mucus as if she has been crying. “Now tell me, what is it? Can’t we figure this out alone? I mean, you and I alone?”
Kate rested her elbows on her knee and held her jaw with both hands. She knew her mom was troublesome. She liked to poke her nose into everything. But she had to keep her out of the way for now, until she would need her. “We can,” she said firmly, not looking at her. “But I don’t know when we should begin. But don’t worry, I’ll think about it. Meanwhile, I want you to know that I won’t be able to open the gate for dad when he comes back from work.” She stood up and picked up her bag. “I’m going in.” With that, she made for her room and fumbled with the key for few seconds before the door flew open.
Before she went in, she looked at her mom and said, “And you’ll do me a favor by not waking me up early tomorrow. It’ll be Saturday and I’m not going to work,” and she went it and slam the door.
All the while, her mom looked on in disbelief.
Robert lived at Palmgroove Estate. A little over a year ago, he had built that one-story building with two flat apartments. He stayed in one while his parents stayed in the other. His own routine, like Kate’s, was to visit his parent once he came from an outing. It was an outing because he worked from anywhere. And many times when he was less busy, he’d go over to his parents’ apartment and play.
Robert’s dad was old. A 64-year-old man, he hated cold to the letter. He’d shut the window, shut the door and even the air conditioner. He’d wear head warmer, a khaki outfit and a wool pair of socks, and would still slump on his bed and cover himself with a blanket. Yet, he would still call out to his wife, “Hope you haven’t imported strange, invisible ACs into this room!”
“But,” his wife would usually reply calmly, wearing a puzzled look, “you can see for yourself.”
“’Cause if you try any stuff with me, I’ll double this khaki and blanket!”
Robert’s mom however was the one enjoying her son’s little fortune the most. She had had Robert stuff the freezer with food, her cupboard with groceries. She had the latest ankara, compared to Mr. Cole who just rolled himself up in khaki. She also had a Gulf car, but papa would seldom go out.
Robert had always enjoyed seeing the duo argue and quarrel over small matters. But today was different, he didn’t visit them. He stormed right into his apartment and straight to the bedroom. His mom noticed someone had opened his apartment, but couldn’t believe he didn’t come to them as usual. Perhaps he sent someone home—one of his friends, his mom thought. But Robert never had friends that much. You could pinpoint how many people he interact with. And even if he did have friends, he’d never send any of them home.
Mrs. Cole moved out of their apartment and went to Robert’s. He had locked the gate, the only thing he does when he went to bed. She called his number but it was switched off. She went back to her apartment to report what the day has turned Robert to for them.
His father, on hearing that, began a sermon, just talking, talking, talking. It became boring that she regretted telling him at all. But that matter was too big to hold in one’s stomach, she could explode if she kept it. She thought over her decision and accepted the rattling till the day was over.
Robert sat on his bed, gazing at the thin air and doing nothing, thinking of everything. God was bad. Fate was bad. And if he wouldn’t have anything to do with them for now, ladies were worse. How could that girl tell her that was a pit and still pushed him into it? He felt a strong shudder went down through him at that prospect. He could now fell the lump he had sustained during the morning. He grabbed a mirror from a bedside table and looked at himself. He had become ugly and the lump seemed as if it was born with him. Maybe at noon, he thought, he would go to a clinic. He couldn’t afford her parents to see his injury, even his mom who was an introvert would rattle like his father. And he would end up receiving unwelcomed sermon while his lump grew bigger.
He fingered the lump gently and checked his hand. It had started secreting mucus. But later, he thought. Later.
He rose from the bed and made for the kitchen. The cabinet and sink and cupboards were clean. Robert could never stand piling up dishes for the next day. He’d rather use little and wash them immediately. And for the sake of pests, he maintained few properties, even in the whole apartment. Bachelor life was peaceful but boring. He thought about when he would’ve married and kids jumping here and there in his apartment. He’d have difficulty keeping up with his physical purity. But until then, he would make the most out of the present.
He opened the freezer and poured himself a cocoa tea. He was the only one in his clan who probably consume the stuff. It looked like most chocolate teas—even smelt like them, but its problem was its taste. It was pure cocoa—100%.
One of his cousins had seen it in his freezer when they came visiting on holiday. The poor boy who thought it was Bournvita had scrambled off a fingerful into his mouth, saving the time it would take to get a spoon. He had pulled back from the freezer with a squeezed face as if the taste was from the freezer or that the face squeezing would cure the taste. All Robert could do then was laugh out loud.
Robert found a small ice and held it onto the lump with a headband. It hurt but not as much as puncturing the poor creature.
After the tea, he washed the cup and went back to his bedroom to sleep.
Katherine didn’t sleep when she went in. She stayed up until her dad came home by 9.30pm. She eavesdropped everything her mom had told him. She had told her dad that it seems Kate was— She didn’t hear the remaining words before her father brushed off the matter from her mother, saying she’d be okay and if not, then they’d be able to help her out where she hit a rock. He added, “It’s your job now to learn about her problem and figure out when it’s safe for both we, her parents, and her to find solution to the matter.”
She was mostly glad her father hadn’t taken it upon himself to find out. Her mom wouldn’t be that much of a problem to keep out of the way. But hearing what her dad said set her mind on that her mom would be investigation for her father.
She sat back on her bed and removed the elastic on her hair. She ruffled her hand through it and saw the scattered work she had done in her wall mirror. She didn’t want to shout or slam anything to keep her parent’s attention out of this.
Then she brought out the card the man had given him. He looked older but she knew he wasn’t. Robert. She saw his number and email address. Which one would be faster? And which one will she like to use?
She knew her thought already, but making a choice was the problem. He had to be thinking about her now. How bad she was. How she had brushed him off. How she pretended to have been a writer.
Sure, she was but she hadn’t got published. She had ten stories of novella lent written in exercise books to her credit because she hadn’t a computer. She had always salvaged the first 30 minutes after coming home from work to write and over the months, she had amassed ten stories. She didn’t even think her grammar was worth a reader’s attention, or her stories worth any award.
But Robert can help, she thought. That inspired her the more to contact the man. She was thinking about his injury now, how he managed to knock his forehead on the door frame. She hadn’t laughed and she’d apologize strongly for being the cause.
She picked up her pen and paper. Time had gone already, but she decided to write anyway. She started to write about the day’s event as a fiction. Sometimes, she did wonder what strange life writing is.
Robert woke up around 11pm, sleeping on his belly. He had roughed the bed spread and even displayed subconscious acrobatics. He had slept straight but met himself horizontally.
He felt like lead. His bones and joints were seriously aching. It was after 15 minutes he had laid down without movement that he realized he had to do something, out of sheer willpower. His eyes started watering and the pain became intense. He held the bed frame and managed to turn over. Then he continued gazing at the ceiling and had a nap.
At midnight, he woke, summoned courage and stood up. His face was clear, his vision was bright. But his forehead were aching. His dizziness had vanished. He was refreshed by a 6-hour sleep. But he still needed a shower.
Taking off his clothes seem to take forever but he put them off all the same. Alongside preparing for a hot bath, he was having a reverie of the previous day’s shame and the lady who played on his intelligence.
“Ouch!” he cried out involuntarily. He had forgotten the throbbing lump on his forehead which had grown bigger. The hot water hit it straight and the mucus started coming out slowly but more gradually. He felt the lump with his finger and the creamy liquid stained it immediately. He quickly added more hot water to his forehead. The mucus were coming out generously now, which he thought was a good sign, but it seem new ones were been manufactured as they were being passed out.
After the shower, Robert gave up hitting the lump with the free fall of hot water. The magnitude of the pain accelerated when he stopped the shower so that he turned them back on again. He stayed under the shower for few minutes enjoying the hot water and decided to face the uttermost pain at its worst. He turned off the water and quickly ran to curl himself up on his bed and this time covered himself with another blanket, because the bed spread was flexible.
He lay on his back but the pain shifted to the back of his head. He decided again to take another bull by the horn. Inside his bedside drawer, he fetched a methylated spirit and a cotton wool. He dipped the wool into the spirit and counted—one! two! three!—before applying it to the wound.
He felt another strong desire to cry out but he didn’t. It stung and he could feel it inside his neck—the pain and the odor. The wool was stained of blood and mucus. His eyes began watering again but he held the wool tight against it.
As he re-examined himself and his friendliness, he swore to shed them all apart. He would only be kind when it’s due—or when he thinks it’s due. He swore again that never would the writing life push him to pull that kind of stunt again. He wouldn’t even wink at anyone who claimed to be a writer until he saw hard evidence. This life is too short for worry, for finding intimacy when it’s clearly written on rooftops that: “For this kind of people, you’re just wasting your time.” And even in a country like this, where people don’t value your writing career. They recognized engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., more than a writer.
He rethought about that lady once again. If she ever contacts him and he could see evidences that she was a writer, he’d give her a hell of hard time. Because she would want what he had always wanted too, their feelings would be reciprocal.
He rolled over to his side and started to finger the lump. The tip had formed a crust. Robert began fingering it gently and peeling the crust, feeling relieved sometimes, feeling a terrible sting in his brain the next moment.
Tomorrow morning was an environmental sanitation day. Robert’s mom came knocking on his door, before the day really cleared, till he succumbed. He pulled back before his mom could see his face.
“Good morning, ma.”
“It is a morning,” she replied and came into the parlor. “Come, Robert,” she added impatiently, “what has been hiking on your head…?” she stopped, not because she couldn’t find words but because she saw his forehead. She shuddered severely. “What in the world! You went to fight?”
Robert knew the game was it again. He’d hear little sermon from her and when his dad sees him, he’d hear the big sermon. “You see, calm down—“
“Calm what?” Her eyes blazed in terror. “With your whole head doubled.”
“Wait, mom. I’ll explain but I must go to a clinic first.”
“Explain what happened now,” she said indignantly. She knew Robert wouldn’t fight or strive with anyone. Only if his car wasn’t in the compound will she think that it has been snatched from him. But it was there; he brought it home yesterday. As Robert were finding words to free himself, her mother rose to the window and peeped out. There was his car with few bruises. It was dirty too. Surely, something had occurred.
Robert saved the time to put on his trousers and was putting on his shirt when his mother swiveled to look at him. He ignored her and made for the door.
“Where’re you going?” she yelled, but that didn’t stop him. She ran after him.
Robert thought for a moment whether to go right out of the house before seeing his dad or not. He decided to quickly see him before he went to the clinic. Robert’s mom looked at her son in astonishment. This wasn’t the Robert she knew, the Robert she conceived. Her eyes followed him till he vanished into their apartment. She looked at his apartment. What was he thinking when he left his door open? For her to be a watchwoman? Never. That’s terrible work addition, compared to only looking after her husband. He could pretty much do things himself, but she still performed beautiful job of a finishing touch that gives everything a dazzling, shining look.
She would still want her freedom, her lengthy time in front of African Magic and other interesting channels on DSTV. That accounts for one eight of her day. She still read novels but not Robert’s. She had grown familiar with his style that he could predict what he was going to write, and how all his novels would end. But reading other writers especially amateurs inspired her that she could also write. Writing is something everybody does after all. But that thought had never seen the day, because she’d always imagine it, daydream about it sometimes when she was less busy at night.
Inside, Robert’s father curled up under a thick blanket as usual. Robert began to sweat immediately he entered the bedroom. The windows were shut. His father heard his footsteps and as he was lazy to roll over from facing the wall, he asked, “Is that Robert?”
“Yessir,” Robert said solemnly. “Good morning.”
“Yea, morning,” he said, yawning. “Where have you been?” And before he could answer, he said, “I know I’ve always keep up this request from you every time you came to see us, because I know you were busy.” That was a fallacy. He had been spending quality time with them and there was nothing in his father’s mind that he didn’t know. He could talk from 7am till 2am, if he were so allowed. How could everything not be known about such a person? He instructed Robert to open his drawer and fetch a bowl full of melon seed.
“What do I do with this?” Robert asked.
“Shell them, of course,” he answered assuredly. “You mother ain’t got time to shell while watching that stupid tube all day. Even when she’s not watching, she put them on. Problem is, she doesn’t want to cook melon soup for me at all. So will you save me that headache of shelling that myself?”
He held the bowl of melon seed, angry at his dad for the millionth time, indecisive.
Robert held the bowl high above his head with his both hands and brought it low on to his head. His dad was beginning to behave like he wasn’t right in the head anymore. Robert feared his fate should be like that again. He had just finished eating the same melon seed yesterday. He saw it when his mom was cooking it. He liked it. His tongue was even watering because he wasn’t given chance to eat of it.
What would he do now? Shell it there or somewhere else? Or refuse to and inform his mom?
At that thought, his mom came into the room slowly. “What did he tell you to do with that?”
“Oh, what’s that?” his father answered from the bed.
“Melon. Our melon. Unshelled ones,” she answered.
“What are you doing with them?” his father asked him.
“But,” Robert said, puzzled, “you told me to shell it.”
“Ah! Robert. I didn’t.” he said and shook his head, still on the bed facing the wall. “I didn’t. You saw it and told me you were going to shell it for me.”
Robert and his mom looked into each others faces, Robert thinking of how to help this old man out his game playing and also catch him red-handed in it. He knew that would take behaving like a lawyer. He shrugged, dropped the bowl on the bedside table and walked out. His mom never said a word.
In the car, when he was out of the gate, he was grateful that his dad rolled off the burden off from his head. He knew his mom will have been telling his dad about his face and he’d cook up a theory that he went to fight over money, over ladies. But that was small. He couldn’t stand shelling all that melon.
At the estate gate, they disallowed to let him out because there was a general curfew—the environmental sanitation—till 10am. But to his amazement, he was directed to a clinic inside the estate when he explained his predicament. The owner lived in the estate also, so he’d already be at the clinic which was in front of his house.
When Robert got there, he quickly sensed that part of the front land was used as clinic and at the back, the owner built his house.
The owner saw Robert when he was in the clinic reception and pitied him. He dressed him smartly and Robert got an address, so big on his face. He left there with doubled head and heaviness. Mom will laugh at him. And so would that waitress, if he ever saw her again soon.
Katherine woke up very early. She checked her watch and saw that it was 4am. The light was off of course, but she could view her watch by its embedded light. She had remembered dozing off around midnight. And now was the consequence: she still felt a little sleepy. She wiped her face and pushed back her scattered hair. It would be long before she went to the hairdresser or even any saloon. She wanted to stay in for long without any disturbance and think.
She didn’t want to arouse either of her father or mother’s curiosity about what was with her but she had to have a bulb on. Daddy might be in the parlor, praying or reading. Mommy too might be up, and might’ve started with her chores.
Her room was a master bedroom. The attached toilet and bathroom was an advantage to the solitude she now long for. But she’d have to face the result of attracting her parent’s attention. She listened first for any movement, any cracking or sizzling or ruffling. But none. She could hear her heartbeat louder than when she had concentrated on her thought. So that means mom and dad weren’t awake yet.
She punched the switch and the lightness made her feel dizzy. She closed her eyes for some seconds before she regained it. Then she unwrap herself from the blanket. She had slept in her PJs—a flexible overall gown that was transparent.
She washed her face first and then began brushing to ward off her morning breath. She then boiled enormous water for a hot bath. After the ceremony, she sat on her bed and drew the bedside table closer. She produced her pen and paper on the table, ready, just in case.
The memory of Robert came to her. He hadn’t even known her name. Writers are one crazy bunch of people, she thought. She wooed that man under a few seconds and he was moved that he got a mark home as an evidence of a touch. He’d be nursing the mark by now. Perhaps awake in pain.
The sad thing was, nobody could woo a writer except a writer. She wondered how that thing couldn’t be faked up. At least, anyone could go up to anybody thought to be a writer and tell him or her, “I’m one of a kind of writer.” She thought maybe because seemingly few people were writers, maybe because it wasn’t easily accepted or reckoned with. Or maybe it was just pure hate for the profession that set it on edge but without ever in danger of going into extinction.
The thought about this man she had his card was getting too much. She hadn’t thought so much like that of a co-worker, not to mention an outsider, a total stranger. The thoughts were terrible but they also soothed her. She’d have to think about them anyhow because they had gotten themselves space in her subconscious life, dominated it and transformed it into their own brand. Maybe nature would ask her to pay her due of today’s vigil. And then, she would be free, totally free from those thoughts, especially about this writer. And maybe, she thought, it would still recreate another sleepless night for her and start haunting her. If that were to happen, she’d try with as much might that lie in her to contact him.
Her heart reeled at that verb. When she contacts him, what would she say? Or would he ask her to meet in person to see what the lump had grown to? Or would he be in the hospital by now, suffering from a tumor? Less likely and she prayed her imagination come true. Only then was she justified in her heart that she’s thought good of him.
She stirred herself up and began shivering voluntarily to warm herself when she saw that cold was marching in. Although the windows were tightly shut, the dew could still sneak in and do some number on her. She stood up and started pacing without making a sound, afraid that her step would wake her parents. She thought and thought the more, not for decision making sake, but for curiosity and just engaging her mind. The moon shone brightly through her transparent window curtain and plus the bulb’s lightness, the room looked a paradise.
Kate decorated her room so well that her parents like to see it every time they come into her room. That had kept them coming again and again without realizing it was or ever remembering it. She wished that the decoration wouldn’t draw them in today.
She sat down again. Her phone beeped battery low. She plugged the device and started checking her mail. She thought maybe she should send him a mail but that would be cold and not cordial. She’d call him and apologize and even offer him to see her somewhere. But she wasn’t sure if she was ready.
She held up her pen to write something but the words trailed off. Here was pen and paper. To write was a problem. Here was bed and thick blanket in the cold morning. To sleep was impossible. What kind of life had she put herself into now? Was she one kind of a writer, now that she tried to write but couldn’t? That hadn’t happen to her before, even on the day of that happening, she wrote something.
Something was cooking and she had to quench the cooking fire quickly before it damaged her. She tried watching a video on her phone and caught about an hour bout of sleep. She woke up around 7am again. Life for her was boring. She could hear her mom making plates clatter, the sizzling on the frying pan and the boiling—something. She didn’t know what it was but she knew mom was awake and daddy too would have and almost ready for work.
She opened her door a crack and peered out into the parlor. She saw her dad in a white singlet and an underwear and, though she couldn’t see the kitchen, she heard her mom working there. Her dad didn’t see her; his back was to her.
She decided to accept her fate and pretend nothing happened.
After the environmental sanitation, Robert’s lump had drastically reduced. He had replaced the bandage as the doctor told him. He dressed up and got on the road in his car. As he sped past the estate gate, he remembered how he planned to buy another car—maybe jeep. But that would be when he gets the alert.
As he moved closer to Jibowu to do a U-turn, he was meditating on what he wanted to do on this outing. He will not eat at any restaurant because he had filled his stomach up to the brim. He did eat better at home than anywhere else. That was why he didn’t finish his food at the restaurant the previous day.
He decided to go to TECNO office at Opebi Allen Avenue and then buy some clothing around the area.
The afternoon was fervent like yesterday. Rob started thinking about his school days, how he had nurtured this writing dream that was now responsible for his living. He had joined the Drama Club while in SS1 and had written few drama scripts for them. He couldn’t act well but he did direct the actors on the nit-grit about his script. He understood it and he knew the emotion and the behaviors surrounding the scene.
Robert also loved writing stories. He had even started that when he was in JS. He had competed with a boy in his class about this writing thing though. He had no idea then that much, but he strived and the boy never won. He would steal ideas from textbooks and story books, and nobody had discovered. How that great artist Piccaso was right. Great artist steals truly. He had stolen ideas from even his competitor, changed it and ran with it.
Unfortunately, while in JS3, the boy joined the JETS Club. That was the destination of the boy’s story writing life.
Rob also liked drawing and studying things closely from the heart. Once, he had told his mom that he would be a farmer. His mom tried to convince him that farming work wasn’t that prestigious. He disagreed, all because he had gotten obsessed with Agricultural Science textbooks and had practiced some of what the books thought. He had gone to the backyard of their rented apartment and planted a bean seed. Although the compound was populated, nobody noticed the little boy trying to multiply a bean seed to a thousand. He had went to where he planted it and watered it every seconds, except if he didn’t have the chance or it became obvious that if he went there, someone would see him. The bean plant blossomed for some time with two leaves and died when it seemed to hit the real cemented ground beneath where he had planted it.
He had once soaked some bean seed in water in a bowl and hid it under a cupboard. He had seen a bean seed sort of germinating while mistakenly being soaked in their water drum. And he had seen the illustration of how a bean seed grows. He wanted the bean seed to germinate a little before he planted them. Perhaps they wouldn’t die if he had done it that way. The bean seed brought something like a stalk out and then began to stink. His mom had noticed. His dad complained about the fouls smell the room emitted. Yet, he never confessed. He felt the bean seed was joking with him. Or that maybe it needed time—more time.
Rob laughed from the subconscious and glanced around the car to make sure nobody had seen him. Because they would think him mad. He had once been traveling with his mom and acted the same way. His mom was shocked and he had to assure her he was just thinking of those days.
He was passing under Palmgroove Bridge now. He could see the entrance gate to his estate. He looked to his right and saw the commercial buses. He remembered the days he used to patronize them. They were rough. They talk like hooligans—of course they were hooligans. They drive anyhow, take a one-way route on a two-lane one. They bypass traffic lights and try to bypass traffic jam too by taking the pedestrian’s lane. God only had protected Rob in their hands. His mom would shower prayers of protection on him early in the morning when he had an appointment, and so would his dad.
He farted. That shouldn’t be a problem now that he was alone. He had done that in a commercial bus long ago and other passengers had covered their nose in remorse, gazing around for who committed the atrocity.
“Na so una dey do. Who wan’ confess say na him mess? Abi who wan’ smell every yanch wey dey inside this bus?” the bus conductor had remarked. The black guy never covered his nose. He had fresh air combing through him while he hanged on the bus. Indeed, several others covered their nose in the bus and would occasionally groan or moan or wince if the odor penetrated them strongly. Some who were inches away from the Rob got the smell apparently late. They wondered why those other nuisance passengers were showing reflexes. Some were fanning themselves with handkerchiefs and leaflets and those who held a high-deck novel had no choice but to endure the pain. There was thick heat in the bus, just like a minutes-ago-used oven. Those buses always accommodate 26 passengers, excluding the driver and the conductor. How really hot—and not warm—it would be.
Peter hadn’t covered his nose or fanned himself. He sat beside the window and when he sensed that the atrocity was being discovered, he opened the window wider. The breeze rushed in and those who sat beside him were grateful for the temperature decrease.
He laughed heartily at this one again, never minding even if someone outside noticed him. If his mom had known he would fart in the bus, she’d have cajoled Rob into flushing the gases out with Andrew Liver Salt before setting out.
When he got to Idi-iroko stop, he encountered the usual traffic on the Maryland Bridge and blamed himself for not taking the long but fast route under the bridge. The traffic was moving slowly and he was content. His lump had been decreasing with every passing minute and he’d removed the bandage soon. He muttered inaudibly, complaining about the stupid policemen at the roundabout not favoring his own side. Normally, he thought, the traffic coming from Yaba was much and they should be released in bunch to the freeway that leads to the airport instead of just chopping off fractions and creating a slow-moving traffic.
This traffic was detaining and Rob had always loved speeding and getting to where he wanted to on time. He bought two plantain chips from a hawker and immediately started biting off the sliced, fried snacks that feels like a stick. He however continued to stubbornly bite them and grounding as fast as he could, while he tended to the moving traffic.
He got through at last and raced to Allen.
The TECNO office was filled with different kinds of customers. Some were yelling while some muted and looked at the film actors. A woman complained about her battery running down immediately even though the little brain showed it was fully charged. Another said it hanged and that he had never installed any bit of files into it.
Rob glanced around the room and saw curious and furious faces looking on to the counter. Some stood. Some sat on the cushion, while some on benches. Rob made his way to one of the cushions after securing a number. The guards had cut a button size paper with a number printed on it. That would serve as evidence that he was due to be attended to. He sank on the sofa softly and sighed. He ruffled his lowly cut hair and settled down his backpack. He fetched his laptop from it and put it on.
Faces around the hall were confused. Rob logged on to the word processor and began to think about that waitress. He wanted to cook up a story about her and set her in a tragedy. Maybe if she ever contacts him, he’ll shove the story to her and leave her with guilty conscience. And then maybe she’ll apologize and they will continue their journey as a writer. As a weirdo.
After writing the description about the crazy writer in the restaurant hall waiting for an idea to strike him, he proceeded to add a conflict of a customer conflicting with her. In the story, the customer started yelling and that attracted the attention of others. He complained aloud how the restaurant seemed to have been disappointing him. When asked why he had been patronizing them, he said they only served his desired menu. The manager came out and the waitress had to beg the man and attend to him like a VIP.
That was a laugh.
“86!” the guard yelled. It was his turn.
After washing and cleaning and cooking, Katherine retired into her room. She’d camouflaged her countenance and everything had gone well. Even her mom was easily swayed aside on her quest for truth.
Kate’s father gave her a certain amount of money for upkeep. He used to receive his salary in advance and then the bonus comes at the month end. Kate was glad that she’ll soon get new undies in a couple of hours. She decided to go to a boutique she had noticed at Allen Avenue when she went to buy a phone at Computer Village.
The boutique was modern and it was artistically furnished with attires at low prices. Moderate amount of people patronized the shop because those living within those areas loved expensive commodities. They go for them because of quality and tend to downgrade the cheap ones. Someone had given her a leaflet advertizing the boutique. The respective prices were labeled and it had appeared a good bargain for Kate. People from outside Allen were almost the ones buying from there. Kate used to feel important that she too, of all people, could shop at Allen. She also felt the same way when she shopped at Shoprite. As from the time she discovered the boutique, she never bought clothing anywhere else. They also package stuffs like other shops but prices were only different.
Kate felt a powerful surge of force passed through her. She was troubled until she realized that the writing craft was calling her. She had no choice other than to write.
She also had cooked a story about Robert. Rob had metaphysically landed in the hospital two days after he ate at the restaurant. He was in terrible pain and the doctors were trying their best to calm his nerves and ease his pain. That was where she stopped.
She continued from there. Rob had recovered after few days and he was doing fine. The doctors said he needed a little time to rest, say like three days. During those days, Rob was thinking all the time about her. He had thought how bad ladies were, how she particularly was worse. But after those meditation times, he had usually been writing, about what happened to him at the restaurant. He stayed after midnight just to get those terrible things out of his head. The doctors had noticed he hadn’t been resting as he should and one decided to hold a vigil on him. The doctor stayed in another room near Rob’s and from time to time came peeping in to see what he was doing. The doctor was amazed to find Rob tapping at his computer keys after midnight. At 11, he hadn’t turned on his computer. At 11:50, the doctor hadn’t even sensed a hint that he’d fetch the device after ten minutes. The doctor concluded that Rob preferred to write at midnight because of the calmness. That would give him time to think straight and easily, not minding distractions. Though the generating plant was seriously buzzing, it was meters away and the noise didn’t have any effect. Why not anesthetize him, the doctor had thought. He’d have plenty of time after waking to write and that would help him immensely.
He went to Rob in the morning and told him he’d have to stay longer because he hadn’t been resting. And the worse for him was that he would be anesthetized to force his rest. He was helpless though he had protested. The doctor was firm in his decision. He had Rob anesthetized ten minutes later. Before Rob went somewhere between the earth and the great beyond, he caught the last glimpse of the ceiling and thought about how his writing life was being severed. He wouldn’t write if he woke up immediately by midnight but think and meditate about the waitress. Before he would have been ripe to write he would be anesthetized again.
Rob went shopping at Allen. He didn’t branch at his favorite boutique this time. Those advertisers gave him the leaflet they had given to Kate. It seemed they wanted people to be more aware of their shop and their cheap materials. Rob got in. Some people were already selecting their stuff and he began to examine some too and was walking gradually to the end of the section.
Rob heard giant footsteps at the door and when he turned to see what it was, five hefty guys with masks had banged in. They fired a couple of shots at the air and it pierced through the ceiling.
“Everybody, down!!!” one of them commanded. Rob had seen some other companions of their outside through the glass door and concluded that they weren’t five after all, they were already in for the worse. Everybody in the shop either gasped or whined or wanted to execute a reflex or the other but couldn’t.
A lady screamed and fell flat on Rob and held him tight. Rob prostrated and the lady held his shirt tight and clasped to him. He could feel her warmness and gentle, involuntary caress. It was like romancing. Who would have thought this could happen minutes ago?
“We are not here for you!” another said. “But if you prove stubborn, your captain is here!!” He was talking about the revolver he held. Two went straight to the counter, jumped over it and searched. They produced a big bag shortly and they bounced toward the door.
“Try us!!!” another warned as they took cover for themselves to bolt out. They fired a couple of shots while moving out and evacuating the area.
When they finally left, the shoppers scrambled up and started to leave with their belongings. Rob pushed himself up against the lady’s weight. He grabbed her hand and held her at arm’s length.
“What?” Rob said softly. The lady shushed him, not looking at his face and they left the shop. She was Katherine.
They both entered Rob’s car and Rob drove off toward Maryland. Kate couldn’t mouth a word nor could she look at him. They had met again.
“I’m glad we’re safe now,” she finally said.
“Yea!” Rob replied firmly. “And I got a bleeding to the lump your restaurant gave me yesterday.”
She suddenly looked at him and her mouth went agape when she saw the wound, formerly a lump. “I—I—”
“It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault, was it?”
“I’m… sorry,” she finally said as if the words were loading.
“You didn’t know I would hit my head against the door, did you?”
“No. But I’m sorry all the same,” she said solemnly. She looked away because the wound was seriously bleeding and disgusting. “I got your card but—”
“I said it’s alright. In fact, I’ve— You didn’t offend me. And even if you think you did, I’ve already forgiven you all the same.” Robert couldn’t believe the words that were coming from his words. Was he charmed uncontrollably? He bit his lip and he regained more consciousness and alert to focus on both the road and her. He didn’t look at her. He vowed he would play safely now, not pulling any stunt or embarrassing himself.
Kate pressed her lips together. She knew she should have contacted him. It would have been a reconciling meeting now.
For some time, silence filled the car as Rob drove through toward Ikeja Cantonment. He broke the ice. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Katherine.” She gazed at the sky.
“Oh Katy.” He fetched a cotton wool when he hit a traffic spot and held it tight against his forehead.
Kate gaped at the thin air. “I used to be called Kate. But you can call me that too,” she said softly and on low voice that Rob had to strain to hear her.
“Katy. Kate. They are both beautiful names,” he said as he shook his head from side to side. “And I used to be called Rob too. But you can call me Robert anyway.” He laughed. Kate smiled.
“I am sorry once again for what happened,” she said, more seriously.
Robert sighed and moved the car forward when the traffic moved. “You don’t get messages once, do you? I said I’ve forgiven you. And that is even if you offended me because you didn’t.”
“If I didn’t, why did you embarrass yourself like that? I nearly cried.”
“Tell the truth. You cried in your closet not ‘nearly cried’.” He wanted to know whether she was sensitive because writers ought to. He would pester her till he knows everything possible to know.
She bowed and closed her eyelids slowly in being caught red-handed rather than agreeing. “Yes. I did cry. And I wrote a story about you too.” She began to sob.
Rob parked and consoled her. “I understand you, believe me. I know you would, that was why I asked. No one else could’ve thought of that except writers.” Then he revved the car and started to ply the road. “As a matter of fact, I wrote a story about you too. I mean, not directly you but about what happened.”
She told him she would alight at Maryland and walk home but Rob insisted he drive him home. They talked about their writing life, how it was inescapable and how they were transferred to another world while carrying on their craft. Kate told him that, in her story, he was in a hospital. “Were you admitted in a hospital?” she asked.
“No, but I went to a clinic. Did you also get into a fight with a customer that day?”
“I had to kneel for the man.”
“Then my guess was right. I got it,” he replied happily. “I hit the BULL’s eye.” The emphasis was on “bull.”
They both laughed. Rob asked if she had a laptop or any close device that helped her write.
“No,” she answered sadly. “I still write in exercise books.”
Rob squeezed his face. “I understand. I also once did that. But you’ll get a computer soon, trust me.”
“Because the craft will push you itself. You won’t be able to help it.”
Kate directed him the way to her house. He packed in front of it and wanted to follow Kate in.
“No, no, no,” she said, pushing him back gently. “Don’t do that. My mom is at home and she won’t tolerate it.”
Rob was determined. “Look, I don’t care. Am I dating you?”
She shook her head.
“Then why fear?” he asked indignantly, and then brushed past her. She hurried after him into the compound.
Kate caught up with him and soon led him to the veranda. Rob was reluctant to storm in; it wasn’t his house and he wouldn’t want trouble. Rob sat on a sofa gently when they entered. Opposite the parlor, at the dining room, Kate’s dad sat with his back to them. He knew Kate was back. He rose from the dining table and moved to the parlor.
As he saw Rob’s torso gradually and finally saw his face, he arched his brow and sat down with dexterity and invisible fury. He looked directly and wildly at Rob. “Who are you?”
“Hey, hey!” he said motioning her with his hand. “And where have you been since—since…” He looked at his watch. “Since 1 o’clock?”
“Let’s just be thankful that we’re alive,” Rob said.
Kate’s father looked at him again and arched his brow more. It was evident that his fury could burst out any moment. “Oh, oh,” he said with wide eyes. “Was she kidnapped or what?”
“No sir. I met her at the boutique where she was shopping. Thieves came robbing and I had to take her out of the area before the police arrest her as a suspect.” Kate’s mom came out of her room and watch on, silent. She had been hearing the conversation from the bedroom.
“Couldn’t she walk by herself?”
“Of course, she could. But trekking wouldn’t do that one. There was no bus or motorcycle. And the street was as if it was swept clean of people. Nobody wants to be a suspect. I even had to a speed geek to evacuate the area on time.”
Kate’s father leaned back as if sure the last question he was to about to throw would explode like a powder keg. “So, what has that to do with your bringing her home and following her to her bedroom? The good Samaritan never asked for anything back from the merchant.”
Rob smiled. “Little sir.” Then he gave him a crash course of how he had sat in the restaurant hall waiting for idea to strike; how Kate had attended to him; and how he had hit his head on the door frame. He didn’t talked about how he had shoved his card to Kate and met unacceptance.
Kate’s mom laughed out loud.
When asked how a writer whose life relies on ideas would not have one, he said, “Yes. I do have ideas and I’ve always developed them. I just went out for a holy adventure yesterday.”
Kate’s mom turned on the TV.
“Why did you hit your head on the door on a mere matter of adventure?”
Then he dived on that he had no writer friends and that this was his first time he met a writer at random among the mass.
Kate’s father was surprised. “Are you a writer?” he asked Kate.
“Yes sir,” she answered reluctantly.
“Yes, she has been,” her mom intervened.
“Okay. Okay. What do you want, mister?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to greet you before I go back home. If I don’t, then that would be disrespect. And suppose you caught her in my car today, I know what would have happened.”
Kate’s dad chuckled. “What would I have done? Who knows how many of you do bring her home in their cars?”
“Ah, that’s not me. In fact, I’m only interested in her passion. Writers like to help themselves and that’s all. I have no other things for or against her.”
“So you mean she’s not beautiful and you couldn’t have talked with her were she not a writer?”
“Wait.” His tone was suddenly firm. “What’s with this writing thing you’ve been talking about? Do you think I’ll actually buy into it?”
“People don’t usually buy into it easily,” Rob said.
Kate’s dad looked at her. “What a writer without a computer!”
“If I told you I want it, you will not buy for me,” Kate answered. She began to feel comfortable since her father have been pestering Rob.
“You think I won’t?”
“I understand,” Rob said. “My mom gave me a hell of time with it. Or should I say I gave her a hell of time with it? She didn’t want to accept I will sit at a computer all day, playing with the keyboard for the rest of my life.”
Kate’s dad pointed accusing finger at Kate. “I wouldn’t buy it because she won’t use it well. Look, she hasn’t secured any admission yet, after almost three years she left secondary school.”
“You didn’t know, I suppose. If you had, you would. I didn’t secure any admission until I was 19. And I left secondary school when I was 15.”
They all flinched.
“And when I was 17,” he continued, “I got my first laptop from my mom. You would have thought I was being pampered. But for the next two years I stayed at home, hunched over that monster, I earned bountifully enough to cater for my whole family. My mom had to push me to write JAMB when she realized I was making money and losing interest in furthering my education. She bought all the registration forms herself, behind my back. I was hooked in before I knew it.”
“That is to say?” Kate’s father asked.
“That one can live happily and in luxury without education—or before getting those papers. I am a living example.”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible for our daughter, is it not? Her grammar is absurd.”
“That is what I’m interested in—insanely absurd grammar.”
“For what? To do what with it?” her mom asked.
“To refine it. Gold passes through fire, don’t you realize?”
The couple still didn’t buy the idea. They kept silent.
“I just want to see her achieve dreams, write books, change lives and earn legally.”
“Getting book deals with publishers is very hard. It works with connec-tion,” Kate’s dad stated.
“Well, how would you like her to receive a monthly checks of over a thousand dollars on her books? I could co-author a book with her.”
“Co-author?” the parents said in unison, stupefied.
“We could write books together. That’s what I mean. I already have some best-sellers on Amazon.”
“A-ma-zon,” they said slowly, again uniformly. Kate smiled.
“Oh,” Rob said when he realized they didn’t know the online retailer. “It’s a bookstore on the internet.”
“A bookstore on the internet?” Kate’s mom asked. Were it not that she asked the question alone, it would have been sort of a comedy. Everything Rob said was new and they were curious to know about them.
“That was only what I am interested in,” Rob reiterated. “I am Robert Cole. Mother Cole will be waiting for Son Cole anxiously now. I have to go.”
“Ah,” Kate’s mother said remorsefully. “We haven’t entertained you yet. What would you like to eat?”
Kate’s father sat anxiously waiting for what Rob would say.
“No, I can’t. Mr…?” He looked inquisitively at Kate.
“Philip,” she said quickly.
“Sorry, Mr. Philip, but that is another clear evidence of what I am interested in. I only asked for her first name just to be able to address her.”
“I see,” Mr. Philip said.
“Tell me, good son, what would you like to have?” Mrs. Philip asked.
“You persistence is like asking a horse to jog. He doesn’t know how to.”
“Are you angry with us?” Mr. Philip said.
“Oh, no!” he said, shaking his head. “Can I have a sealed bottled water then? If that is what would quench your imagination.”
Kate left for her room while Mrs. Philip went to the kitchen to get the water. Mr. Philip looked pityingly at Rob.
“You talk like a woman and I pity you for that,” he said calmly and grabbed a daily.
“What makes you think like that, sir?” Rob asked softly in the same pitch Mr. Philip had used.
“You talk too much. And there’s fear in your words.”
“But,” Rob said, “if I feared, I won’t have come here, into the lion’s den.”
He was right. He was fearless and brave and respectful. He had charmed both he and his wife. And God only knows if he had not done so for their daughter. That could be why he did all the talking and Kate did little or none. He could be planning venomous things and he would have to watch out for Kate on how she deals with this writer. If it was true that writers die a pauper, where did he get his fortune? Did he have any fortune at all? Or is he involved in internet fraud and hiding under the shadow of being a writer? For a woman to be a writer, he thought, it’s irrational. How could a woman stay at home all day, as Rob had said, hunched over a computer, playing with the keyboard? Maybe that was why Kate did use her privacy that often. And her mother knew, she couldn’t even inform him. He would have a serious talk with her when Rob leaves. And with Kate too and ask her where she inherited this writer stigma. Doesn’t she know she should be interested in getting admission? Come to think of it, this man was a university graduate and she a common school leaver. What if she was impregnated by this fellow? How would she suffer in his house? He wouldn’t want to disapprove her marriage if it happens. It’s high time he talked sense into that little, yet-to-understand girl, that life was dangerous and that risk abound much that you have to go for the little ones before the bigger ones. Going to the university is a risk—how could one be sure of graduating with a first-class degree or any good degree at all? If one didn’t go either, one stands a chance of resorting to menial jobs that doesn’t befit mankind.
The TV new update caught the men’s attention and when Mrs. Philip came with the water, she joined in the amazement. The news had captured the robbery executed at that boutique. They saw clearly the catastrophe the hooligans did to the door, the ceiling and how they beat the security guard to a coma. The man had been rushed to the General Hospital, Ikeja.
Rob knew it was those who were outside that assaulted the poor guard. He opened the chilled bottled water and drank little. He looked at his watch and suddenly became business-like. “I have to go. And thanks everybody for the reception you gave me.”
Mrs. Philip went in to call Kate to see him off.
“Be careful!” was all her dad could say to her before she stormed out. She was glad her mom came to call her to see him off. She needed to give him her contact so that even though he won’t be able to come to her house again, they would communicate on the internet and through calls.
Rob had reached his car and opened the driver’s seat. He held on to the door waiting for Kate to come out of the gate—or never do. But he hoped she would.
When she came out finally, it was clear she was on a run to catch him. “I’m glad you’re not gone yet.”
“Yea.” He held out his phone for her and she grabbed it. She already knew what was to be put there.
“Your dad said that your grammar is absurd,” he said, pending when she would end punching in the numbers.
“You could help, wont you?”
“You’re the one helping the most, Kate, so as not to re-hit my head against the door again.” She gave him back the phone. “I’ll call you. And your grammar needn’t much vigorous refining. You can speak basic English and that’s all you need to get started.”
He revved the engine and sped off. Kate watched as his car vanished into a corner. She may never see that guy again. On the other hand, if the internet and telecommunication still exist, only death and another terrible thing could separate them. She wasn’t sure of it but she knew she would contact her again. And the contact will not be that of reconciliation or engulfed with fear. She would be free and moreover, may be on her way to earning from her passion. She hurried into the compound.
When she got back in, her father was waiting for her.
“Come here, Katherine. We have to talk.” He only called her by her full name when something serious was germinating.
Kate knew her chance of bypassing today’s rebuke was slim. She had brought a boyfriend into my house, under my nose. What would she be doing next? Bring them in in tens to her room to commit whoredom? She knew her father could and would have thought like that. She went to him.
“What nonsense have you been doing this time around, Kate? Eh, tell me! First, you bought an expensive android phone. And now, you brought in the one who bought it for you, right?”
“No, daddy. I bought the phone myself.”
He wasn’t biting her excuse. “Tell us you wanted to get married and we will easily and freely give you out without a dowry. What will you gain from stealing your own yam behind your back?”
He went on rattling and showing her that his thought was coming to pass gradually. He touched on his own university days when he had lost his father and his mother couldn’t take care of him as she should because she couldn’t afford the luxury.
He found a lady in the campus, a little older than he, who cared much for him. She carefully listened to him on difficult matters. She helped paid his fees in the school. Sometimes, she would buy him provisions and foodstuffs and give him pocket money. Little did she know that she had her own plan.
She bought him a handout he couldn’t buy one day and brought it to him past 10 in the night. There was a riot after she came to his room and she had to stay for the night. She had freely undressed and put on her PJs as if nobody was in the room.
“Did you also bring along your pajamas with the handout?” he had asked after she put it on.
“I do go everywhere with it. It’s in my bag every time,” she replied.
Although Mr. Philip was becoming aroused, he fought the urge and prayed the time just roll over, or that the sun should just appear suddenly. He slept on that thought after some time. As a man, one could think that a man only rapes. That was a blatant lie the following morning. He woke up to feel a heavy load on him by 5 o’clock. Opening his eyes, he saw the lady draped over him, fully awake and nude, and he covered them both with the bedspread. He began sweating because he didn’t take off his clothes the night before—you know, just to assure a lady he was up to nothing. He had even thought her behavior was a test she expected him to pass. He did, but look at him now under the heavy frame of the lady.
The lady was hefty than he was and he couldn’t groan comfortably. If he did, only the ants would hear. She had shushed him and began threatening.
“I’ve been telling you this since I met you, I thought because you didn’t have money caused it. Now you have, I told you with my eyes, legs, mouth and even my attitude. Yet, you’re not showing any reception. You think you can eat my money and dump me for another lady?”
He couldn’t talk and she didn’t want him to either. “So, just co-operate,” she had said. Then she began pounding her like a man would do a woman and didn’t allow him to voice anything out whatsoever. Sometimes, she had stopped and clasped him tightly like she wouldn’t let him go.
“Will you do the deed?” she had asked. And when he managed to shake his head, she began her pounding again.
He had missed the day’s lecture. What if he had an exam that day? The lady had battled him strongly but couldn’t subdue him. If only he hadn’t been manly, she would have forced him into what he never planned to be in the next couple of months, or maybe a year.
And that was it. He told Kate if a lady could act to him like that, how much more a man? He told her the basis of relationship she should have with him and then dismissed her like the soldiers do on parade ground. She thanked him and went looking for her mom. She had retired into her room immediately Rob left. She used to take afternoon naps and sleep little in the night.
She went into her room to have her siesta too. She had had a message on her phone and it was from Rob:
Hello, Miss Kate. This is Robert Cole. I’m sorry to disturb you but I didn’t have your email. I sure have some files and mails to share with you and emails would be the safest way to receive them.
And how’s your parent? Your dad is one hell of a perfectionist. Will he monitor you till you get married? But honestly, that’s good. And I think it best to listen and obey them always, even if it’s about me. Because as you know, I’m only interested in your career. And can I add that people like your father are rare. Some might have lashed me out of their house on learning once they see me, but your dad wants to learn and study what I do before he acts. And I know he’s looking out for my next action, which he expect to be as courageous as the one I just did a little over an hour ago. I’m sorry to say I won’t cross his lane.
What about your mom? She’s a dear, man! Did you see the robbery scene we were at on the TV? She put on the TV when I was there and I’m equally happy that no trace of us was seen on the TV. I knew if we had waited a seconds more, the police would have met us there and delayed us till the press arrived.
Greetings to your parents again. I wonder how it would look like if you come to visit my parent. My dad’s troublesome and my mom seems poky. They’ll make a great fun for you if you come anyway.
Ah! so much for my epistle-like message. Greet everyone. Rob.
She turned on the TV and the news covered the robbery also though it was broadcast over an hour ago. She quickly typed him a short message:
Hi, Rob. I saw your message. Thanks for your understanding. I’ve attached a text file containing all my contacts. See ya, Kate.
She had nearly fall asleep when she punched the send button.
Rob had become a regular customer of the