On a sunday after, Ndah never opened his shop. Sundays were free days for most business men in the big cities. He had a textile fabrics shop. The sun was up in the sky this sunday afternoon in Lagos. He was on the bar beach with two beautiful ladies of which one of them was his lover. He wore swimming trunks and the ladies put on their swimsuits. The beach was rowdy and crowded. A man in white gown was ringing a bell at intervals, saying out words which were not clear in hearing of the distant ears. He came forward, the onlookers were able to see him quite well now. He had a dreadlock on and was hanging a red stole round his neck. Few fun-seekers were listening and staring at him. And he said: “Repent! Repent! Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Few people hissed to have heard the words coming out of the man’s mouth. To them, he was spoiling their day with his sermon.
Ndah and his ladies were paying deviate ears to the preacher in the ankle reaching water, when the wave came up the shore splashing water all over them, one of the ladies screamed and ran onto the safe bank- the sand and pebbles. She was the lover, Eve, in red swimsuit, a fetter round her left ankle. She began smiling winsomely at Ndah and the other lady. Ndah returned the smile warmly and said to them, “Ladies, let’s go and have some drinks.”
Inside the bar, the chairs were set four to a table; it was in a round hut with thatched roof. Assorted drinks were provided on the beach. The ladies went for stout and malt drinks while Ndah ordered for a chilled bottle of beer.
Outside, on the pebbly beach, people were seen engaged in one kind of fun or the other; few could be seen playing beach football and others busy holding hands in the moist wind of the beach as if they would be snatched by some other person. Another group was drinking with straws from coconut shells. The coconut palmtrees’ leaves were drifting in the gentle breeze as early evening approached. Where he was sipping some alcohol with his ladies, his drenched body and those of the ladies had begun to dry.
“I think it’s high time we hit home,” said Ndah.
“I’m through,” responded Eve, “what about you, Misi?
“I’m done, too,” stated Misi as she stood up and fell back on her seat. Eve shrieked a girlish laughter and Ndah gave Misi a helping hand. She stood erect and off all of them left and walked down to the parked car. The red Mercedes-Benz car had all this while become his since his elder brother left for Belgium after on holiday in Nigeria. The passenger’s door of the car was opened and they picked their dresses and clothes and wore them simultaneously. The engine came to life after they had climbed in and off onto the Lagos hold-up and busy road.
Inside Ndah sitting-room, was a big portrait of the famous Michael Jackson’s thriller poster hanging on the wall. The lighting was dim. The black sofas were arranged in semi circle on the blue rug, and the wall was painted milk-white in colour. At one extreme corner was a 21 inches TV. The set was turned on and VHS began to play an American movie. The trio sat on the black sofa, watching the motion picture. Misi mumbled she liked the video clip.
When the motion picture has stretched midway, the main actor, began to kiss and fondle about as he was wont to act. Ndah looked at Eve lustfully. She was an undergraduate at the Western University, reading English Language. She was stout and average in height. Although, she was pretty coupled with her fair complexion. Ndah had a tête-à-tête with her.
Lying in bed with her in the bedroom, he began caressing her nipples and kissing her lips, down the neck and shoulders… In his drunken stupor, he slowly rode into her… They groaned like wild as they reached attainment of their amorous desires. They slept off. He woke up at dawn after he had slept off the hangover. Eve was fast asleep. He climbed down from the bed and tiptoed into the other bedroom where Misi lay.
“What’s the matter?” queried Misi, when he had switched on the bulb light.
“Shsss.” He assured her all was fine and crawled up to her with a kiss from her belly to the lips, stirring up the fire in her. He tickled her thighs slowly and the fire was ignited.
A monday evening was approaching the time of twilight when most traders, workers, hustlers et cetera returned from the day’s bustling and hustling. The red Mercedes-Benz moved into a parking lot of a five storeyed building. A tall, dark, beautiful lady alighted from the car together with the driver of the car. She cat-walked liked one modelling some designer dress with him to the staircase of the building. A door of the second floor opened, and entered the tall, dark, beautiful lady and his host.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” chuckled Ndah.
“Cool and lovely,” Kendra uttered and was impressed by flowers on the blue rug at two adjancent ends of the sitting-room, “I like the calmness. It’s just that. . .it needs some feminine touch. We’re waiting the day you’d bring in the lucky lady and have her walked down the aisle to meet you at the alter.”
“Well, I’ve already seen the lady.”
“And you didn’t let us know.”
“She’s right here with me.”
“You must be kidding me,” whispered Kendra with a meek smile.
She moved closer to the milk-white wall that had a canvas hanging on it with artistic painting.
“This is beautiful,” she digressed from the topic prior to the discovered beautiful painting.
“It cost me some fortune, you know.”
“It must be expensive.”
“It is. I bought it from a Nigeria born artist who lives in Austria when he came to Lagos at the Art Gallery Exhibition.”
“What a brilliant work.”
He walked up to her, and put his right hand around her waist and pecked her left cheek.
Kendra had been one of those girls striving to attain fame as a beauty queen. The first attempt she had, was not that successful. However, she went for a subsequent contest where she came up a second runner up. She had anticipated becoming the beauty queen herself. Presently, she modelled locally and strove travelling overseas for big names. He had met her through a designer whom he supplied some fabrics. She was coming to his house the first time after they had known for two months. Now, that he had moved to a new home and recovered from the stranged illness that ravaged him.
Kendra, now in the kitchen had a gastronomic skill of preparing food and all such. The dinning table was set for the delicacy and a jug of mixed fruit juice. They ate together while a soft Afro rhythm and blues played in the background from the soundsystem.
“You are a good cook,” acknowledged Ndah.
“You can say that again,” Kendra implored.
He went into the bathroom and had a therapeutic bath and ever thankful he was healed of the strange illness. She joined him in the bathroom. After the hot bath, they stepped out into the bedroom where the music playing on the sound system could be heard from the speakers, low. She lay in bed after he had got set for the night. And cuddling and caressing and kissing soothed them all night long, that warm night.
When Ndu got wind of Ndah miraculous healing, he was thankful to God that the worst did not happen as everyone had given up on Ndah’s health condition.
* * * * *
In the squalor of the slum, a house in a street of a city had its backyard over the fence where some school leavers of the environs came by to drag on weed. At this place, these school leavers had many names they identified hemp with. The fascinting one being, Nnayi-bini-meohia (bush dwelling father). The place had been a sort of fraternal gathering for school drop-outs. In the backyard, over the fence, a gutter stretched along in-between two opposite fences, running parallel to each other. In-between these two fences the lads would gather smoking weed, dragging one after the other. The gutter contained rotten water particles of excreta, urine and rubbish thrown from houses behind. On the spot, there were lot of faeces lying about the place. The lavatories behind these fences were causing the whole air with stench of shits, and filths drifting about. One in his right sense would never sit on those filths dragging in the bad air about the place.
“I have six months to resume my studies,” began Nnanna.
“You are lucky, you know. You were suspended for two years,” remarked his friend, Luma.
Nnanna shook his head, indicating how pitiful it was to have wasted those two years. He was suspended for two years by his university for inciting students during students’ unrest.
“I can’t wait to resume my studies,” Nnanna dragged on his marijuana and passed it to Luma.
He brought out another wrap from the front left pocket of his shirt and lit it with a brown lighter; flame spurted after the third trial and he started dragging on the dope.
Luma was expelled from the university where he was amongst the cultists that had a clash with rival group. Luma and his cohorts were expelled thereafter.
The day was a broad daylight, Luma had earlier engaged in a rivalry with a fellow. It was in the students’ hostel, Luma was washing his utensils on the first floor one morning and the fellow came out to brush his mouth on the second floor; the latter saw the former was washing in the balcony below, he ignored him and began brushing on Luma’s head from above. Luma stopped washing and climbed up the staircase to the trouble maker.
“Didn’t you see me washing down there?” Luma had asked the fellow.
“You are crazy,” the dark huge fellow bellowed.
“Is that all you can say?”
“I say you are craaazy. Fuhkoff.”
Students gathered to ascertain the problem. Luma lamented furiously the fellow’s disdain. The students around apologized on behalf of the dark huge fellow. Luma left after he had spoken the final words: “We shall meet.”
However, Luma got a wind that the dark, huge fellow was a cultist. Luma concluded if it was true, it must be a rival one. An incident which the students thought was a mere quarrel developed into a bloody murder attempt. The dark huge trouble maker was unlucky. Luma would be ruthless if got annoyed. On this particular day, in a broad daylight as the huge dark student was about alighting from a cab he had boarded, Luma and three of his cult members had been trailing him all through, then came the hit: Smack! Smack! Smack! He screamed and took to his heels with blood stains. The perpetrators escaped into thin air. The rival gang went on rampage and hysteria hung in the air. The school expelled all who were involved. Ever since, he had been wandering about all the streets.
“I would have graduated as an architect by now,” Luma told Nnanna and was smoking a stick of cigarette now after the grass.
“I was in dilemma. I’ve wasted almost two sessions. I can’t wait to resume studies,” said Nnanna as he took a drag on his chronic and continued, “all will be just fine.”
Luma had a dislike for the final statement by Nnanna. Each time one said such words, he became sober for letting things get to such extent.
“Off I go,” Luma took his leave.
“I shall be coming later,” Nnanna assured him.
Still sitting around those filth dragging in the stench of excreta and rotten rubbish. He recalled an incident that had happened the other day he had gone to the local education authority school premises, where some class-rooms had desks while the others were empty. In one of the empty class rooms, they would drag away some dank. Nnanna and his cohorts were dragging and passing from one person to the other. Outside, footballers were busy playing football on the pitch, shouting to a player who had taken possession of the ball to pass to the next team mate. Then, came the hit, the NDLEA men drove in and began raiding. Nnanna escaped through the back window before they could get him. Those caught were mercilessly beaten up. The footballers on the pitch took to their heels as the NDLEA men were virtually apprehending people within the primary school vicinity. They later drove off with those apprehended.
Although, it was peaceful here except these filths; the men of NDLEA would not come his way, if they did, that would mean encroaching on the territory where he sat, he thought.
Nnanna had been sitting there all alone. He did not know for how long he had sat down there. The whole world was revolving round him now, and his future was before him like a story written on the chalkboard facing the reader. What he read of his life was unbearable and heartbreaking. He thought much of his life that he was not aware what was happeninng in his immediate surroundings as he sat down there. Three teenagers had come over to drag at their doobage, when they were about dragging, a young man came by and collected the wrap of cheeba from the teenagers and ordered them to knee down on those filths. After some few minutes, he released them and let them leave.
“Hey, what’s the matter with you. You sit down there without uttering a word?” the young man asked. Nnanna’s head was teeming with the problems of his life, he neither looked at the man nor utter any word. Later, he looked towards the direction of the young man smoking his pot; he could only laugh at the man: Ha! Ha! Ha!
The young man on the other hand raised his eyebrows, he took another drag and puffed away.
“Do I know you?” Asked Nnanna.
The man grimaced and dragged his bud again. Nnanna giggled loudly this time: Haaa! Haaa! Haaa! He looked up and took his leave and left the man behind on those filths. He walked down the street under the hot evening approaching twilight.
Ndu learnt about Nnanna’s addiction to hemp to the point of no return: for the path one chose was where his boat would take him.