In the polythene factory, his duty was to arrange the polythene for the machine to cut into the required specification. The manager had earlier introduced him to the factory supervisor. There were two batches – the morning and evening shifts.
In his batch, the workers were fierce looking. The supervisor told Ndu to feel at home with the workers. They were in full production; from raw material, film extruding machine, printing through flexographic printer to ensure ink sticked to the film, and final production of the polythene bag. The finished products were packed in the sales section, and thus continued the circle.
While production was in progress, a scuffle ensued between two workers – Masa and Beko. It was about who should assert authority over the other. The supervisior warned both of them seriously should the incident repeat he would have no option than to have the manager fire both of them. Ndu was not indiscreet in his duty however, he was cautious not to incubate into the characters of some of his co-workers
Two months had gone. The wages paid to him was only enough for his basic necessities. The spare time he had was used in searching for a suitable job. Life for him was becoming an uphill task. He was thinking if he should pick his luggage and head back home instead of languishing in the metropolis.
When the academic staff had not gone on strike from their disagreement with the junta, on campus, he was amongst the highest pointers in his department. He had a female friend, Echi. She had kept her bag on the shelf of the University library in the lobby when Ndu entered and caught her attention.
“Excuse me, you look familiar,” she had said apparently. She was beautiful in her dark complexion and slender figure.
“You look familiar, too.”
“Did you attend Amah High School?” she asked hysterically.
“Yes, I did.” Answered Ndu curiously.
Now both had suspended going into the library and had gone out of the lobby to acquaint themselves.
“What’s the name?” he asked.
“Echi,” she responded enthusiastically, “and you?”
“Ndu is my name.” He revealed.
“You were one of those who played against my school, St John where you score the winning goal against us.”
“You have a retentive memory, you know. That was a long time ago,” he said and digressed, ” so tell me, in which department are you?”
“Economics department. I am in 200 level and you?”
“Mathematics department. I am pleased to meet you.”
“Me too.” She said.
“Where are you staying?”
“Malaika Hall, and you?”
“I’m staying at BQ024, off campus.” He said.
They scheduled to meet the next day by five pm at Malaika Hall.
The anticipated meeting that evening was splendid. They had gone to a suya joint on campus, that had a thatched roof where potential customers reclined to savour their suya with soft drink. Mallam Uthman – Mai Suya was number one on campus. Ndu had his coke soft drink while Echi went for fanta. The thatched roof evoked a nostalgic feeling in him.
“I never for once thought I would meet someone from home here. I mean, this far North,” Echi had began in a silky voice.
“You can never tell. You know, this world is a small place,” he sipped his coke , “How are you coping in your department?”
“I’m having a bit difficulty with some mathematical problem,” she was heard saying.
“Well as long as I am around, I don’t think that should bother you much. At least I can be of help to put you through.” He assured her of his readiness to proffer a help. The suya was washed down with the soft drink. The evening breeze was cool and calm.
“Shall we?” he implored with a gesture.
“Yes, we shall,” she responded with a node of her head as both stood up. He paid Mallam Uthman as they walked down the road and flagged down two motorcyclists.
“BQ024,” said Ndu as they drove off.
At the place, it looked like a deserted area due to its remoteness. As they made towards the door, there were these words written in bold letters on the door: ALUTA CONTIUA, VICTORIA ASCERTA – Portuguese words popularized by freedom fighters of the erstwhile Portuguese colonies in Africa. They crossed the threshold.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” he said.
“Do you stay here alone?” she asked.
“No. I have a room-mate.”
The room had a blue carpet. A foam was lain down on it without any cabinet bed. On the white painted wall, was a piece of black cloth, square in shape with a white inscription and tapestried depiction indicating a figure flying skyward: EERF. She desired to know the meaning, but he could not offer her a satisfactory explanation. It was his room-mate’s, John Bull’s handiwork. Ndu had told him many a time to remove the cloth, to no avail.
There was a time Ndu had followed John Bull to Jos where he hailed from. They had left Apata for Woshe to see a friend of John Bull’s. Woshe was located around the National Library. Down town in Woshe, where few bars stood, people went about their business. They had gone to see John Bull’s friend, Dijoy.
“B-U-L-L. Long time, no see.” Dijoy had called out as they duo approached closer, “when did you enter town?”
“Today. Happy to see you. I was thinking I wouldn’t meet you at home.” John Bull had said smilingly.
“It’s not been quite long I also came back from school.”
“Meet my friend Ndu. He’s studying Maths and he’s also my room-mate. Ndu this is Dijoy a student of Middle-Belt University. He’s studying Law.” John Bull said.
“I’m pleased to meet you,” Ndu shook hands with him.
“The pleasure is mine,” Dijoy paused and continued, “guys let’s go down town.”
The weather was cold as evening was fast approaching. The trio set forth down town, and stopped by a stall and bought three small bottles of Dark Sailor to warm the body. And they began to sip. People moving about their business. Where they stood, a joint opposite sold palm wine. Ndu was surprised to see palm wine up North. He decided to have a sip and discovered it was different from that obtainable in his home town. He prefered palm wine tapped with ‘nche’. Some people could be seen around a particular woman spreading pepper on, and wrapping, some stuff she handed to her customers as she received her money. It was quite a sight, and the drama lingered for some time when Ndu inquired from John Bull about the spectacle. Then, he knew it was a special kind of meat they clustered round her.
As the trio were still sipping their hot drink, a woman of middle age emerged from a corner where she was sitting and made towards a particular man drinking away the evening in another corner inside the joint. The trio of Ndu, John Bull and Dijoy could see both of them very vividly as she startled everyone.
“You this man. You don’t want to buy me drink, huh?” she was heard saying, “I have been watching you all this while and you’re only drinking, all alone.”
“Na by force? See me see wahala oh,” the man said.
A waitress made a gesture at the woman that she leave the bar. Then, as she was about leaving, someone else, another man bought her a drink. And the evening for her was a battle won as she was seen walking down town lackadaisically to her home.
As the night was falling, the trio decided to head home. On their way home, a woman was frying akara, the bean cake by the road side; and there stood some lads arguing.
“We have paid for those akara,” One of the lads said, “don’t dip your hand into them.”
“What about it?” returned the other.
“Look at this fool!” uttered the former.
Instantly a scuffle ensued. The lads’ friends rushed to the scene that was forming. Someone ran towards a shop opposite the scene and took an empty beer bottle and smashed it on one of the lads’ head – SMASH!
The crowd was no more, as they did not know where the smashed pieces of bottle came from. Everyone disappeared from the scene. Ndu came out of retrospection.
Light was on as he turned on the radio. A coincidence occured as the FM stereo was playing rhythm and blues music by a popular American artiste. Echi sang along with the radio.
“I like the song.” She whispered.
He was now holding her in his arms and tenderly to her bosom as he pecked her on both cheeks. Then pasted a kiss on her forehead, her eyebrows, her lips passionately. Trailing down her neck, to her shoulders, he cuddled and caressed her soft, smooth breasts. She was not resisting. Now, they were in bed as he kissed her cleavage. He slowly set her legs apart and rode in gently, smoothly as she caressed his back, dipping her finger nails.
“That was cool…” she was interrupted by his words.
“Come and lie with me,” he whispered.
The lay in bed for some silent moment.
They had fallen asleep when a knock on the door woke them up from their slumbers.
“Someone is knocking.” She said and rushed up to wear her dress. He put on his clothes, too. He made towards the door as she tidied up the bed. The door was opened. John Bull came in.
“Young man, it seems you have been sleeping?” he asked indifferently.
“You were banging at the door.”
“I needed to make sure you were in. You weren’t forthcoming.” he said and caught a glimpse of Echi, “Hello.”
“Hi.” She responded.
“I’m John, Mechanical Engineering. My friends call me John Bull.”
“Echi, Economics department,” she stretched forth her hand as they shook hands.
“Ndu, you never informed me you have a beautiful lady that we have here,” he said, glimpsing at her again, “I’m pleased to meet you.”
His hair unkempt and long tuft of goatee on his chin. He was behaving in an unsual manner which made her suspicious of him.
“And you never said she was coming to sleep over the night.”
“I beg your pardon,” she said.
“What time is it?” Ndu asked him.
“Nine fifteen pm,” he said.
“Oh, my goodness. I never knew time had gone this far,” Ndu said.
“You were sleeping with your beautiful lady, how would you know?,” he teased Ndu.
She hurried up and took her leave as Ndu saw her off to her hostel safely without obstruction whatsoever.