​LET’S HOPE THEY PAY TODAY

“It was a very long drive yesterday. My eyes kept swinging here and there, hoping to catch an interesting sight. Nothing was fascinating about the things I saw. First I saw a big crowd, there was a party somewhere, and after straining I saw big men, obviously ones of a high caliber. They were sitting comfortably round full tables making merry. Not too long after that did my eye pick on the larger crowd – the on-lookers. Their clothes weren’t as attractive as that of the former. They formed a wall round the big men, of course standing. The look in their eyes showed clearly that they were hoping a few of the dollar notes flying in the air would get buried in the sand, so they would hunt the next morning. That place felt like the middle of nowhere – a playground for parties only the rich can throw. But it was once a lively place. As we moved further and the sight grew thinner I felt a chill running through me. I recalled how the ‘Ajelogo’ residents were slapped by the heavy hands of the government. According to them, the people of Ajelogo were causing a nuisance and so their homes were destroyed. They had a room, and toilets and bathrooms, even though they had to pay eighty naira to an unknown person use them. Even though their rooms were made of tarpaulin, it was home, and they were human just like everyone else. In short, it was on these same grounds that was once home to some, that the government had now erected a hall, rented by “the men that be” in the society who needed a place to float their dollar notes. 

We hadn’t moved farther because the traffic light which gave us a green had now shown a red again since the hold-up didn’t let us get past it. Suddenly I heard the sound of my favourite hymn, coming from a far yet visible cathedral “what a friend we have in Jesus…” I hoped, really, that it served enough comfort to the now deserted heart of Ajelogo. Enjoying the tune, I shifted my gaze a bit and there, almost crashing, was this yellow and black bus. I had only been asking myself what agreement a mosquito net would have with a bus when we moved forward and I saw a 4-year old boy push his big tummy out of the door of the bus and a voice quickly followed:

‘Ebuka, come back here!’

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Obviously, he had been mal-fed and nursed under the already rusting sheath of that abandoned vehicle. He continued crying and ignored his raging mother. I wondered if he would ever have a 5th birthday celebration as elaborate as the one we passed.”

Jeffrey wiped the tears from the eyes of his wife who had been overcome with emotions while listening to her husband say those words passionately.

“So, my dear, I hope you trust me when I say our condition isn’t that bad? Let’s hope they pay today.”

As Jeffrey stepped out of the house, Iyabo went into the kitchen to package the tea and slice bread she was going to take to their hospitalized daughter, Seyintan. Only then did she notice that her husband’s breakfast was still lying on the dining table. He had left without a meal. She shook her head, opened the front door, and disappeared behind it. It was very late when Jeffrey returned home. He saw a letter at the door but chose not pick it. He knew for sure, it was the landlord’s eviction threat. That night, he undressed, got on his bed and shut his eyes.

By the time he opened his eyes, it was morning and quickly, he got ready for work. He wondered, as he knot his tie, why his wife did not wake him up or bid him farewell when she left for the hospital. “I’ll fight with this naughty Adesua when I go by the hospital this evening,” he said to himself. Jeffrey was about to leave, when again, he spotted the landlord’s letter still lying on the floor where had passed it last night. This time, he picked it, if for nothing, at least to laugh at Oga Landlord’s terrible grammar. He had gotten many letters in the past, and he knew already, how it worked. But his hands grew faint as he read through the very short letter.

“Jeffrey, Seyintan needs an urgent surgery – she suddenly got worse after you called yesterday afternoon. So, I came to get my trinket box. I am staying over with her. Please come as soon as you see this.”

Within minutes which had now become seconds to him, Jeffrey had raced halfway through the distance of the hospital, with his limbs, numb and his head, light. The hospital was miles away but he did not notice. As soon as he crossed through the hospital pathway to the reception and saw his wife lying on the floor, he knew what tragedy had befallen him. His tie was still on. His briefcase had been open, and his office files had been flying out while he raced down. Only a few A4 papers were left. As he turned and walked lifelessly through the same pathway from which he had emerged, he muttered;

“Let’s hope they pay today”

The screeching tires, and heavy sound of impact, was what caused Iyabo to jump from the floor where she had lain. “My life!” she shouted continuously, running insanely out of the hospital, as her wrapper hung in the air after her.

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